"I'm a Mormon" Media Campaign

Friday, October 14, 2011


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints—otherwise known as the Mormon Church—is expanding a national media campaign to dispel misconceptions the public might have about its members. Brooke spoke with Ron Wilson, the church's manager for internet and advertising, about the campaign and the misconceptions it hopes to correct.


The Heath Brothers - "Smilin' Billy"

Comments [29]


I agree with the previous commenters that this interview was a propaganda piece for the Mormon church and lacked the journalistic rigor I respect so much about OTM. I have studied Mormonism as an historian and I, too, am more troubled by it the more I learn about it. It is not that I think Mormons are bad people, but I object to any religion which teaches its followers to take its scriptures literally (essentially fundamentalism). The church has also institutionalized racism, particular towards Native Americans, through its very origin story. My issue, then, is with the institution rather than its followers per se, although I am suspect of religious fundamentalists of all stripes.

The polygamy issue seems to be the cover the church uses as an excuse for why people dislike them. It's true that many well-educated people I know still think Mormons are polygamists, but they see this as a curiousity rather than a reason to dislike them. I also find it curious that the church has been so vehemently opposed to television shows like Big Love. Perhaps the church leaders didn't actually watch this show, because one of the continuous story lines was the family's exclusion from the Mormon community because of their polygamy. The reality show Sister Wives demonstrates the same issue.

I think it would be a helpful counterweight to this unbalanced story to bring on a historian or religious scholar to talk about Mormonism from a more objective viewpoint. OTM might also want to do a follow up on marketing by churches, which is a curious phenomenon in the era of what one scholar has called the "spiritual marketplace" of modern America.

Oct. 25 2011 11:16 PM
dogyeller from West Chester, PA

It's not what I DON'T know about Mormonism that concerns me; it's what I DO know about the church's legacy of racism, sexism and homophobia.The "I'm a Mormon" campaign doesn't appear to address those matters, so it's not going to change my opinion. In fact, the superficial nature of the campaign only reinforces my impression that the church has no real interest in addressing its is role in oppression.

Oct. 23 2011 08:18 AM
James from Dallas, TX

I liked their 1980 media campaign better:

Also, William Shunn's audiobook "The Accidental Terrorist" (about his experiences as a Mormon missionary in Alberta) is great.

Oct. 22 2011 11:24 PM
Chris Daly from Boston

As I pointed out in my blog (www.journalismprofessor.com), at least one of the statements by Mr. Wilson was seriously misleading. When he said that Mormonism was the "fourth-largest church" in America, he should have been challenged on that assertion.

Oct. 19 2011 05:37 PM
blackhound63 from Texas

Was this journalism or an opportunity for the Mormon church to have a free PR slot on public radio? You have lost all credibility OTH! Are you so in need of funds that you're trying to court Mormons, the "4th largest religion?" Pathetic.

Oct. 19 2011 02:52 PM
M. Miller

I am a Mormon. I believe in all the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is the true church and that the teachings are accurate and from God. I would suggest that anyone who has questions or false ideas about the church to visit mormon.org. The majority of the comments left on this page contain incorrect or twisted ideas about this church. I thought that this interview was conducted phenomenally and I thought that Brooke did a great job.

Oct. 19 2011 12:51 AM
GeorgeLeroyTirebiter from Chicago

Re: Mickey:

“There are so many misconceptions out there about our religion”
Really? We can READ the “Book of Mormon” on line anytime. Personally, I like the “Skeptic's Annotated Bible” version, complete with a critique next to the text. Misconception? Try SHOCK.

“we are not trying to convert anyone”
So those lanky kids in white shirts and suits are at my door to distribute joy? Nice.

“You have to be careful what you choose to take in as doctrine.”
Again, shock. You believed the see-er stone story? The resurrected Christ mixing it up in Indian wars? You took all that in as doctrine? Are you currently sending a Nigerian prince money to release his fortune, which he promises to share with you?

One of the positive things about Mormonism is it inspires people to read the Judeo-Christian bible with the same critical eyes (see-er stones?) they used on the Book of Mormon, and discover how horrible the “good book” is if one actually reads it.

We don’t hate the LDS, Mickey. It’s a quack religion, that’s all. And a quack religion with political power is unfathomably repulsive. I can’t remain “respectful” and ignore what is monumentally absurd.

