January 23, 2012

"What could we put on the air that would soften their hearts to the church that we had invested so deeply in?"

The Mormon public service ads of the 1970s and 80s.
"Before Homefront began airing, when we did surveys asking people, when you hear the word ‘Mormon,’ what comes to mind, the answers were Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Osmonds, polygamists, racists. Those were the top four answers. After seven, eight, nine years of Homefront airing, when you asked the same question, the No. 1 answer was always family."
Check out "Julie Through the Glass":


Anonymous said...

Have you hugged your kid today? Have you sent them on their way? With love...love...love

YoungHegelian said...

I remember the original ads from the seventies. Very good ads.

But like every other ad, one knew that one was getting a sales job, and the Mormons were no different.

The Mormons push "family" because if they pushed doctrine every Christian in the country would go "WTF?".

And, you Mormons out there reading this, don't give "No, No, NO! that's not right!" Tell me the Mormon teachings on the Trinity & the Incarnation and then we'll talk.

edutcher said...

Agree with Young as far as the quality of the ads. The Mormon ads have always been very well made, whether you like the message or not.

As to message, I have no problem with it, maybe because Catholics are still outsiders as far as some people in this country are concerned.

Funny what happens when that "tolerance" thing really gets put to the test.

And, yeah, I think the Lefties are far more afraid of Milton than the other Protestants.

MayBee said...

I think the only religion (besides our own) we are really supposed to embrace is Islam, and that's because Obama's middle name is Hussein.

Anthony said...

I never knew where this distrust of Mormons came from -- I'm of the age where the Osmonds are my archetype -- but in the last few months I've read a couple of fiction works from the late 19th and early 20th centuries (one Zane Grey and one Conan Doyle) that really show Mormons in a very bad light. The polygamy angle is highlighted and they're seen as very repressive, such that in one (the Conan Doyle) there are literally death squads going out to 'disappear' the unfaithful.

traditionalguy said...

The study of genealogy is a way to connect us to our origins in a family tradition. It acts as cement for the tribe. And it makes receiving and giving on of an inheritance an expected act.

So far so good.

Just leave out the part about Angels of Light giving orders through Latter Day Prophets about the tribe's secret purposes, and all will be fine.

Anonymous said...

Trad -- Do you think the Egyptians said the same things about the Jews who had roamed around the desert?

Surviving on manna from heaven and getting water out of rocks! And taking responsibility for all that misfortune that befell the Egyptians not that long back. I mean, really. The nerve.

Andrea said...

Like Anthony, all I really knew about the Osmonds when I was a kid was that Donny Osmond (squeal! hey, I was seven) was one. Then a few years later in junior high one of my lunchtime buddies, a Cuban-American Catholic girl, had become obsessed with the Osmonds and was trying to convert to Mormonism. What she told me about the religion sounded pretty darn strange, but by then I had decided every religion was strange.

edutcher said...

Anthony said...

I never knew where this distrust of Mormons came from -- I'm of the age where the Osmonds are my archetype -- but in the last few months I've read a couple of fiction works from the late 19th and early 20th centuries (one Zane Grey and one Conan Doyle) that really show Mormons in a very bad light. The polygamy angle is highlighted and they're seen as very repressive, such that in one (the Conan Doyle) there are literally death squads going out to 'disappear' the unfaithful.

They were different in a time when almost everyone viewed the world as "us against them" and "us" was defined very narrowly.

Kind of like the Lefties do.

You've read "A Study In Scarlet", I see.

The Avenging Angels were gunfighters riding for the Mormon Church, out to settle any scores a Mormon might have with "Gentiles".

Some have cast doubt on whether they really existed.

Andrea said...

I forgot to add: Twilight is introducing a whole new generation of teenage girls -- and their moms! -- to Mormonism. In its own way.

Richard Dolan said...

Is the take-away the idea that advertising works? Yes, indeed it does.

It works especially well when the target audience knows nothing about the subject matter -- lack of knowledge being strongly correlated to weakly held views. When targeting an audience like that on a subject with which it has little experience (Mormonism clearly fits the bill), the objective is to create an emotional bond that causes the audience to connect the subject matter to themes the audience already likes. Creating that emotional resonance is the key to most good advertising, and it's clearly been working here. (Watch for lots of it in the upcoming Obama campaign, which will be the positive counterpart to a vicious attack on the Rep nominee designed to create negative the opposite for him.)

Where the emotions lead, the intellect often follows.

Anthony said...

edutcher: You've read "A Study In Scarlet", I see.

