Every so often, mormons find themselves depicted unfavorably in the media: Krakauer writes Under the Banner of Heaven; the French version of Witness translates ‘Amish’ as ‘mormon’; or some prominent local mormon gets involved in a scandal of some sort. These are recurring themes. Rarely are the criticisms levelled at the Church new or original. However, their mere presence as a social force requires our response. What, then, is the appropriate response for Church members towards such media portrayals?
First, a couple of caveats: let’s leave aside specific anti-mormon claims, or the specifics of current issues. I’m no apologist, and find such things tired and uninteresting. Second, I’m interested in how the members of the Church should react, not the Church itself. Church PR is its own little world, and their dynamics, while interesting, are completely out of my hands.
Here’s what brought this to light: I received an email recently regarding Martha Nibley Beck’s upcoming book. Some of you may have received this. After discussing the threat the book presents, the email asked me to "please forward this email today to as many people as you can who you believe will write calm and well-reasoned letters asking Oprah not to promote Martha’s book." I can forward this email to you, if you like.
This email is not coming from the Nibley family but from a close family friend. The question is: Do people think this is an effective way to combat bad books or it is just going to sell more books? How should Mormons respond to books, magazine articles, newspaper pieces, etc. that they feel are grossly unfair? I have heard that the Nibleys themselves are against this campaign, fearing that Oprah et al will see it as Mormon whining.
What do you think? Have you seen the email and excerpts? What do you think would be the best strategy? Personally, I think the campaign is a bad idea. First, it makes us look as if we are simply closing rank around one of our own. Such protectionism is a worthy trait, but not in the face of allegations of abuse. Second, it draws unwarranted attention to the questionable media. I have little doubt that mormons will account for a significant percentage of book sales! That’s exactly what happened with Krakauer.
Ultimately, I think these anti-mormon bits in the media are simply the cost of doing business as the restored Gospel. The Saints are bound to be persecuted, and it is our lot to deal with these things. I find these media portrayals utterly uninteresting and repetitive, and feel that they should receive their proper level of attention on our part: that is, none at all. Brigham Young said that every time they give the mormon church a kick, they kick it upstairs. My belief? Let us not respond to evil by debasing ourselves with plaintive campaigns or angry rebuttals; rather, show people what our religion is really about by being the same kind, fun, interesting people we’ve always been. If people ask you about the book? Yawn, and respond that people are always saying crazy stuff about the mormons.