Oct. 19 2011 12:00 AM

Wow. An entire piece on how being Mormon is going to be a hurdle for two GOP candidates for President, but no mention that the Democratic Senate Majority Leader for the last few years is also a Mormon?

If the guest hadn't pointed this out, it would have gone entirely unmentioned.

And OTM is unbiased and without an agenda?


Oct. 18 2011 09:41 PM


Oct. 18 2011 08:48 PM
Tony G

Yep, to what lots of others said better, I'll add my "boo!" to letting this guy get away with unchallenged lies about the Church's political activities. I love this show, I highly respect Brooke and Bob, but this was a big miss.

On a related note, I would personally love to hear Brooke and Bob tackle the issue of "balance" in news reports - especially on TV - where every story about LGBT issues has to include some homophobe adding nothing to the conversation or newsworthiness of the story other than "it's just not right/moral/God's plan."

Oct. 18 2011 03:04 PM

It looks like others have already said what I would say, but just to add one more voice: shame on you, Brooke, for letting that Mormon PR guy go unchallenged on his claim that his church is not involved in politics. Prop H8 is a recent example, and I suspect anyone to the left of Mitt Romney, who lives in Utah, could offer plenty more, especially at the state and local levels.

Oct. 18 2011 10:49 AM
Dan Steves

I'm amazed and disappointed that you would give the Mormon church 6:24 to basically shill the brand that is mormonism. What made me spit and sputter was the assertion that "The church has no position, politically. We don't endorse parties. We don't endorse candidates. The only thing the church does is it encourages its members to be involved, to vote, to vote their conscience." I don't know what kind of resources you have in New York City, but I'm pretty sure you can get the internet on that side of the Mississippi. Try doing some Google searches on Prop 8 and Mormon. You'll get over 1.5 million results. By their own admission they gave at least $180,000 to help pass Prop 8 in California. I'm sorry, but that's not just shading the truth. That's an out and out lie, and you just let it pass. I hope that next weeks show will include a segment on radio hosts who lack the integrity to challenge statements that are patently false.

Oct. 18 2011 12:01 AM
GeorgeLeroyTirebiter from Chicago, IL

(sorry, I thought I could post this below the first part)
Why does any of this matter? It’s charming that Mormonism dwells on the positive, ignoring publicly the problems of its theology. Instead, they emphasize the wholesome values that help every society to prosper, whether that society’s religion lays claim to inventing these common sense values or not. If fact, the most logical thing Mormons could do is throw out their “testament”, along with the first two, and claim that, yes, it’s all undeniably bulls--t. Throw those chains away, and become the first big religion to embrace common sense values. Just love, goodwill, and home cooking. Keep the ban on caffeine and alcohol, it won’t hurt them. Make it about people interacting with people, in the right way. Which we’ll find is truly universal, despite the implications of what “(our) right way” will imply.

Let me ask again, why does this matter? Because of money, land ownership, power, imposed values - all the things that have corrupted other religions - are motivated by lies. Provable lies. It’s about honesty and taking away the power that directs church leaders to condemn gays, limit birth control, propagate wars - the list goes on. The Mormons “third testament” encouraged racism, misogyny, child abuse. And these are the sort of things the Mormon church quietly or sometimes publicly shunned, so as to remove the more barbaric elements of Joseph Smith’s monologue. It’s called “common sense,” something more people are employing as they examine the religious fables they were taught as children. Many of us dismiss these myths, showing the ability to rationally question beliefs, instead burying them deep inside our psyche.

Do we want to elect a man President of the United States who has never matured far enough intellectually to quietly step away from the “see-er stones?” Or is he truly that gullible? We had eight years of a president who believed the myth of a 6000 year old universe, who believed in the literal interpretation of the Bible, and all that implies. Is it wrong to weed out another candidate who is duped by obvious lies? After eight years of George W., I think it’s important to look at a person’s belief system, and what that tells us about their intelligence.

