Wednesday, September 1, 2010

and I'm a Mormon

I posted this about a week ago on my private blog.  I think it appropriate to post it here as well.

I just came across this article in the Huffington Post (which I generally hate, but this article spoke to me) about the LDS Church's new "I'm a Mormon" ad campaign, which I refer to as the "I'm a fringe Mormon who elicits scowls of disapproval and is the subject of endless judgmental gossip in my ward and while I may participate in a really cool sport ( I surf!!!) and generally seem pretty mainstream, I believe some really wonky stuff" campaign.

I think Holly Wenker gets it exactly right. I don't think this ad campaign is going to change the public perception of the LDS church.  Perhaps people will see these ads and think, "Oh hey, Mormons appear to be pretty normal sorts of people" and for the most part, they would be generally correct and they have probably also experienced this with any Mormons they happen to have met in the meat world.  But, that doesn't change the fact that Mormons belong to and, if they are "good" members, financially support, an organization that has a long history of campaigning to limit the rights of women, racial minorities, and the LGBT community - not just by ostracizing them within the church, but also by funneling money and support (illegally) into the political system in order to deny equality to non-members as well. I don't think the right-thinking general public is going to forget that.

I agree with what others in the ex-mormon and mormon blogosphere have stated as well, when they say that this campaign feels disingenuous.  It is truly a slap in the face to those members (or former members) who have forgone their dreams and ambitions in order to "follow the prophet", that the Church is now attempting to improve it's public image by using the very members who opted to ignore the (constant) chastising and calls for conformity coming from the highest pulpits in favor of individuality.  I think the most offensive (to me personally) "I'm a Mormon" ads I've seen feature the women who, despite having young children and a husband who could provide for their families, have chosen careers which keep them frequently away from their families.  I appreciate these women thinking for themselves and pursuing their ambitions. I don't judge them for these choices in the least and I am sure that with the help of their husbands, family and other caregivers they are providing for the needs of their children while they are away from the home. But, I find it dishonest for the Church to advertise using these women who have gone VERY DIRECTLY against the teachings of the prophets of the church and representing them as if they are typical members and not on the (much scorned and maligned) fringe of Mormon culture. (I was asked some time ago when/where women had been actively discouraged from pursuing careers by the church leadership and where/when members had been told that women are meant to stay home and men are meant to provide. That last link is to a talk given by E.T. Benson that was constantly sited in YWs lessons I received growing up. The other is to the Proclamation on the Family and I quote: "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.")

On the I'm a Mormon website, one can search for profiles about Mormon's who "share your personal experience".  Well, I did a little experiment.  I entered my gender, my age group, my ethnicity and for keyword, I first tried "immunology" (my chosen field).  No hits.  Then, I deleted the keyword and entered nothing.  As you can imagine this returned hundreds of hits (I am a white woman in my late-20's/early-30's, after all.) Then, I typed "PhD" into the keyword slot.  I got exactly seven results.  Five actually hold or are pursuing PhD's (the other two mentioned their husband's PhD pursuits).  Three of the five who hold or are pursuing PhD's were married (the other two were hopeful).  So, while Mormon's may be normal, average, or even super cool surfer people, there clearly aren't many sharing my experience.  I don't expect to ever meet an active Mormon woman who is my age, pursuing or holding a PhD, married for 5+ years, and child-free by choice (gasp) because such a woman would be exceedingly rare.  But I am absolutely certain that if I do, she won't tell me how welcome and loved she feels at church and how supported she feels in her lifestyle choices by her priesthood leaders.   Advertising to the rest of society with this message that Mormon's are diverse and accepting, and not at all focused on conformity or prone to defining roles in absolute terms, is misleading because while these things might be true of individual members, they aren't the truths of the doctrines of the LDS church as an entity.


  1. This website would actually be a good way to see test just how homogenous everyone is. That is unless atypical members are encouraged to post more than average members. But that is tought unless you could get distributions rather than random people's profiles. There should also be categories for number of children (the stat that counts most) and for current vices/sinning (as opposed to past ones that people like to talk about overcoming).

  2. The article I linked to indicated that "First, while profiles might feature hipsters with trendy clothes, the opinions and beliefs in a profile must be completely orthodox and thoroughly respectful, or it will be rejected by the site." The author seems to have based that statement on a couple of blog posts (she includes links) by a man whose profile was rejected by the site and what the screen shots of the "error messages" he received were. But, obviously it's being monitored pretty closely so vices probably aren't allowed. Avoid the appearance of evil and all that jazz.

  3. I thought it was funny that when you searched for PhDs, two were about the husband's PhD. I've noticed--and it irks me--that Mormon women tend to define themselves by what their husband does.

  4. Definitely. "We're" going to law/med/dental/grad school. I hate that too. But, what I hate even more is when I meet a new Mormon woman for the first time and without even asking what I do, they ask what my husband does. When we've been home visiting family I've often heard something along the lines of, "I hear you guys are out in Boston for grad school. What is he studying?" That's always aggravating but I take a deep breath and state what I am studying and where and then answer their question about him.

  5. I don't get why everyone has to hate on the Mormons, can't we just try to love each other and accept even the Mormons for their differences. If you're a Christian you'll understand that we are no longer under the mosaid law of "eye for an eye" we are under the gospel of Jesus Christ! Love our enemies and the sinners! More of that would be nice.

  6. Anonymous - where did I hate on Mormon's. I expressed distaste for the ad campaign financed by the church (inc.) and for some aspects of Mormon culture. I love many Mormons. I love them for the individuals that they are and I don't consider any Mormons to be my 'enemies'. I just don't have much love for the conformity pushed by the organization. If you had read ANY other part of my blog, you would have seen that I am not a Christian. I don't really see how that is relevant. Christians don't have the market cornered on love and compassion. And, unlike Christians, I don't label people as "sinners" How loving is that? So as far as love goes, I think I win.