Sharing tidbits of information we had gleaned from the day at dinner the other night, I announced that Japan had the highest population of people over age 65, to which my 9-year-old son Dillon countered that Utah was the state with the highest population of children, to which I made a snide remark about polygamists, to which my husband said “that’s not very intercultural of you.”
Turns out he was right, less because of my perhaps disdain for polygamy (for me), but more because I was perpetuating a stereotype without actually knowing any Mormons.
And apparently I may not be the only one. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has launched an advertising campaign in nine cities aimed at countering negative stereotypes of Mormons.
According to the Pennsylvania AP news (Pittsburgh is one of the test cities) “the ads feature upbeat music playing as a surfer, artist or skateboarder talks about his or her beliefs about life, followed by the tag line ‘And I’m a Mormon.’”
But ABCnews questions if the ads are a “Mormon” makeover or “misleading.” In response to the ad quoting a woman saying “a woman’s place is not in the kitchen,” self-identified progressive Mormon John Dehlin says indeed that according to Mormon gospel, it’s the man’s job to work, and the woman belongs in the home. He ads that Mormon gospel is full of sexism and racism.
As with any group, it’s never wise to stereotype based on simplified, exaggerated characteristics. Dehlin himself runs a series of podcasts at mormonstories.org where he interviews prominent Mormons about Mormon life, events and culture.
And, while there’s no denying that the Mormon Church was a key player in the passage of Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage in California, several news outlets (npr, NYTimes, and Newsweek) also carried the views of Mormons who do support Gay Rights and Gay Marriage.
Is the campaign pure propaganda, a reminder to beware of unconscious bias and stereotyping, or just a ‘big business’ working on its branding?
At a bare minimum, perhaps I’ll stop, listen, and ask questions next time I meet someone who is Mormon, rather than say “oohhh…” and fill in the blanks.
What do you think? What do you think prompted the campaign? Do you think it can work?