With Friends Like These…

The interwebs have been all abuzz as of late with reviews both positive and negative regarding the new Mormon.org ad campaign. Not being a fan of egregious animal cruelty, I don’t want to beat this dead horse, but I think there’s a side to this whole thing that’s been largely (if not entirely) ignored: The seeming inability of actual Mormons to abide the message of diversity and acceptance the ads imply.

Anyone within a mile of the Bloggernacle already knows that the most glaring complaint about the new ads stems from what many see as a disconnect between the lifestyles featured in the ads and the over-the-pulpit direction church members actually receive. One area of controversy concerns the videos feature working moms. This is problematic for some because they feel the church is not openly supportive of mothers working or pursuing interests outside the home. As disconcerting as this duplicitous message may seem, what is more troubling is the lack of understanding and support offered by general members of the church to other members whose lifestyle choices fall into the realm of “diverse”. Take, for example, this recent post at Segullah. What was meant as an introspective on the choice to go back to work when the kids are older quickly deteriorates in the comments into a slugfest of judgement between women on opposing sides of a suddenly heated issue. In the way of all true Bloggernacle debacles, personal righteousness is called into question. A discussion that should have been inclusive and enlightening instead became polarizing and alienating.

While we’re wringing our hands over the church’s apparent lack of support of working moms (or other “diverse” lifestyles), we’re simultaneously turning on ourselves and attacking those among us who do/want to do just that. We seem to have a hard time deciding what we really want. Do we want the church to be the progressive and inclusive Big Tent Mormonism highlighted in the ads? Or, do we want to be lobsters in a bucket and make sure everybody stays in the same place?

In concert with the new ads Mormon.org has started a Facebook page. This provides yet another space where the videos can be featured and shared. Problem: This also provides a space where members can (read: already did) get rabidly defensive and, eventually, resort to name-calling and personal attacks toward those whose comments are not in favor of the church. As disheartening as the infighting among members can be, the real damage is the ugliness directed toward those outside the church. An ad campaign and website designed exclusively around getting to know the members of the church becomes quickly marred by (who else?) members of the church. That is painful, people. Anyone reading such threads can be easily disabused of the notion that Mormons are the diverse, educated, caring, and accepting bunch showcased on Mormon.org.

I’m beginning to think our PR/advertising dollars might be better spent on a campaign about Mormonism directed at Mormons. At least some of the disconnect between the overall message of the ads and reality of the church seems to lie with the attitudes of the members themselves. We have a hard time accepting the diversity that exists within the church. We can be plain ugly and mean when it comes to diversity outside the church. Our online etiquette leaves much to be desired. If this ad campaign serves to do nothing else, maybe it will help shake out the underlying beliefs that keep us from being the people we’re trying so hard to tell the world we are.

Comments

  1. I actually think that this campaign is directed at Mormons, who will watch more of the videos and read more of the profiles than non-Mormons will (because we care). But what do I know?

  2. Hmm, that’s a thought to be considered, John C.

  3. Coffinberry says:

    Wouldn’t a quicker way to correct these member’s attitudes be a point-blank targeted Conference address?

  4. I think there’s some inward-looking messages here as well. Interracial couples (which, btw, are still discouraged in the Aaronic Priesthood manuals)? Working moms? Artists?! A guy who does PR for the NEW WORLD ORDER (aka United Nations)???!!!

    If this wins us some converts in the midwest, where the ads are running, great. But if it prevents more Mormons from converting to the church of Cleon Skousen/Glenn Beck/Gayle Ruzicka, Hallelujah.

  5. I’m beginning to think our PR/advertising dollars might be better spent on a campaign about Mormonism directed at Mormons.

    Many companies, when rolling out a new marketing plan/brand plan will go to great efforts to explain the new plan and all its nuances to its employees, so that the employees understand how to embody the characteristics the company is trying to emphasize.

    Perhaps thats part of the reason why, in the last General Conference, we heard the words:
    I hope that we welcome and love all of God’s children, including those who might dress, look, speak, or just do things differently. It is not good to make others feel as though they are deficient. Let us lift those around us. Let us extend a welcoming hand. Let us bestow upon our brothers and sisters in the Church a special measure of humanity, compassion, and charity so that they feel, at long last, they have finally found home.

    Paradigm shifts take time.

  6. I take the campaign to be what it says it is – “Look, all kinds of people are Mormons, and here are a few of them.”

    I don’t think these campaigns are preaching to anyone about what a person should be. Unless you think we should all be skaters and surfers. And I really wouldn’t mind that.

    The point of the campaign seems to be to tell and show people that Mormons come from all walks of life and are good people.

