The New Mormon Brand

guest Discrimination, Mormon 49 Comments

Today’s post is by Wade Nelson.

THE NEW MORMON BRAND

In my view the Prop 8 campaign in California that just ended has turned out to be a fiasco for the Church. I had assumed and hoped it would fail but we have all lost by winning. This post is not about the issue of same sex marriage but expresses my view that the Church leaders have shot themselves and all of us in the foot. Quite apart from the astoundingly divisive nature of the effort it has created a new toxic image of the Church that is going to stick around for an awfully long time. This is my view of how the Church will be viewed and portrayed by those not of our faith.

 

OUT DAMNED SPOT!

 

 

We spent the last century trying to make the world forget about polygamy. We went to great lengths to portray ourselves as mainstream trustworthy citizens wherever we lived, despite having flouted U.S. law for decades.

THE BANALITY OF GOODNESS

For the last quarter century, the Mormon brand was represented by the Word of Wisdom. People found it odd but it went along with other parts of our brand, socially conservative big on the family etc. What were Mormons like? They were clean cut and conservative in their lifestyle. When people came to understand our beliefs they usually found them bizarre but not dangerous, live and let live. Mormons were boring but having them as neighbours would have been viewed as a good thing we were Donny and Marie after all.

BLACK LIKE ME

 

Of course those with long memories would be aware that discrimination against African Americans Like Elijah Abel was practiced long after civil rights had been established.

 

CHRISTIAN IN OUR OWN WAY

 Some may have been aware that Mormons contributed mightily to humanitarian causes so we may have been viewed as Christians in the important sense of the word.

 CONTROL FROM THE WASATCH FRONT 

A fear always lurked though that Mormons were subject to the ironfisted rule of their Masters in Utah. That fear has now been born out because the Prop 8 effort was pushed so vigorously from the Prophet on down. I believe that in the months and years to come popular belief will be established that the Mormon Prophet in Utah directed his mindless minions to donate time and money to force an amendment upon Californians. Of course other churches were involved but was not the Church the most centralized religion outside of the state to do everything it could to encourage voters to pass the amendment?

 

BIGOTRY REDUX?

The New Mormon brand is intolerance. To be unleashed whenever the prophet decides. The media will see to it, whatever the truth is.

TITLE OF LIBERTY?

 

I know many are proud of the Church’s stance and think that it had no choice but the culture has shifted. Those who view the effort as raising the title of liberty how ironic is that?! will also state that they do not care about the Mormon brand or how are perceived by the world. They care only about truth and following the prophet who will never lead us astray. But in the culture at large we are fighting a battle that was lost years ago.

 WHO ARE WE NOW?

Who are the Mormons? The come from Utah and used to marry more than one wife and used to deny blacks full participation in their temples. They are also the ones who fought against same sex marriage in California because their prophet told them to.

That might lack perspective but where would the falsehood lie?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

comments

Comments 49

  1. How is this a new Mormoon brand? Nothing has really changed, frankly. And while the church may have lost the gay (and gay supporter) vote, it will survive this, quite strongly too. I’m still indifferent to Prop 8. The church will survive this.

  2. “. . . in the culture at large we are fighting a battle that was lost years ago.” That may well be true.

    But don’t the Scriptures contain a lot of stories of prophets and their followers who took an open stand on the ultimately losing side of various cultural battles?

    We LDS may be in for a taste of unpleasantness that we haven’t been used to, because of some of the things you mentioned. But that would put us in good company, historically.

    However, even though some people may now see Mormons in the very negative way you paint the “New Mormon Brand,” others will be drawn to find out more about the LDS Church. Many converts first investigated the Church because their curiosity was aroused by negative publicity.

    And most people will probably continue not to think much about Mormons at all.

    I believe I understand your concerns, but I’m not sure they are ultimately something we personally need to worry about. If we believe we have a prophet at the head of the restored Church of Christ, don’t we expect him to be listening to a higher source than a savvy marketing manager who brings in the results of daily polls on what the public wants?

