Saturday, December 8, 2012

Making Mormonism Cool

Mormonism is not cool.

I'm not saying this from an angry, ex-Mormon perspective, I'm saying this as a young American male.  I don't mean "I hate Mormonism and everything it stands for."  I mean that Mormonism just isn't cool.

The church has been fighting its membership hemorrhage valiantly, but they haven't seen a lot of success.  How long will it be until even the massive Mormon PR machine has trouble justifying the lie that the LDS church is the fastest-growing religion in the country?  The "I'm a Mormon" campaign, focusing on making Mormons appear normal and happy, has had limited exposure and, in my opinion, tends to come off as slightly creepy.

The most recent measure taken to maintain membership numbers was the decision to lower the missionary ages.  This will possibly combat the tendency of college-age Mormon kids from leaving the church.  But this is kind of like putting a band-aid on a cancerous tumor.  Instead of keeping kids from leaving, the church needs to give them an incentive to stay--they need to give membership more appeal in case the brainwashing wears off.  And this, in turn, will also help attract more young people as converts.  The church needs to make Mormonism cool.

Here are some things that Mormonism does that are decidedly uncool from the young American perspective.

Dress Code at Church
It shouldn't be so appalling to see a guy in sacrament meeting who's wearing a dress shirt and--gasp!--no tie.  Growing up, I had friends from other, more mainstream religions that attended church in polo shirts and khakis.  It was still nicer than what they wore to school, but it wasn't quite as rigorous as the Mormon full-suit-and-tie mandate.

Dress Standards Outside of Church
If the church really thought they were going to curtail young lust with dress standards, they should have made all young women wear sumo wrestling suits.  The sight of skin isn't as much of a turn-on as the ability to discern shape, and plenty of the "modest" clothing that young Mormon women wear allows those lustful young men to see what shapes their bodies are, even if they can't see the skin.  So the current dress standards don't accomplish what the church leadership thinks it does, and it forces Mormon girls to dress very...idiosyncratically.  Loosen the standards and the Mormon girls will appear less weird.

Boring Music
Musically (and in a whole lot of other ways), the church is still stuck in the nineteenth century.  Now, I grew up in the church, and as a teenager I thought "Lead, Kindly Light" and "Master the Tempest is Raging" were pretty kickass songs.  But when you bring a prospective convert to church and those are the songs of worship, it adds yet another layer to the culture shock...especially if the convert is young.  I'm not a fan of Janice Kapp Perry or Michael Hicks, but there are plenty of Mormon songwriters who were born after 1900 that might feel more relevant to younger audiences.  Also, organs?  Seriously?  I mean, I know guitars were invented by the devil to turn us all to sex and communism, but organs?

Too Many Gods
Though they don't officially worship their leadership, the average Mormon's pious loyalty is to way more than just the savior of mankind.  Mormons worship God, but they also idolize Joseph Smith, the current prophet, most of the other prophets, Nephi, Captain Moroni, and sometimes their bishop and stake president.  Let's face it--Joseph Smith is not cool.  Jesus, on the other hand, is a pretty popular dude.  If the church as a whole were to refocus its efforts on emphasizing its belief in Christ, it might find people a little more receptive to its message.

Too Many Meetings
Increasingly, the church is becoming a bureaucratic nightmare.  It keeps its lay ministry, its stake presidents, bishops, elders quorum presidents, relief society presidents, deacons quorum advisors, stake activities committee members and this week's chapel-cleaning family bogged down in endless meetings and responsibilities.  And this is on top of the three hours it takes for weekly Sunday worship.  More and more people are content to claim a "personal relationship" with God and eschew the time demands of an organized religion.  Fewer departments, fewer callings, fewer meetings, and fewer hours spent at church would present a much less uptight appearance to investigators.

Seriously, Drop the Anti-Gay Agenda
I don't have actual statistics to back this up because I don't feel like Googling it, but I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that younger people tend to be less judgmental of homosexuality than the older generations are.  The one time I took my girlfriend to a Mormon church service was when I needed a wingwoman for my nephew's baby blessing.  In Sunday School they gave out miniature For the Strength of Youth pamphlets.  She was reading through hers on the way home and, to my dismay, remarking on how good a lot of it sounded.  Then she got to the part about homosexuality and I no longer feared that she was developing an interest in the church.  A lot of young people find Mormonism's ridiculous stance on homosexuality to be old-fashioned, ignorant, and downright offensive.  A church willing to embrace gays instead of pretending to love them while telling them to change the sinful nature of their existence would come off as a much more chill place to worship.

I'm sure there are many, many more things the church could do to make itself seem more mainstream.  But I would like to mention that it's a good thing that the church is run by arrogant old men who are out of touch with reality.  Because even if they could learn how to use the internet and read what I've written, they still wouldn't think any of these things are good ideas.  Which means that the church will continue to lose its members and fail to shed its image of backward weirdness.

I'm definitely okay with that.