"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints [sic Mormon Church] has been in a public relations tailspin in recent years, taking hits from both the left and the right."
"In 2008 it became the whipping boy for those who opposed Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that banned gay marriage. Mormons were some of the greatest supporters -- and funders -- of the initiative."
How Bad is the Damage?
Having suffered a blistering blow the last two years to its already shaky image, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) has begun a massive multi-media campaign to come back from the depths of unfavorability in the national polls. They're spending millions and millions of dollars in an unprecedented national advertising campaign on television and radio. They also launched a new web site Mormon.org, all in an attempt to fix its PR problems.
The Mormon Church is in full damage control mode. Even its own pollster, Gary Lawrence admitted it in the Washington Post last year, when he stated, "We're upside down on our image. Favorability ratings declined for Mormons over the last year..."
Lawrence, who is also a high-ranking Mormon Church leader, does all the polling for the Salt Lake City based religion. His Lawrence Research of Santa Ana, California was the pollster of record for the successful Mormon run Proposition 8 campaign in California two years ago. He also did all the polling for their successful Amendment 1 campaign one year ago in Maine, that took away that state's gay marriage law.
Exactly How Many Church Members Have They Lost?
There have been reports that the Mormon Church has lost tens of thousands of members in California and other Western states over Prop 8, and that many highly educated Mormons have resigned from the Church. I have also heard that Mormon Church buildings are closing.
This hasn't happened since the 1970's, when they led the national opposition to another social justice issue, the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA would have expanded the rights of women 35 years ago, when they were fighting for equal recognition under the law.
The Mormon Church's image also suffered greatly in the 1960's because of its long-held practice of vilifying African Americans and not allowing them Church membership. It wasn't until the United States Justice Department threatened a Federal lawsuit, that they relented and allowed African Americans to join the priesthood. The Mormon Church has faced image problems before, but not to this extent.
Just How Much are They Spending?
Why the need to spend another $10 million to $20 million on a very slick national television and radio advertising campaign just like BP is doing? Well, all we have to do is go back and read some of the headlines:
Wall Street Journal: Mormons Boost Antigay Marriage Effort
New York Times: Inquiry Set on Mormon Aid for California Marriage Vote
Washington Post: "The Mormons are Coming!"
KSL -TV (Church Owned): Thousands of Prop 8 Opponents Protest LDS Church at Temple Square
San Francisco Chronicle: FPPC Looks Into Mormon Backing of Prop 8
Pam's House Blend: Mormon Church: Guilty on 13 Counts of Prop 8 Malfeasance
This has Been in the Works for Nearly Two Years
Church leaders even announced their "PR Offensive" on ABC's Nightline, where for the first time in Church history, two Mormon Apostles Russell Ballard and Quinten Cook faced the cameras. Now Church spokeswoman, Kim Farah confirms that this multimedia campaign has been in the works for "close to two years," and will include up to 90 individual ads.
There are those who believe that all this advertising is designed to lessen harm to a Mitt Romney campaign for President in 2012. I don't necessarily agree with that theory. The Mormon Church primarily needs to stop the hemorrhaging. The Fox News report does say this regarding Romney's candidacy, "Mormon beliefs also became the subject of political angst."
Commercials to Run Indefinitely
So next time you see a slick commercial on TV that features nice looking, pleasant people saying how wonderful they are and ending with the tag line, "and I'm a Mormon," ask yourself why.
Maybe it was because of web sites that cropped up after Prop 8 passed, like Sign for Something, so Mormons could resign the Church over its $40 million campaign? Or maybe Gary Lawrence's dismal polling numbers required the Mormon Church to try and resurrect its public image?
Whatever the real reason, it nice to know that any organization that undermines the public trust and breaks the law will suffer not only in its image, but that its enlightened members will walk away.