A "Perfect Storm" of Bad PR for the LDS (Mormon) Church

Check out Jennifer Dobner's latest (excellent) AP piece: Gay marriage fight, "kiss-ins" smack Mormon image.

A couple of video clips for context and then excerpts from Ms. Dobner's article below.

The first clip is the latest from FOX13, which has done an outstanding job (imho) with their local Utah coverage.

The second clip is Jan Shipps, a highly-respected (non-Mormon) scholar of Mormon history.

Unlike the LDS leadership, which, as FOX13 reports, has stated it will not be commenting on the latest SLC Kiss-In, I've got a comment: I'd like to congratulate the organizers of The Great Nationwide Kiss-In, David Badash and David Mailloux, for a job well done. You made the right call and kept it positive.

Dr. Shipps called it a "Perfect Storm" of bad PR for the LDS church post-Prop 8. This weekend sure seems like a "Perfect Storm" of good vibes for the rest of us.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – The Mormon church's vigorous, well-heeled support for Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California last year, has turned the Utah-based faith into a lightning rod for gay rights activism, including a nationwide "kiss-in" Saturday.

The event comes after gay couples here and in San Antonio and El Paso, Texas, were arrested, cited for trespassing or harassed by police for publicly kissing. In Utah, the July 9 trespassing incident occurred after a couple were observed by security guards on a downtown park-like plaza owned by the 13 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The court case was dismissed, but the kiss sparked a community backlash and criticism of the church.


National organizers say Saturday's broadly held gay rights demonstrations were not aimed specifically at the Mormon church. But observers say the church's heavy-handed intervention into California politics will linger and has left the faith's image tarnished.

"What I hear from my community and from straight progressive individuals is that they now see the church as a force for evil and as an enemy of fairness and equality," said Kate Kendell, executive director of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights. Kendell grew up Mormon in Utah. "To have the church's very deep and noble history telescoped down into this very nasty little image is as painful for me as for any faithful Mormon."

Troy Williams, who is gay and grew up Mormon, said ending the tension between gays and the church requires mutual acceptance and understanding.

"For both sides to peaceably coexist, we're all going to have to engage in some very deep soul searching," said Williams, a Salt Lake City-area activist and host of a liberal radio talk show.

Church insiders say Prop. 8 has bred dissent among members and left families divided. Some members have quit or stopped attending services, while others have appealed to leadership to stay out of the same-sex marriage fight.


The church has actively fought marriage equality legislation across the U.S. since the early 1990s and joined other faiths in asking Congress for a marriage amendment to the Constitution in 2006.

Last year at the urging of church leaders, Mormons donated tens of millions of dollars to the "Yes on 8" campaign and were among the most vigorous volunteers. The institutional church gave nearly $190,000 to the campaign — contributions now being investigated by California's Fair Political Practices Commission.

After the vote, many gay rights advocates turned their anger toward the church in protests and marches outside temples that singled out Mormons as the key culprits in restricting the rights of gay couples.

That constituted a setback for the faith, argued Jan Shipps, a professor of religious history and a Mormon expert from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Mormonism, Shipps said, has struggled with its image since its western New York founding in 1830 for a host of reasons, including polygamy.


Church representatives don't discuss public relations strategies or challenges publicly, but at a semiannual conference in April, church President Thomas S. Monson seemed to be clearly feeling a post-Prop. 8 sting.

In an era of "shifting moral footings," Monson said, "those who attempt to safeguard those footings are often ridiculed, picketed and persecuted."

That argument doesn't wash for Linda Stay, whose ancestors were early Mormon converts. Stay said she was doubly transformed by Prop. 8. She and her husband, Steve, finally quit the church — along with 18 other family members and a few close friends — and became gay right activists.

The St. George woman's family, which includes two gay children, will play a central role in a documentary film, "8: The Mormon Proposition" currently in production. Stay's son, Tyler Barrick, married his boyfriend in San Francisco on June 17, 2008, the first day gay marriage was legal in California.

Miami-area filmmaker Reed Cowan said the Stays' story is a painful representative of many Latter-day Saint families, including his own, that needed to be told.

"It used to be that I could defend my church and my heritage, but what they did here, they crossed the line and they made it very hard to defend their actions," said Cowan, whose family has cut him off since he began work on the film.

With the gay rights fight far from over, some believe Prop. 8 could continue to frustrate the church's image for years to come, much like polygamy — the church's own one-time alternative form of marriage — and a policy on keeping black men out of the priesthood, issues that have lingered years after the practices were abandoned.

If you haven't yet, please go read the whole story.

Or, go check out the new LDS Newsroom Blog ... I'm curious whether the LDS Newsroom launched its new blog pretty much for the sole purpose of responding to Dobner's AP piece? Regardless, whoever's running the show at LDS Public Affairs is certainly making some interesting decisions. This comment sounds about right:
The LDS Church editorializing by pointing to blog posts they think say it better than they could themselves? "Heh, yeah. What she said." Did you read what she said? You want this non-Mormon blogger to be your surrogate voice? Can of @#$% worms? These guys are losing it.
Be sure to read the GetReligion post the LDS Newsroom blog links to. It's a doozy. I wonder if the blogmeisters over at LDS Public Affairs bothered to read the latest advice from Elder M. Russell Ballard about how Mormons should conduct themselves online? Elder Ballard begins:
“In our interactions with others are we expecting always to have to defend ourselves? If so, I think we need to make a course correction.” Elder Ballard said. “It is inconsistent with where we are today as a Church and as a great body of followers of Jesus Christ.”

Elder Ballard referred to recent research that suggested Mormons can sometimes appear defensive to those who are not members of the Church. The study said that when Mormons are explaining their beliefs, they couch their language in terms that suggest they are expecting criticism.
The LDS leadership had to pay a researcher to deliver this insight? Oh my.

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    News and views on NOM, marriage equality and the Mormon church from a former LDS missionary. This site is not affiliated with The National Organization for Marriage or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. © Copyright 2009 by Chino Blanco. All Rights Reserved.

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