Normal Mormons

The LDS Church has launched a “considerably” expensive advertising blitz in nine markets across America.  The city I live in happens to be one of them. The advertising campaign is designed to persuade people that Mormons are nothing special or unique; they are just like everybody else. The television ads feature people from different walks of life saying things like, “My name is Josh. I’m a skateboarder. I’m a photographer, and I’m a Mormon.” Or, “I’m a surfer, a woman and a woman’s longboard champion. And I’m a Mormon.”

It’s common around here to hear people respond to the content of these ads with a shrug and a “So what?” Yet the blitz effectively brings non-Mormons into a sort of 21st century “contact” with normal Mormons multiple times a day. Where Mormonism may have seemed remote and a little mysterious before, the ads will allow it to now be perceived as commonplace.

The LDS website for non-Mormons, Mormon.org, is also putting great emphasis on Mormons as regular people. Four of the five rotating linked images on the home page highlight individual Mormons and their stories while the one remaining linked image refers to an aspect of LDS belief.

While it has long been the aim of the LDS Church to be recognized as a Christian church, there seems to be an increased effort to encourage people to accept Mormonism as “normal” or non-unique. A recent article that appeared in The Daily Times (Maryland; July 31, 2010) was titled, “Mormonism has similarities to other Christian churches.” While the two bishops interviewed for the article talked a bit about LDS history (i.e., the First Vision: “What’s unique about the church of the Latter-day Saints is its origin with Jesus Christ himself”), the bulk of the article is about what Mormons do (e.g., go to church, shun alcohol, pray, take communion, etc). Furthermore, in telling the First Vision story, Bishop Long explained that Joseph Smith was told by God not to join any of the existing churches. However, it was not because they were “all wrong; …all their creeds were an abomination…[and] those professors were all corrupt” (Joseph Smith History 1:19). If Mr. Long had shared that bit of LDS scripture he could not have kept up the pretense that “there are more similarities between our church and other Christian churches than differences” (as Bishop Whitaker told the journalist). Instead, Mr. Long explained that Smith was not to join any church because he was chosen to “help restore the gift of the apostles.”

Another recent article that fits nicely with the campaign to present Mormonism as people and not as a belief system appeared in Mormon Times on August 1st, 2010.  Jerry Johnston’s article, “Actions are great equalizer in religion,” suggests,

“…that’s the problem with religious discussions today. We focus on each other’s ideas rather than each other’s ideals. We want to know what people think, not how they live.”

Mr. Johnston believes that, since faith resides in people’s hearts, not their heads, we should avoid focusing on what people “hold to be true” and instead look at how they live. While he affirms that what a person believes is important, he insists,

“Being a believer isn’t nearly as important as being a doer…

The next time someone says, ‘Let’s talk religion. What do you believe?’ turn it around and say, ‘Let’s talk religion. How do you try [to] live your life?’

I do believe that faith will be borne out in one’s actions. This, after all, is what the Bible says (James 2:14-19). But we cannot know the nature of a person’s faith by looking at his actions. For example, a beautiful young woman believes (has faith) that if she treats a wealthy old man in a loving way he will remember her in his will. So she showers him with love — or what looks like love to those who are watching. Though her actions appear admirable, they are not; nor is her faith. Because we cannot know a person’s heart, we cannot know what they really believe by looking only at what they do.

The LDS Church is campaigning in the U.S. to be accepted as normal; that is, as mainstream America, mainstream Christian. There is nothing different about Mormonism — just look at how ordinary the Mormon people are. But Mormonism was founded on the very idea that it is different. It claims to be the only true church, after all. To suggest that one can know all they need to know about Mormonism by looking at the apparent normalcy of its members seems almost to employ a bit of slight of hand.

The Bible tells us that even Satan himself can appear as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-15); that people can and will do “many mighty works” in the name of Christ yet not be accepted by Him (Matthew 7:21-23). Of course Jesus cares about what we do, yet He taught, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29).

Therefore, I urge you, friends, when you see the new Mormon ads, shrug and say to your LDS friends, “So what? Tell me what your church teaches. Tell me what you believe.”

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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76 Responses to Normal Mormons

  1. martinfrombrisbane says:

    Thanks for your reply, Jim

    It was rather more lengthy than I had expected.

    I was just wondering if you worshipped Jesus.

    A simple 'yes' or 'no' will do for now.