    But I would seriously question any thought that I had that suggested anything I saw in the advertisement should be held up as a banner for me to follow personally. As said above, our prophets and apostles will tell us who and
    what we should emulate.

    I like the campaign. I think it can be effective in doing exactly what it sets out to do. Changing perceptions about the church. It doesn’t appear to be teaching doctrine (until you get to the website that is).

  7. “I’m beginning to think our PR/advertising dollars might be better spent on a campaign about Mormonism directed at Mormons.”

    So very well put. The ad campaign as it currently is needs a “results not typical” label.

  8. I don’t know that the adds were initially directed at Mormons, but I hope that when members watch the adds, the message of diversity and inclusivity might be internalized–perhaps bringing a change of heart to the more dogmatic among us.
    This is an interesting post. I think it does highlight some of the issues we are dealing with from a PR standpoint, not to mention the less than Christ-like attitudes which seem to lurk within some of the rank and file. Sometimes we Saints can be real jerks.

  9. We have a hard time accepting the diversity that exists within the church. We can be plain ugly and mean when it comes to diversity outside the church. Our online etiquette leaves much to be desired.

    That the bloggernacle has comment threads as thoughtful and civil as they are is miraculous. Occasional descents to something more like the comment sections on news site should neither be too surprising nor taken to be too significant.

    Exhortations for members to be more civil, less judgemental, and more Christ-like have been underway for awhile. They need, of course, to continue.

  10. “I actually think that this campaign is directed at Mormons,”

    But then why not run it in Utah and Idaho and Arizona? It may be that Mormons watch it more via the internet, but it doesn’t look like it’s targeted to them.

  11. Coffinberry,

    That is one way, and a very important one. Church publications are another route. But, as has been pointed out, we Mormons love to gaze at our own online media and pass it around to other members, so maybe it wouldn’t hurt to put some of that effort into helping members be better representatives of this initiative.

  12. Chris,
    “But I would seriously question any thought that I had that suggested anything I saw in the advertisement should be held up as a banner for me to follow personally. As said above, our prophets and apostles will tell us who and
    what we should emulate.”

    The problem is that many members who view these ads feel they are a representation of a message from our leaders regarding what our lives aught to or can be. That’s not exactly off-base. While there may be members of the church who are tattoo artists or strippers, I’m doubting we’re going to see them featured because those are not activities the church supports (near as I can tell). It is assumed by most viewers that these videos showcase lifestyles the church finds acceptable and even admirable. And that has been the sticking point on both sides, whether people applaud or abhor the lifestyles shown.

    But again, the point of my post is not to consider the ads themselves, but the response of the members to the ads and to people both within and outside the church whose lives do not reflect what we see as mainstream or acceptable. Hope that makes sense.

  13. mmiles,
    Why run it on TV at all in those places? Just tell people in the wards to go to the site. That said, there is no reason that the campaign can’t be aimed inwardly and outwardly.

  14. Latter-day Guy says:

    This also provides a space where members can (read: already did) get rabidly defensive and, eventually, resort to name-calling and personal attacks toward those whose comments are not in favor of the church.

    I believe they call this the Deseret News. I can never read comments there without finding myself a few moments later crying out: “PLEASE-GOD-GIVE-ME-CANCER-NOW!”

  15. I think the reaction highlights that we are often our own worst enemies.

    We decide the Church institution doesn’t support something, so we work up a tizzy about it, only to find that we were wrong, that WE were the ones prejudging and biased.

    Then it becomes a defensive reaction to denigrate what we see as hypocrisy, not realizing that our reaction says more about us than it does about the Church as an institution.

  16. I think there’s a tension between the inclusive ideal and the perfection/zion/unity-as-sameness ideal or something, maybe even among the Brethren.

    How do you reconcile things like this PR campaign (which, aimed at insiders or outsiders is hopefully a diversity-encouraging thing) and things like BKP’s Unwritten Order of Things (http://emp.byui.edu/huffr/The%20Unwritten%20Order%20of%20Things%20–%20Boyd%20K.%20Packer.htm) speech that some (many?) point to as the gospel foundation for making all men wear white shirts (etc)?

  17. i think some people take their religion too seriously… by that, they don’t use their own brains, but instead rely on whatever is spouted over the past 50 years at GC or some random visiting authority who said such and such to so and so.

    i’d like to find a single ward which is soooo righteous that there aren’t any working mothers attending church. Give me a flippin’ break people.

    and what was with John Dehlin on that ABC clip? That dude has done a lot of good over the years IMO, but his critizism was so orchestrated it was just silly and he was used as a tool by the producers IMO in exchange for a little publicity.