    We aren’t trying to “sell” people anything. Those who are seeking what we offer will get past false appearances and follow the Spirit to find the Gospel truth.

  3. Dan I am indifferent myself. but perception goes a long way. McDonalds employees may tell themselves that their food is healthy but the public knows the truth. my point was that perception of the church has changed and not for the better. It was all so unnecessary. How are homosexuals on the fringes of the church going to react? Are they going to be more or less apt to feel accepted and want to attend? In my ward it’s all about nature vs. nurture again. I just wish they would have left well enough alone and let society do its own damage.
    Pity the poor souls in PR in SLC.

  4. I think your observations are absolutely right. I also think that the Church will lose a great deal more as families with gay children make a choice between Church and family. It is already coming to this in many LDS families. Sometimes it only takes one gay child to change a parent’s mind about this issue and the actions of the Church. An overarching consideration: What did the Church’s actions do to bring people closer to Christ? Nobody seems to be able to answer this. What will it be like for young LDS missionaries when they are uncertain who might open the door or what might await them?

  5. Since you brought the branding issue up . . . .

    I, too, have been pondering the events of the last few weeks from a marketing perspective. But, I’ve reached the contrary conclusion that the Church’s handling of this has been a masterful exercise in public relations and market positioning. This is not to say that the time has not been extremely difficult for every rank and file member.

    Here’s what I believe will be the end results:

    Household name recognition that mere money cannot buy

    Strengthening of the faithful through adversity

    The moral high road as to the hate crimes issue

    Is there but one church that matters-it would seem so wouldn’t it?

    Proper positioning for entry into very conservative countries for missionary work

    A very clear position that we do not support alternative marriage-the misinformation spewed by the press and the hatemongers will be sorted out

    An enhanced position among religious groups in general

    A better negotiating position to ensure our religious freedoms under the American Constitution in any kind of political settlement that emerges. Yes, folks this IS like litigation.

    And, in the end this creates a better place for the LDS church in the hearts of those who are Christian but not LDS and believe in the sanctity of marriage-a primary market segment.

  6. #4
    Simple Man

    Your point reminds me of a painful subject. Many are aware that one hit wonder Talmage Bachmann left the church a few years ago and is now a virulent anti-Mormon. This will date me but I was a big fan of his father’s in the 1970’s. Randy was a stalwart member for decades under trying cirusmstances I now find out that he too has formally left the Church. I do not know why of course but presume it was due partly to his son and why Tal? He found out things about Joseph Smith that no one had ever told him.

    Polygamy money digging etc. Will we never see the end of people who leave for that reason?

    I can‘t help but add

    You ain’t seen nothing yet.

  7. My friends…this is simply the loud minority. Not the voice of people. Oh yes, I study social history and I know how the intelligentsia like to take protests and transform them into a “bubbling up” of democratic action, but alas, sometimes they really are extremists not at all representative of society writ large.

    Remember, Prop. 8 did win and not everyone who voted against it thinks the same way the protesters do. Also, the protesters will eventually see that the Church has nothing to offer them. Protesting takes energy, and when they don’t get results, that energy wanes quickly. And they will see that protesting against the Church earns them no points with government officials. Unless they truly have nothing to do in life besides protest, we can expect this to die out soon enough.

  8. This week, the Episcopalians in my metroplex had 50 out of 55 congretations leave the communion over gay marriage, voting “yes on 8” vis a vis the national church they used to belong to. I’m still stunned.

  9. The Church is going to lose on this one. I suspect that next year, a repeal will be on the ballot in California. Proposition 8 came much closer to failing than Prop 22 did a few years ago. Apparently the black community who turned out to vote for Obama voted 75 to 25 for Prop 8. They likely won’t turn out in such numbers until 2012 when Obama runs again. If not next year, it will happen in the near future in the more liberal states. This year, Connecticut joined Massachusetts. Many nations, including Canada now have gay marriage. It is just a matter of time, since the voters under 35 are overwhelmingly in favor of it. Obama will be appointing more liberal judges, and after the Bush experience, it will be a long time before another cultural conservative is elected president. Just my predictions. I’ve never been able to see the arguments against gay marriage. I can’t see how it affects my marriage in any way. I’ve found marriage has been a wonderful thing in my life and can’t see what our grounds are for denying it to people who are gay. Is it better for them to just go from partner to partner with no commitment to any one? Many of them are living in monogamous partnerships now, what is wrong with letting them call it marriage? What business does the government have interfering with choice of marriage partner anyhow, as long as they are consenting adults?

