Butter up the popcorn, ice down some beers, and just try to contain your excitement, because the good people at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just launched a new series of “I’m a Mormon” commercials, and you don’t want to miss a one of them.
Airing in 12 U.S. cities and seven states, the ads will present a sensitive portrait of the modern-day Mormon. According to church elder David Evans, the ads are necessary in order to debunk the many misconceptions people have about Mormons. “The best way to get to know Mormons,” Evans said, “is to meet them and get to know them. These ads are an invitation to do that.”
But considering the timing of these commercials, as well as the particular markets in which the ads will run, the LDS’s campaign clearly is about more than a simple, “How do you do.”
Make no mistake, these ads aren’t aimed at saving your soul or spreading the good word; they’re aimed at nothing more than winning your vote. The vote the church is particularly concerned with this time around is the one you’ll be casting for President next year.
In case you aren’t aware, there are currently two Mormons running for the right to be the GOP’s Presidential Nominee: Sears Catalog underwear model and former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, and John Huntsman, the former governor of Utah and future Romney in ’12 campaign aide, are both proud LDS members and presidential hopefuls.
Well, at least Romney is hopeful, as Huntsman has as much chance of winning the nomination as Chaz Bono has of winning Dancing with the Stars.
Now, for the record, I should point out that I have nothing against the Mormon religion or those who practice it (or any other religion, for that matter, with the possible exception of Secular Satanism, but that’s only because of its influence on modern capitalism).
On the other hand, I have everything against the LDS church. Still, my feelings about the LDS church are no different than my feelings for any other religious institution that funnels its tax-exempt profits into political campaigns and initiatives, such as was the case with California’s Proposition 8 in 2008.
Proposition 8, which was largely funded by the LDS church both through direct contributions and secondary non-profit groups, banned gay marriage in the only state in the union where they should not only be legal but recommended.
In other words, I sure hope I’m wrong about there not being a hell, as it’s the only appropriate place for the leaders of the LDS church to go after they die. Until they do die, however, they seem intent on further muddying the separation of church and state with stunts like these new commercials.
But remember: according to church elder Evans these ads—in which people who think it’s sensible to ride 10 speeds while wearing dress slacks and a tie try to convince you that they’re normal—are simply an invitation to get to know a Mormon.
Of course, Mormons have been inviting us to get to know them for decades, one extremely congenial door-knock at a time. And since we’ve all turned down those invitations repeatedly, often vehemently, and occasionally with not-so-inviting invitations of our own, we’ve given the LDS church—which is really slow to take a hint—no recourse but to sidestep our front doors and invite themselves directly into our homes via our cable provider of choice. Now, if you are smart enough to own a DVR, you should be able to completely avoid the horror of having Donnie and Marie Osmond share with you the nauseating minutia of their daily lives while explaining that, “really, most of us are nothing like Glenn Beck.”
If you don’t have a DVR, however, you’ll soon get the chance to learn that many myths about the Mormon faith are incorrect. And apparently there are a lot of myths, the biggest of which deal with Mormonism’s relationship with Christianity, the church’s stance on polygamy, and how their name is spelled.
So let’s be clear on these misconceptions. For starters, Mormons are just as Christian as any of the other groups out there that worship Jesus while believing they are defined not by the teachings they follow but by the teachings they preach. You know, like Republicans? And despite what you may have heard at work or read on some blog, the LDS church is as ardently opposed to polygamy as the Catholic Church is opposed to child molestation. Which is, as you know…a lot?
And surprisingly, it turns out that the word Mormon is in fact spelled with two Ms—though outside of Arizona and Utah the second M is usually silent.
Sadly, these ads fail to address the biggest myth surrounding the Mormon religion: namely, that it is a religion. Because if there’s anything these ads and the church’s involvement in Prop. 8 prove, it’s that the Latter Day Saints—as an organizational body—is not a religion but a powerful political lobby hell-bent on manifesting its worldview through the power of your heavily sought-after vote.
And the church needs your vote. You see, unlike Huntsman, Romney is a legitimate candidate, and he’ll be the outright frontrunner to win the GOP nomination once America fully comes to terms with just how bat-shit crazy Rick Perry is. (By the way, to calculate America’s tolerance for crazy, simply add one Sarah Palin plus one Michelle Bachmann, then subtract all the boobs and fuck-me boots and you are left with a sum of: Ricky Perry is screwed).
So barring major changes to the political landscape, Romney is well-positioned to take on President Obama in next year’s election. The problem for Romney is that recent polls suggest that the percentage of Americans who have negative opinions of Mormons is roughly equivalent to “all of them.” Painting an even grimmer picture, a June Gallup poll found that as many as 20 percent of Americans would oppose a Mormon candidate for president.
That’s bad news for Romney and even worse news for the LDS church, which knows 2012 may represent the best chance an LDS member has of winning the presidency—or, at the least, of winning it before a female candidate does. And it’s crucial for the LDS church to place a Mormon in the White House before a woman gets elected. I mean, it’s one thing to come in second to a black man, but you don’t want to come in behind a black man and a woman in a three-way race to see who Americans fear the most.
That’s why the LDS church is rolling out its “I’m a Mormon” commercials now. And sure, the church denies that the ads have anything to do with next year’s presidential election. Plus, it’s not like there is anything illegal or unconstitutional about these TV spots. Unethical perhaps, but not illegal.
Either way, the church is clearly trying to soften America’s perception of Mormonism—call it a preemptive approach to damage control. Because if Romney does win the nomination, his personal faith will no doubt be put on trial by hundreds of blogs, talk radio shows and late-night television skits. The LDS church is betting they can minimize the potential damage of such discussions by framing the issue of Romney’s faith with a happy, get-to-know-us media campaign launched months before the real political season kicks off.
It’s not a bad tactic, and based on the LDS church’s past success in electioneering and marketing, it’ll likely work.
Of course, the church might find that it’s far easier to convince a skeptical American audience to embrace a Mormon than it is to convince the Tea Party that Romney is not a socialist responsible for the “government takeover of health care.” And if there is any life left in that withering document we call the Constitution of the United States, LDS leaders will find it even more difficult to convince the IRS that the church deserves to retain its status as a tax-exempt organization.
Hell, with over six million members in America alone, taxes on those LDS donation-plate offerings would be a good way of showing the church how to serve its community, as opposed to simply using that money to manipulate it.