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News » Private Eye

Big Love for Buttars

Get rid of 12th grade? Chris Buttars might be onto something.



My Feb. 4 column about HBO’s Big Love may have offended some people. Sorry about that. I had written that, in a previous episode, Bill’s second wife Nicki learned that her first husband JJ was going to be “sealed to be married” to Nicki’s mother. Should that blessed day occur, Nicki’s daughter from her first marriage would have to choose between calling JJ her daddy or her grandpa. Grappling with what to call members of inter-related families gets murky. And it only gets murkier when you consider that JJ, for some reason, has no fingernails.

I supposed that someone would take me to task for making light of those nuanced relationships and comparing them to an old country ditty called “I’m My Own Grandpa.” In that song, a father marries his son’s stepdaughter, setting off a string of family-tree quandaries — the fellow’s dad is also his son-in-law, for instance. At any rate, I can usually predict where the arrows coming at me will be aimed from, and I faced my defenses in that direction. So, imagine my surprise when the criticism came from somewhere else.

It wasn’t so much criticism as clarification. As was pointed out to me, the phrase “sealed to be married” is not accurate — sealing occurs at an LDS wedding ceremony, I’m told, not before. As well, the reader continues, “You and the writer of Big Love are mistaken in your use of the word ‘sealed’ as it pertains to LDS marriage. There is no sealing of marriages for time, only for eternity.”

Apparently, until about 10 years ago, one could obtain a “sealed” marriage in an LDS Temple for time only if it were a second marriage. Such marriages are now rare. Still, I think that means that Bill and Nicki — both on their second marriages — are married only here on Earth, and when they die, Nicki will go back to no-nails JJ.

Although I’m a Utah native with plenty of LDS associates, relatives and a polygamist great-great grandfather, I never knew there was a distinction between time and eternity, ecclesiastically speaking. My whole life I’ve heard the phrase “they were married for time and eternity,” and figured it was just a phrase, no different than saying, “always and forever” or “until the cows come home.” It’s all too deep for me, and I’m quite content with the “till death (or something else) do you part.” That’s plenty of time to teach someone to squeeze the toothpaste tube from the bottom.

Truth is, I’m fine with readers pointing out column errors — most of the time. And though I think the authors of the letters to me this week were well intended, I was left with a certain level of confusion. To wit, I didn’t think the LDS Church was associated with the polygamist compound families in Big Love. And in light of Mitt Romney’s ascendancy to national prominence a couple of years ago, distinctions between LDS and FLDS beliefs were front-page news.

So, I don’t know why I’m being corrected for something said by a fictional family member, practicing what seems to be a fictional religion on a fictional television show and how all that relates to modern LDS belief. The letters were clear that I, and the writers of Big Love, are wrong about the practice of sealed marriages in the LDS faith. I stand corrected and am thankful to be so. But, I thought those polygamist families — fictional or otherwise — were not LDS. Will someone help me out on this, please?

I can’t remember when — if ever — something nice was said about Utah State Senator Chris Buttars in this newspaper. Let me be the first. As you may know, Buttars recently suggested that Utah do away with the 12th grade of high school. His was a money-saving suggestion intended to aid a Utah school system overburdened by large families who don’t pay their fair share to educate their children and which doesn’t pay a decent wage to Utah school teachers. When he said that, I thought, “Man, that Buttars has more dumb ideas than a marble-life-raft maker.”

Now Buttars thinks 12th grade shouldn’t be eliminated but should be optional. I agree with those who think 12th grade can be a glorious waste of time — but not so glorious that I would have opted out. I mean, if I had graduated at the end of my junior year in 1971, armed with my low draft number, I could have found myself doing for-real sit-ups at some Army base instead of doing fake ones in my senior gym class in 1972 (which I failed, by the way, for wearing pajamas to class instead of standard-issue white T-shirt and shorts).

I can see that Buttars isn’t entirely wrong on this. Now, I think he’s dumber than most rocks, but not all rocks. He’s dumber than obsidian, but smarter than soapstone. That’s not saying much — nearly everyone is smarter than soapstone. But my point is that I am conceding that Buttars may be onto something, and I’m playing nice.

To prove it, I want to offer Buttars my own suggestion, free and clear. Since it would be harder to start all over with naming things (like if you graduate after 11th grade, are you a junior or a senior?), and since we all have such fond memories of high school (first cigarette, first French kiss, first big lie to parents, last chance to sin before the mission call, pep rallies, and woodworking class), I think we should keep the 12th grade. No senior prom? No way, Jose.

Rather, Mr. Buttars, let’s do the doable: Get rid of first grade. That might have been the only grade Buttars completed, but the rest of us don’t remember it, anyway.