Oct. 17 2011 10:38 PM
GeorgeLeroyTirebiter from Chicago, IL

Ummm, is the show “On The Media” or “On The Publicist?” Because your lightweight interview of the Mormon spokesperson seems to follow the talking points any spin doctor publicist would hope an interviewer would follow. Sure, it’s cute that the Mormon church spent some of their wealth on a “market research” study that detailed the obvious: most people don’t know anything about their religion. If fact, for a few million dollars more, I could have told them that most people don’t know much about ANY religion, including whichever one they claim to belong to. In that respect, Mormons stand out in the demographics as a group that has learned more of their religions “theology” than others. Yet, they’re most elusive about discussing the actual beliefs of Mormonism, and as your interviewer proved, most people don’t know or care enough about the particulars of religions to discuss them. We’d much rather be spoken to as if we were a child, given a rosy picture of Mormonism instead of addressing the 800 pound guerilla in the room.

It’s not about how we “feel” about Mormonism, or if we know any Mormons. It’s about their belief in a third testament of the Bible, which chronicles the absurd travels of a resurrected Christ in North America, interacting with warring native tribes, the losers being forced to have darker skin, among other condemnations. I’m not going to get into to the “have your own planet” afterlife belief, as at least this part seems slightly more palatable to me than the afterlife projections decided on by mainstream Christians, based on phrases from the bible. At least with Christianity, the two thousand year gap makes historical verification much more difficult. But two HUNDRED years ago, a con man and psychic huckster named Joseph Smith convinced others that he found ancient writings, which only he could read thru special “see-er stones” and then proceeded to improvise this massive third testament of bulls--t. Which has zero historical accuracy. At least the regular bible, which it’s lack of continuity throughout, has SOME events that are provable in the historic and archeological record. Mormonism is the “Harry Potter” of its day, yet members of this “forth largest” religion either don’t bother to question this fable, or are gullible enough to take it on “faith value.” (more)

Oct. 17 2011 10:35 PM
John from Boston

I'm shocked Brooke let him get away with claiming to the church is apolitical. Prop 8?

Oct. 17 2011 03:11 PM
B from Blogosphere

Not even a mention of Jimmy Kimmels "This week in Unneccesary Censorship"?

Oct. 16 2011 10:12 PM

The interview didn't really get into the details of Mormonism or why it is perceived the way it is. As it stands, the clip merely gave a Mormon PR man a chance to give his talking points and skirt the issues.

On the topic of polygamy: nothing of substance was said on this topic. The PR man just talked about how this is a misperception of Mormonism. Meanwhile, nothing at all was said about the fact that Mormonism started out as a polygamist sect. Joseph Smith started taking secret wives, and the church didn't reverse it's position on polygamy for decades. It was only when the US government started cracking down on the Mormon's for their polygamy that they "miraculously" got a new divine revelation banning polygamy. The mormons have been monogamist for over a hundred years, but splinter groups (who see the mainstream Mormon church as kowtowing to the US government) still practice polygamy, although they aren't very numerous and are rejected by the mainstream mormon church.

He says that the Mormon church isn't political, which is just a ridiculous thing to say. Case in point: the money they spent on Proposition 8 in California. Calling it "moral not political" (as shaka Zulu does) is just silly because any political move any church does can be redefined as "moral". Mormonism was also rabidly anti-African. (Look up the history of this.) I suppose the Mormon church could also fight against civil rights for Black Americans, and they could (by the same logic) claim that it's not "political" it's a "moral" issue -- i.e. keeping African-Americans down is "moral".

It's clear that the Mormons want to be perceived as "just Christians". The problem is that they include a whole new book with a lot of new teachings, which sets them apart from baptists, calvinists, lutherans, etc - which merely have a different interpretation of the existing Bible. And if "believing in Jesus Christ" and the Old and New Testaments is sufficient to be a Christian, then we'd all have to agree that Muslims are Christians, too. Muslims are obviously more distant from Christianity than Mormonism is (e.g. Muslims think Jesus was just a prophet, not a savior), but my point still stands that "believing in Jesus" and the Old and New Testament is not, in itself, sufficient to be "just a typical Christian". Where do we draw the line, because there are plenty of Christian-based cults that Mormons wouldn't want included in the "Christian" label - for example the Moonies or any of the small Christian-based cults (e.g. David Koresh).

Oct. 16 2011 09:25 PM
amanzed from Los Angeles, CA

The unmentioned subtext of this whole interview -- the Mormon Church is run like a business, with branding strategy and marketing campaigns -- complete with a captive, full-time sales force (missionaries who are enjoined to serve without compensation in exchange for being considered righteous by their congregation).

