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Switch to Forum Live View The Mormon Image problem
6 years ago  ::  Nov 28, 2008 - 7:11AM #1
cmts
Posts: 2
Hi. I just read the online editorial on the Mormon Image problem and am wondering about others' thoughts on the matter.

       I am a convert, and therefore, have a bit of experience being in another church, which gives me an opportunity for comparison. One of the things that disappoints me the most about our church, is our tendency to isolate ourselves a bit from the community. I think this contributes to to our image problem.

    Let me explain. I live in Pa. In our community, we have at least a dozen other major churches and ours is in the distinct minority. Every week, we read in the paper about other churches sponsoring soup kitchens onsite at their buildings or food banks. Each week, again in the paper, members from all of the area churches donate time to programs like Meals on Wheels, etc. By reaching out to the community in this way, AND NOT JUST BY TRYING TO WIN CONVERTS, these churches establish a reputation in the community that is positive. I want to add that I do help individually with services like these, but our church has never, or rarely takes part in these type of community outreaches AS A CHURCH. We are a very giving people, but at least here in my neck of the woods, we tend to extend most of our service hours to other members, in effect, isolating ourselves a bit.

          Part of the reason for this, I honestly believe, is that the church keeps members so busy with a variety of callings, not to mention the endless meetings we must attend. Here in the Northeast, attending such meetings usually involves at least an hour drive one way in the Northeast. If you have to work for a living, which most of us do, the various callings and leadership meetings etc, only leave you with so much free time.

   I truly believe that if we isolated ourselves a little less, and reached out, again, AS A CHURCH, it would not only correct the image problem but also be a shot in the arm to our missionary efforts. And I for one, cast my vote for a few less meetings and a little more time out in the community getting to actually do what the Lord asks of us.

     What say you?
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 28, 2008 - 12:14PM #2
Vergilisvaticanus
Posts: 123
Two things.  Christ had a image problem, it didn't seem to bother him.

Secondly, do we adjust to be popular or is there a higher goal that is irrelevant to popularity?
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 28, 2008 - 1:48PM #3
imbobbbb
Posts: 226
[QUOTE=cmts;923359]Hi. I just read the online editorial on the Mormon Image problem and am wondering about others' thoughts on the matter.

       I am a convert, and therefore, have a bit of experience being in another church, which gives me an opportunity for comparison. One of the things that disappoints me the most about our church, is our tendency to isolate ourselves a bit from the community. I think this contributes to to our image problem.

    Let me explain. I live in Pa. In our community, we have at least a dozen other major churches and ours is in the distinct minority. Every week, we read in the paper about other churches sponsoring soup kitchens onsite at their buildings or food banks. Each week, again in the paper, members from all of the area churches donate time to programs like Meals on Wheels, etc. By reaching out to the community in this way, AND NOT JUST BY TRYING TO WIN CONVERTS, these churches establish a reputation in the community that is positive. I want to add that I do help individually with services like these, but our church has never, or rarely takes part in these type of community outreaches AS A CHURCH. We are a very giving people, but at least here in my neck of the woods, we tend to extend most of our service hours to other members, in effect, isolating ourselves a bit.

          Part of the reason for this, I honestly believe, is that the church keeps members so busy with a variety of callings, not to mention the endless meetings we must attend. Here in the Northeast, attending such meetings usually involves at least an hour drive one way in the Northeast. If you have to work for a living, which most of us do, the various callings and leadership meetings etc, only leave you with so much free time.

   I truly believe that if we isolated ourselves a little less, and reached out, again, AS A CHURCH, it would not only correct the image problem but also be a shot in the arm to our missionary efforts. And I for one, cast my vote for a few less meetings and a little more time out in the community getting to actually do what the Lord asks of us.

