Ranting about a Pet Peeve-Public Relations

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professionalmom
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Ranting about a Pet Peeve-Public Relations

Post by professionalmom » 04 May 2009, 10:07

Maybe the wise and rational voices here can help me with something that bothers me.

Offering the conference's closing general address, Elder Perry said that church leaders have been looking at the church's image to better understand how the organization approaches its missionary efforts. "We have employed some professional firms to help us define and project our true image to the world."

Now, I am all for using the media to make sure we are conveying the truth about issues that are important to us and to stand up when mis-information is being shared, but I feel weird when I read statements that include things like "image" and "organizational approaches". If we are living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, do we really need to be concerned with image??

I have the same problem with local public relations efforts. I have worked on many stake service projects (which I love to do) but I hate that there is always seems to be this underlying concern of "spin" and "press coverage". Why can't we just do good for the sake of doing good and let the rest take care of itself? To me it feels manipulative and not very Christ-like to be doing service projects for the sake of our "image".

Am I being too critical here? I guess all that matters is that I live my life according to my principles and standards and accept the fact that for some church members and leaders, PR IS very important to them. And maybe they have very valid reasons for why PR is so important.

Just a little rant...thanks for listening!
"The path that is best for you is the path that keeps the best of you in play."

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jmb275
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Re: Ranting about a Pet Peeve-Public Relations

Post by jmb275 » 04 May 2009, 11:31

Well, I'm 100% with you on this one. However, I think the problems go much deeper than simply PR. If viewed through the lens of "organization first," many things make sense, the temple covenants, repressing history, non-disclosure of finances, vacuous PR statements, unjustified excommunications, etc.

As much as I respect the brethren and think they are good men, their entire life, livelihood, family, and social status is based on the reputation, and "truthfulness" of the church. Hence, anything that threatens that will be vehemently avoided, even if it comes to the detriment of the individual. I think it's fairly easy to see that individuality suffers a great deal in the Mormon culture and way of life. You can see this in many of the techniques used by the church to keep us in - black and white view, us vs. them, avoid "anti-mormon" literature, secret rituals, have faith, be obedient etc. etc.

However, none of this is really surprising to me at this point (although initially it was very shocking once I took off the rose-colored glasses). That is to say, we suffer from the exact same problems that other large organizations suffer from (group psychology has been fascinating for me to study as I have learned the motivations behind many of these things). What I think is sad is that the leaders don't recognize it and change things (but I don't expect them to due to the dynamic that is in large groups. I highly recommend "The Wisdom of Crowds" by James Surowiecki for a good understanding of group dynamics). Modern democracies have come a long way in addressing the group vs. individual dynamic and I think we would be wise to follow some of the ideas. However, this contradicts much of our foundataion - prophets and apostles. Also note the lessons learned from the Book of Mormon in this regard. Richard Bushman's chapter on the Book of Mormon in RSR is excellent in this regard.

I also have some theories, related to this, on the PR issue. The church seems to be a bit obsessed with "fitting in" with mainstream Christianity. It's weird to me because the fact is, in the traditional sense of the word (not dictionary definition) I don't think we are Christian. I think the reason for this desire to "fit in" is because there is strength there, acceptance, and safety. Some of this goes back to "untestable hypotheses." That is to say, religions, throughout history, have been proven wrong so many times by science, they have become very careful about what they say. The LDS church is no exception. You never hear any prophet prophesy about anything real specific anymore (think Quakers on the moon, man never landing on the moon, blacks and priesthood, etc. etc.) and this is because they are afraid of being proven wrong. So they stick with what science can never touch - the nature of God, life after death, etc. And if they "fit in" with mainstream Christianity there is more strength in numbers.

Dunno if I answered the question, but that's my rationale for ya!
I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women--all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there.
- Joseph Smith, (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304)

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Tom Haws
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Re: Ranting about a Pet Peeve-Public Relations

Post by Tom Haws » 04 May 2009, 13:04

pm,

I'm afraid this is an area where we/they all know in our/their hearts there is something wrong, but the pressure and drive and sincere desire to get people into the system is so great that we/they compromise. Is it bad fruit? Yes. Is it human nature? Yes. How can we help? Gently appeal to their better natures. How? This is one area where we can speak up respectfully without being in trouble.

