Last year Elder Ballard told graduates of BYU-Hawaii to use new media to spread the gospel, and the exhortation was repeated to all church members in a cover story in last month’s Ensign. Among other things, members were encouraged to "create videos that illustrate aspects of your membership in the Church and post them on video sharing sites like YouTube."
In the grand tradition of Bloggernacle presumptuousness, I’ve presumed to take it upon myself to compile a preliminary progress report for Elder Ballard. Humbly submitted: the good, the bad, and the ugly of Mormons on Youtube.
Genre: Missionary FAIL
I’m not sure what exactly accounts for the large number of contributions in this category. To be expected of 18-21-year-old males? (Sister missionaries seem disinclined to participate.) Acting out subconscious fantasies about escaping the rigors of mission life by any means necessary, even on a stretcher? In any case, the quality of missionary fail videos compares favorably with the overall (non-LDS) market of fail videos. Excellent work, Elders!
- Bike Fail
- If “Missionaries Driving Ferrari 348” doesn’t have imminent epic fail written all over it, I don’t know what does. As it says in the description, “Serving a CA mission is rough, let me tell you.”
- Honorable mention: Rope swing FAIL (eponymous moment at 0:50), Proper nutrition FAIL
Genre: Future Movie Moguls
Borne of copious amounts of free time, home-brew production values and no shortage of enthusiasm for quirkiness of Mormon culture, do these spoofs and re-enactments provide a peek into the future of Mormon cinema?
- Star Wars spoof features some creative editing: CTR Wars (starts off slow so skip to the middle if you’re in a hurry)
- Spice Girls meets Lego meets Missionaries. ‘Nuff said: Mormon LDS Comedy! If You Wannabe An Elder
- Honorable mention: Super Mario Elders, Napolean Dynamite goes on a mission, Mormons vs Zombies
Genre: Missionary Dancing and Lipsyncing
This could really be a subgenre of FAIL, i.e. self-respect FAIL. Missionaries like singing and dancing for the camera.
- This video is Exhibit A of why missionaries shouldn’t be allowed to drive–do his eyes EVER leave the camera in favor of watching the road?? You Raise Me Up: Missionary Style (Elder on the left is priceless at 3:45)
- Honorable mention: Missionaries join Numa Numa internet phenomenon, some Risky Business, and the Charlie Brown Dance
Genre: EFY Shenanigans
EFY is a week-long co-ed summer camp for LDS youth. Like missionary videos, the vast majority of EFY-related videos are of people singing and dancing, or doing silly pranks. Young men at EFY seem especially prone to excruciating musical self-humiliation. But, at least according to the text provided with the videos, this can sometimes, somehow, be successful in attracting girls.
- Truly excruciating
- Dorm room silliness: EFY cup of water… thing…
- Honorable mention: EFY kids join Numa Numa meme, more singing, and more (the name of this boys’ EFY group is "Drawn Swords"? really?!)
There are innumerable videos consisting of quotes and photos/art set to music slideshow-style. They’re generally too schmaltzy for my taste. But no Mormon YouTube roundup would be complete without some “spiritual” stuff. I found these videos of youth singing to be very touching.
- These missionaries in Mozambique aren’t bad singers, and something about seeing so many with their arms around each other gets me misty-eyed: Army of Helaman
- If you liked EFY: EFY Medley sung at EFY
Genre: The Professionals (Memory Lane)
If you were around during the 80’s, you’ll remember these ads for the church from the famous “Homefront” series. It’s interesting to see in these the same perky, campy, music-laced aesthetic that we see in so many of the homemade YouTube videos listed above. Is this art imitating art (individuals mimicing the church-produced media), or do both spring from some common deeper cultural causation? Thoughts to ponder while you stroll down memory lane.