Why I Love the “I’m a Mormon” Media Initiative

The “I’m a Mormon” / Mormon.org media initiative that was launched last year is making its way to my neck of the woods (inland Northwest).  Starting the first week in October, there will be TV spots, radio ads, billboards and bus signs with cool, trendy people proudly proclaiming their Mormonness.  In preparation for the media blitz, our ward received in-depth training from Salt Lake this past Sunday, so that we can be ready for the increased questions and attention that will inevitably come our way.

I am completely enthusiastic about this initiative — have been from the start.   I’m not sure how well it’s working in terms of creating convert baptisms (that’s probably not trackable, since it’s a branding campaign as opposed to a response-driven campaign)…but that’s not what excites me most about it anyway.  While I certainly hope it improves our public image, what I really love about the “I’m a Mormon” initiative is the message it sends to Mormons about who gets to be “in!”

I’ve long maintained that Mormonism is much more than a religion.  It’s a culture.  A way of life.  Almost an ethnicity.  I think of myself as a Mormon before I think of myself as a Caucasian or Utah native or American or libertarian or True Aggie or feminist or whatever dozens of other labels I might use to define myself to the people around me.  My Mormonism is a core aspect of my identity.  And yet, there are moments I’ve felt that identity threatened.  I’ve wondered if I really “belong.”

It’s no secret that our culture has a tendency to be stifling at times.  Especially in the I-15 Corridor, any deviation from the standard is frowned upon…and I’m not talking about “big” deviations in theology or behavior.  I mean deviations in hairstyle, shirt color, political persuasion.   If you don’t fit the mold EXACTLY, you’re made to wonder if you have a place.

The “I’m a Mormon” campaign relieves some of the pressure.  It’s subtle, for no one would have explicitly questioned the right of any of these people to belong, but I believe it will go a long way toward eliminating the undercurrent of suspicion that flows toward Mormons who seem “different.”  The ads and vignettes say, “There’s no One Way to be Mormon.  You might not ‘fit the mold,’ but we claim you as our own.  In fact, you are so authentically and acceptably Mormon, just the way you are, that we are asking you to represent us to the world.”

For people like me, who have often felt just a little on the outskirts, it’s a breath of fresh air.

I like all the vignettes on Mormon.org, but just for fun, here are a few of my favorites…

1)–Allan and Laura Wollford. When was the last time you saw a dude like this and gave him a 90%+ Mo or No rating?

2)–Cassandra Barney. Are Mormon women even allowed to be this eccentric and awesome?  🙂  She even says that there was a mold she thought she was supposed to fit, but then realized she “totally made it up,” and that God made her to be an individual.   I don’t know that she made it up — our culture certainly perpetuates those ideas — but how wonderful that an official church video explicitly advocates the idea that the mold isn’t as rigid as we thought it was!

3)–Sheryl Garner.  This woman just delights me, and I wish her mother would make me dinner:

4)–Deborah Dushku Gardner.  Finally, I have  to share this one about a friend of mine, Deborah, who is a stay-at-home mom and founder of a wonderful charity for Bulgarian orphans.  (WARNING: this one made my husband — who is known for his heart of stone — literally break down into sobbing gasps in the middle of Sunday School.)

What are your impressions of the “I’m a Mormon” initiative?  Any favorites?  Reservations?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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About Katie L

Thirtysomething wife, mother, writer, runner, believer, and lover of good food and bad movies.

Posted on September 27, 2011, in Mormonism, News and Current Events, Pop Culture and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I love those examples! And I do like the messages the campaign sends to those in as well as outside of the Church. So chalk up the campaign as a “like” for me.

    I do have one serious reservation though, although not necessarily directed toward the campaign. We may be guilty of pulling something of a “bait and switch,” and the videos belie the fact that the Church, or at least certain parts of it, places an alarmingly high emphasis on how people groom and dress.

    The videos present the message that the Church accepts people the way they are, but is that really true? The man in the one video would not be allowed to attend a Church-sponsored school without shaving, and one of the women would be barred because her dress is too short.

    I felt like writing this comment now because I just got through reading on article on a men’s choir that will sing at General Conference this weekend. The article went on at some length about how the men, in order to participate, had to remove all facial hair and trim the rest — and they were proud of how much better that will make their performance. (Apparently, a well-trimmed beard is too distracting for the average Mormon to deal with.)

    So here we’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars telling the world that it’s OK for a Mormon to be one way, and then sending messages to members that to be an exemplary Mormon it’s not OK.

    And I don’t think that’s right.

  2. Oh dear, that article.

    One day we will realize that whether or not a man has a beard or a woman a nose ring has NOTHING TO DO with “Christlike qualities” (as was implied in the article). It’s so hard for us to see past our cultural training on this, but friends, unless it’s violent, profane, or *truly* immodest (I have a whole ‘nother post on modesty coming) God doesn’t care what we wear. And even then, He cares WAY less about the article of clothing itself than the state of the heart of the person wearing it.

    I have long said that if the Lord Himself were to appear in an LDS ward today, He would come in tattered jeans, a T-shirt, and Birkenstocks, just to teach us a lesson.

    Anyway, your point is well taken, Eric. Hopefully this campaign will go a long way toward changing the culture, though, so that what’s portrayed in the vignettes and ads is more reflective of reality on the ground. I think it can. It’s such a powerful, positive campaign.

  3. Katie, you make me want to be a Mormon.

  4. I love this campaign as well, my only negative thought is after watching all these cool people, my tagline would be, “I’m boring and I’m a Mormon.”

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