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Apple and the Mormon Church

December 6, 2008

I must confess: Apple’s marketing reminds me very much about how I feel about the church.

Big name...like the church

Big name...like the church

Apple is just…incredible at marketing. When they release something, they advertise and hype it just right enough that it starts selling like hotcakes. The iPhone is now the number one selling business phone; the iPhone is something like 13% of all smartphones used. It’s the top selling phone for the period (used to be whatever the latest Razr was…so consider how popular Razrs were in the past…and imagine as many iPhones — it’s only a matter of time).

I look at the iPhone and say, “But people should expect more and better from their phones?!” I’m a bit of a smartphone connoisseur, you see. But then I realize too…Apple was no slouch. The iPhone is not a bad phone. It’s very solid, even if it doesn’t have copy/paste or MMS. Even if the iPhone app store has some draconian clauses. Apple has AT&T in a corner — although the iPhone is a boon to AT&T subscriptions, the iPhone’s tremendous data cuts into AT&T’s margins. But I can’t hate the iPhone or Apple because they spur competition. The iPhone spurs people to TRY to make better, finger friendlier interfaces…I have some ideological disagreements with Apple and Apple fans. I believe they overcharge and skimp on some details…and I believe Apple fans buy this hook, line, and sinker.

I relate it to the Mormon Church. Members pay not only in money, but also in their time and effort. The faithful ones mimic the Apple faithful. I cannot deny, however, that Mormons have this incredible organizational structure that is just…politically useful. They mobilize efficiently and effectively and strike surgically. Just like Apple.

Proposition 8. You had to know it was coming. Mormons are only 2% of California (as the Mormons capitalized on to say that they couldn’t have been what pushed the vote over). However, Mormons provided up to half of the Yes funds, and Mormons were a considerable part of the grassroots effort.

Much as anyone may disagree with the ideology behind it, I cannot deny the marketing. This was scientific. This ought be studied in business schools. As a legal or business entity, the church so perfectly utilized its channels. On one Sunday in summer, the church had bishops in California read a letter to congregations asking its members to “assure that marriage in California is defined as being between a man and a woman.” Over time, the church came out more strongly…they gave talks emphasizing the role of the eternal family, the role of marriage, and a grassroots movement was born.

From a New York Times article about the volunteer effort:

The canvass work could be exacting and highly detailed. Many Mormon wards in California…were assigned two ZIP codes to cover. Volunteers in one ward…had tasks ranging from “walkers,” assigned to knock on doors; to “sellers,” who would work with undecided voters later on; and to “closers,” who would get people to the polls on Election Day.

Suggested talking points were equally precise. If initial contact indicated a prospective voter believed God created marriage, the church volunteers were instructed to emphasize that Proposition 8 would restore the definition of marriage God intended.

But if a voter indicated human beings created marriage, Script B would roll instead, emphasizing that Proposition 8 was about marriage, not about attacking gay people, and about restoring into law an earlier ban struck down by the State Supreme Court in May.

“It is not our goal in this campaign to attack the homosexual lifestyle or to convince gays and lesbians that their behavior is wrong — the less we refer to homosexuality, the better,” one of the ward training documents said. “We are pro-marriage, not anti-gay.”

That’s impressive. Even if one completely disagrees with the LDS campaign or the church as a whole, one should recognize that as a matter of business and organization, the LDS church is a testament to the world. And as the gay rights movement implodes what public sympathy it may have had with an ignoble aftermath…really, they should ask how they can create a more effective structure.

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