Public relations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Public relations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has become increasingly important to the church's hierarchy since the church's growth internationally after World War II. By the 1960s and 1970s, the LDS Church was no longer primarily an Intermountain West-based church, or even a United States-based church. Rather, it had become a worldwide organization.
The church's organized public relations efforts have deep roots. The Bureau of Information, the predecessor of the Temple Square Visitors Centers was started on Temple Square in Salt Lake City with Le Roi Snow, a son of Lorenzo Snow, as the first director.
History of church public relations
The origins of the use of the media to spread the message of the church can be traced to the formation of the Radio, Publicity and Missionary Literature Committee in 1934. This organization was headed by Stephen L Richards, of the Quorum of the Twelve, with Gordon B. Hinckley serving as the executive secretary and initially as the only employee. During the 1930s, the Committee developed film strips for use by church missionaries.
In 1957, the church split the Radio, Publicity and Missionary Literature Committee into the Church Information Service with the goal of communicating the church's message to the media and an internal communications department. The Church Information Service worked with the goal of being ready to respond to media inquiries and generate positive media coverage.:963–964 The organization kept a file to provide photos to the media for church events, such as temple dedications. It also would work to get stories covering Family Home Evening, the church welfare plan, and the church's youth activities in various publications.
In 1972, the Church Information Service was renamed the Department of Public Communications. In 1973, it was renamed again to the Public Communications Department. It was also placed directly under the supervision of the First Presidency, unlike most church departments that were directed through the Quorum of the Twelve. At this point, Wendell J. Ashton was the director. Shortly after this, supervision of LDS Visitors Centers and production of ads produced by the church was added to the department's responsibilities. To assist with these aspects, Heber Wolsey, Brigham Young University's public relations director, was recruited.:962< The department then came out with the Homefront ads with their tag line, "Family: isn't it about time?".
As part of the church's efforts to re-position its image as that of a mainstream religion, the church began to moderate earlier anti-Catholic rhetoric by members. In Bruce R. McConkie's 1958 first edition of Mormon Doctrine, he stated his opinion that the Catholic Church was part of "the church of the devil" and "the great and abominable church" because it was among organizations that misled people away from following God's laws. In the 1966 second edition of the same book, the specific reference to the Catholic Church was removed as a result of pressure from other church leaders.
Disseminating church principles
The first church-wide standardized plan for teaching church principles to potential proselytes was created in 1953 and named "A Systematic Program for Teaching the Gospel". It was built on the foundation of LeGrand Richards's A Marvelous Work and a Wonder and Richard L. Anderson's organized set of discussions for the church. In 1961, this system was enhanced, expanded, and renamed "A Uniform System for Teaching Investigators." This new system, in the form of a hypothetical dialogue with a fictional character named "Mr. Brown," included intricate details for what to say in almost every situation. These routinized missionary discussions would be further refined in 1973 and 1986, and then de-emphasized in 2003.
In 1973, the church recast its missionary discussions, making them more family-friendly and focused on building on common Christian ideals. The new discussions, named "A Uniform System for Teaching Families", de-emphasized the Great Apostasy, which previously held a prominent position just after the story of the First Vision. When the discussions were revised in the early 1980s, the new discussions dealt with the apostasy less conspicuously, and in later discussions, rather than in the first discussion. The discussions also became more family-friendly, including a flip chart with pictures, in part to encourage the participation of children.
In 1982, the church renamed its edition of the Book of Mormon to "The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ".
In 1995, the church announced a new logo design that emphasized the words "Jesus Christ" in large capital letters, and de-emphasized the words "The Church of" and "of Latter-day Saints". According to Bruce L. Olsen, director of public affairs for the church, "The logo re-emphasizes the official name of the church and the central position of the Savior in its theology. It stresses our allegiance to the Lord, Jesus Christ."
It was also in the 1990s that the church came to have more members living outside the United States than inside.
In 1999, the church launched a second website, FamilySearch.org, this one containing the Family History Library Catalog, databases such as the International Genealogical Index and Ancestral File and a limited number of search aids as well as a system to search for the nearest Family History Center.
Into the 21st century
On January 1, 2000, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles released a proclamation entitled "The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles". This document commemorated the birth of Jesus and set forth the church's official view regarding him.
In 2001, the church issued a press release encouraging reporters to use the full name of the church at the beginning of news articles, with following references to the "Church of Jesus Christ". The release discouraged the use of the term "Mormon Church".
Church leaders at the same time acknowledged that the connection of the term "Mormon" with the church was not going away. In October 2001, the church officially launched a new web-site, mormon.org, which was aimed at providing information about the church to assist in missionary efforts.
