The media coverage of Mormonism that accompanied the reporting on the Olympics games in February “created a new picture of the LDS Church and its members that is unlikely to be ephemeral,” writes Jan Shipps in Religion in the News magazine (spring).
Shipps, an expert in Mormonism, writes that older images of Mormonism as a peculiar and exotic religion based in the American West and of “members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as spooky clean-cut zealots whose main goal is making converts” were shattered during the two weeks of the games. LDS leaders took advantage of the Olympics to show the world that Mormonism could deal with pluralism, as seen in the decision of the church and its members not to proselytize tourists, and be seen as a mainstream religion.
The latter point was driven home by the church in a year-long campaign to show how Mormonism is “Christian but different,” and that it is a practical religion “specializing in health, longevity, and the quality of family relationships.” Shipps notes that the media openly accepted that view, with as much as 95 percent of the stories featuring Mormonism as either “positive or fair,” according to Michael Otterson, LDS media relations director.
(Religion in the News, Trinity College, 300 Summit St., Hartford, CT 06106)