Individually, Mormons tend to be nice -- almost too nice. But their motto, "every member a missionary," means that every Mormon is ready to turn any relationship into an opportunity for proselytizing. They are offended if you even suggest there is something wrong, relationship-distorting, or out-of-bounds about this attitude towards others. See how fast their friendship cools after you tell a Mormon friend that you don't agree that reading the Book of Mormon and feeling "a burning in your bosom" is sufficient cause to believe their kooky ideas or join their faith... or better yet, that you've tried it, and you just don't believe it.

I should know: I was an Elder in "The Church" before I got wise to the problems with their ideas and their practices. I still defend Mormons against inaccurate attacks -- after all, there are plenty of VALID criticisms of the Mormon Church. After my 4 preceding generations of history and 24 years of membership, including 2 years on a full-time mission -- all served "faithfully" in the Mormon parlance -- I can tell you that non-Mormons are justified in suspecting something a little strange about the Mormon Church. It IS a little strange.

Take a couple examples of the bizarre particularity of their doctrines: Mormons believe God is an actual human male (albeit "resurrected" from a prior universe or "creation" and "glorified," with a body of "flesh and bones")... get this! with full-functioning male anatomy, who "begets" spirit children (presumably in the conventional way) with our "Heavenly Mother," whom for some reason we are proscribed from worshiping, although she (and God the Father's other possible wives... actual, glorified women with female human anatomy) are considered "Goddesses."

Now look, even conventional Christianity is strange if you look closely. We are just used to it. But I would suggest to anyone curious about the Mormon Church to investigate historian accounts of Joseph Smith (for example, No Man Knows My History, by Fawn Brodie). Or check out how The Book of Mormon is entirely disconnected from any credible anthropological or historical evidence (except tiny wisps stitched together into the most tenuous of gauze by "Mormon apologists").

I don't believe in God any more (not after finally shaking free of lifelong Mormon indoctrination), but if I did I would thank God every day for finally finding my way out of the maze of self-serving and self-reinforcing Mormon beliefs.

Oct. 16 2011 07:57 PM
Kim Ragotzkie

Living in eastern Idaho, Zion North, it was interesting to hear the show today, polygamy is alive and well in this part of the world, we pretty much just look the other way. But it is no secret that LDS runs the legal and school systems,that is just the way it is. It is good or bad? I'll let others weigh in on that....The tone of the comments on the radio today had me concerned, that is not reality in the land of zion....

Oct. 16 2011 06:39 PM

As others have noted, Brooke never asked about Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon - which make the Church at the very least quite distinct from not all other Christian Sects (Quakers, Jehovah's Witnesses, for ex.)but the most common (Lutherans, Methodists, Protestants, Catholics, etc.).

Nor, when Wilson asserted that the Church took no political positions, did she mention Prop. 8 in California. The Church's oppostion probably made the difference in a very close vote.

Nor did she mention the Church's history of racism or its continuing sexism and practice of shunning/banning those who choose to leave the Church. Admittedly, neither is unique to LDS (think Orthodox Jews or Muslims or Hindus, etc.)

And I find the idea that we shouldn't worry about LDS because its members are nice and ordinary ... Well, sure. I've known and worked with Mormons. They are, excepting for an unusually strong (in my crowd) commitment to family, like the rest of us: good, bad and indifferent.

What bothered me most about Brooke's interview was its conformance to media standards when it comes to religion, i.e., that all faiths must be treated with the utmost respect and a complete lack of criticism on any grounds.

Oct. 16 2011 05:33 PM
Steve Maggi from Austin, TX

You sure will find out the "truth" the LDS wants you to know, especially their spin over the Mountain Meadows massacre or what led to Smith's murder. The reputation for secrecy is reinforced by how you hide behind a pseudonym "Shaka Zulu." Or did you come back from the dead through the practice of reverse baptisms Mormons have done to Einstein and Gandhi?

Meanwhile, it's moral to deny a segment of the American population fewer rights? Why not with LDS! They've been on the wrong side of many issues in the past and it's run by 15 white straight males who are ideological clones of Mitt Romney and Orrin Hatch.

