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June 17th, 2011
09:20 AM ET

As ‘Book of Mormon’ takes New York, city gets Mormon church ad campaign

By Julia Talanova, CNN

New York (CNN) - First came the popular Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon,” which won nine Tony Awards on Sunday.

Now, the actual Mormon church is hitting the Great White Way, with a big electronic billboard just around the corner from where "The Book of Mormon" is playing.

The new billboard is part of a broader “I’m a Mormon” ad campaign the church launched Thursday in New York, which also includes signs on taxicab tops and subway ads.

The ads show people from diverse ethnic backgrounds doing things like smiling, mountain climbing, riding a motorcycle and surfing, all with the tagline “I’m a Mormon.”

The Times Square Billboard is around the corner from the Eugene O’Neill Theater, where “The Book of Mormon” opened earlier this year. The irreverent play is by “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

"Our Church is known for our efforts to share our message,” said Richard G. Hinckley, Executive Director of the Missionary Department for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the official name of the Mormon church. “This is one way to get to know us — through the lives of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

New York joins nine other cities in an ongoing campaign launched last year. The LDS church says New York State has seen a rise in its membership over the past decade, growing to 78,000 members, a 75 percent increase since 2000.

The ads will be on display for the summer, with the church launching additional U.S. cities this fall.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Mormonism • New York

soundoff (825 Responses)
  1. Frank

    Ironically_my_name_is_christian, you are certainly free to hold whatever view you want, but you obviously know nothing about Christian theology. If you are going to denigrate some else's beliefs, you should at least make sure you know what those beliefs are before you start calling people idiots for having them.

    June 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • J.Crobuzon

      I second that; generally Christians, Jews, etc are good people and actually try to improve themselves and do the right thing. They are often self-righteous and arrogant about it, but at least they are concerned with ethics and morals enough to go listen to a lecture on them once a week. It's as wrong to type-cast them all as bigots or clowns as it is for them to accuse me of immorality or infidelity or unethical behavior. My life's as moral as most of you Christian posters, and maybe better than some of you. Most of my Christian friends are on their second or third marriage, and they all drink too much; I still have my same old wife and friends and put my bottle away years ago.

      June 17, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  2. Doc Vestibule

    "The Juvenile Instructor" was an LDS tome used to indoctrinate children. Here is an excerpt from an early edition:
    "We will first inquire into the results of the approbation or displeasure of God upon a people, starting with the belief that a black skin is a mark of the curse of Heaven placed upon some portions of mankind. Some, however, will argue that a black skin is not a curse, nor a white skin a blessing.In fact, some have been so foolish as to believe and say that a black skin is a blessing, and that the ne.gro is the finest type of a perfect man that exists on the earth; but to us such teachings are foolishness.
    We understand that when God made man in his own image and pronounced him very good, that he made him white. We have no record of any of God's favored servants being of a black race...every angel who ever brought a message of God's mercy to man was beautiful to look upon, clad in the purest white and with a countenance bright as the noonday sun. (Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 3, page 157, October 15, 1868)

    100 years later, LDS followers became more "tolerant" and published statements like this:
    "I would not want you to believe that we bear any animosity toward the Neg.ro. Dar.kies are wonderful people, and they have their place in our church."

    – Joseph Fielding Smith, Look magazine, October 22, 1963, page 79

    In 1947, Dr. Lowry Nelson – a Mormon himself – sent a letter to the Mormon First Presidency questioning the official racist doctrines.
    The reply he received said, in part:
    "From the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith even until now, it is has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Neg.roes are not ent.itled to the full blessings of the Gospel.
    "Furthermore your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the intermarriage of the Neg.ro and White races, a concept which has heretofore been most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient partiarchs till now. God's rule for Israel, His Chosen People, has been endogamous." – George Albert Smith J. Reuben Clark, Jr. David O. McKay

    Finally, in 1978 the Mormons had a revelation allowing blacks into the priesthood – conveniently at the exact time that they were expanding beyond the U.S. into countries full of "cursed" people, like Brazil.

    Today, while there is no official policy of segragation, the old prejudices still exist.
    Black LDS church member Darron Smith wrote in 2003: "Even though the priesthood ban was repealed in 1978, the discourse that constructs what blackness means is still very much intact today. Under the direction of President Spencer W. Kimball, the First Presidency and the Twelve removed the policy that denied black people the priesthood but did very little to disrupt the multiple discourses that had fostered the policy in the first place. Hence there are Church members today who continue to summon and teach at every level of Church education the racial discourse that black people are descendants of Cain, that they merited lesser earthly privilege because they were "fence-sitters" in the War in Heaven, and that, science and climatic factors aside, there is a link between skin color and righteousness"

    June 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Goodonya

      Cowards hide behind foolish lies and falsified quotes. You my friend are a coward attempting to spread lies and false information.

