Defining Mormonism for the media

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[media-credit name=”Carlie Ellett” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]My husband has one arm. Yep, just one. It’s not everyday you see a guy with one arm, an empty sleeve dangling, walking around. People stare at us when we go out. There’s pointing and whispering whenever we are in public. It bothered me, but it didn’t faze my husband.

As we sat at our table in the back of Pizza Pie Cafe, his gaze was fixed on the television as the Monday night football game ensued. The man next to us had his gaze set directly on the one-armed guy eating pizza. I couldn’t take it anymore and decided that we were done going out until people quit staring.

“Well then we will never be able to go out in public again,” he said. “I’m fine with people looking at me like I’m this strange person. Hopefully if they stare long enough, they will see something special instead of different.”

He was right. Having one arm is different, but it is also something special, just like being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The world looks at us because we live our lives differently than most.

Now I don’t want this to come off as an article about how we should embrace our uniqueness, even though we should. My point is that we need to make sure that the perception the world has of us is correct. We are already viewed as a “peculiar people,” but why can’t we be viewed as hard-working, devout members of a Christian faith?

Recently our religion has been highlighted extensively recently. There is a Broadway play making fun of it, a presidential candidate constantly asked about it and a whole bunch of members who can stand up for it. I’m not talking about starting fights in chat rooms. I’m saying we need to be doing our part to help those around us understand that we are not secretive or exclusive and we have the technology to share that with others.

The media gets it wrong all the time. I recently watched a story on CNN where they brought in a “Mormon expert” to talk about Mitt Romney’s involvement in the church. The so-called expert started to list various callings Romney has held in the Church, which included state president and head bishop. I knew the expert meant to say stake president and bishop, but others who are not familiar with the Church would not. I know those are small mistakes, but when we let little mistakes slide, people develop a misconstrued perception of who we really are.

A few days after I saw the interview on CNN, I overheard two students talking about how disgusted they were with media outlets and their lack of understanding about the LDS faith. Instead of complaining, do something.

We have social media and the Internet readily available for us to use. Information spreads like wildfire as long as it is information worth knowing. We have been encouraged by Church leaders to use social media as a way to spread the Gospel, but it can also be a way for people to be informed and educated on a factual basis. Post things on Facebook, create a profile on Mormon.org, write a letter to a news station when they make mistakes or blog about it. The media print falsities. We are the ones who can change that.

It may seem like this isn’t our responsibility. After all, we are young and maybe not as experienced as the leaders of the Church, however last time I checked, they do not have personal twitter accounts or Facebook profiles.  A lot of us do. We publish pictures on Instagram about what we ate this morning for breakfast, but how often do we tweet about the fallacies the media publishe about our religion?

Misconceptions will exist as long as they remain unchallenged. We can be the solution. Between updating your Facebook statuses, find the time to post a Mormon Message.

There will always be some who will stare and think we are weird, but it won’t do us any good to stay inside until it stops. We just have to hope that people will stare long enough that they will see something special.

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