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.