Key Cities Plan
By the early years of the 21st century, the LDS Church had developed a "Key Cities Plan" to focus various efforts of outreach. One part of this program was the use of genealogy work to reach ethnic groups that had not been traditionally attracted to the church. Various outreaches to African-Americans were conducted, especially with the compilation of the Freedmen's Bank Records and presentations given by Darius Gray.
Cooperation with other religious groups
- The church has opened its broadcasting facilities (Bonneville International) to other Christian groups, and has participated in the VISN Religious Interfaith Cable Television Network.
- The church has participated in numerous joint humanitarian efforts with other religious groups. For example, the Church teamed up with Islamic Relief USA to send aid in the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
In the 1990s, the church donated money to help re-build to several Protestant congregations with substantial numbers of African-Americans in the southern United States that had had their buildings burned in arsons.
The church and the media
- Explanations of beliefs found at lds.org and mormon.org
- Official press releases at MormonNewsroom.org
- Unofficial public commentary by LDS Church's PR staff.
- Homefront, a multi-year series of public service announcement commercials, produced by the LDS Church.
- Short films produced by the LDS Church, including: Man's Search for Happiness (1964), The First Vision (1976), Mr. Krueger's Christmas (1980), The Nativity (1986), Our Heavenly Father's Plan (1986), How Rare a Possession (1987), Together Forever (1987), Labor of Love (1990), What Is Real? (1990), On the Way Home (1992), Joy to the World (1993), The Lamb of God (1993), The Mediator (1995), Finding Faith in Christ (2003), The Restoration (2004), Finding Happiness (2006)
- Feature-length films by the LDS Church, including: Legacy: A Mormon Journey (1990), The Mountain of the Lord (1993), The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd (2000), Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration (2005)
- LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley's appearances on Larry King Live.
- Communication with foreign countries to allow entry of missionaries[clarification needed]
- Latter Day Saints in popular culture
- Mormon Tabernacle Choir
- Name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Michael Otterson
- Atkinson, Keith; Hull, LeAnne (2000), "Public Affairs", in Garr, Arnold K.; Cannon, Donald Q.; Cowan, Richard O., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, ISBN 978-1-57345-822-1, OCLC 44634356
- Cowan, Richard O. (1985), The Church in the 20th Century, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, p. 289, ISBN 0884945413, OCLC 12267480
- Deseret News Church Almanac (2007 ed.) (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News, 2006) p. 125.
- Niebuhr, Gustav (February 19, 2001), "Adapting 'Mormon' to Emphasize Christianity", The New York Times
- "Topic", Newsroom, LDS Church, retrieved 2012-11-29
- Taylor, Scott (April 2, 2011), "LDS or Mormon? It Depends: Church Prefers Full Name But Is Accepting More Mormon Uses", Deseret News, retrieved 2012-11-29
- Stimpson, Lindsey (5 April 2004), "Church developing in world, PR strategy increases success", The Daily Universe (BYU)
- Weaver, Sarah Jane; Hill, Greg (November 9, 1996), "Helping rebuild burned chapels", Church News
- Otterson, Michael (January 12, 2012), "Mormons in the mainstream", The Washington Post, On Faith, retrieved 2012-11-29
- Taylor, Scott (April 15, 2011), "Mormon PR leader: 'Why I won't be seeing the Book of Mormon musical'", Deseret News
- Romig, Rollo (January 20, 2012), ""Julie Through the Glass": The Rise and Fall of the Mormon TV Commercial", The New Yorker, retrieved 2012-11-29
- "America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy", Larry King Live, aired September 14, 2001, retrieved 2012-11-29 Check date values in:
- "A Conversation with Gordon B. Hinckley, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints", Larry King Live, aired December 26, 2004, retrieved 2012-11-29 Check date values in:
- Mauss, Armand L. (1994), The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, ISBN 0252020715, OCLC 28333190
- Sheperd, Gordon; Sheperd, Gary (September 1984), "Mormonism in Secular Society: Changing Patterns in Official Ecclesiastical Rhetoric", Review of Religious Research, 26 (1): 28–42
- Jared Farmer, Mormons in the Media, 1830–2012
- Baker, Sherry Pack (Winter 2008), "Mormon Media History Timeline, 1827-2007", BYU Studies, 47 (4): 117–123, retrieved 2012-11-29
- "Media Timeline", Mormon Channel, LDS Church, retrieved 2012-11-29
- "News Story", Newsroom, LDS Church, January 1, 2007, retrieved 2012-11-29