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Redeeming America's Armpit

The New Cool Mormons

The Mormons launched a new PR campaign on local TV.  Two 15 second spots run back to back.  There's a series of them. Each features a young, cool, vivacious person doing young, cool, vivacious things, with voiceover:
 
 I'm a bicyclist, I'm a curator, I'm a husband......and I'm a Mormon!
 
I'm a scateboarder, I'm a student, I'm a musician.......and I'm a Mormon!
 
Toss in some feel-good banal statement, such as “I believe in living every minute of each day as though it was my last,” and the ad is complete:
 
I'm a surfer, I'm a wife, I'm a nurse, I believe that we're all here in life to make a difference.......and I'm a Mormon!
 
Get it? We're cool, just like you. What.....did you hear somewhere that we're weird? Who told you that? No! We're not weird at all! We're just like you, only more so! Please.....love us!
 
Now, can I tell you what I think of this campaign? If I do, it will be a departure for me, because I've said kind things about Mormons on these posts. Besides, I don't want to offend Nate the Mormon, an amiable fellow with whom I sometimes exchange comments, who is these days given to writing movie reviews on off-the-radar films.  I mean, don't get me wrong.....it's not as though I think Mormons and JWs are brethern religions or anything.......we're poles apart spiritually.... but there are several similarities between us and they are good similarities. Both faiths have a public ministry....yes, yes, just a two year stint for the youngsters, but it's intense, and more than anyone else has. Both have a reputation for honesty. Both keep their ranks clean. Both look after their own, and promptly come to the aid of members in times of disaster. Both recognize the value of organization. Neither has members who insist on exercising their own rights to the exclusion of all else. Both even had a child superstar of the 70's: Donny Osmond for them, Michael Jackson for us (who, alas, strayed). No question about it: there's things about Mormons I like.

But I can't stand this new campaign of theirs. It wore out it's welcome the first time I saw it. Is it just a stupid  public relations move from the Mormons, or does it represent what they are? Dunno. But it's so pandering. It is so....oh, please love us.....we're cool, like you! Not the slightest hint of anything spiritual. Instead, absolute emphasis on how Mormons love to have fun, and how they love to do neat things. It's like the Catholics crowing 'we're the place for BINGO! Or “we've chucked those boring masses for guitars!” At least when they embraced those things, they didn't glorify it through PR spots, as though they wished to redefine themselves thereby. I mean, why carry on as if ashamed of what you are? Aren't Mormons supposed to be a faith?
 
Look, I'm not opposed to fun. Or having interesting work. All of those things the various Mormons do....we have people who do them, too. But I can't imagine a campaign in which we identify ourselves by those activities.

Now, it just so happens that the general managers of two Rochester radio stations are Jehovah's Witnesses. Sometimes you'll hear them on the air. That's cool, isn't it? I know both of these guys They're nice people. But there's no way I can imagine a TV spot featuring them in the control room, laughing and chatting into the mike, flipping this switch or that, grilling some recalcitrant newsmaker....so busy, so active, so alive, with the voiceover: I'm Tom Whitepebble. I'm a radio guy. I'm a husband. I'm a golfer. And.......I'm a Jehovah's Witness!
 
For crying out loud, you could make one of those dopey ads about ME! Surround me with the developmentally disabled. See me helping them with this or that project. See the happiness I bring them, their excited, smiling faces. And now listen to the promo:  I'm Tom Sheepandgoats. I'm a community worker for the disabled. I'm a writer. I'm a father. And.......I'm a Jehovah's Witness!

“I'm not weird at all! I'm cool! I don't eat Bible sandwiches! You could be cool, too, and happy, just like me, if you'd just become a Jehovah's Witness!”

I mean, doesn't it just make you want to puke?

Two years ago the Watchtower ran the life story ("Never Forget the Door to Door Ministry") of a Witness who was raised a Mennonite. I know the fellow. I've been to his home. As a Mennonite, he was chased from Russia to Germany. There he studied with Jehovah's Witnesses, was baptized, and again emigrated to Paraguay. He began preaching in a Mennonite colony in Paraguay, where they promptly spread out warnings about the newly arrived "false prophet." With his growing family, he moved here to upstate New York. The article touches upon various spiritual highlights and experiences of his life.
 