  10. Stephen M. (Ethesis),

    I know of at least one Episcopalian that whose skin would be crawling at your oversimplification of the issues. The primary debate is between the universialist faction of the church whose approach to the bible, authority and the trinity is labeled liberal, while the traditional approach is pretty much Catholic. The dispute over same sex marriage is more of a by product of larger theological disputes.

    I see the dispute in the LDS church is more setting the Iron Rods v. Liahonias and not parallel at all.

  11. “I see the dispute in the LDS church is more setting the Iron Rods v. Liahonias and not parallel at all.”

    I was not aware of a dispute in the church on this matter. Didn’t the Prophet speak? And ask the Brethren to support Prop 8. If there is a dispute, it takes the form of a double bind. Such thinking is profoundly unhealthy. Stick with what you know. The Prophet is true. Is this not the appropriate view for LDS faithful?

  12. I know of at least one Episcopalian that whose skin would be crawling at your oversimplification of the issues

    I just know what I read in the newspapers about it, and from the African Missionary churches that have been springing up. I don’t doubt that the debate could be much more nuanced.

    Most of what the traditionalists talk about is in terms of betrayal, etc., which seems inflammatory. However, it may well be more accurate, I’m more than open to a more complete discussion.

  13. I guess if you lived at the time of Christ you would have advised Him to be more PR savvy. Was public opinion Christ main concern? Should it be Christ main concern for His church today?

    What is the mission of the Church?

    We’re proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, and as we all know that has never been on the hit parade.

    By what is being said on this post I suppose the author and many of those who have made comments would like the church better if we proclaimed a gospel that says:

    Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.

    (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 28:8)

  14. We’ll find out in time. Anything now is baseless speculation – no matter the conclusion, for growth or decline in membership. I’m fine waiting, since I have no special prophetic authority or abilities.

  15. 16. Jared

    If that was the true attitude of many that have disagreements with the Church’s decisions I would totally agree with you. But I know for myself, my attitude can also be found in the scriptures –

    “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

    -The 11th Article of Faith

  16. captainmelody

    The 11th Article of Faith expresses a meaningful doctrine for those who haven’t made covenants in the waters of baptism and in the temple. However, once covenants are made then a different expectation is in force if one is to honor their covenants.Of course, if one falls short of these expectation, then repentance is always an option.

  17. Stephen M. (Ethesis),

    About the Episcopal issues, I am sorry I can’t point you to any published sources, it was just a facebook discussion with a lady who was concerned about the abandonment of the Nicene Creed as being the primary issue for her. I think gay marriage sells newspapers (and creates Mormonmatters traffic) so we only hear the one angle. If I find anything online I will let you know (if you are interested).

  18. “The 11th Article of Faith expresses a meaningful doctrine for those who haven’t made covenants in the waters of baptism and in the temple.”

    With all due respect, Jared, the 11th Article of Faith makes no such distinction and, in fact, is written by a Prophet about those who were members of the church he founded AND those who were not. The wording clearly seems to be universal. Exactly how we reconcile following the dictates of our own conscience with accepting the prophetic authority of our apostles is up to us individually, but the 11th Article of Faith can’t be brushed aside as applicable only to those who have not been baptized or endowed, imo.

  19. Ray,

    Thanks for your response. I like you, want to advance in knowledge and understanding.

    I am ready to learn. We have a respectful disagreement on an important point. I invite you help me understand your point by providing scripture(s) and quote(s) from the apostles and prophets. I will endeavor to do the same. If your decide to do this you can email me at dilgentlyseek@gmal.com or just reply here.

    By the way, this doesn’t have to be done in a hurray. Let’s take the necessary time.

