The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is on a mission to win the hearts and minds of the American people. A new ad campaign was launched in New York City’s Times Square last week with the intention of rebranding the Mormon faith as “normal.”
The “I am a Mormon” ads showcase young, chic, and attractive Mormons from all different walks of life united by their faith. It is designed to show the public that Mormons are a diverse people who enjoy everyday activities and hobbies. Basically, the campaign seeks to combat the “weird” stigma that has been labeled on the church.
However, the timing of the ad campaign has sparked speculation of whether the church is endorsing Republican candidate Mitt Romney, a proclaimed Mormon, for president.
The LDS church has responded by simply stating its neutrality in the political race. The ad campaign, which began in 2010 in scattered cities throughout the country, seeks to quell the uneasy and skeptical attitude many Americans have toward the Mormon faith. The timing, according to the church, is separate from the presidential race and has more to do with the social atmosphere than a political one.
"We've added New York to the cities we're going into this year because of the conversations that are happening here," said Michael Purdy, a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told ABC News. "There's undoubtedly a national conversation going on currently about the church and its members, and we want to be part of that conversation. New York City is perhaps a center of much of that conversation."
In the past few years, Mormons have lost numerous PR battles with the American public. Television shows like “Sister Wives” and “Big Love” showcase a sect of Mormonism that practices polygamy, a practice that the church outlawed in the late 1800s. Also, the Tony-award winning musical “Book of Mormon” portrays Mormons as simplistic and a bit naïve. Words like “weird,” “homophobic,” and “cultish” are often associated with the church. Therefore, it is easy to see why the church would want a PR makeover.
However, Carma Naylor, author of the book A Mormon’s Unexpected Journey, which details her life decision to turn from Mormonism to Christianity, is a bit skeptical of the campaign.
“It’s great if a religion wants to abandon error and turn from false prophets but to deny what their leaders teach is wrong. You can’t sweep it under the rug,” Naylor told The Christian Post. She explains that polygamy is still in the Mormon doctrine and it is a message that Joseph Smith taught.
Naylor wants to make it clear that these “issues are not with the Mormon people themselves but with the doctrine that their leaders have taught for 160 years. They can’t just act like these doctrines aren’t apart of Mormonism.”
She is concerned that this campaign will make Americans, especially Christians, confused on what Mormonism stands for.
“For me to see them trying to convince the world that they are the same as Christians is deceptive; they are great people, but they do not believe the same principles as Christianity,” she maintained.
Naylor, nevertheless, said Romney's conservative values may be very similar to a Christian's despite the different doctrines they embrace. And she advised Christians to not just focus on a candidate's religion when voting.
"If we have a better choice, that’s great. But let’s focus on the candidate's stand on Christian values and other issues including his policies on our involvement in foreign wars, our dependency on foreign countries for our resources, and our crumbling economics."
"[L]et’s give our vote to the one who will fight against ungodliness and stand strong for the godly principles upon which our country was established – Christian values that we need to return to today."
The effectiveness of the Mormon campaign has yet to be seen. A new Gallup poll released on Tuesday shows that 22 percent of Americans would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate, even one nominated by their own party.
Clarification: Tuesday, August 23, 2011:
An article on June 22 about a Mormon ad campaign reported that ex-Mormon Carma Naylor said Romney’s campaign for presidency should not be judged by his religious background. She also stated in the June interview that the American values that a candidate stands for is more important than religion when seeking public office. Naylor contacted The Christian Post recently to offer clarification to her views. The following is her updated statement:
"There are certainly critical doctrinal differences that prevent Mormonism from being one and the same with true biblical Christianity. However, there are things that Christians and Mormons share in common-among them being our lifestyles. A conscientious, sincere Mormon has a reverent, respect for God and a desire to follow the teachings of Jesus. Therefore, their religion promotes Christian values for living. As a result, a Mormon and a Christian could stand together on many important issues dividing our country, i.e., protecting our Christian liberties, holding to our constitutional rights established on Christian principles by our founding fathers, protecting our freedom of speech and right to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience. A Mormon would protect the sanctity of life and not want our tax dollars spent on abortions. He would also take the Christian position in the conflict over gay rights.
"Yes, religion is extremely important and when it comes to salvation we cannot endorse erroneous doctrines. But when looking at a political candidate such as Mitt Romney, let’s be fair and accept that his conservative values may be very similar to a Christian’s in spite of different doctrines he may embrace. If we have a better choice, that’s great. But let’s focus on the candidate's stand on Christian values and other issues including his policies on our involvement in foreign wars, our dependency on foreign countries for our resources, and our crumbling economics. Also, another very important issue: will he support Israel instead of abandoning them? Let’s remember God’s statement that He would bless those who bless Israel, and curse those who curse Israel (Numbers 24:5, 9; Gen. 27:29; Gen. 12:2, 3). I believe a Mormon would support Israel.
"In this upcoming election, let’s look at the big picture and consider our alternatives. There are forces at work that want to replace our freedoms and Christian values with socialism. Instead of focusing on whether the candidate is a Mormon, a Catholic, or a Protestant, let’s give our vote to the one who will fight against ungodliness and stand strong for the godly principles upon which our country was established – Christian values that we need to return to today."