    PS. If you're going to ask me what I mean by "worship", here's what I will tell you…

    I mean it in the strict (Biblical) sense that I am offering something to Jesus that should be offered to (the One) God, alone (See #1 an #2 of the 10 Commandments in Ex 20:3-4 etc). I may praise others (see Phil 4:8) for doing whatever is good or noble or praiseworthy, but this will always be qualified. My unqualified, highest praise and worship goes to the One who's name is above all other names (see Phil 2:9, Rev 5:13 etc).

    I also mean "worship" in a broad sense – that Jesus is someone whom I admire and seek to emulate. I desire to follow him and be like him. In the same way, informally, Australian Cricketers might "worship" Donald Bradman.

    The thing is, the first Christians knew they worshiped Jesus, and their Jewish and pagan neighbors knew they worshiped Jesus, too. See the pagan graffiti in Pompei from AD70, lampooning the Christians for worshipping a crucified god.

    Your prophets have expressly commanded you not to worship Jesus (Grindael knows the quote).

    So, where does that put you?

  2. wyomingwilly says:

    Olsenjim,

    I believe by the simple dictionary definition of "christian", that Mormons could be considered
    christian. I also happen to believe that most Mormons are not merely pretending to to christian,
    they are sincerely striving to serve God. In seeking how best to use the term "christian" in
    relation to Mormons I'm leaning towards this statement by LDS gen.authority Bruce Porter:

    " Are Mormons christian? unquestionably so.By the simple dictionary definition of christian as one
    who worships Jesus Christ, the case is compelling. To the title Christian, a critic of Mormonism
    may add any modifiers he deems appropriate—unorthodox, heretical,non-nicene,different—but
    blanket assertions that we are not christian are a poor substitute for informed arguement and
    dialogue. "
    I have a LDS gen authority's permission to refer to Mormons as heretical christians. This in my
    opinion would be accurate of LDS leaders.

  3. wyomingwilly says:

    cont.

    LDS prophets/apostles , who have set up road -blocks, as it were, which prevent sincere
    Mormons from experiancing and knowing the whole truth about Jesus.By following the
    counsel of their leaders, LDS are thus obstructed. The danger of this type of arrangement :
    Matt.15:14. This problem is not new : Acts 20:30; 2 Pt.2:1-2.

    Something else to consider is how Mormons teach that since they alone constitute the
    one TRUE church, that this reduces all non-LDS to be considered as false christians.
    What's a false christian? Perhaps like a false prophet or false christ ? [ Matt.24:24 ]
    [ Gal.2:4 ? ]
    Lastly, you did'nt respond about your "brothers" in the polygamist Mormon groups. If they're
    apostate are they true /real Mormons ?

    ww

  4. f_melo says:

    olsenjim,

    I believe in Jesus Christ of the Bible. It doesn't make any difference what "definition used by most people in society" says. Tell me what authority that "definition used by most people in society" has? And as if that "definition used by most people in society" is a monolithic, uniform set of conclusions. Hah.

    Also, could you provide what definition that is? You talk about authority, yet you don´t provide us with any real data/information about the "definition used by most people in society"…

    truly sad!

  5. enki says:

    Thats kind of odd, is the LDS church seeking 'normal' to be more accepted and less 'persecuted' or to increase membership? I guess it could be both. Whats getting in the way of being 'normal'?

  6. royaltonmd says:

    Martin,

    You said our "prophets have expressly commanded you not to worship Jesus."

    It amazes me how things are exaggerated as concepts are transmitted in time between people.

    Bruce McConkie made it very clear we worship the Father. He said we do not worship the Son. And I would add the two words "in the same way." That is the extent of our "modern prophets" making such express commands.

    By your definition- yes, I worship Jesus as my Creator, Savior, Judge, God, and King. I recognize that the only way I can enter Heaven is through His atonement.

    But I pray to the Father (as Christ instructed). All my covenants have been made with the Father.

    I think the difference between us comes down to our different views of the trinity vs. Godhead. In your worship of Jesus, I presume you are recognizing the Father- since you see them as one and the same.

    We see them as two distinct beings. And I think this is an important, but lost point about whom we worship. We worship both of them, but recognize them as separate.

  7. royaltonmd says:

    I am glad you recognize that we are Christian. You are certainly free to think we are heretics for our differences, but at least you admit that we try our best to follow Christ and accept Him.