What it does not mention at all is that this fellow is now a millionaire. I mean, he must be, unless he gave it all away, which is possible....he's a very generous man. He became one of the area's premiere homebuilders. Tracts of homes bearing his company name are found everywhere. But there's absolutely no mention, in the Watchtower, of his material success. Instead, an exclusive focus on the spiritual. Possibly the next guy featured in the magazine didn't have two nickels to rub together. It's a matter of no importance. Each is defined in terms of spiritual things, not material. The day I hear “I'm Bob the Builder. I'm a homebuilder. I'm a traveler. I'm a millionaire. And......I'm a Jehovah's Witness!” I'm outta here.
 
That the Watchtower does not even mention this fellow's material success makes me very proud indeed to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Finally, a group that sees right through the shallowness of goals society teaches us to slobber over. Finally, a group not awed by social prominance, material success, or “coolness.” When our people are cool, it's incidental. It's not something sought after, and....one might as well say it, we have many who are decidedly uncool. Finally, a group who gets the sense of 1 John 2:15-17:
 
Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.
 
Of course, 1 John is from the Bible, and Mormons make little use of the Bible. Other than trying to make a few verses point to an Upcoming Modern Revelation, their own Book of Mormon, I don't think they use it at all. But apparently, if this new media campaign is anything to go by, the Book of Mormon repeals 1 John 2:15-17 in favor of avidly pursuing all goals the world deems valuable, being fully part of the world, if you will. It's just not our way.
 
Look, we have fun, Jehovah's Witnesses do. And we have interesting work, too, some of us anyway. A handful of us are even cool. But if you're main focus on life is to have fun and career fulfillment, don't come to us. That's not what we're all about. We're Bible people. We live it. We teach it. We don't carry on as if ashamed of it.

...........................

Update here

Still more here

*******************

Tom Irregardless and Me   No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

Comments

Mike Felker

I am going to have to agree with you on this one. Mormons are becoming more and more "evangelical" (in the modern sense, not the historical sense) as time passes. Like the fluffy evangelicalism of today, they are adapting to the culture and trying to be more "relevant." Doing such always comes with a price. This is why Mormonism today is not the Mormonism of 30 years ago, where most Mormons really knew their stuff. Contrast this with today's Mormons who are being heavily influenced by postmodernism and trying to "fit in" as another Christian denomination. They have basically stripped themselves of the uniqueness that they once had.

This is one thing I have to respect the JW's for. You guys have been a straight line from the start. You don't care about catch phrases, conforming to the culture, and trying to be "relevant." And this certainly makes for more profitable interactions between myself and JW's, as I don't have to be constantly teaching you what you believe before I can show you where you're wrong.

However, with Mormons, I have to lug around all their various doctrinal books, since so many aren't aware of their core teachings any longer.

tom sheepandgoats

"I am going to have to agree with you on this one."

You agree with pretty much all my posts, don't you? :) Ah, well....for this brief second, we're semi-allies.

Does this new Mormon PR campaign appear where you are, too, or is it just a local one for our test-market area?

Rosie

"Hi, I'm a Carpenter, globetrotter, wine connoisseur and cook good fish; I like to keep fit and trim and have really cool friends... Oh and by the way I'm ... "

Okay, I'll stop there... but Jesus is our model - I'm just trying to imagine his "ad".

natedredge

Well I’ll be the first to agree with you that there is too much of an emphasis on material success in the LDS Church. It’s not an ‘official’ emphasis, but its obviously there, even if not intentional you can still see it. I’ll also agree with you that the Church has an obsession with public relations campaigns, that was largely what the previous Church presidency (Gordon B. Hinckley’s 1995-2008) was all about, though I’m not saying that President Hinckley didn’t do some good things, he did a lot of them. A lot of the goodwill the Church seemed to have built up from the 80’s on seemed to evaporate after highly publicized Mormon involvement in California’s prop 8, the raid on the FLDS compound in Texas, and Mitt Romeny’s flat presidential run in 2008. As a result I’m not surprised by the ’we’re cool’, ’were just like you’ campaign (though I‘ve not seen it). Heck the Church even supported an anti-gay discrimination ordnance in Salt Lake City, and that would never have happened without the bad press from Prop 8. Anyway yeah, the Church tries to mainstream itself and its awkward, it’s a combination of a history of persecution and the Church’s always being about a generation or two behind the times.