"Shouldn't we be doing this for X reason?" "Doesn't integrity call for us to feel and think about this activity and speak about it in private the same way we talk about it in public?"
Tom (aka Justin Martyr/Justin Morning/Jacob Marley/Kupord Maizzed)
Higley and Guadalupe
Gilbert, Arizona
----
Sure, any religion would do. But I'm LDS.
"There are no academic issues. Everything is emotional to somebody." Ray Degraw at www.StayLDS.com

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hawkgrrrl
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Re: Ranting about a Pet Peeve-Public Relations

Post by hawkgrrrl » 04 May 2009, 13:16

pro mom - The PR aspect of the church as a corporation is troubling, although I find it even more troubling when applied at the individual member level: that we should never do or say anything that looks detrimental to the perfect image of the church. It's a bit hard to keep that up, frankly! And "image" is a tricky beast to tie down. What is the party line image at a given time anyway? Do we have to look like we just stepped off the set of Leave It to Beaver? Surely that image has limited appeal to the majority of people. Also, "image" is a lot like "culture." Are we not then putting too much emphasis on the outward appearance of things vs. things of eternal significance? So, here are the key reasons I believe there is and always will be a PR focus:
- it's a corporation run by people with corporate experience who know that on some level, the church is a product. Their job is to increase the base of consumers of that product while maintaining or improving the "brand."
- we have loose doctrine due to ongoing revelation. There are always going to be some (BRM, JFS, etc.) who want to nail that doctrine down to whatever their version is by enforcing their own authoritative standard. By doing this, they feel they have more control over this slippery eel called spirituality. This is a business concept too: when you reduce variation, you increase both process control and product quality. But of course, individual results may vary, and their one-size-fits-all approach may leave some of us out in the cold. While the doctrine and the concept of ongoing revelation certainly allow for that variation, some authoritarian voices would rather squash it like a bug. Remember, this is essentially what Paul did also - he redefined (some would say defined) Christianity by driving out all the variation that existed in the individual branches.

Anyway, those are just a few thoughts. Good topic.

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trill
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Re: Ranting about a Pet Peeve-Public Relations

Post by trill » 04 May 2009, 14:55

sidenote:
[quote=jmb] and this is because they are afraid of being proven wrong[quote]

I disagree on this point. I don't think it's because they are afraid of being proven wrong. Rather, I like to think that they've wizened up a bit. Really, what spiritual good do such pronouncements bring to the church? Nada.

Now back to your regularly scheduled PR thread.
"...I valued what was good... but I believed in the existence of other and more vivid kinds of goodness, and what I believed in I wished to behold." -Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

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jmb275
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Re: Ranting about a Pet Peeve-Public Relations

Post by jmb275 » 04 May 2009, 23:27

@hawkgrrrl
Fantastic!! Great analysis, I think you nailed it.

@trill
trill wrote: Really, what spiritual good do such pronouncements bring to the church? Nada.
Well, I think it depends on which prophet, and what their goal is. Certainly Moses did more than just feed Israel spiritually, right? He brought them out of Egypt. Likewise, Joseph Smith prophesied about the church filling North and South America, indeed the whole world. Those aren't necessarily helping people just spiritually, it also helps them physically, emotionally, etc. Prophets (particularly ours) command a very strong following, and everything they say is being analyzed to the Nth degree. I imagine that every talk they write is very carefully crafted, worded to send the right message, not sound like a "doomsday" prophet, and certainly to not say anything which may be construed to be foolish in the future. If President Monson predicted there would be a disaster in Utah next winter and started warning everyone to get their food storage ready, we would all "snap to" and do what he says immediately. So the upshot is that people are moved to action by "real" prophecies. The downside is that if he ends up being wrong, then he looks foolish and people begin to doubt. So what to do? As you say, he is wiser than that, he will make nebulous reference to a scary world, a world with increasingly wicked morals, make reference to natural disasters that have occurred, and otherwise encourage us to get our affairs in order. The upshot is that he preserves his image, and the image of the church by not being overly dramatic and looking "cultish." The downside is that we all just sort of shrug our shoulders and procrastinate. Of course, the most likely scenario is that President Monson doesn't know there will be a disaster next winter and that's why he won't prophesy about it. But this didn't prevent previous prophets from pontificating about various things.

If there's one thing history has taught us about religion, it's that they are horrible at predicting the future with any degree of certainty, make horrible interpretations of scripture about the earth and nature (which eventually become testable by science), and repeatedly use bad judgment as "revelation" with regard to human lives (think blacks and priesthood, burning witches at the stake, suicide bombers for jihad, etc.) I realize I'm being a bit negative here. Religion has its place in our lives. It can help us spiritually and emotionally. That's where it should stay. It ought to stay out of the predicting, political, social policy, and science realms.
I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, striking with accelerated force against religious bigotry, priestcraft, lawyer-craft, doctor-craft, lying editors, suborned judges and jurors, and the authority of perjured executives, backed by mobs, blasphemers, licentious and corrupt men and women--all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there.
- Joseph Smith, (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304)

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asha
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Re: Ranting about a Pet Peeve-Public Relations

Post by asha » 15 May 2009, 12:12

jmb275 wrote:Religion has its place in our lives. It can help us spiritually and emotionally. That's where it should stay. It ought to stay out of the predicting, political, social policy, and science realms.
Amen to that!

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