      June 17, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Goodonya
      You're right not to take my word for it.
      I invite you to go and check the references I provided.
      That's why I cited them.
      But don't call me a liar before you do the research.

      June 17, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • SCMorrell

      As if we all had a copy of "The Juvenile Instructor" right at hand. These citations always seem to reference 19th century works that never saw the light of day even in their time. ^[1]

      June 17, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Go visit juvenileinstructor.org
      Archives of those old publications are available if you bother to seek them out.
      Same goes for Look magazine.
      Information on Lowry Nelson is available here: http://library.usu.edu/Specol/manuscript/collms17.html

      Mormon scripture specifically referencing race includes (from the Book of Mormon):
      1 Nephi 11:8
      1 Nephi 11:13
      1 Nephi 12:23
      1 Nephi 13:15
      2 Nephi 5:21
      2 Nephi 30:6 (1830 edition)
      Jacob 3:8
      Alma 3:6
      3 Nephi 2:15
      Mormon 5:15

      June 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • here's the problem

      Yeah Mormon's very racist back in the 1800s, but I've got a news flash for you so was everyone else. It's a dark time in the history of the United States not just the Mormons. Joseph Smith was actually against slavery so that's a big step up from where we were socially as a country at the time.

      June 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Here's the problem
      I refer you to Darron Smith, whose statement from less than a decade ago I quote at the end of the post.
      Aside from that, the church did not rescind it's ban on black preachers until 1978, which may have been a dark time for fashion but not so much for insti.tutionalized racism.

      June 17, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • reality check

      Google Elijah Abel. He was a black man that Joseph Smith gave the full priesthood to, along with his sons. Were are are people still racist? Yup. You might also want to read the bible since it is fully of racism. Even Jesus taught only to the Jews, refusing to teach the gentiles.

      June 18, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  3. HaventYouHeard

    Dear Waltham1892,

    Don't you keep up with the times?

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZhUrKiRGrQ&w=640&h=390]

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYdzUYyIKMM&w=640&h=390]

    June 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  4. Ryan

    Very Creeeeeeeeepy! People need something to latch onto???

    June 17, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  5. Glazed Look

    I lived in Salt Lake for 22 years and finally, finally, I got a job position to get the heck out of that place. Mormons have such a Stepford Wife mentality, that it was driving me crazy. No more 'starie eyed , glazed looking , pasty white hypocrites' where I live now

    June 17, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • reality check

      I am ex-lds, have lived in Utah and have never seen "blank stares" and the other tripe you wrote. My daughter left her purse and remembered it ten minutes later while shopping at Koh's. When we returned to it, it was still there with nothing missing. Yup, it's so horrible there. Sorry if I roll my eyes on that one. There are plenty of family activities and they are inexpensive and often free. The horror!! I don't believe but still have no problem associating with the people now do they seem to have a problem with me. My temple attending mormon sister took in a young gay man when he was saving money for an apartment. Why, because he needed a home. FYI all blacks aren't criminals either.

      June 18, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  6. Waltham1892

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36uAoe8e2dY&w=640&h=360]

    June 17, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  7. YourMomListensToKoolKeith

    Dear Ironically_my_name_is_Christian,

    You may like to know that your whole belief system has been proven false. Follow me and step in to the light.

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCXvVcWFrGQ&w=640&h=390]

    June 17, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • J.Crobuzon

      I hope you don't think anyone's actually looking at those stupid videos.

      June 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  8. Kelli

    I'm guessing those ads cost a LOT of money...hmmm

    June 17, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  9. Waltham1892

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRHAL0zZeY0&w=640&h=360]

    June 17, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  10. YourMomListensToKoolKeith

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHRP0I2SrVs&w=640&h=390]

    June 17, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  11. chris

    LOL, do the black folks in that ad realize that their church believes that when they die, they will be the servants in the house of the lord?...LMAO....is there a more race-based religion than LDS?

    June 17, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • David

      Oh Chris, I hope you are smater than this!!

      June 17, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • David

      I may not be since it is smarter and not smater....

      June 17, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Be Afraid.

      Mormons did not believe the notion that dark peolpe had souls until the late 70"s. Don't believe me? Look it up for yourself.

      June 17, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Goodonya

      Funny Chris but I'm Mormon and don't believe this, nor does the church teach this. What we do believe is that anyone of any race or creed as long as you live worthily will get to live with God again. Get your facts straight before you make baseless claims.

