Has the so-called mystery of Mormonism cast a spell of confusion across mainstream America? Curiosity about what Mormons really believe is at an all-time high. Having two Mormons as presidential candidates have brought a microscope of curiosity and criticism of Mormon beliefs and practices, at a level that, although familiar to our pioneer ancestors, is unprecedented in this generation. However, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, today, are taking this “Mormon moment” as an opportunity.
The media, together with the power of online social networking, make it possible to broadcast a message to a large number of people, regardless of credibility, at lightening speed. And some in the media are taking full advantage of this power, by promoting criticisms of the Mormon religion to deliberately perpetuate concerns of secrecy and weirdness in a potential Mormon president. In reality every member of the LDS church is inadvertently affected. But even more of a concern is the confusion created in the public about what Mormons truly believe -- and that’s when individual Mormons feel compelled to get involved in the conversation. It is always a breath of fresh air, and appreciated, when media report positive and accurate information.
Daily headlines relating to Mormonism are everywhere, and although the majority of it has absolutely nothing to do with the official church, or the general membership, these ongoing reports continue to turn the spotlight on the beliefs, practices and most importantly, the people of The Church of Jesus Christ.
When reporters were clamoring to find out the official reaction to the Broadway musical: The Book of Mormon, the LDS Newsroom released this succinct response:
“The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”
Mormons are counteracting misinformation with their own messages. For instance, when the LDS Church was recently referred to as a cult by a prominent Baptist minister, many members took the opportunity to respond through the use of social networks, social media and blogging to let people know that Mormons follow Jesus Christ, and indeed believe themselves to be Christians.
The past year has brought about a surge in online member participation, in hopes of better educating the public about what Mormons believe. The LDS Church is at the forefront of creating social media for members to share. Perhaps you’re familiar with the “I’m a Mormon” campaign, seen a Mormon Messages video, or stumbled upon the new Web site -- The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Videos.
There are some concerns by church critics that the recent surge of Mormon media has to do with getting a Mormon candidate elected as president. I can assure you that it’s not. Personally, I did not vote for a Mormon candidate in 2008, and I, like many other Americans, have yet to make a choice in this election. The church and its members see this as an opportunity to clarify our beliefs and create a more positive perception of our faith. We didn’t ask to be in the spotlight, but we are, and instead of fretting over being perceived as weird, misunderstood, or persecuted we’ve largely taken a positive approach and are happy that people are curious about us.
As more everyday Mormons step out of their comfort zones to share their religious beliefs, they are learning how to have constructive conversations with those of other faiths and opinions. Leaders of the church provide counsel and encouragement to help members have positive experiences. Generally, Mormons don’t feel a need to try and convert others to our way of thinking -- we leave that to our 50,000+ missionaries serving throughout the world! We find little value in debating or defending Mormonism. We are sharing what we believe and how it blesses our lives, and our families.
Each member of the church is experiencing this “Mormon Moment” in a personal way, according to their own comfort level, enthusiasm and even gender. As a Mormon woman, of course I have concerns about how various policies of the LDS Church, such as equality, homosexuality, same-sex marriage and abortion, to name few, are handled by the media. I’ve been very candid about my own feelings on these and other topics, and am fairly comfortable discussing them in relation to my faith. Others are more private about their faith. If Mitt Romney gets the Republican nomination, which he most likely will, there is no doubt that the coming months, leading up to the election, will be rough going for some Mormons.
It’s amazing to see the popularity of Mormonism soar and to imagine the very real possibility of a Mormon for president. And regardless of how this journey ends, Mormons are grateful to have been in the spotlight. What’s most important to us is our knowledge of Jesus Christ, His restored gospel and fulfilling our responsibility, as Christians, to share this message with the world.
Kathryn Skaggs writes on her personal blog, A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman When she’s not writing she can be found enjoying her nine grandchildren.