  20. 19. Jared

    Some members feel that the Church made a poor decision in enforcing its principles upon homosexuals, the majority of which have not made those covenants.

    But if you are of the opinion that any questioning of leadership decisions in the Church constitutes apostasy we probably will never see eye to eye. I think you can (and should) question decisions made in the Church. Brigham Young taught that we should do this. He taught that we should not follow in blind faith but we should pray for our own witness. If the Spirit teaches me the decision was incorrect, I think I’m obliged to listen.

  21. I am pretty sure we weren’t expecting those 48% to accept the covenants of baptism. This seems to be one more instance of bad press for the church – however, it appears that we have gained some more respect from the evangelical community (and I have heard) the black community. Is this a case of a pr blunder or ‘do what is right, let the consequence follow’?
    http://www.article6blog.com/

    In his personal history, Hyrum Dayton (ancestor, baptized by Joseph Smith) wrote that he was driven from his home 5 times for the Gospel’s sake and ‘never felt to murmur’. I am fascinated by the reaction of modern members to this issue.
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91486191

  22. captainmelody,

    I agree that we need to question decision by those in leadership position. How we do this is important though. If we want to keep the Spirit in our lives we need to question in the Lords way. That is a whole different discussion.

    My point regarding the 11th Article of Faith is that it was written, and has been used, to my knowledge, by the apostles and prophets to promote understanding and tolerance for views held by other religions. I don’t recall that it has ever been used to settle differences on important doctrine points for members who hold different views.

  23. Gay marriage again? Its getting old now.

    But your conclusion:

    “Who are the Mormons? The come from Utah and used to marry more than one wife and used to deny blacks full participation in their temples. They are also the ones who fought against same sex marriage in California because their prophet told them to.

    That might lack perspective but where would the falsehood lie?”

    I’d say is spot on and correct. Of course its simplistic but there isn’t a falsehood in it. And remember that God gives the doctrine and God changes it, as He did with polygamy in 1880’s (I think 1880?) Plus the revelations and even the bible was clear on the backs issue: First the Jews would here the gospel and hold the priesthood, and reject it, then the Gentiles ie europeans, asians; and then finally the Heathen, before Jesus shows himself to the Jews and they will finally believe in him. Simple matter of first this group, then the other group, before going back to the first group, ie Religious Group Theory! 🙂

    Anyway, I’d also point out that the ‘gay group’ has never been included in any prophesy saying that one day they will hold the priesthood or reach the highest level of the celestial kingdom. They may not be ‘sons of perdition’ off course but there is no promise that gay actions will one day not be considered just sinful. Unless Pt Monson shows up with a new revelations saying that gays can also be exalted, then the matter completely changes.

  24. I’m listening to FoxNews Red Eye guy who is having a go at gays protesting across the country. His views, which are normally weird and anti-church, are basically that gays should stop comparing themselves to blacks since gays were never slaves themselves and that if they put into law ‘civil union’ as the meaning of ‘gay marriage’ we wouldn’t have all this mess.

    They are actually saying that it isn’t fair that gays compare themselves to the blacks slaves and are going after ‘white’ churches only since some 70 of blacks voted against gay marriage.

    Interesting that the Red Eye crew start now to criticize the gay protests. If they do I wonder how many of the silent majority are getting sick of gay protest now and are secretly saying ‘go away’. If it is a silent majority then the church as the more visible institution against this gay marriage, have certainly hit the mark in being the leaders against gay marriage. Again the first presidency was inspired in what they did -it also got the message out to the Mormon bloggers as to where our doctrine actually sits in this matter.

  25. “If it is a silent majority then the church as the more visible institution against this gay marriage, have certainly hit the mark in being the leaders against gay marriage. Again the first presidency was inspired in what they did -it also got the message out to the Mormon bloggers as to where our doctrine actually sits in this matter.”

