Quote from New York Times article called, Mormons’ Ad Campaign May Play Out on the ’12 Campaign Trail:
After Sunday worship in recent months, Mormon bishops around the country gathered their congregations for an unusual PowerPoint presentation to unveil the church’s latest strategy for overcoming what it calls its “perception problem.”
The article goes on to talk about those Mormon ads which attempt to portray Mormons as normal, interesting folks rather than the “secretive,” “cultish,” “sexist,” “controlling,” “pushy,” and “anti-gay” people the research shows that the public perceives them as.
So, the obvious way to accomplish this task of not appearing “controlling” is to hold another mandatory meeting after an already lengthy meeting. Meetings are a favorite Mormon past-time! At these meetings, entire congregations were “pushed” to create their own profile on Mormon.org to tell the world how normal, non-controlling an un-pushy they are.
It’s not “cultish” at all that my 14 year old son attended such a meeting and has since developed his own mormon.org profile. I so badly want to lament the things he says in that profile, but I won’t because it is really just verbatim the conversations I’ve had with his mother as well as the typical declarations that they were all encouraged to write …
There are lots of superlatives, logical fallacies but all well-meaning.
You know how the things that hurt or bother you most about your loved ones are often the traits most similar to your own?
I remember back when I was a early adolescent like my son is now, I once heard the bishop making a plea to the congregation for building funds. It must have been a good, convincing plea because with my next tithing donation I made a large building fund donation. By large I mean in a “widow’s mite” sort of way. I think I had something like $20. Like a good Mormon boy, I paid 10% tithing and then gave the $18 remaining dollars to the building fund because the Lord obviously needed it more than I did. I was later praised from the pulpit for that and thereby upped my ante as one of the righteous, obedient and faithful kids in the ward. I was a WBK (well-behaved kid).
It didn’t earn me any friends among my peers; I can admit that much.
But I certainly garnered plenty of kudos from the adults and I earned my Mom some bragging rights. I see the same things happening with my son and it pains me as much as it hurts any father to see their own child making the same mistakes he made … and I feel powerless to intervene in any way. The major difference being that my son now has some similar WBK friends, so I’m sure there was peer encouragement there rather than the further alienation I experienced in my ward as a youth.
My son is the child of a working mother and a gay father. It’s not inconceivable that his profile would possibly contain details of those facts that express his admiration for his working Mom and love for his gay father. It doesn’t. Wouldn’t that dispel the myths of “sexism” and “anti-gay”? Yet that’s not the approach. I don’t see the real meaty issues addressed anywhere in those profiles and especially nothing that makes Mormonism desirable. It’s really a bunch of people who are members of their religion for the very same reason that almost anyone in this world is a member of a religion… because they were born into a family with that religion. It was predetermined.
Still, doesn’t all of this actually FEED the negative perceptions rather than overcome them?
- Accepting a child’s complete wallet as a donation?
- Encouraging an impressionable adolescent to claim a knowledge of things he couldn’t possible know at 14?
- Creating a database of testimonies that all read hauntingly alike?
- Allowing children under 18 to do your missionary work?
- Avoiding in these mormon.org profiles any discussions on those sensitive topics Mormons want to disassociate from such as “sexist” and “anti-gay”?
As a father I’m dismayed, but as a former Mormon I’m not surprised.
Is it effective? Does it change perceptions?
The methods employed contribute to the perceptions. The only people impressed are the Mormons themselves. Mormonism has been around long enough that the general impressions have some truth in them.
Thou doth protest too much methinks.
And before you go, here’s a very funny parody of the very thing I’m talking about with regards to my children and testimonies