  18. SilverRain–that may be true sometimes (skateboarding), but it’s demonstrably not true in other cases (the encouragement for women to give up careers to be at home with children).

  19. Matthew Chapman says:

    It goes without saying that these are not typical members of the Church.

    From what I can tell, all of these “Mormons” are endowed, temple-recommend-holding, come-every-Sunday types. This eliminates probably 90% of the Church for consideration in these videos.

    The “typical” Mormon- something over 51% church-wide- attends church less than once per year.
    The “typical” Mormon pays zero tithing and zero fast offering.
    The “typical” Mormon rejects at least some part of the Word of Wisdom: alcohol, tobacco, coffee, or tea is a part of every day.

    In addition, I would conservatively estimate that less than one-third of “Mormons” have read the Book of Mormon cover-to-cover.
    I would also conservatively estimate that less than one-tenth of “Mormons” have read the complete standard works cover-to-cover.

    Obviously, the PR Department, and whoever is supervising them, has cherry-picked a group of faces that they want to show to the world, for whatever motive and for whatever reason. Expecting your Mormon neighbohr or your Mormon family to be anything like them is ludicrous.

  20. My take on the current situation is that the general authorities have been acutely aware of the many different family and work situations that exist in the global church. I think they have been clear that they will always teach the rule or the ideal model, but not talk too much about the exceptions to the rule. The exeptions can be caused by different factors, ranging from sin to financial need, to the fact that the Lord may have different plans for individuals. An example may be that someone may be inspired by the Holy Ghost to marry a non-member outside the temple. This does not mean that there will be conference talks encouraging non-temple marriage. Additionally, neither does it mean that general authorities or members should judge people whose lives differ from the ideal that has been taught.
    My take on the ad campaign is that it was allowed because there is no explicit endorsement of non-standard lifestyles, but appreciation for members for who they are. The tacit appreciation for faithful members whose lives do not match the standard template has been there for a long time at the general authority level, but we should not hold our breath for changing teachings. Instead, we can expect more talks telling us not to judge and to have unconditional love, as well as more talks teaching the “standard model”.

  21. I’m willing to bet that all of these folks are active members of their wards in good standing in the church. While Matthew is correct that this may not describe an actual majority of the membership of the church, I don’t really have a problem with the choice of these people. I’m also willing to bet that if you ignore “the rolls” and focus more on people who self-identify as Mormon, these are going to be a little more typical.

  22. Steve Evans says:

    What Chris said in #6. Sunny, what you’re describing in your response to Chris is more of our existing cultural tendency to REALLY REALLY want to be told what to be, how to talk and what to say. We’re deathly frightened of the alternative — and perhaps our backlash against this campaign is reflective of that fear as much as anything else.

    I’d also note that this isn’t strictly speaking an “ad campaign.” These are user-generated submissions. The fact alone that the Church is letting members represent us (instead of paid actors, etc.) is pretty meaningful (though fraught with problems, I agree).

  23. sunny, I strongly disagree with your assessment of the segullah thread. When the OP starts with, “[Choice A] is a selfish choice” and commenters say, “Hey, wait a minute. That doesn’t sound like a selfish choice, and here’s why”, that is hardly the same thing as “what was meant as an introspective on the choice to go back to work quickly deteriorates into a slugfest of judgement between women on opposing sides”. If you don’t want it to deteriorate, don’t start off by calling one of the options selfish.

    In the way of all true Bloggernacle debacles, personal righteousness is called into question. A discussion that should have been inclusive and enlightening instead became polarizing and alienating.

    BS. Sounds like you are inflating what happened so suit the purposes of this OP.

  24. Kristine—I think you missed my point.

    Also, there is a difference between support and encouragement.

    Matthew, speaking as an advertiser, even if you are right, there is a world of difference between trying to show a modal member and showing that LDS members are just regular people, not people who live in enclaves and still wear styles from the eighties.

  25. John,
    Did they do that in Utah? I’m just so not in the loop.

  26. SilverRain–anything is possible.

  27. I haven’t looked at Facebook, just read a couple of sites on the bloggernaccle, but, IMO, the backlash to mormon.org stems from two areas:

    1. A working mom could look at it and ask, “If it is okay to be a working mom, why am I getting beat up every Sunday at church over it?” or

    2. A SAHM could look at it and ask, “If it is okay to be a working mom, why am I told every Sunday that I must stay at home with my kids?”

    Either way, there is frustration. The problem is not that diversity is being celebrated. The problem is the disconnect between that and what happens on Sunday.