    As far as our prophets leading us astray- that is your opinion. The scriptures you cite provide no argument either for or against that opinion. The simple existence of false teachers is recognized by virtually everybody. The question is- who are those false teachers?

    And interesting point Jesus makes in responding to His disciples when they come to Him complaining about the Pharisees teaching false doctrine- He tells them to let them alone. I always thought that was interesting given how vehemently the EV critics of the church attack and defame our history and doctrine. Seems to go very much against what the Master said.

    I do not consider non-LDS Christians as false Christians. I simply do not believe they have as much truth as is available. I really do not think God makes the divisions and boundaries and labels that we are so prone to. There are false doctrines. There are false creeds. A false teacher, in my opinion, is somebody who knowingly teaches falsehoods, most often for personal gain or attention.

    But I would never consider a person a false-Christian who is honest in following their conscience according to their understanding of Christ. None of us have a monopoly on truth. Every person is so limited in knowledge compared to God. We are simply on different points of the path in pursuing knowledge and truth. The important thing is which direction we are headed in that pursuit- and that is determined by what spirit we follow.

    As far as polygamists being “mormon”- again, I think it is important to make definitions clear. If society wants to define a mormon as somebody who believes in Joseph Smith and the BOM- fine. But LDS feel it important to define our church and organization- that we do not currently practice polygamy or believe such practice is condoned of God at this time. We do not want people thinking we are the people seen on 60 minutes, etc. in the small Southern Utah/Arizona towns following those father/prophet/figures and dress in 1800s garb. And I think that is fair.

    The problem is that society, by and large, doesn’t make such distinctions between Mormon and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are one and the same to most people. So when somebody says the mormons practice polygamy, we don’t like that because it is by the accepted definitions of society, saying something false about us.

  8. f_melo says:

    Here you are, just like the mormon church, making sure to sound as evangelical as possible, but as the mormon church you ommit important, crucial informations on what else you believe that is not in your little list above:

    - You believe Christ is a created being
    - You believe that Christ is now a ressurected polygamous god
    - You believe that Christ is our spirit brother and spirit brother of Satan
    - You believe that the job of Savior was up for grabs and only Jesus and Lucifer volunteered; Jesus was a bit more inteligent than Lucifer and He developed the better plan of salvation and that´s why He was chosen; By the way you and me could have volunteered as well if we had had the guts;
    - Christ was concieved by sexual relations between God the Father and Mary;
    - etc., etc. etc.

    You can try and pretend you´re an evangelical christian, but the only way you can do that is through leaving out some key beliefs that make mormons mormons.

    Now, tell me – are any of the beliefs liste above the "definition used by most people in society" ???????

    Yeah, right!

    And, if "50% of the youth in evangelical churches believe Jesus sinned", that disqualifies them as christians – end of story! That does not excuse the LDS doctrines on Christ at all!!!!!!

  9. f_melo says:

    falcon, the missionaries are trainned to avoid "meat before milk", but even worse is the theological iliteracy of people in general. Few people know what is orthodox historic Christianity – i didn´t know it either until i found out the church was false and started doing research on my own and now i´m compensating for all the years learning JS fantasy.

  10. royaltonmd says:

    f_melo,

    I have posted the definition of "Christian" found in two different dictionaries. Read through the posts again.

  11. wyomingwilly says:

    royaltonmd,

    I do believe that the vast majority of Mormons are sincere, and are striving to serve God.
    Yes, in a broad general sense Mormons can be called "christian". But in using the term
    "heretical" [ as Elder Porter mentioned ] I want to be clear that the doctrinal differences
    are major , so much so that eternal life is at stake.

    I have to get up at 2am so I'll address some of your comments tomarrow. Thanks.

  12. f_melo says:

    I was asking Jim Olsen to provide us with his definition of "definition used by most people in society" of what christianity is – i´ve read those that you posted.

  13. f_melo says:

    "And interesting point Jesus makes in responding to His disciples when they come to Him complaining about the Pharisees teaching false doctrine- He tells them to let them alone"

    Have you ever read Matthew 23? Where Jesus calls the pharisees Hypocrites and a bunch of other stuff – once again i don´t think we are talking about the same Jesus and the same apostles… can you give me the exact passage so i can read in context – that part doesn´t come to mind at the moment.

    royaltonmd,

    You have to remeber that ex-mormons post here, and i´m one of them, and i used to do that same thing you just did – A good PR trying to be nice to win people over, but to do that you have to be deceptive. Let me demonstrate:

    you say :

    "But I would never consider a person a false-Christian who is honest in following their conscience according to their understanding of Christ."