Yeah, just starting through it. Far more negative than the Grey novel was (The Rainbow Trail btw), but both describe Mormons as very closed and given to extreme measures to enforce the orthodoxy. I don't really know how much of it is "true" in the literal sense, but I can at least see how your average Joe Gentile from Poughkeepsie might get the idea they're a bunch of fanatics.

Anthony said...

(Added: Twilight and Mormons? Wait, are Mormons now incredibly hot angst-ridden 20-somethings?

Anonymous said...

Twilight was written by a conservative woman from Utah is my memory.

roesch/voltaire said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Known Unknown said...

After all they both spoke with angles

That would explain the Holy Trigonometry.

netmarcos said...

No, actually, the Mormons consider Thomas S. Monson to be the latest prophet.

Robert Pearson said...

South Park's episode on the Mormon's pretty much got it right. If you want to get the good and bad of the Mormon story in 21:26 and laugh your ass off here you go.

Known Unknown said...

Just don't ask them about Outer Darkness.

Chuck66 said...

There was a syndicated article out this weekend on Mitt Romney. It was very pro-Mitt, talking about what his family went through between about 1840 and mid-20th century. I will have to say, that some of the Morman aspects from the 1800s were a little goofy. Like his great grandfather being ordered to take extra wives.

At least Obamas grandfather was polygamist by choice.

Henry said...

@netmarcos -- you beat me to it.

netmarcos said...

@EMD: Go ahead; ask me.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Just don't ask them about Outer Darkness.

Why not? It seems like a fairly straight forward concept of the afterlife.

The levels of afterlife are very common throughout the world, cultures and historically common.

Meso-American (Mayan, Toltec etc) all had similar theories.

"Mayan and Aztecs believed in a heaven very similar to what we do today. They believe heaven to be a magical and wonderful place where the gods live. This place was called Tamoanchan. You could return to live among the gods when you die, if you die in certain way or make it through Xibalba. How you died determines where you go during the afterlife.

Mayan and Aztec heaven is controlled by the flower goddess, Xochiquetzal. There were 13 different levels of Tamoanchan.

In some sects/beliefs the ultimate goal was to achieve the highest "level" and as such become spirit and not have to return to corporal existance.

netmarcos said...

Neve mind. I'll answer anyway.

Outer darkness is where Satan and those who have followed him will live. These people will be those who chose to live with Satan. They will not be forgiven. These people will live forever in darkness, sorrow, and suffering with Satan and the spirits who followed him.

The above is a direct quote from one of the Church's current instructional manuals. Really, if you wish to know anything about what truly constitutes LDS doctrine, just type lds.org in the address bar of your little, old browser and once there, put what you want to know in the search bar.


Robert Pearson said...

@netmarcos--I still say you'll learn more, quicker, from South Park, especially regarding the translation of the Golden Plates.

netmarcos said...

@Wahrheit: I will admit that it is quite funny and fairly well done parody, but I prefer the Hell Director scene myself.


David said...

For some reason I seem to have met a lot of Mormons in my life. Very impressive people. Their beliefs seem far fetched to me, but so what. Most religious beliefs have to be fetched from afar.

traditionalguy said...

Seven ...Moses usually gets a pass because he had a powerful rod given to him by a friend around 1313 BC.

3143 years later, in 1830 golden plates were found by Joe Smith hidden in the woods near Buffalo, NY area recently settled as the Erie canal came through there. It was only a practical joke played on the mumbling, superstitious psychic by neighboring farmers. It had Egyptian like hieroglyphs written on it as a joke. The area was also a Freemason hotbed, and they used those Egyptian symbols like the Freemasons do.

Smith said he then got himself a Seer Stone that could secretly see a translation, which he then dictated to be written down for the more gullible farmers in the area.

The rest is history. A very American History too.

They need to stick to raising good families and strong children, which is a good thing for anyone to do.

Known Unknown said...

@EMD: Go ahead; ask me.

I was just kidding. I work with some Mormons, and we have some inside jokes about it.

Geoff Matthews said...

Some have suggested that this advertising pitch was a change in church practice.
As long as I've been alive, and my parents have been alive, the LDS church has put a large emphasis on the responsibilities that parents have towards their children (and vice versa). I've read writings from Joseph Smith emphasizing the importance of families.
This advert wasn't introducing something new. It was emphasizing something important.

roesch/voltaire said...

It is always a question of who is recognized as a prophet and who speaks for God. For some the Old and New Testament are the last word of God, but others consider Joseph Smith, like the Muslims consider Muhammad, to be the latest prophet. After all they both spoke with angels(corrected) and both claim new revelations about the teachings of the Bible, and both groups pride themselves on their families.

Nathan Alexander said...

I guess it depends on perspective.