     What say you?[/QUOTE]

  Well your ward seems a lot busier than mine.What are these endless meetings about?I am also a convert,i live in west virginia and generally am at church 3 hours on sunday and 1.5 hours on thursday for my asst scout leader calling.In my area the church seems to do as much as most other churches for the community.I dont personally see anything wrong with taking care of 'our  own' members first,just like i'm going to feed and clothe 'my own' children before i help somebody elses but that doesnt mean i dont 'want' to help others.In the east there aren't a whole lot of mormons so naturally some people are going to have a drive to get to the church,this is just a reality if you are a mormon where there aren't many.I think i pass about 30 baptist churches on my way to church but so what?I suppose if the drive bothers you so much you could move closer to church or move to some areas out west where a town of 3,000 people might have 5 wards.The biggest problem with isolation is that many other churches dont want to have much to do with our church,many don't even consider us to be christians,have a lot of misconceptions of lds theology,and dont 'want' to learn anything about what we believe.Of course there are also many lds who dont know what other denominations believe either,but i've never met a morman who thought baptists belong to a 'cult'.
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 28, 2008 - 1:54PM #4
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,206
[QUOTE=Vergilisvaticanus;923719]Two things.  Christ had a image problem, it didn't seem to bother him.

Secondly, do we adjust to be popular or is there a higher goal that is irrelevant to popularity?[/QUOTE]

I think the issue is whether the Church is involved in the community or tending towards insularity.  I don't see community services as adjusting "to be popular."  If there is a "higher goal," the words of James cry out:

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.: (James 1:27)
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 28, 2008 - 2:53PM #5
cmts
Posts: 2
Thank you, Bill. You understood correctly what I was getting at. I guess it could be construed that I am just complaining to hear myself complain, but I am not.

     Our image in the community is important if we wish to have the best success as a missionary church. If we blithely place the blame on outward sources, and don't pause to reflect on how we might improve our efforts to serve in the community----and our image----the church will not grow as quickly as it could or should. "By their fruits ye shall know them."  [I]t;s true that Jesus didn't care about an image problem, but Jesus was perfect and knew that the fault was not his, if an image problem existed. That is not the case with us individually or the church---because it is both led and made up of human beings who are not perfect. 

]What better way to SHOW people who we are than by participating in our communities and working side by side with other churches?  What if we were known as one of the most giving, service-oriented people----not just for our own, but in our communities as well? What if our wards were open  for soup kitchens, and food banks, and we participated along with other denominations----as a church--- in Meals on Wheels and other service projects? Isnt it possible that some of the misconceptions about us would melt away? I'm not here to criticize the church for venting purposes, but after reading the editorial I mentioned, I can't help wondering if we inadvertently create part of the problem by yes, keeping to ourselves too much.

     This Sunday we are having representatives from area community outreaches like Area Agency for Aging and Big Brothers Big Sisters come and present information on their organizations. I am excited about this and hopeful that our church can get more involved in our community. As a Home Health nurse I see the great need for volunteers nearly every day. But most of the volunteers I see come from other denominations than ours. The only rationale I could come up with was that perhaps we are TOO busy caring for our own-----and need to reach out more.

        Yes? No?
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 28, 2008 - 4:46PM #6
MMCSFOX
Posts: 1,544
Yes, No. Good question to think about.

My feeling is that it does not seem to be a problem with the church, as the church does get involved in many comminutes; it seems to me that it is the people. Or it may also be leadership to some extent. Still it is the members themselves that must get involved.

If you look at my “TIS THE SEASON” post where I was hoping to get more ideas for service by reading what others are doing, you won’t find much there from other posters, yet in the Los Angeles area we keep very busy in the community, and the Church has a great reputation among those who also actively serve their brothers and sisters.

I will grant you it seems that it is the retired members that do the most public work but there are many of the young that take off work to serve also.

We have local members serving in leadership in every local service club, like the Kiwanis or Optimists organization where youth is our primary concern. Our young members serve in the school organizations. I am sure that you have read about the fires in our area that burned out a mobile home park. Our Stake is in the process of putting together assistance teams to help the homeowners dig through the ashes for any keepsake that can be found. We will again be involved in the feeding the homeless. My Ward started the feeding first last year and I then had an opportunity to help another Church in taking their turn. Great fellowship opportunity with other Churches. A past Bishop here is President of the local council of churches.

Your Ward could start simply by talking to the Salvation Army and taking over a Red Kettle for a day. This can really be a lot of fun if you put your mind to it. Or get more involved in the PTA. My Wife and I worked the concession booth at high school football games for 26 years alongside many other LDS.

As you can see the service field is ripe and ready for the harvest and all you have to do is start.

