From a friend....
I wanted to report in about my experience in church today. The bishop called a rather impromptu 2nd hour meeting, and asked that all over age 14 attend, rather than go to their regular sunday school classes.
Here are my notes:
The focus of the meeting was about mormon.org profiles. Our stake (and who knows how many others) had a training yesterday with Elder Wright about the "new intiative." Basically, we're all to "sign up" and have our profiles in to mormon.org by 9/15. There was no mention about monetary assessments. We will have another ward meeting on 9/18.
The bishop did a PowerPoint presentation to outline the content of yesterday's training. Basically, the church has a "perception problem"! A study (or studies) done in 2009 and involving focus groups showed that others perceive mormons as weird, secretive (28%), cultish (39%), sexist (20%), controlling (38%), conservative (38%), pushy (9%), anti-gay (24%), and family-oriented (44%), among other things. The studies also showed that if people were introduced to individual mormons and got to know them, their negative perceptions softened.
Two PR firms have been hired, and the church is rolling out a "Missionary Media Initiative" starting in October. It'll start out in 8 areas -- San Antonio/Austin, TX; Indianapolis/Ft. Wayne, IN; Omaha, Lincoln-Hastings, NB; Seattle-Tacoma, WA; Spokane, WA; Denver, CO; Atlanta, GA, and Phoenix, AZ.
The initiative, to run from October through mid-March, will involve 30-second TV ads and signage on billboards, buses, etc. In the Phoenix area alone, they're planning to use 30 billboards! The other focus of the initiative is, of course, social media--FaceBook, YouTube, and Twitter.
Originally the focus of the mormon.org profiles was to be those 18+, but as of yesterday that's been changed to 14+.
When you go to mormon.org to enter/finish your profile (up to 2500 words), "screeners" will go over it to make sure that you don't put in personally-identifiable information like last name, geographic area, kids' names, etc. [Several members of my ward said during the comment period that they'd had technical difficulties, and couldn't figure out how to satisfy the screeners' requests and have their profiles accepted.] People can search for profiles by inputting first name, ethnicity, location, etc.
We can go to www.boncom.com/mormon to learn more.
Our ward is going to order cards for members to distribute, and it was suggested that we could write down our facebook page or mormon.org url on them if we wanted.
One friend, who is one of the church's Arizona spokespersons, said that to her the real desire of the program is to show that our positive behaviors are related to our desire to follow Jesus Christ. For example, lots of folks think mormons are "nice," and the church would like to tie that to living a belief system.
This looks more like the game plan of a corporation, not a church. What other "church" out there needs to hire 2 PR Firms to fix public image and relations problems? If there's a perception problem, it's because of past experiences people have had with both the LDS church as an organization, and church members, not FALSE perceptions. Building a fancy profile website to appear "normal" and spending millions on ad campaigns and public relation firms isn't going to fix that. Fessing up and apologizing for past discrimination abuses and outright changing doctrine in a public announcement would do more and quicker.
You should see the youtube videos about this, it is quite hilarious.
Which videos are those?
...and I'm a Mormon youtube videos, mostly. I find them to be fascinating, and am often bashing them until I'm either blocked, or become bored. Normally its the latter. Then theres the "Banned Mormon Cartoon." Its attracted a lot of attention recently, mostly because it is true. I had a couple black friends look at it, before telling them what I, and most, have been taught about blacks being up in heaven.
They rather enjoyed the endless sex portion of the video, but after telling them that the mormon "heaven" means that they would become servants to ALL white men, women, and children, well, lets just say that the missionaries were run out as soon as they saw the pair. ;)