Is Mormonism weird and/or ridiculous?

If you just consider it as a religion, with no religion in direct comparison, no, it is no more or silly than any other.

But if you compare Mormonism to Christianity, it is clear that Mormonism isn't a Christian denomination at all.

It is no closer to Christianity than Islam.
(incidentally, some have called the LDS "American Islam")

There is no way to reconcile the doctrine of LDS with that of any Christian doctrine.

The fact that LDS try to downplay the differences and claim to be Christian seems a little dishonest to me.

Joe said...

There is no way to reconcile the doctrine of LDS with that of any Christian doctrine.

The fact that LDS try to downplay the differences and claim to be Christian seems a little dishonest to me.

I think Mormons do make a mistake to be "mainstream" Christian. However, it's perfectly silly to assume there is a "Christian doctrine."

Whenever I hear this line of reasoning, I wonder why there are Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Seventh Day Adventists.... Apparently, they all believe exactly the same thing and, I suppose, simply differ on who should be in charge.

netmarcos said...

But if you compare Mormonism to Christianity, it is clear that Mormonism isn't a Christian denomination at all.

It is no closer to Christianity than Islam.

Except that bit where they claim that Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary is literally the Son of the Most High God, the sole source of salvation and Redeemer of all Mankind - other than that, they are hardly like Christians at all.

Rusty said...

It is always a question of who is recognized as a prophet and who speaks for God.

Jay and Silent Bob

strue. I saw it in a movie.

BarryD said...

"Son of the Most High God"

Isn't that the Rastafarian diety?

Nathan Alexander said...

Either you haven't read the Book of Mormon, or you are lying.

Christians believe that Jesus is God, always was God, and always will be. That is a fundamental tenant of Christianity.

Mormons don't believe that.

Christians believe that after death, and after the end of time, those who believe will be in heaven with him, eternally, rejoicing.

Mormons don't believe that, either:
Women don't go to heaven unless their husbands call them up, and men can become Gods of their own planet, just like Jesus did.

And although you say Jesus is the literal son of God, you skip over the part that every spirit is the literal child of God, so Jesus is no more or less the Son of God than is, say, Brigham Young.

According to the book of Mormon, the Spirit of God urges someone to murder a sleeping man, but in the Bible, evil acts like that always have evil results, and are NEVER urged on by the Holy Spirit.

I saw how you elided over exactly how Jesus was conceived: the Mormon church says it was due to sexual relations, kind of a Zeus comes down from the mountain situation.

So, if you just want to look at the commonality of a few words, and totally ignore all the most important theological points, then I guess you could argue there is a sort of similarity...a counterfeiting, if you will. The question is: Why?

Whereas the difference between the different Christian denominations mainly deal with the nature of determinism, the nature of Holy Communion/transubstantiation, the exact meaning of Baptism (sprinkling or immersion), whether there is an age of consent for baptism, and the style of worship, and maybe some iconography. Those are some pretty philosophical, third order discussions.

I repeat, and stand firm:
There is nothing wrong with Mormonism, and it is no more or less silly or true than any other religion.

But the most basic, central tenets of Christian and Mormon belief are in exclusive opposition.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Calling Mormonism Christianity because a central figure is named Jesus is as appropriate as if you called a religion springing up around singer Jesus Jones "Christianity".

I ♥ Willard said...

Were there ever any commercials for magic Mormon underwear?

Geoff Matthews said...


Off the top of my head, I'd count Moses (Israelites worshiping a golden calf) and Samuel (King of the Amalekites) as two prophets that murdered people (albeit, Moses only ordered others to do it).
Yes, Mormons reject a lot of things from Trinitarian thinking, and I'm very confident on that.
But the key tenets of Mormonism are the divinity of Jesus Christ (whom we do believe is eternal, in spite of what you've been told), modern-day revelation (which makes us VERY unlike Islam), a personable God (a key difference with modern Christianity) and salvation only through Christ's atonement. Those are foundational beliefs.
I agree that in your eyes, we're heretics. I'm fine with that, and back atcha'. I've no desire to have this thread devolve into a a battle of heretics. But to argue that Mormonism is American Islam (who does call it that?) is a position of ignorance.

gadfly said...

So the Mormons believe that propaganda is beneficial in expanding the influence of their religion? Fine. But why brag about the obfuscation of reality? Somehow that doesn't seem to be morally appropriate for the LDS church. Then again, when a founder leaves town with a murder charge on his head . . .

Never saw Homefront, but it sounds like a chick flick.

JAL said...

such that in one (the Conan Doyle) there are literally death squads going out to 'disappear' the unfaithful.