    I think this is a perfectly acceptable position for the LDS Church to take on gay marriage. I think it only confuses gay identified youth who are brought up in Mormon homes that there is a place for them in the Church. I wish the Church would just come out and say: We do not accept the concept of a gay identity, now go away. The Church approved alternatives of living a celibate life alone or to enter a mixed orientation marriage are not acceptable to most sane individuals. Such alternatives have led to depression and in some cases suicide.

  26. # 28 Carlos JC
    as I stated early in my post my comments were not about same sex marriage per se but about the public perception of the Church and how our efforts will almost certainly damage the way we are viewed in society at large which has accepted homosexual rights and will never retreat, no matter how many press releases the church issues. If public perception of the Church doe not matter then why is Church organization littered with P.R. personnel and callings? I acknowledge that Church doctrine and values cannot be driven by society, but I think that this battle was ill chosen and a big mistake.

    We do not control the Mormon Brand.

  27. Personally, I think it’s due time for the church to have a healthy stretch of unpopularity, and I say bring it on. Not that I relish any of it, and not that I think anyone should seek out or take pride in the martyr label. But read Elder Hales talk in the last General Conference if you need any perspective on this. I think a common sin within the church is trying to serve the Lord without offending the devil — taking an unhealthy concern for what they’re saying about us in the Great and Spacious Building. Being a bit too concerned with whether people accept us and not concerned enough with whether God accepts us.

    Again, I don’t relish or enjoy the bad PR we get and will get. But I’d rather go to church with thick-skinned, calloused-kneed saints than with a bunch of folks who crave the popularity of the world. Wherever you stand on Prop 8 or other topics, I’m hoping we respond to bad press vigorously and humbly. And I hope the bad PR causes us to care more about being popular with God and to care less about what others may think.

  28. 33. Wade

    I am not well versed on the Church’s actions, but I am pretty sure that the Church participated in other state and federal actions to define marriage between a man and woman during Gordon B. Hinckley’s time as Prophet. I recall in once case a specific letter signed by many clergy that included an apostle’s signature – Elder Nelson, I believe. Maybe someone else can fill in the details and sources.

  29. Wade (33),

    Just an opinion, but I suspect the man who wrote most of the words in the Proclamation on the Family and also the book “Standing for Something” would have done the same thing as his successors. With his PR expertise he might have nuanced things differently, but I’m gussing that the differences had he been living would have been more in terms of style than in substance.

  30. Why do we care what someone thinks when we try to do the Lords will and keep His commandments? It’s our pride that makes us want to force a person to do our will or even Gods. That is the same thing that put the devil where he is. The wicked will pay for their sins. We should feel sorrow from what we see not anger.

  31. King so do you see the Church’s effort as raising the Title of Liberty?
    Were we playing Captain Moroni in nullifying others’ marriages?

  32. Yes…one of the great misconceptions of this campaign…

    The Church participated in essentially the same way (though *maybe* not to the same degree) in the 2000 Prop. 22 campaign. So yes, President Hinckley would have and did choose this course of action.

  33. Wade Nelson,

    “If public perception of the Church doe not matter then why is Church organization littered with P.R. personnel and callings?”

    There is a slight misunderstanding because I didn’t mean to express that and I can agree with your view of P.R and that public perception is important to the church. They never will call a controversial figure as a general authority, for example.

    But in this same sex marriage issue (while they do try to draw a delicate line) they actually want the world to know about our beliefs and what is just simply unacceptable. Its an issue were it is worthwhile to take a public stance even when all those gays and gay supporters become more hateful to the church. I doubt anyway that these people will one day be mormons, unless they change as much as, say, Michael Glatze did(http://www.massresistance.org/docs/events07/Michael_Glatze/index.html).

    ………………

    About Hinkley, he would have done exactly the same, as that leaked memo from shows (http://www.massresistance.org/docs/events07/Michael_Glatze/index.html)

  34. Trying again because the previous comment went to moderation because of the two links I added, one on Michael Glatze which is also here on the right and the Hinckley memo link which went up last week.

    Wade Nelson,

    “If public perception of the Church doe not matter then why is Church organization littered with P.R. personnel and callings?”

    There is a slight misunderstanding because I didn’t mean to express that and I can agree with your view of P.R and that public perception is important to the church. They never will call a controversial figure as a general authority, for example.

