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What is this “irony” thing?

December 3, 2008

In an earlier entry, I talked about the insider perception of the church. Of course, you’d expect insiders to support the church, and they do (for the most part), but there are still some anxieties that arise in times like the church’s campaign for Proposition 8.

One thing that I linked to was pollster Gary Lawrence’s research on this dramatic mismatch in perceptions on the church. Mormons were shocked with the reaction to Mitt Romney’s run for presidency: while we thought we were seen as hardworkers who were viewed somewhat positively, the campaign showed that many people — especially Evangelical voters — still distrust Mormons and Mormon candidates.

So Mr. Lawrence set out to explain why Mormons are viewed so negatively. In an interview, Lawrence said at the end that one piece of advice he’d give to Mormons is for them to “be themselves.

Is that really it?

No, I think he really means that Mormons should be as they should be. Because inactive Mormons or Jack Mormons or “bad Mormons” can “be themselves,” but this wouldn’t necessarily help the perception of the church. When you hear someone referring to their Mormon friend as the one who can hold down the most beer…well. That’s no good for the church.

But, what happens when Mormons are “themselves” in the way that the church wants. I was so surprised to see Gary Lawrence’s name again…because it seems that beyond research and polling, he was quite involved in the grassroots movement for Prop 8.

And unfortunately, it appears that his involvement in not just Prop 8 but also Prop 22 has caused some collateral damage: his son, Matthew, who is gay, resigned as a result of his father “being himself.” Maybe it was because his father didn’t approve of his son “being himself.”

I apologize for this post. This is just waving dirty laundry. It’s bad journalism and bad blogging. And it’s misleading: this really is not ironic. It’s not wholly unexpected that someone who is concerned about the perception of the church would do things to make the church unpopular with his very own son.

I should probably defend Mr. Lawrence. See…he speaks about a negative perception of the church, but the reason why he feels the church is perceived negatively is important. I haven’t read his book, so maybe I’ll get the details incorrect, but it seems from his website and the interview that he has more of a problem with the statistics that show that people really don’t know what the church is about. He says something like 84% of people have been contacted by missionaries or have seen ads or something, but only 14% know the critical beliefs of the church. Many people have no Mormon friends who could normalize the church for them (and interestingly enough…when people only have one Mormon friend, stats show they have a worse opinion of the church than if they had none.)

So, Gary’s really saying that people need to show others what the Gospel means. Even if it happens to mean intolerance or whatever else.

Now…it is permissible for the church to be perceived negatively. After all, it’s part of the Mormon cultural complex to be seen as peculiar and weird. It’s part of the Mormon religious complex to be against the world. But in this case, people should know what Mormons stand for and then hate them because of that. Instead of hating Mormons out of ignorance.

I dunno. I don’t think educating evangelicals would make them view us any more favorably. They’d still think Mormon beliefs are weird and un-Christian. Even if both groups hate gay marriage with a passion.

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  1. Re: But in this case, people should know what Mormons stand for and then hate them because of that. Instead of hating Mormons out of ignorance.

    I imagine you’re kidding. 😉

    But seriously, it’s surprising that people can say “I believe such-and-such about homosexuals because of the teachings of my Mormon faith,” and then be shocked that that affects people’s opinion of Mormonism. On the bright side, it’s hopefully a learning experience for people who haven’t thought their actions through.

  2. Lawrence also wrote a charming article in Meridian Magazine about how Mormons who don’t support Prop 8 are like the “fence sitters” in the pre-mortal “war in heaven.”

    Think I’ll pass on his book.

  3. Seth:

    Really? >_<

    I thought members would’ve learned better to predict various classes of members’ pre-mortal faithfulnesses, but I guess I thought wrong…

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