Blood atonement. In Mormonism it has been taught that one's own blood has to be shed to atone for some sins.

From wiki -- re the 2010 Utah execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner -- "In February 1996, Gardner threatened to sue to force the state of Utah to execute him by firing squad. He said that he preferred this method of execution because of his "Mormon heritage." Gardner also felt that lawmakers were trying to eliminate the firing squad, in opposition to popular opinion in Utah, because of concern over the state's image in the 2002 Winter Olympics."

The most infamous attack on non-Mormons is the Mountain Meadow Massacre. A group of non-Mormons -- "gentiles" -- was killed (men, women and children over 7) in 1857 by Mormon militia.

(Which reminds me -- factoid: Mormonism is the one religion in the world where Jews are "gentiles.")

Bob said...

Julie Through the Glass...a good old Carly Simon song from the same album that gave us Anticipation and The Girl You Think You See

Julie said...

That advert used to play in Australia too when I was little. I was just humming this exact ad to myself the other day. For some reason I thought the song was "truly through the glass..." Silly that I never realized till now that it is "Julie through the glass...", particularly since my name is Julie!

In Australia, weekly "Religious Instruction" was part of public school. The teachers never knew which class to put me in since I was the only Mormon in the school, and my parents let me choose, so I tried them all. Eventually I ended up choosing to spend that hour every week playing handball with the other religious 'misfits' that didn't have representation in the school: the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, staunch atheists and others. Handball - the great equalizer!

I very much appreciated those Mormon adverts as a kid. The ads gave me a brief moment of connection with a worldwide community of people who believed as I did. I still enjoy the adverts, and its a thrill now to be able to contribute to the "I'm a Mormon" ad campaign. My profile is here.

Sara said...

I have never seen so much BS and misinformation in one place.

(Which reminds me -- factoid: Mormonism is the one religion in the world where Jews are "gentiles.")

I think you are confusing Mormons with Catholics. Mormons preach that the early church was all Jews, including Jesus and the Disciples. That other churches by the Council of Nicea had moved far away from the early church of Jesus.

The idea that women can't go to heaven unless their husband's call them is ridiculous. The LDS church sees women as equal to men in every way in God's eyes, they just have different callings for their earthly mission.

I can't even go through all Nathan's uninformed list. Where do such ideas about the Church come from?

So, Mormons went on the offensive in Utah. Are you familiar with the persecution they suffered, the number of their Members killed by mob attacks? Their own leader murdered. That was one of the principle reasons they trekked by push cart across the plains to Utah for Missouri. They wanted to live in peace and religious freedom.

awill said...

I remember the Families Are Forever campaign and just last week was singing the Osmond written lyrics to the commercial "Take the time to listen." Most of the girls in my BYU dorm who converted or who were investigating the Mormon church were drawn to the forever families idea while running away from broken or alcoholic families. Many of us left once we discovered the Mormon scriptures were not as perfect as advertised. (The Book of Mormon had many additions/deletions compared to the original printing or the Egyptian document that was proved to be falsely translated.) The dream of that heaven on earth Mormon family was a strong attraction, though, to a whole bevy of Osmond fans.

Henry said...

JAL wrote: In Mormonism it has been taught that one's own blood has to be shed to atone for some sins.

I think you're confusing Mormonism with Vampirism. Or Mel Gibsonism. Or something.

I had never seen that commercial, but it reminded me of something. Then I remembered. It's an REO Speedwagon Video.

Ross said...

I love old Homefront commercials! It's too bad they're hard to find. And it's nice to see that at least a few of the people here have an informed opinion of the LDS Church.

Bruce Hayden said...

Interesting - missing this blogging about Mormonism while I was driving through the heart of Mormon country.

Sat., I drove the whole of Utah, border to border (Grand Junction, CO to Wenemucca, NV). Blizzard or driving rain pretty much all the way.

Stopped at a tourist information center in Thompson Springs (I-70, right before turn-off for Moab). Learned a bunch of historical stuff about that part of the state, including that it took four tries to settle it, since the Utes by then had been pushed out of Colorado into that isolated part of Utah, and that they got there from SW Utah by lowering wagons off cliffs to get them across the Colorado.

Then, a bit later, around Provo, had lunch at McDonalds. $1 any size soft drinks - but they didn't have ice tea. McDonalds without ice tea (regular or sweat)? A very Mormon thing. Coke is easy to find (some wags have suggested that is because the LDS church used to own Coke stock), but tea is almost impossible. When I lived in SLC, I knew of only two convenience stores where I could get ice tea. No fast food places, and no other convenience stores close. But, we had Coke, Diet Coke, and Caffeine Free Diet Coke in a fountain at the law firm I worked for.