Jesse F.
*
He who does not himself do good, cannot depend on his father's works and merits.
- Midrash Tehillim
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 28, 2008 - 4:47PM #7
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,206
The Church definitely has an image problem, one President Hinckley (for all his years as a PR man) didn't do much to help.  Part of the problem is basic ignorance, which continues to roll down the mountain like a monstrous snowball.  But the problem is also one of self-inflicted wounds.  Since my baptism in '82, I've witnessed my share of PR campaigns designed to shape the public image of the Church.  In the seventies, it was FAMILY, FAMILY, FAMILY.  In the eighties, it was JESUS, JESUS, JESUS.  I remember the big fast for Ethiopia, where food money was raised in a one-shot deal that did more for the Church's image than it did for starvation in Ethiopia.  In the six years I spent at BYU, from freshman to J.D., I became alarmed at how far to the right things were going.  For reasons not yet clear, the Church started copying pages from the Christian right.

I hope it was worth the effort.  The Church got the Olympics but it also got a bribery scandal.  For a moment, there was Olympic bliss, but then came the whole circus involving Elizabeth Smart and her polygamous kidnapper who took her to be his child bride.  Where but Salt Lake City could such a thing happen?  The Church later jumped on the Republican bandwagon to support the ill-fated Federal Marriage Amendment, which made new friends for candidate Mitt Romney.  But in the end, the Church's new friends dropped Romney (even after his shift to the right) in favor of Mike Huckabee, a Baptist.  The Church's latest adventure, its out-front support of Prop 8 in California, got it credit on the right, but now it's anathema to Americans left and center. 

The problem with the Church's public image is that the Church sees its reputation as something it can shape through advertising and selected political adventures.  In both cases, the leadership is so stuck in the bubble that it fails to see the futility of this approach.  In advertising, as in other walks of life, you can buy anything in this world with money.  But while you can craft a great message and carpet bomb the airways with it, no amount of money can fix the damage that comes from a perceptible mismatch between the ads and the reality, as reflected by personal experience, pseudo-events and misguided political activism.

The Church knows it has an image problem but it doesn't know what to do about it.  What's worse, its often-kneejerk attempts to fix it often add more damage.  For example, a series of cable ads are currently offering Bibles to the public.  This is the Church's idea of how to combat the perception that Mormons don't believe in the Bible.  But the stepford tone of the ads, along with the reality behind calling an 800 number, undermine the "no strings" message of a free Bible giveaway.  These ads are a transparent attempt to address the Bible issue, along with a less candid attempt to reel in the unsuspecting for unanticipated missionary discussions.  As always, these Bibles will not find their way to your house.  They will be delivered by missionaries whose real purpose is to turn the hand-off into a furtive door approach.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 28, 2008 - 5:00PM #8
MMCSFOX
Posts: 1,544
As usual Bill hits the nail squarely on the head showing again that we the membership are the ones to do the job. Granted if you are a hammer everything looks like a nail but in every Ward there is a wide choice of experience and useful knowledge that can be put to the task of service. In this way you can deal with the nuts and bolts differently than you would the nails. This is also why every organization has a board of Directors to give a wide field of ideas to choose from.
Jesse F.
*
Say little but do much.
- Pirkei Avot 1:15
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 28, 2008 - 7:24PM #9
Vergilisvaticanus
Posts: 123
[QUOTE=BillThinks4Himself;923904]I think the issue is whether the Church is involved in the community or tending towards insularity.  I don't see community services as adjusting "to be popular."  If there is a "higher goal," the words of James cry out:

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.: (James 1:27)[/QUOTE]

Latter Day Saints have men who lead industries, run for president, work in many professions throughout the world.  I thinkyou would need to define "insular". 

And you would also have to define "community services".  Would that be the turkeys our ward gives to the homeless on thanksgiving?  Perhaps the many community service projects that the members through wards and stakes carry out?  Frankly, the call to the quote by James seems somewhat hollow given the many many charitable services the church carries out.

Truth is rarely the winner in a popularity contest.  Mostly because it does what is right and eschews the worries of popularity.
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 28, 2008 - 7:26PM #10
Vergilisvaticanus
Posts: 123
I think Bill is missing the point.  I think perhaps his experience is somewhat insular relative to the openness I, as a convert to the church see as the church works on many levels, including the interfaith community here in CA.
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