      June 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • SCMorrell

      I'm no expert on LDS black history, but there are quotes from Joseph Smith that imply that he, at least, knew that blacks have souls. I was always told that whites have no soul. 🙂

      June 17, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  12. AIZEN

    there is nothing wonderful about the mormons, they need to take this dumb commercial off the air..also same goes to any church or religion, they should not be allowed to have air time...they can give pamphlets that is enough....when are people gonna wake up and realize that those so call church brings nothing into their lives?

    June 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • David

      Wow, I have found plenty of wonderful mormons in my life. Haters will always hate. Have fun with that.

      June 17, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Dolla

      There are plenty of good Mormons who follow the teachings relatively strictly. I know several personally. I don't agree with a handful of their beliefs but it's their life and at the heart they're Christians, and take a lot of strength from their faith.

      What "so-call" church is your narrow-minded perspective coming from?

      June 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Goodonya

      You must have a really sad and terrible life. I feel sorry for you. : (

      June 17, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  13. David Johnson

    Well, I wouldn't vote for a Mormon. LOL

    Cheers!

    June 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • David

      Stellar example of the problem in this country.

      June 17, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Why do you think voting for a Mormon is any worse than voting for a born-again member of any other cult? The day this country elects a representative or head of state who openly declares himself to be free of these ancient supersti tions, then this country will truly be free...

      June 17, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Magic

      Pete Stark, U.S. Representative for California's 13th congressional district in California, serving since 1973, has openly announced his atheism. He is the only one... so far. I don't know how many more years he will put in before retirement, but I hope that he has opened some doors.

      June 17, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Good Thinking

      Oh this is a great approach! i love bigoted remarks like yours David. Let's just assume all Mormons are bad people and that they are unintelligent and unfit for office. In fact, i think we could help move the country and world forward with this mentality and bring back slavery, encourage hate crimes and further some already horrible social and racial stigmas.

      June 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  14. Tupac rocks

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cvRFNlMMHw&w=640&h=390]

    June 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Waltham1892

      Good thinking. Challange someone else's fairy tale with your fairy tale.

      June 17, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Christian vs Christian

      I love it when people who pronounce to believe in God spend the bulk of their time cutting down other religions. what a productive way to spend your time. i guess they are saving all the mormons from going to hell after all. thanks so much for your meaningful and accurate contribution to religion and society at large. this is top notch information. i'm saved!

      June 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  15. Waltham1892

    As a Jew, I'm here to tell you, we did not build ships and sail to America from Israel.

    No Jew ever got on a ship that didn't have a buffet...

    June 17, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  16. Ironically_my_name_is_christian

    It is embarassing in this day and age that there are still people that believe in this ridiculous fairy tale. I literally will instantly cut off a conversation with some who says they believe in god. I have no interest in engaging in logical conjecture with someone that believes in some sadistic man in the sky who created human beings simply to worship him. If you believe this garbage, you're an idiot- plain and simple- and I mean that in the sense that you don't understand basic concepts like omnisciency and omnipotency. If you did, you'd understand how illogical the concept of god is and how you've wasted your life spouting this nonsense.

    June 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • AtheismIsDead

      Dear Ironically_my_name_is_christian:

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byN38dyZb-k&w=640&h=390]

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1e4FUhfHiU&w=640&h=390]

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maoGItxwTTA&w=640&h=390]

      June 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Larry

      Nice to see your liberal mindset and how it's fine for you to believe anything you want, but not apply that freedom to others.

      June 17, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  17. James

    This cult believes that one can not swim on Sunday because the devil is in the water. In addition , what is more American than play ball/sports with friends on Sunday, but NOPE, no sports permitted to be played by "worthy members".

    Ladies, you want to wear nice pants to "worship"..NOPE The cult leaders say NO pants allowed in the chapel, only modist dresses.

    If you don't pay 10% to the cult, you will NOT live in heven (or as they call it, the "Celestial Kingdom").

    June 17, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Andrea M

      Funny cause it seems my very Mormon in-laws enjoy taking long bike rides after church on sundays. Cycling and mountain biking are sports. They also love wakeboarding, water skiing, snowboarding, snow skiing, and pretty much any sport that gets them outdoors. Yet they're still fully legit LDS. In fact, the first thing my brother in law did after returning from his mission was go wakeboarding! My only complaint is they seem to think my very indoor-centric self is capable of these sports. So far I've had half their local reservoir go up my nose while they dragged me behind a boat "learning to wakeboard" and I repeatedly ate snow in an ill-fated attempt to ski. I actually wish Mormons couldn't do sports on sundays, it probably would save me from a lot of pain and embarrassment.

      June 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • TheNumber

      Andrea, great post.

      June 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • here's the problem

      Um, remember the Sabbath to keep it holy originated with Mormons?

      June 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  18. Jameson K.