After awhile in Mormon heavy parts of the country, you get fairly adept at automatically recognizing LDS Churches, which mostly these days have a large "Church of Jesus Christ", and a much smaller "of the Later Day Saints" on the front. The newer ones tend to look enough alike that you can recognize them easily - usually a lighter brick, very broad roofs, and a tall spire w/o the cross - though I tend to use the last just to verify. And, the closer together the LDS Churches are, I expect the higher the concentration of Mormons - summer before last, we went to Cedar City for a Shakespeare play (open air, great if you can do it), and at one place, could see 4 LDS churches, 3 newer, and the original one, well over 100 years old.

Joe said...

Nathan, are you aware that many Christian sects don't believe Jesus is God the Father, but the son of God? Lutherans for instance.

Bruce Hayden said...

The most infamous attack on non-Mormons is the Mountain Meadow Massacre. A group of non-Mormons -- "gentiles" -- was killed (men, women and children over 7) in 1857 by Mormon militia.

You should probably add that they were dressed up as Indians.

In any case, back early on, there was a lot of us-versus-them going on. The Mormons had essentially been driven out of Illinois, at gun point, with the full force of law behind it. And, that was why they found themselves in the wilds of Utah, where they could build their homes without fear of oppression.

But, shortly after they started moving in to the SLC valley, gold was discovered in California, and ultimately much of the traffic there, before the completion of the rail road in 1869, went through Salt Lake, which was, for a long time, the only real city on the route between the mid-west and California.

Not all of this went happily. Woman I visited yesterday grew up in E. Oregon, where her parents' families had homesteaded well over a hundred years ago. And, they still remember Mormons refusing to sell them food and grain, forcing them to go back to Kansas/Missouri for the winter and try again the next year.

Bruce Hayden said...

Having spent a good amount of time as a non-Mormon in Mormon country (I am sitting right now about a mile from an LDS church - situated, as usual, right across the street from the local high school), you develop a love/hate relationship with Mormons.

I tend to like Mormon men, but Mormon women, not so much. I think that this may have to do with what appears to us "gentiles" as a much higher level of sexism that we are used to. (I always chuckle about the guy from Utah my freshman year, who grew up being called a "gentile", despite being Jewish).

That is, except, maybe Mormon politicians - there seems to be even more of the saying what you want to hear from them, and then doing what they want anyway. Think of Harry Reid, and, yes, that Mitt Romney not being able to take strong stands on issues and appearing to change sides, when convenient. I should note that the Republican junior Senator from Nevada seems no better than the Democratic senior Senator there in this respect - having dealt with both of them in regards to patent reform last year.

I think that this must be remembered about Mitt Romney - he seems to be very Mormon here in how he deals with non-Mormons, and that, I think, is a good part of why he hasn't taken off. Not the weird underwear, or any of the other tenets of his religion, but this "softness". This seemeing inability to take a strong stand on non-moral issues. (A friend suggested that you can recognize Mormons by their appearing "softness" - I thought that it might be inter-breeding, but now think that it is more the way that they express themselves, given that Romney has fairly sharp features, and yet still comes across to me as "Mormon").

One thing that is interesting to me, esp. in view of Mormons considering non-Mormons as "gentiles", is their similarity in places to Jews. Both have a history of being oppressed, and, as a result maybe, of being somewhat closed to outsiders. A close Jewish friend last week mentioned again playing the "Member of the Tribe" card when dealing with other Jews. Not much different with Mormons, esp. in Mormondom. You would expect that it would be advantageous to be Mormon when practicing law in Utah, but it also extends throughout Nevada (and, I suspect at least much of Idaho). I was told that you shouldn't try big cases in Las Vegas without a Mormon on your litigation team - and, indeed, probably the most successful PI atty there is Mormon, as well has there being prominent Mormons in all the biggest law firms in the state. (Probably not surprisingly, Harry Reid's four sons and his son-in-law are all lawyers, and there is one of them in each of the biggest law firms in the state).

Nathan Alexander said...

@ Sara,
From honest/candid Mormons and the Book of Mormon.

I may have a few minor details wrong.

But I'm a good antidote for disinformation, because I've actually read the Book of Mormon.

I have no problem with the Mormon religion. I'm not Christian, myself. I'm mostly agnostic with some leanings toward Buddhist philosophy (but the theology of that religion also bothers me).

I haven't found a religion yet with a theology that makes any real sense.

So the only problem I have with the LDS is the apparently deliberate smokescreen.

Talking religion with Mormons is like trying to have a political discussion with Paulbots...