Thoughts on “sacred”
March 20, 2009
Last night at Institute class* Sis. Smith, the instructor, mentioned a blog post she had made about Big Love and the temple that almost got her interviewed on NPR. (Part of her post was quoted by the Salt Lake Tribune as well.) She remarked that she’s decided we would be better off describing the temple ceremonies as “private” rather than “sacred” since our society has pretty much lost the idea of sacred, but people understand privacy. She’s probably right, but I’m not ready to give up on the concept of sacredness just yet.
In fact, I think the problem goes beyond just the sacred. It seems we’re losing the idea that context matters to the meaning of our speech or our acts; that what might be appropriate to do and say in one situation might not be appropriate in another.
”Sacred” comes from the Latin word sacer which besides “holy” can also mean “accursed”. If I remember correctly, my Latin teacher suggested that the idea behind the root was “set apart from the mundane or ordinary,” whether for good or for evil. In other words, it refers to something that has a special context separate from our temporal life. When you take it out of that context, it loses whatever meaning it has.
That’s why we’re upset about the temple ceremonies being portrayed on a TV show, whether in a sympathetic or hostile matter: when you remove them from their correct context, you destroy their meaning.
(* We studied the first part of Psalms last semester; this semester we finished Psalms and are now in Proverbs.)