As for Church use of the Bible the idea that we don’t use it, or use it only rarely is a misconception. We use it all the time, and yeah like every faith I’m familiar with we cherry pic it to back up pre-conceived doctrine. And yeah as Mike points out members don’t know a lot of the obscure stuff that they may have 30 years ago, but heck its been thirty years, and even then most of what Mike was likely referring too were obscure statements of 19th Century Church leaders. I mean it was the19th century, yes it’s a legitimate part of our heritage and the development of the faiths belief system, but a lot of it was odd and speculative , even then. So one may think they are educating Mormons on what they ‘really believe’ but most Mormons simply don’t believe all of what there ancestors did, they were never taught it, and in some cases neither were there ancestors. Every faith has stuff in there past they are embarrassed about. As for the gradual ’evangelical’ movement of the Church, yes some of that is going on, but its fairly moderate and cosmetic. If you want to see a faith that’s really gone evangelical check out the Seventh-day Adventists, I went to a service once and if not for a single mention of Ellen G White it could have been a Baptist meeting. Well that's just my take.

tom sheepandgoats

Thanks, Rosie. Maybe it's just as well there was not televised PR in the first century.
Thanks, Nate, for the historical context.

Mike Felker

No, no PR in my neck of the woods (Atlanta). But then again, I stopped watching TV when LOST completely broke my heart with its terrible ending.

tom sheepandgoats

My condolences on LOST. Plus, I've learned since this post that Rochester is a test market for the campaign. Not sure how many, if any, other markets there are. But upstate NY is Mormon country. I would think they have as much good will here as they would anywhere, what with the annual Hill Commorah pageant only 30 miles away in Palmyra.

Ragoth

Hey Tom,

Having come from a South-of-Southern Baptist church, I have always found it funny when churches try to "modernize" with youth groups, "contemporary" music, and whatnot. Now, it may be my music predilection, but I've always found contemporary religious music rather tepid. Of course, I feel the same way about a lot of hymns written after say...1850 or so? Maybe a few decades before. To be honest, I'm either very old school (even Handel bothers me at times), or a child of the musical blossoming beginning in the fifties, dying in the late nineties, and only recently beginning to come out again.

(I realize this is a huge tangent, but, ah well...)

So, yeah, while I have played in church praise ensembles, I always found it rather boring. There's no technical skill required, no really surprising modulations, no interesting harmonies or discords...just very bland, tepid music (I'm sure you may appreciate the long-sided reference to draw to Revelations).

For me, it's got to be interesting (a short-list: The Beatles, Tom Waits, David Bowie, Lady Gaga [yes...Lady Gaga. It's hard to find a more talented young artist today], anything Chris Cornell has been in...almost, Lamb of God [gotta bring the metal home], anything that Ronnie James Dio ever touched, and I'll admit, there's a special place in my heart for Pink Floyd, The Who, Led Zeppelin, and The Doors, but that's all faded a bit over the years. And yes, this is a very short list...)

All of this has been a long-winded way of saying that overall I agree with your point - it's ridiculous, and also to say that I finally got around to replying to your response on my own blog. I'm sorry I haven't been around for a while (I'm sure someone, somewhere missed me); but we've been doing a lot of renovations on the condo and to be honest, outside of my job, that's been taking up the majority of my time.

-Ragoth

tom sheepandgoats

"Having come from a South-of-Southern Baptist church"

:)

"Now, it may be my music predilection, but I've always found contemporary religious music rather tepid"

Johnny Cash's final few albums. We must not forget those. We've discussed them before. One or two of them can send chills down me.

