The LDS Church instituted its “I’m a Mormon” ad campaign in 2011 as a way for curious outsiders to peek in at Mormonism’s greatest strength—its members. Rather than viewing the Internet’s inherent decentralizing property as an obstacle to be combated, the Church (rather brilliantly) began to envision that very decentralization as an opportunity: Let the members be the message.
In the last two years the “I’m a Mormon” campaign has become the Church’s calling card to the world, often gently challenging stereotypes that people may have harbored about who is or can be a good Mormon.
The campaign has been wildly successful with non-members and the media, prompting lots of positive press, more than 30 million video views, and this fantabulous Stephen Colbert spoof, in which Colbert fantasizes about a competing ad campaign to make Roman Catholics seem as “irresistibly cool” as Mormons.
But another, just as important, shift has happened—the “I’m a Mormon” campaign has become a rallying point for members themselves as they define what it means to be Mormon in the 21st century. As I compiled my list of five favorites (and this is not exhaustive—I certainly have not watched all of them) it hit me squarely that I have naturally gravitated toward videos whose stories in some ways mirror mine.
Sometimes in the LDS Church, it’s easy to feel like you’re alone. Maybe you’re single and in your 30s, and a barrage of idealized stories of perfect nuclear families hurts in a deep place. Maybe you’re infertile. Maybe you’re gay. Maybe you’re just different.
Whenever I feel alone in the Church—like when the sea of white men in suits at General Conference feels far removed from my actual life—I remind myself that at the grassroots level, the LDS Church has all God’s critters singing in the choir. I crave their stories, glimpses of real people. And although they are clearly best-foot-forward stories, the videos in the “I’m a Mormon” campaign are real.
My current top five:
1) Here’s this fantastic “part-member family” in Ireland, where husband and wife support one another’s differing religious preferences with love, humor, and mutual respect.
2) Here’s a funny young comedienne who works for The Daily Show. (Apparently this clean-living comic is in charge of designating all the bleeps for swear words. See, my people make all kinds of contributions in the world.)
3) Here’s lovely tribute by a young journalist to her hardworking immigrant mother, who has made many sacrifices so her daughter could obtain an education.
4) Here’s a unicycling research scientist. My husband is a unicycling engineer, so I can relate. Yes, really.
5) And here’s a profile of a modern-day saint, a French designer who sold her house and moved to Nepal to build an orphanage for over 150 children. Truly inspiring.
In the end, we often seek stories that reinforce some aspect of our own, or stories that inspire us to be better people. For me, such videos do both.
My name is Jana. I’m a blogger, a feminist, a scrapbooker, a Dr. Who geek, and a scholar. And I’m a Mormon.