Oct. 16 2011 03:51 PM
Charlene McGrady from West Chester, PA

Not all opposition to the Mormon faith is based on ignorance of the LDS. I'm quite familiar with the Mormon church and my opposition is due to their legacy of racism, sexism and homophobia. I was disappointed that Brooke failed to ask about these things.

Oct. 16 2011 12:06 PM
Ken from Georgia

When you asked the Mormon Public Relation Speaker whether they believe in Jesus Christ and he said yes, you needed to ask what he meant. For a Mormon to believe in Jesus Christ it means that a man can literally become a Jesus Christ through evolution with all of his characteristics - immortality, ability to create universes, being in all places at the same time, etc. That is not a concept of Christianity so it cannot be considered part of the Christian Community.

Oct. 16 2011 11:37 AM
Robert from NYC

Frankly, to equalize the whole argument, they're all cults.
Cult definition I found: "A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object."
Seems to me just about every "religion" fits into that definition.

Oct. 16 2011 10:17 AM
shaka Zulu from Fairoaks, CA

I am always amazed by the ignorance, the bigetry, the lies and misinformation that is out there. You can get caught up in these lies or you can go to the true source find out for yourself the truth.
The Mormon Church as it is called is without question the best thing on the planet. You can get closer to Christ than anything else that is offered. The people are the most caring, sharing and kind you will ever meet. Their message, "Come unto Christ".
Prop. 8 was not a politically thing, it was moral. Now it is political and will probably be passed soon. The Bible tells us these things will happen and Satan will gain control of most the world. But we know that will all change when the Savior cleanses the earth.
The Book of Mormon has been around since 1829. People have tried to disprove it ever since. Anthropology, archaeology and history prove this without a doubt. Not to mention DNA testing and writing procedure of the Eypgtians. You can dwell on Joseph Smith and the lies that were told about him by his ememies. All of which have been debunked over a 100 years ago.
Like some of our politicians, keep using that same old record that no one wants to listen to.
Find out the truth by going to Mormon.org.

Oct. 16 2011 01:47 AM
Donald Baxter from Iowa City, Iowa, USA

Funny, the things that work against Mormons seem to work against equality and positive images for gay people. For instance, those who know gay people tend to see us as more normal and are even defensive of gay persons. Seeing as the LDS Church was a primary funder of the Prop 8 referendum, the LDS won't get much sympathy from me.

Oct. 15 2011 05:04 PM
Patrick from Florida

"The church has no position, politically. We don't endorse parties. We don't endorse candidates."

That is a lie. On June 29, 2008, an official release from the head of the church was to be read from the pulpit which endorsed Proposition 8 and encouraged its members to support the proposition and donate for the cause. It may not be a party or candidate, but if this isn't a political position, it's a strong stance against civil rights.

Oct. 15 2011 03:47 PM
Connie from Portland, OR

Pastor Robert Jeffress was speaking the truth when he said Mormons are not Christians, if you take the mainstream Christian definition of Christian as belief in the deity of Christ (i.e a member of the Trinity). It's also probably true that most Christians consider the LDS church to be a cult. (I think they've been around long enough to be regarded as a religion, not a cult.) The Mormons tend to be a little disingenuous about this: yes, they "believe in Jesus Christ" and I think they even call him the son of God, but their ideas about Jehovah are different - the Mormon God is more of a demiurge in the Gnostic sense; not quite the God of the People of the Book.

It'll be interesting to see how conservative Republicans work this one out. If they'd be willing to vote for a Jewish candidate who shares their values and political philosophy, they shouldn't have any trouble voting for a Mormon.

Oct. 15 2011 02:32 PM
Steve Maggi from Austin, TX

I already know Mormons, my wife is an ex-one too. This ad campaign will not magically expunge the past or their well-earned bad reputation: Mountain Meadows, their racism, their sexism, their founders' bad reputation before he 'found' a book in angelic script or their weak defense on why they had polygamy, as they try to dismiss it. If this was going to work, the Catholic Church would've already tried because they're often associated with pedophilia. If you actually read their Book of Mormon, which is easily debunked by anthropology, archaeology and history, you can see why people call it a cult. It gives off the vibe of being 19th Century Scientology.

Oct. 15 2011 01:25 PM

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