And I'm not familiar with Lady Gaga, though I've heard the name. Perhaps, just as you tuned me in to Tom Waits, you'll do the same with Lady G.

"I'm sorry I haven't been around for a while"

Not to worry. In my book, you are someone who "has a life," so I attribute any absenses to that, and not to derelection of duty.

Ragoth

Johnny Cash gets a pass, of course, though I wouldn't characterize them as "contemporary religious music." Or, to be more accurate, it is in the sense that it is contemporary, and much of it is religious inspired or themed. It's not "contemporary religious music" in terms of genre, though, e.g. Amy Grant or Michael W. Smith. I would love to include Michael McDonald in that list...but that's more my utter loathing of Michael McDonald than anything else (nearly ruined the Doobie Brothers...c'mon). But more to the point, Johnny Cash will always, always get a pass in my book. Even if they published a posthumous rap/hip-hop album by him (that would be something), I'd still buy it. And lord knows, it would probably be very, very good.

As for Lady Gaga - I'll say this: 1) a lot of people find her fashion objectionable. I see it as the natural outgrowth of Bowie's glam era. It helps that I find her very attractive, but, hey, personal judgment and all. 2) On her first album, The Fame, a lot of the songs (though certainly not all) are mostly "party" tracks - so, upbeat dance tunes. Heavily infused with influence from David Bowie and Queen. On tracks like, say, "Summerboy" however, if you take out the backing track, it could easily have come from '60's or '70's pop music...or for that matter, The Cardigans of more recent fame. The Fame Monster (album 2), in my opinion, is superior in terms of musical growth, though a lot of people didn't find it as "catchy." "Speechless" is my favorite from the album, and is heavily, heavily glam influenced.

3) I'll also say this...having seen her live, she puts on the most spectacular (and I mean that in the sense of spectacle) show I've ever seen and does very, very well with interlacing her music, fashion, and overall flow of the show. Add on top of that that she is a fantastic musician (see if you can find some of her unplugged/piano versions of songs - she writes her own lyrics and her own music, and plays on every track...which, for me, is very important) and with a few exceptions is actually very down to earth...well, I put her up as probably my favorite and the best musician of the last few years.

Also, David Bowie is helping produce her next album and providing some instrumentation and vocals. Now, if Tom Waits were somehow to get involved, or if Lady G started doing Tom Waits covers...well, my life would be basically complete. I'm only slightly kidding about that.

Well, thanks for the supposition of "having a life." I'm not sure I entirely qualify for it, but it's a nice thought. Let's see...outside of my job, in the past two months I've put in a new toilet, took out the old shower curtain and installed a shower door, installed a new light fixture in the bathroom (the first new one we got had a short in the fixture itself...that was a fun one to track down), and have started removing the paint from the trim in order to sand it, re-prime it and repaint it. Unfortunately, our place was last renovated in 1969, so everything is lead paint infused. So right now we're using liquid stripper to keep everything wet, misting everything down, running a HEPA vacuum constantly while we're peeling, and got some heavy-duty lead-safe respirator masks and a lot of plastic drop cloths to block off areas while we're working. For the next few months, we've got to finish stripping the trim, prime it, repaint it, then put up some textured paintable wallpaper and paint that, finish construction on some furniture items for storage and what-not, and start looking at getting our floors redone. Any advice from you or anyone you know with home-repair experience?

-Ragoth

tom sheepandgoats

Ragoth.....As you know, thoughout history, the greatest minds of humankind have grappled with this issue. Alas, they've come up with squat, though I think Plato or someone suggested you can sometimes prevail upon a relative to do those things for you.

casey

i like sheep

Ragoth

Hah, if only...no, this seems to be a mostly solo project.

-Ragoth

laceysquarepants

Hi T. S&G, haven't posted in a long time but just had to on this subject. I live in LDS stronghold and there is no Morman ads on the tv here, yet.