    But in this same sex marriage issue (while they do try to draw a delicate line) they actually want the world to know about our beliefs and what is just simply unacceptable. Its an issue were it is worthwhile to take a public stance even when all those gays and gay supporters become more hateful to the church. I doubt anyway that these people will one day be mormons, unless they change as much as, say, Michael Glatze did(

    …………

    About Hinkley, he would have done exactly the same, as that leaked memo from shows

  35. I didn’t know that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints couldn’t vote. My bad.
    Do you think God isn’t going to do more than nullify something he calls an abomination. We might as well nullify the ten commandments by vote. That will show God what we think. That’s liberty.

  36. 42.

    I could ignore that comment, but I’ll bite. Your comment was uncharitable and out of line with what the brethren are teaching about homosexual tendencies among members. Please remember that we’re talking about actual people here, some of whom may be friends in your own ward. The “church vs. the gays” storyline is a gay rights community perspective but not the church’s way of looking at these issues. (No, REALLY!) Please think twice before tossing hand grenades on the bloggernacle. It’s called troll behavior, even if you think you represent the church’s perspective.

  37. simpleman

    There are plenty of “Gay” Mormons out there, and I happen to be one of them. However, we don’t refer to ourselves as “Gay”, as that is really a social / lifestyle designation. 3 to 5% of the population is estimated to be homosexual, and that statistic is true whether we’re talking about Mormons or non-Mormons. None of us chose to be homosexual any more than you chose to be straight. Whatever the reason – born that way or a combination of factors – we are what we are. Not all of us have left the Church to pursue a Gay life-style. There are many of us who are faithful members of the Church. About 60% of us are married and have children. We bless the sacrament, attend the Temple, teach your kids in Primary, and even serve missions. I currently teach the High Priest Group in our Ward, but I have served previously in 7 Bishoprics, the High Council and in the Stake Presidency. And yes, my local Church leaders know of my homosexuality. Sexual orientation does not preclude one from service in the Kingdom, the blessings of the Gospel, or the love of the Savior.

    If you would like to become more informed about the teachings of the Church on homosexuality, I suggest you pick up a copy of the October 2007 Ensign and read the article by Elder Holland on the subject. There is also a new Church pamphlet titled “God Loveth His Children” that addresses this issue and how members of the Church should respond to it. I hope you will take the time to read these materials.

    Homosexual members of the Church face many daunting challenges, but one we should not have to face is cruelty and bigotry from Church members. Its sad to see many who have made solemn covenants to love as Christ would love lay aside their Christianity when it comes to this subject. I hope and pray that will change, for all our sakes.

    Regards,

    Neal

  38. Hello my name is Merle Dean Shamblin and I would like to be your new friend. I sure could use somebody to chat with. I am a 47 year old long haul truck driver who currently lives in Duncan Oklahoma. Dec 8th 1960 I was born in Fairview Oklahoma. Moved to Caddo and Washita counties where I attended school at Colony Hydro and Weatherford. My parents Malvin and Wanda Shamblin were cotton and peanut farmers. Dad died in 99 from lung cancer. Graduated from SWOSU with a business degree. My two sisters are LaDonna Hubert and Malva Burrahm. Dennis is my brother. I have been a truck driver for 14 years and have driven 2 million paid miles. I have received many safe driving awards over the years. I am single and have never been married. I have a wide range of interests and am pretty much an open book. Currently I drive a 2006 Freightliner for a major carrier. I dont go to Canada very often. I dont have a dedicated route so I run the entire lower 48. I enjoy reading cinema music sports travel etc.

  39. It does not matter if the name of a church is taken for good or bad. What matters is that a church stands for what it believes. The principles of most if not all christian churches is against homosexuality, because that issue is plainly explained in the bible. Was not because of this unnatural behavior that the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorra were destroyed? Certainly trying to excuse a wrong behavior by making it legal is not going to change God’s laws about marriage between man and woman only.

  40. Pingback: Rebranding the church (a charitable view) « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

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