  28. Stephanie,

    I’m not going to debate that thread with you. It’s not my thread and I don’t care.

  29. Comment 23 FTW for awesomeness and intentional/unintentional irony!!!

  30. Also, my 28 was in response to 23.

  31. Stephanie (27),
    Who are you responding to? Sunny said in the OP:

    Anyone within a mile of the Bloggernacle already knows that the most glaring complaint about the new ads stems from what many see as a disconnect between the lifestyles featured in the ads and the over-the-pulpit direction church members actually receive.

    Your last paragraph in 27 seems to be debating her, but you’re clearly in total agreement on that point.

  32. Sunny, that’s fine. You don’t need to debate it with me. But let me just point out that this is a similar situation. You made a statement in this OP characterizing something. I am disagreeing with your assessment. Doesn’t need to turn into a “slugfest of judgement”, but it also doesn’t mean that your assessment is not subject to debate.

  33. I’ve heard a lot of people encouraged to go to the site and set up profiles. I can’t remember if it was formally or informally encouraged, but it has definitely been encouraged.

  34. Stephanie (32),

    At this point, it just seems like a distraction from the intent of this post. If that example from Segullah feels unacceptable, there are plenty of others floating around the ‘nacle in which what should be a civil discourse about life choices becomes a debate about personal righteousness. That was simply the most recent in my mind.

  35. John,
    And did you?

  36. mmiles,
    His was rejected because of his tirade against Sunday school a few months ago at BCC.

  37. Scott B, I was responding to this line:

    At least some of the disconnect between the overall message of the ads and reality of the church seems to lie with the attitudes of the members themselves. We have a hard time accepting the diversity that exists within the church.

    From what I have observed, that doesn’t seem to be the problem. But, like I said, I didn’t look at Facebook. I am just basing that on the discussions I have been involved in. I don’t really see this as a lobster pot issue. I see it as a real issue of disconnect, and people being frustrated over that.

  38. there are plenty of others floating around the ‘nacle in which what should be a civil discourse about life choices becomes a debate about personal righteousness

    Agreed. I just didn’t feel this particular segullah thread fits that bill.

  39. Or, do we want to be lobsters in a bucket and make sure everybody stays in the same place?

    I think you mean “crabs in a bucket.” Lobsters in a confined space will eat each other, hence the rubber bands on their claws in supermarket tanks. (Although, I guess that lobster cannibalism works as a metaphor, too.)

  40. From what I have observed, that doesn’t seem to be the problem. But, like I said, I didn’t look at Facebook. I am just basing that on the discussions I have been involved in. I don’t really see this as a lobster pot issue.

    I have seen all of the things Sunny describes in the OP. I don’t know that I agree with her characterization of everything, but yes–it is ONE of the problems. Go check yer FB page.

  41. mmiles,
    Though the truth is I haven’t yet, I have considered doing it (going so far as to take a profile picture of myself). Maybe this Sunday :)

    That said, Scott’s prediction may come true for all I know.

    Have you?

  42. MMMMMMmmmmmmmmm Lobster Cannibalism

  43. Okay, Scott B. (But can’t I just go on assuming that the way things are in my fantastically inclusive, diverse ward are the way they are everywhere?!?!)

  44. I’d also note that this isn’t strictly speaking an “ad campaign.” These are user-generated submissions. The fact alone that the Church is letting members represent us (instead of paid actors, etc.) is pretty meaningful (though fraught with problems, I agree).

    Is this really so? It seems like there is an awful lot of members with readily access to a professional film crew with high quality filming equipment, proper lighting and professional editing skills. They also took the time to film themselves in different days, activities, locations with some rather complex filming involved (a camera mounted to film a guy driving a motorcycle and a cyclist that works at the Library of congress is shown in different angles riding his bike, one of the angles shows that the camera shot had to be from a moving vehicle).

    These profiles containing professionally done documentary style videos that all follow a similar format are obviously not mere submissions. These are hand picked to impress (no less than impress)… Athletic, hip, artistic people and accomplished people that have unusually above average occupations: “hi I am a singer and I have performed with Bryan Adams.”

    Hum… I have no clue as how these people, their stories, their cool professional pictures and their professionally filmed and edited videos ended in that web site, but I am rather sure that they are not simple submissions.

    There may be some submissions among the totality of the profiles, but those showcased in the site and specifically linked in the interactive “click on the thumbnail” bar at the bottom of the page are definitely not random submissions. These profiles were professionally produced with a professional TV crew and not a terribly modest budget.