    That´s only true if you consider christian only those who do good works and by that standard a buddhist could be called a christian too. When it comes to doctrine though you´ll always remeber JS´ first vision, when god told him all religions were an abomination – it´s online on the church´s site, the whole world can read it in context. Everyone that doesn´t believe like you do will only inherit the terrestrial/telestial kingdom – they won´t ever live with god the father again.

    "None of us have a monopoly on truth."

    and then you say

    "I do not consider non-LDS Christians as false Christians. I simply do not believe they have as much truth as is available."

    So, by your own words you have defined that not only the mormon church(through the prophet) has the truth, but that everyone else has less truth than you.

    That´s professional spin – congratulations, You just made FARMS proud!

    "We are simply on different points of the path in pursuing knowledge and truth."

    That sounded too universalist. You forgot something on that frase: "…and i´ve just found the full truth before everyone else who is still in other religions".

    last:

    "The important thing is which direction we are headed in that pursuit- and that is determined by what spirit we follow."

    That´s what wyomingwilly is trying to tell you as well as everyone else here – you´re heading to the wrong direction, following the wrong spirit.

    I was once just as blind as you are right now, i served a full-time mission, many callings, etc. Until one day i heard some pretty disturbing things about the church – i checked the facts and for my shock those critics were right. I made one the most honest prayers i´ve ever made to God to ask Him to show me the truth.

    You know how the truth came? Not through "burning in the bosom" which i was very well acquainted with – but with facts. I started doing tons of research on church history untill i couldn´t avoid the conclusion that i had been fooled.

    If you really want to know the truth, ask God and then He will answer you with facts, not subjective feelings.

  14. martinfrombrisbane says:

    royaltonmd,

    Not sure if we've met here before, so 'hi', if we haven't.

    To answer your question, yes, I worship the Father, the Son (and the Holy Ghost). I worship One God.

    Why?

    Because there is only One God.

    Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

    I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.

    I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.

    Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?

    (Isaiah 43:10-13)

    OK, so one of the things Isaiah says here is that "before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me", contrary to Joseph Smith's 'revelation' of eternal progression (King Follet discourse and all that). Hence my earlier point about LDS prophets promptly dismissing the thing that they say is the "Word of God" when it doesn't suit them.

    It seems that LDS tolerate the "Word of God" in their religion provided it doesn't speak. How odd!

    Where do the "persons" of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost fit into this One God? I can repeat to you what I've heard from various Theologians over the centuries, including the Church Fathers and the Credal Formulae, but, the truth is that it's unexplainable (like trying to come up with an adequate explanation of worship – you know it when you see it, but it's impossible to do it justice in words). Bottom line for me is that either the Scriptures are hopelessly confused, or they are deeply Trinitarian.

    Much as I struggle with an understanding of the concept (which is not a reliable measure of its truth or otherwise), I have found something that fits within the parameters of scripture, that does not unduly twist it to comply with the post-enlightenment mind-set that most of us have adopted uncritically and unknowingly.

    In any case, why worship the Son at all, if he was no more than a creation of the Father? If this were the case, didn't he just do what he was told? That's commendable and praiseworthy, yes, but not worthy of worship.

    And, if you're right about the "distinct beings", why was one of them (we're not sure which one) so insistent that we don't share our worship with another? Why didn't he just clear the air by saying, "Hey, its OK to worship me and my Father/Son as well"? I think you'll search in vain through the Bible to find anything that supports this scenario.

  15. wyomingwilly says:

    f melo, thanks.

    royaltonmd,

    I did'nt understand your reasoning here. So you're saying that Jesus was'nt concerned
    about people being deceived by false teachers like the Pharisees? You cite one point
    and attempt to make a case from it that we here are not to call Mormon doctrine wrong ?
    You said that this ministry goes against what Jesus said. Really ? So Jesus never
    taught His disciples to beware of false prophets/teachers ? Those disciples that were
    mentored by Him were sent by Him into the world to preach and teach. What did Peter
    teach in 2 Pt.2:1-1 ; or John in 1 Jn.4:1.

  16. wyomingwilly says:

    cont.

