Mormonism's Confusing Image

Mormon PR and marketing don't always agree with their history and theology.

Reference Links

The Word of Wisdom
Time Magazine Article on Mormonism
The Adam God Doctrine
LDS Censorship

Video Transcript

As evident from their TV ads, websites, and visitor’s centers, Mormonism puts a lot of effort into PR and marketing. But several things about their image seem to generate a little confusion. Take Mormon art, for example.

Why is Smith shown translating the golden plates like this, when he actually translated them with his face in a hat? Why does this painting from the Book of Mormon showing Jesus visiting the Nephites, feature a Mayan temple in the background, forcing an archeological connection where none exists?

Mormons are well-known for following the Word of Wisdom, a list of do’s and don’ts about food and drugs. It says it is not by command, but it became mandatory in 1834 for church leaders, even though many leaders, including Joseph Smith, didn’t completely follow it, and in 1921, it became mandatory for entering the temple.

The Word of Wisdom simply forbids hot drinks, but the church teaches that iced tea is forbidden and hot chocolate is not. It also allows mild drinks made from barley, but the church says no alcohol. And the statement to only eat meat in winter doesn’t seem to be enforced at all.

Mormons like to emphasize that ‘ye shall know them by their fruits’, a phrase they take to mean that their church is true because of their good works. And according to their official website, the church has given 1 billion dollars in humanitarian aid since 1985.

But according to estimated church finances, that reflects only about 1 percent of the church’s tithing income for that time period. Interestingly, the church is currently spending 3 billion dollars on a shopping mall in downtown Salt Lake.

The church prophets is officially portrayed as a man who will never lead the church astray. And yet, the prophet Brigham Young said the Lord revealed to him the Adam-God doctrine, that the biblical figure of Adam is actually God the Father. Years later, the prophet Spencer W Kimball explicitly denounced this. So did Young lead the church astray with false doctrines about God, or did Kimball?

Likewise, why did the prophet Gordon B Hinckley make statements in the media that he didn’t know if the church teaches that God was once a man, or why blacks were denied the priesthood, when these doctrines are easily found?

Apostle Boyd K Packer said that some LDS church history has the potential to destroy faith, that although some things were true, they were not useful, worthy, or faith promoting. But if the church is true, why censor its history?

But the most important example is that Mormon missionaries are trained to get conversions by circumventing the doctrines considered most controversial, and using common religious phrases without revealing their Mormon-specific meanings, preventing an informed decision.

So whether or not one would call these things hypocrisy or deception, or even if they’re intentional or not, Mormonism isn’t exactly forthright with the public.