    In addition to these profiles being hardly representative of Church members, I think this is also in part why the members are so shocked: the professional commercial editing makes these people and their lives look more appealing than they probably really are. It’s advertizing, and like all advertizing it has been carefully edited and modified to show a certain appeal to a certain audience, thus it is not necessarily 100% real, it’s more on the fake side. And that is my two cents as to why we are getting the reactions to the campaign that we are getting from members.

  45. Okay, okay. I get it. It doesn’t matter how fantastically inclusive or diverse my ward or any ward is. If the church is trying to reach out to people via the internet, and the relatively few Mormons on the internet act ugly, then it doesn’t matter that most Mormons are indeed a “diverse, educated, caring, and accepting bunch”. The same media intended to showcase Mormons this way instead ends up showcasing the opposite.

    Sorry, Sunny. I’m a little slow today. Great point. Carry on.

  46. I really like this post, thank you. It IS a hot topic, I agree. Shannon (16), thank you for including the link to the talk on LDS ethos and meeting format. I am going to have to read it a few times because there is just so much meat in there.

    In my unscientific observation of Church PR history, it seems that the current perception campaign began with President Hinkley, who thankfully was very pro-active in this area. What we’re seeing is just a continuation and iterations of an approach that he took up. He traveled, expanded our physical presence with temple proliferation, spoke with mainstream media, etc. He was organizationally extroverted. As a growing Church, it was the “next step” during his time and he readily and skillfully took the Church into the next step that we are still in now. And this has trickled down. Now technology has caught up to where lay members can have more of an immediate PR impact on external perceptions. No more dependence on Church PR productions and publications. The Church, in fact, is encouraging us to be novice PR folks in campaign of cultural perception. I think its a fantastic and exciting time to be a member, to be honest.

    The ugliness coming from us internally is just social growing pains I feel. People–LDS or not–become attached to “the way things are” and resist. But we’ll get over it.

  47. I used this PR campaign last night in home teaching a less-active mother in a part-member home. She told us that she didn’t feel like she fit in, and I used those ads to say that the church doesn’t HAVE to be full of dull, whitebread folks, but can include motorcycle riders, skateboarders, working mothers, and surfers. If they can fit in, so could she.

  48. Matthew Chapman says:

    Yes, these video profiles are professionally done.

    The PR Dept. contacted Bishops and Stake Presidents throughout the Church soliciting recommendations for individuals for this campaign.

    I was in a Bishop’s council when our ward got the letter, and made a couple of recommendations. (Noone whose profile is being used right now.)

    They were specifically interested in individuals with diverse ethnic backgrounds, interesting conversion stories, and individuals or families who had overcome hardships in their lives. These individuals also needed to be active, hold a calling, and be temple-worthy.

    After some culling communication with those recommended, a film crew started road trips to do the filming.

    A conscious choice for a specific, “atypical” Mormon profile was made at some level by someone.

    I don’t think these people are “just plain folks” by any standard, and I don’t think they are meant to be. They are exceptional in every sense of the word. The PR Dept. looked long and hard to find them.

  49. While the edited videos are professionally done, the vast majority of the profiles at the site are self-submitted. There may even be unprofessional videos up ;)

    I do think they are “just plain folks,” but my standard is clearly different from yours.

  50. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 47
    But couldn’t your intervention potentially backfire? If she comes back to church and finds the same conformity and social pressures as before, she’s not going to stick around and her relationship with you will have been damaged as well.

    As I was reading all these interesting comments, it occurred to me that the Church is sending out a double message.
    On the one hand, Mormon.org appears to celebrate diversity. On the other, the images sent out to the global Church during GC couldn’t be more the opposite. Not much diversity on display there, that’s for sure.

    When I see President Uchtdorf in a polo shirt or Sister Beck riding a Harley in some inspiring church-produced video, then maybe I’ll be convinced the leadership really does want to embrace diversity.

  51. Sis. Beck on a Harley would be awesome!

  52. (48) I know these may not be your words (and it sounds like you are giving a summary of words you heard), but “Atypical,” “exceptional”, “just plain folks”!!! . . . These seem to be projections of a conscientiousness that the rest of the world (and membership of the Church, for that matter) are not from the Wasatch Front (see filmstrip, ‘Families Are Forever’). The fact that there is such a consciousness is a major major step in the right direction–which is very refreshing. Thank you Church PR consultants or thinktank or whoever is behind this push!

