I’ve seen some of the new church ads on the ‘net, and I’ve seen the new member section of the church’s website. In fact, I’m working on my own profile. In many ways, it has me very excited.
I’m sure that there are all kinds of reasons for the new approach. I’m sure that at some point someone did some “market research” and discovered what everyone outside of Utah already knew, that being that outside of Utah people really don’t know Mormons very well. The new ads and the new site are a chance for people to get to know some real Mormons.
One of the ads, for example, features a surfer, who talks about all the things she’s learned from competitive surfing, and about all of the family bonding that has happened as they all went to the ocean together. Up until the very end, when she says, “...And I’m Mormon”, it could easily be any kind of ad, for almost any product.
The profile pages, too, are opportunities for browsers to log in and encounter some real church members, bearing real testimonies and talking about real lives
My first thought, as I began perusing this new outreach, was to remember President Hinkley (at least I’m pretty sure it was him) talking about the enduring symbol of Mormonism not being the Angel Moroni with the Trumpet, but being the lives of the members. If that’s the case, then the Church is acknowledging that in a big way!
On diversity: One of the challenges the Church faces in modern life is the perception that we are all the same. We act the same, we think the same, we are, in fact, all little robots manufactured and shipped from Stepford - I mean Provo. This site and promotional initiative is a great way to dispel that myth. To show that we are all unique, and that Heavenly Father not only gave us that uniqueness, but celebrates it.
Sadly, this is a message that is desperately needed within the walls of the church, as well as without.
On freedom: As I’ve been filling out my profile, there have been guidelines that encourage me to avoid language that non-members wouldn’t understand, like “Relief Society” or “Bishop’s Youth Council”, etc... But other than that, I’ve been free to put in the content I want. Now, granted, if I don’t know what would happen if someone were to try and publish anti-mormon rhetoric on one of these sites. But there has been no attempt to control what I’ve written so far.
Another message that we need to share both within the gospel and without is that the Church does NOT rule us. We are free to learn and think and grow. It’s all our own choice.
On marketing: Some, more cynical than I, will think that this is just a way of “commercializing” the Gospel. I see it as a way of throwing the doors open and letting the world see us as we are. And that the Gospel shines better through the lives of extraordinarily ordinary saints than it does through any other means. And that will do far more to help the world understand our light than will a million press releases telling the media that we’re not polygamists and that we shouldn’t be called “Mormons”.
...I’m a Mormon!
Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his Dutch Oven blog.
Mark's Other Blog Posts: Dutch Oven Swirled Bread Redux