However, Scientologists have several.

tom sheepandgoats

LSP: Someone else just sent me this link:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_upshot/in-new-tv-ad-campaign-mormons-pitch-message-to-middle-america

Seems that Rochester is one of 9 test cities. The others so blessed are: Baton Rouge, La.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Pittsburgh; Oklahoma City; St. Louis; Tucson, Ariz.; and Minneapolis.

Some remarks mirror mine exactly, such as the stated goal to establish that "we're not weird." Nate's comment above is also validated.

It also states that Mormons ran a more doctrinal based campaign a few years ago, but that "Research showed that the ads were too "sophisticated" and viewers weren't getting the message."

Any Witness of Jehovah can identify with this conundrum. Let's face it; religion's a drag. Perhaps we should ditch the Bible and talk about hit movies and the tabloid news. That's less "sophisticated." That way, maybe folks will pay more attention.

Screech

Of the LDS people that I have known here in Arizona (another Morman mecca) I have not yet found one who was knowledgable in either the Bible or any of their own holy books. I'm not trying to say anything negative, but that's what I have observed.

I used to have conversations with LDS members, asking about their beliefs. I always got a good answer, but when I would question about the particulars, attempting to understand their point of view on matters, I would quickly get the "you've just got to have faith" answer. I always got the feeling that the phrase meant something along the lines of, "get away from me, Satan!"

I'm sure it wasn't intended that way, but it was a definate conversation stopper. I can't blame them, I mean why go into a conversation about your faith if someone obviously has no heartfelt interest in it?

Of course, I'm jealous of the TV ads. Maybe we should talk to the brothers in Bethel and ask them to do the same. It might be kinda cool, except I would be afraid of a flock of little Michael Jacksons sprouting out of it.

tom sheepandgoats

Screech:

Did I ever tell you my meeting Mormons in the ministry story? I was on a return visit, when the doorbell rings. The householder answers, returns with an odd look on her face, and says "This ought to be interesting. Jehovah's Witnesses: meet the Mormons!" They'd also called for an RV!

So we all chatted for awhile (all this had a air of absurdity to it) when the younger Mormon launches into some long-winded, heartfelt, emotional diatribe about, I think, creation. I mean, it was all very fine, but it had absolutely nothing to do with anything. Whereupon the senior Mormon turns on him and says "So?!" I thought the poor kid would melt into the floor.

Of course, this is a human story, not really a Mormon stroy. Sometimes you have to reign in an underling. Didn't Moe have to do that with Larry and Curly sometimes? But, as it was, these guys were Mormons.

Screech

I can imagine the scene :-)

martyn

Wow, We don't get any ads like that over here!! From any branch of religion or denomination.


We had these "young" Mormons turn up at our door, and as I love a good chat they came in. But they couldn't stand on any grounds their approach had dramatically changed from when I last entertained. They use to come in suits, well dressed and usually mixed age. This was different two "casual dressed" guys of mid twenties who seemd "hip".

Not that I would had been taken in by such a modern ploy, but it did definately make them more appealing. But they just didn't know their scripture. It was sad, and even even they gave me a book of Mormon and came back, they still couldn't support their own understanding.

I wonder now, if world wide there has been a sad change of direction for them, trying to evangelise without strength and knowledge sadly did not give me any respect for them.

tom sheepandgoats

You know, it never occurred to me that they might dress hip to match their ads. I don't recall them in any other than white shirts w tie, spottable from 2 miles away. But if they are now hip, I may have walked right by some, and not recognized them.

Of course, we, too, dress spiffy, but with any ol shirt we want plus tie, seldom white. Thus, we are generally recognizable from a distance, but not two miles.

SPIRITUAL

I really enjoyed this article (hehehe). Love your sense of humor! (I gotta find time to read more of your articles ... you make me smile so.) Two young Mormon men called at my door a couple of weeks ago. I invited them in, and we had a looong chat. One of them wanted to accept the Bible Teach book but was afraid to because of the other older guy. At least he took it, though, and flipped through the pages.
(I feel good knowing that Jehovah reads the heart.)

Thank you, and have a nice day!

Agape,
SPIRITUAL

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