    (50) MikeInWeHo, you are spot on. I think that’s the generational divide, which hopefully will close sooner than later. I will note, though, that I have personally seen President Uchtdorf skiing in Park City . . . twice. And he was basically in a long-sleeved polo-like turtleneck. Another GA crashed his Harley in one of those Canyons up there a few years ago and some in snickered at the “levity” of his behavior. http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/44938/Elder-Andrew-W-Peterson-eulogized.html

    I remember, but can’t find it, that the Church issued a publication after the incident that basically suggested that the snickerers calm down and that it’s OK to ride motorcycles. So I think there is some relaxing, and acceptance, that is happening as those two activities for GA’s in prior generations would probably be perceived as “unbecoming.”

  53. I just want a site that works.

  54. Thomas Parkin says:

    I’m considerably stranger than any of the people in the ads, and I’m a Mormon. Just wanted to say it. ~

  55. (54) – You’re just another case in point. There’s no such thing as an “atypical” son or daughter of God that I’m aware of. Members and non-members are who they are. Am I atypical because I was not born and raised in Utah with a Scandinavian last name? Is my wife atypical because she’s Asian and born in Bangkok to inter-racial convert parents who were not familiar with the ethos of Church? Am I an “atypical” member because I married her (I’m a Gabacho)? Are we suspect “liberal Californian” members because we do not come from the Wasatch front? This has been the thinking in prior generations . . . but the membership and Church is moving beyond these illusory, temporal differences among people. It’s great to watch it happening too.

  56. Eric S., I’m sorry but I have to agree with Thomas Parkin.

  57. (56) Hmm. Maybe I didn’t make any sense at all then, or something like that. My point is, members are who they are. There is no such ‘category’ of membership that is “stranger” or “atypical” or “normal” or “exemplary” or whatever way you want to characterize a son or daughter of God. Members are sons and daughters of God, as everyone is, and that is it. So my point is that it’s illusory, and not healthy for the Church or anyone, to think of members or non-members in differentiating categorical terms like this. So I am not sure that you, Parkin, and I disagree.

  58. #50: Damn Mike!____I own the polo shirt idea. I was even thrown off the blog for saying it. You can have the Harley thing. ( I used moving hair and hoop earrings).

  59. John,
    No, but I haven’t been encouraged to–maybe it’s because I’m a California member-and we’re hated by non-Mormon Californians and by Utah Mormons. But then again, maybe people would see I’m just a regular member–I mean I don’t skateboard or anything.

    I actually thought about creating a profile. I like the idea of the campaign. But I don’t know if I feel comfortable sharing in that way online with people I don’t know. I’d rather talk to my next door neighbor.

  60. I believe the ad campaign is directed to non-Mormons. That Utah’s prevailing culture ceases to be perceived as the Church’s prevailing will be a welcome bonus.
    .
    Here’s my view:
    .
    1. I lived, worked, and student-taught for 10+ years in Utah. During that time, I saw no significant differences between Mormons and non-Mormons on social issues.
    .
    2. Less than 15% of the world’s Mormons live in Utah; there are more Mormons in California and Mexico than in Utah.
    .
    3. Including Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean, and the U.S., it’s likely that about 1 of 15 Mormons, nearly a million, have black African ancestry. According to the Pew Foundation’s survey of religion in America last year, 9-10% of all Mormon converts living in the U.S. are black. Bi-racial white-black LDS couples are seen regularly here in SoCal; I’m half of one.
    .
    4. It’s time for the Utah, not Mormon, social-cultural model of the Church to be recognized as anachronistic and discarded.
    .
    As for historical evidences of diversity, we also have Eldredge Cleaver and, for your old grunts like me, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, inventor of the “Rat Fink” and wildly customized cars in the 1960’s. Upon his second divorce and financial collapse in the 1970’s, a friend gave him a copy of the BoM, he was converted and moved to Manti, Ut. According to an article in the “LA Times” 21 Dec 1997, he would receive ideas for new cars while in the Manti temple.
    .
    It’s just time for everyone, Mormon or not, to set the Church free of this now-minority, odd Utah model.

  61. (60) manaen – This is probably the best thing I’ve read all week: “According to an article in the “LA Times” 21 Dec 1997, he would receive ideas for new cars while in the Manti temple.”

  62. 61. Eric, yes — it struck me as odd when I first read it, but then I realized others receive breakthroughs for their honest businesses so why not? — apparently he both was worthy and willing to be in the temple. This was a step in my liberation from the Utah model of Mormonism.
    .
    Money quote for me, “‘If I’m having a design problem,I’ll go to the (Manti Mormon) temple for three or four hours and it will come to me,’ Roth said. ‘It’s like, I’ll be sitting there and all I’ll be able to think is ‘Go get the Chrysler hemi!’ ‘ ”
    .
    BTW, send your email address to me at manaen1lds@gmail.com and I’ll send you a scanned copy of the article.