    You also said that you did not consider non-LDS christians as false christians.
    Perhaps you personally feel this way ( I don't know your heart ) , but I have to
    look that what your prophets/apostles have said on this as they are the authority.
    An example:
    1. the ONE TRUE church = The Mormon Church. (all other churches are false)
    2. the TRUE religion= the restored gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (all other religions are false)
    3. the TRUE BELIEVERS = faithful members of the Mormon Church. (what does this
    infer ? )

    Perhaps this rhetoric has been toned down in recent years, but Mormon leaders are on record as having exhausted language in vilifying other churches. Such terms as " whore masters" , " ignorant", "hatched in hell", "Lucifer's system", have been employed in the your church's attack on other "christian" churches.

  17. wyomingwilly says:

    cont
    Your last response to my question concerning Mormon polygamist/fundamentists, was weak. I do understand your church doesn't want to be identified with them. The question though is, are these true Mormons ? Are they false brethen ? True or false, which are they ?

  18. Hawk says:

    New to your site but just had to comment. I think it is hilarious that Mormons (LDS) are using the same tactics the GLBT community uses, yet they attacked the GLBT community for using these tactics. If LDS are just like everyone else, why do they need to tell you that? On top of that, why do they need to become hypocritical to achieve that. LDS meeting houses in my area of the world (which is a small town on the east side) came around during our campagin for banning same sex marriage with all sorts of ads on how "they" will never "be like us"… yet in the same breath they are showing how "they"(LDS) are like "us"(Mainstream Christianity). I find that hilarious and annoying.

  19. setfreebyJC says:

    Martin, I believe that jim and royalton are one and the same person

  20. enki says:

    Well, I don't think the Salt lake church will be spending much on an ad " I'm gay and I'm mormon". I don't know why one would want to retain affliation with a church which isn't welcoming. I guess its self hatred or something.

  21. got2ears says:

    I'm confused. Is this a joke did someone hack the website? This is totally the opposite of how LDS is. Well I guess if you want to reel anyone in this it. This would be more "successful" if they did commercials like this.

  22. Sharon Lindbloom says:

    Today at Huffington Post a Mormon blogger posted an article about the ad campaign. Here's an excerpt that I found interesting:

    People think badly of the Mormon church not because they don't like its members, but because they don't like its policies, practices and teachings…

    Imagine a similar campaign from BP, with a website introducing you to its lower-level employees. They surf, they skateboard, they volunteer in their communities. They're well-educated and well-spoken. They're clean but not scrubbed. You'd be happy living next door to them. The fact that BP's employees are decent, likable people doesn't change the fact that their employer, the entity footing the bill for the whole endeavor, is also the organization that trashed the Gulf of Mexico in an oil spill that killed 11 workers and untold marine life. If you care at all about the environment and corporate accountability, you'd still be leery of BP, its policies, its statements, and you wouldn't really want to get a job there or even buy its products.

    The same is true for Mormonism. People can see this very polished PR campaign for what it is, and while it might improve the image of individual Mormons, it won't do a thing to burnish the image of the corporate church.

  23. emmzee says:

    My old church (Christian) tried something like this. They sent postcards to the neighborhood (hundreds of houses). It was the "I go to church" campaign which featured people from the congregation and portrayed them as normal people who also attended the church.

    I don't think we saw a single new visitor from the campaign. (It was several weeks long and cost a lot of money.) There probably were a few but I didn't notice them, and there certainly were not many. One of the problems with this sort of campaign (I think) is that the average person sees it and reads it like "Oh, you're normal guy and go to church … that's nice, I'm a normal guy and I don't. I prefer golf. Hope you have fun at your church!"

  24. Enki says:

    There are gay LDS organizations, affirmation is one of them. Apparently some gays want to remain LDS, with just that one difference.

  25. Rick B says:

    I dont know how many people will read this since it is a rather old post, but anyway some fellow brothers in my church today were talking about these TV spots the LDS are doing. My church has a video ministry will professional TV cameras. Well the brothers are going to start making counter TV commercials and put them up on the web. They were telling me about it saying, were going to talk about our past with drugs or fighting or ETC. Then they will end it with, were Christians.

    I told them to end it by saying, were not Mormons, Where Christians. Otherwise people will confuse the spots with the LDS spots. You never know you might see me on one of these spots on the web. Rick b

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