Saturday, August 7, 2010

How Americans View Mormonism

This news article is a must-read.

Especially since we just talked about some of these ideas last Sunday in our lesson on missionary work.

I listened to the FAIR conference talk this week with my husband, given by Gary Lawrence. Two years ago, his Orange County, Calif., polling firm conducted a survey among 1,000 randomly chosen American adults, asking about their view of the LDS Church. He tells what he discovered and what we can do about it.
While Mormons think they are known to the public, "37 percent of Americans do not know a Mormon, and 55 percent never met anybody like you," he said, presuming most of his listeners were active Latter-day Saints.
"We tend to think people are not beating a path to our door, but they respect what we Mormons are trying to do," Lawrence said. "Baloney. They don't."

He found that Americans have a 37 percent favorable and a 49 percent unfavorable impression. By contrast, Jewish people have almost a 7-to-2 positive-to-negative ratio, and the proportion for Catholics is almost 2-to-1 favorable.

Lawrence identified the cause as an "approach-avoidance" situation in which many people are "cross-pressured."

"It's a love-hate relationship," he said. "They'd like to believe certain things about us, but they hear other things about us."

Fifty-five percent of those polled said they believe Mormons are seekers of truth, "which means that 45 percent don't even believe we are seeking the truth, let alone have entertained the thought that we have the truth," Lawrence said.

"A lot of this comes with a misperception of what is known as a faith community," he said, explaining that many people confuse the church with schismatic groups that practice polygamy.

"They do the same thing to us that we do to other religions," Lawrence said. "How many of you make a distinction between, say, a Southern Baptist and an American Baptist?" It's up to Latter-day Saints, he said, to let people know there is a distinction between the LDS Church and the more than 150 splinter groups.
He suggests we can do something about it:
  • Get out into the community but not with "an agenda." Rather, "simply because we believe in our cause and what we are trying to accomplish.
  • "And we make friends, not because we are trying to lead them to the waters of baptism, although it would be wonderful if we could do that, but simply to be their friend," he said.
  • The immediate goal of church members should not be referrals and baptisms, Lawrence said, but rather spreading information, correcting distortions and improving others' understanding of Mormonism.
  • Cut the jargon..."We claim to be the re-established, original Christian church.' Even an atheist can understand those words."
  • Use contrast. Our fellow occupants on this planet inherently want to know differences.
  • He suggested that church members replace the traditional three-step paradigm of conversion (find, teach and baptize) with a more realistic six-step model: awareness, awakening, curiosity, interest, investigation and conversion.

Read full article at Deseret News.

Read more excerpts from the book How Americans View Mormonism, And What We Can Do About It


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