  63. The last time I went to the temple, I was really thinking about consciousness and how it emerges from the brain, and I thought of one extremely tricky problem in modelling how we think. I tried to explain it to some people on my ride home but I don’t think they had the desire or inclination to understand what I was saying. I later found out that what I had thought of is called the Binding Problem (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binding_problem).

    I think the temple is perfect for receiving all kinds of revelation. Anyway, this is off topic obviously.

  64. There’s Sunday for three hours, and then there’s the rest of your life. The faithful have real lives, with aerobics and cycling and obsessive internet surfing and eating too much and employment and cleaning the toilet and practical jokes and music and dancing and Big Brother on television.

    People come to church and see everybody all proper and in their Sunday best and solemn and think, “I don’t fit in. I’m not like those people.” Well, those people aren’t like those people either! They’re putting on their Sunday clothes and Sunday manners and turning their attention away from the rest of their lives and toward the Lord. That’s a GOOD thing. But it isn’t real life. It isn’t supposed to be.

  65. I agree that the harsh comments that do exist or have emerged aren’t a good way to leave a good taste in people’s mouths.

    But I don’t agree that every and all concerns that may have been expressed or felt about the campaign stem from a discomfort with diversity. That seems unfair in its own right to assert with absoluteness.

  66. Michelle (65),

    I’m not sure I understand your comment. I don’t think anyone asserted that “every and all concerns” “stem from discomfort with diversity”. The life choices shown in the videos have been an area of concern/interest for many and the topic of lots of conversations. That is what this post addresses. Is there a concern you have which you feel is underrepresented and would like to discuss?

  67. MatthewChapman says:

    Eric-
    I hope you are not mocking my vocabulary. I do my best to say what I mean.

    I put “atypical” in quotes, because I mean “not sterotypically Mormon” – at least, not the stereotype held by most non-Mormons who have any impression of Mormons at all.

    I put “just plain folks” in quotes, because I think it represents an opinion- expressed in an article on Yahoo, for example- that the Church’s message in these ads is “We’re normal, and we are Mormons.”

    My point is, these people- the ones featured in the professionally-produced videos- are not normal. [Definition: Normal: Average, close to the norm] They are exceptional [definition: a rare instance or occurance; unusually excellent or superior].

    And they are exceptional in a particular way: very faithful Latter-day Saints, as measured by activity in the Church, in the upper 10%. They are also each admirable in some worldy way or another. For example, there are many people who spend a lot of time surfing. There are few championship surfers.

  68. (67) MatthewChapman – With all sincerity, I was not mocking your vocabulary. Please read it again after I try and elaborate here a little. My short post obviously fell short of expressing my intentions. My interpretation of what you posted is the exact opposite of mocking–which may not have come through in the words I chose to type. I was observing–just like you–that the “They” and the “someone” aspects of your narrative reflect that the PR production decision-makers of these videos conceptualize people in the Church as “normal”, “atypical”, “just plain,” etc. The “They” and the “someone” has in mind a type of person who fits these descriptions; another way to say this is that they had in mind other types that did not fit in with a concept.

    So my post was not to quarrel with you or your words; it is that the PR video decision makers (as well most people) maintain membership types. They cognitively put them in characteristics buckets. The fact that there is a type that is cognitively “atypical” suggests that there is a congitive “typical” counterpart, and so on.

    As long as members cognitively maintain, and subsequently behave as though there are atypical/typical, normal/abnormal, just plain/not plain profiles in the Church (and in life) then we may be undermining our own organizational objective to show that we sincerely care about all men/women as sons and daughters of God and not whether or how they “fit in” to the Church. Does that make more sense, I hope?

    Evidently, from your narrative, there is now at least a conscientiousness that membership (just like real life!!!) is in reality, diverse. So I believe this is a good sign, this conscientiousness, because it suggests that decision-makers are at least thinking about our diverse reality whereas in the past this reality would probably not have even crossed their mind. In the past, from the materials we saw, it seems like the audio-visual department would simply just grab a convenient family in Orem or somewhere along the Wasatch and put a filmstrip together. This happened for decades in Church multi-media. (Side note: go into the Library of your meeting house and peruse the old treasures in there from the 50s forward, it’s seriously a hoot). So such productions and materials became “the face” of LDS culture. Where, in reality, we are a much more culturally complex and diverse Church.

  69. Again, skipped to the end.

    I say the reason it’s being shown in the Midwest is because it’s targeted towards those who live in Zion. AKA: Missouri.

    2012 is near people, be prepared.