    I have met a lot of Mormons, I know a lot of Mormons, literally my favorite high school teacher (and one of my favorite figures in my -life-) was a Mormon, but in terms of all the ones i've met and known well enough to see their daily lives...I've never met one who wasn't privately miserable or severely maladjusted.

    I'm not a religious person (not and athiest either, I just personally don't particularly care), but there's something about Mormonism that feels ridiculously fake. Like a veneer to cover some personal misery they can't eliminate from their lives. I'd hang out with a mormon friend's family and it would be like an episode of the twilight zone, or like I was in Pleasantville.

    Then privately I'd hang out with my friend and I'd get to hear about how incredibly unhappy everyone was; they never talked about it to eachother. He only really got his head straightened out when he went to a university 5 states away and kept only the most superficial of contact with his family. One went to "witness" professionally or whatever it is their church does and his misery claimed him; he ended up committing suicide.

    It's personal anecdotes, but I know 3 different Mormon families that had lives just like what I described. One is my second cousin's family.

    I don't get it really. I've been to full Catholic Masses, Southern Baptist Churches, Protestant Churches, etc with friends/family. Each had their own issues, but I could at least feel some sort of genuine faith and wellbeing even if I wasn't anywhere near a practicing worshipper. Every Mormon church I've been to has been an incredibly uncomfortable, awkward affair like I was sitting in a room full of actors playing the faithful.

    There's just something off about how the Mormons/Churches I've known and seen in how they help people achieve happiness. And this has nothing to do with whatever perceived "silliness" there is with their church's history.

    June 17, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • R Burns

      You are quite right in your evaluation of the Mormon mindset. I left the Mormon church after several years of involvement, after realizing that each "doctrine" that didn't match up with what Christ taught went into a little black box in my mind, securely locked lest I be forced to face the truth. Leaving was agonizing, but in then end very restorative. I feel so sad for every young person indoctrinated in a system that can never be satisfied! And that is not what God wants for His children.

      June 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  19. BewareOfTheScribesAndPharisees

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_NDu4R_fxw&w=640&h=390]

    June 17, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  20. Kara

    I noticed that CNN included links to the Tony Awards and the musical, but not what the article was about. Here it is: http://mormon.org/. I know that it was on the clip, but no link in the article. The Mormon.org site is fantastic. These are not crazy people that are mindless or blind, they are fantastic people that add so much good to communities. You should check it out before trash-talking people or venting frustrations that do not have full context.

    June 17, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • David

      Siiiiigh. I am of the ilk that all religions are creations of man. But I am stunned day in and day out that people believe in the "Book of Mormon"... Sure it isn't the most ridiculous made-up religion (at least scientology has a space alien vibe to it), but to read the story with a critical eye and still believe it speaks to a level of gullibility that astounds the rational thinker.

      But hey...if you live a good life and treat people with respect, which all Mormons I know do, the good for you. But please, why does a religion need a PR campaign? (aside from the obvious Catholic priest issue) Just live a good life and leave the rest of us alone. No one needs to see these bilboards. After all, why would you want someone coming to a religion based off of a billboard? (Oh...wait..never mind)

      June 17, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Kelly

      The high school I went to here in Arizona was 62% mormon the year I graduated. So you can say I have a pretty good understanding. I had 2 really good friends that were mormon. Their family was nice enough, and they had this guard of happiness up, but my friends werent happy. Nothing about them said happy. And when they did something percieved as "wrong" by the church (like drinking a Dr. Pepper at lunch) they felt absolutely compelled to tell their bishop (It was weird how compelled they were, you couldnt even joke with them about just not mentioning it to the Bishops) and then they would be distant for a few days after that. There is something very weird about the LDS...

      Beyond the weirdness... As I mentioned, my school was 62% mormon. We had (roughly) 3200 students in my school. In all fariness, only about 1000 of those were in my class (because no one talks to the younger grades lol), so using simple math their 620 mormon students in my grade. I had only 2 Mormons friends out of 20+. What does that tell you?? Cant figure it out, let me explain it to you:

      They were a**holes and bullies. They wouldnt befriend a non-mormons because "we were going to burn in hell." It would be different if they just didnt talk to us, but oh no, they had to be rude and say things like that to our faces ALL THE TIME. I went through that from 7th grade on to graduation. Thank goodness for the good friends that I had... We could stick together and stick up for one-another.

      So, please excuse me if I do not share you views.

      June 17, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Chamillion

      Kelly– that spells to me of typical High School mentality. lol 🙂

      June 17, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • J.Crobuzon

      Kelly, we had Baptists. About the same thing. If you didn't go to their church, you were a goy. We just laughed them off, and most of them were ok.

      June 17, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.