  70. Sunny,

    With comments like this:

    “Do we want the church to be the progressive and inclusive Big Tent Mormonism highlighted in the ads? Or, do we want to be lobsters in a bucket and make sure everybody stays in the same place?”

    I simply think you’re being a bit simplistic (and rather binary) in your thinking (and I imagine others have been too, which I suspect is part of what is bothering you). I think there is more nuance involved in all of this, all around.

    I hope it’s clear that I share your concerns about inappropriate comments, though, on any threads out there. We do have to do better as a people on that score.

    And for the record, I think overall this campaign is a good idea. I have participated in it, and encouraged others to do so.

  71. D. Fletcher says:

    I’m really surprised no one mentions, in any of these forums about the new campaign, that it essentially changes the central purpose of the Church from *faith* to *community.*

    “Join us because we’re cool.”

    What kind of message is this?

  72. #70 Community has always been part of the message of the church–and really the message of Christianity. Nothing new.

  73. D. Fletcher,

    I thin it is quite a stretch to say the campaign is “changing the central purpose of the Church.”

    I don’t believe the faith part is being dismissed, they just want to focus on portraying a different aspect, which I believe it is diversity. I agree with you that “we’re cool” is definitely the means to portray this different aspect, but I don’t think it changes the central purpose of the Church.

    I think the message is “look, we are not as un-cool as we have been portrayed lately. There is diversity among us and there are also some rather cool people.” At lest that’s what I get.

  74. D. Fletcher says:

    I agree that community is important. And many people continue with the church precisely because of the community.

    But I think it’s pretty reductive to appeal simply to the community benefits of the church.

    P.S. It’s the same as “I’m a PC.” Meaning, “I’m as cool as a person using a Mac.” Selling the community, not the actual product.

  75. D Fletcher, I never perceived the ads as “join us we’re cool” but more of “we’re not the stereotype you think we are”

    I don’t think an ad that appeals to community benefits is reductive when the whole missionary program/ad campaign of the church is more expansive than that. Different ads target different things.
    Plus, I don’t think it’s as much a “come because we’re cool” but more of a “don’t stay away just because you think we’re weird.”

    I also agree with mmiles that community’s always been a part of the Church. Really, I think the central purpose of the gospel may be faith, but the central purpose of the Church is to provide a mechanism for ordinances and a community that works in supporting and spreading the gospel.

  76. D. Fletcher says:

    I just don’t like advertising the church at all, admittedly.

    Why not show ordinary people whose lives were/are transformed by the church/gospel?

    Instead, it’s as if it’s saying “I’m a motorcyclist, and a Mormon.”

    Two equal hobbies.

    Yes, I don’t like it.

  77. “I just don’t like advertising the church at all, admittedly.”

    Therein lies the rub – and the difference between the way I see it. “Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel” and all that.

  78. One of the issues that has emerged is the tendency to bitterness when there is a shift in expectations, the perception that previous sacrifice was now being unappreciated. Regarding employment of moms with young children, and birth control was another example given.

    But I don’t remember such anger over other issues that have changed. Endowment of women married to non-members is one–it might be expected that these women might be bitter that they couldn’t attend temple sealings of their older children, but mostly I remember that change being met with thoughtfulness and gratitude.

    Raising money for local buildings is another. The saints where I live struggled so hard to earn money for their buildings, all kinds of fundraisers from bake sales to a haunted house to catching chickens for shipment. And they literally helped in the manual labor to construct the building. But nowadays they are proud of their buildings without being resentful that the new branches get buildings provided.

  79. There is a good post this morning on the subject. Importantly, it was on the home page of the HuffPost, so it will be seen by LOTS of liberals.

    “The Mormon Image: Do Good Individuals Equal A Good Church?”
    Holly Welker, August 23, 2010 | 8:00:19 AM (EST)

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/holly-welker/mormon-pr-campaign-good-m_b_690383.html

  80. Yikes Dan, that article is pretty rabid.

  81. You missed my point, Matt. The point of mormon.org is to introduce a more balanced understanding of Mormons to those who might have only a caricature.

    Success means getting that message out as widely as possible, without being misquoted. You cannot expect to control the reaction to that message.

    After prop. I, there really is no such thing as bad publicity — Mormans are starting from behind. The author of the HuffPost piece was quite measured (by HuffPost standards) and though she spoke her own mind, she did not misquote Mormon.org or misrepresent it’s mission.

    It is irrational to expect those who disagree about doctrine to change their opinion about the LDS church, but it IS possible and beneficial to breakdown stereotypes of LDS members.

    The HuffPost piece was (believe me) a good first step. You cannot buy publicity like that. Defensiveness is a luxury of those content to be misunderstood and distrusted.

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