The Mormon news arm, like Singapore’s government, loves to control the message. Sometimes this is done incredibly well.  The “I’m a Mormon” campaign, the Book of Mormon advertising that accompanied the musical, and this week, a piece on garments so frank and direct that it made the Well-Behaved Mormon Woman uncomfortable, even more than the lace elastic in the legs of her drysilque midcalf garment bottoms. All three of these great media approaches fit into the idea of steering into the skid. The horse is out of the barn, so let’s quit pretending the horse is still in the barn. Let’s deal with the roaming horse, leading it back to the corral, keeping our sense of humor and humility in the process.
Less successfully, there have been a few missteps in the media in the last week: during General Conference, the Women’s Meeting was referred to a session of General Conference in Pres. Uchtdorf’s remarks and one of the prayers. Then church PR put out an official statement, lest the feminists get their hopes up, that the Women’s session was not part of the sessions of General Conference. The prayer was even rewritten to omit the reference. After which, there was an article on LDS.org showing 10 recent highlights of conference, including that the Women’s session was now a session of General Conference. Come again? Right hand, meet left hand.
In related news, a few days ago, Blaine Maxfield, Chief Information Officer for the church was quoted in the Deseret News explaining the church’s demographics as if the entire membership were 100 people. For those who may have missed it, here’s where those 100 members would live:
- 48 would live in the US & Canada
- 36 would live in Latin America
- 3 would live in Europe
- 3 would live in Africa
- 3 would live in Oceania
- 7 would live in Asia
- 21 of those above live in countries that are very poor.
How long have they been Mormons?
- 48 would have joined the church after the Proclamation on the Family was published (1995 for those who are checking, although it wasn’t worshiped until recently). Which, all I can say is, ugh. Although maybe that correlates with age, too. Those who were baptized after 1995 would include children who turned 8 in 1995 or later, and they would be as old as 27 now, likely a fairly sizable chunk of the membership.
How old are they?
- 35 adult males
- 42 adult females
- 13 are in primary
- 10 are youths. Or in New Jersey, “youts.”
Two other statistics were shared:
- 36 attend sacrament meeting on a regular basis. 35 are bored. 1 lied. OK, I made up that last part.
- 5 can’t read or write. On the upside, they are unlikely to be blogging.
The attendance statistic was suddenly, and in my opinion, unjustifiably, picked up as a bastion of the disaffectosphere.  See? There aren’t 15 million active members! I really can’t imagine who thought there were. Certainly nobody who has ever held any calling in any average Mormon ward. We all know there are plenty on the records who don’t attend or who rarely attend, and some that have requested no contact. Knowing that this is so is hardly news. But this statistic was yanked from the Deseret News (as readers watched and noted it on social media) because it hadn’t been verified by the church. Okaaay.
Personally, I’m not sure it warranted yanking which looks even more suspicious, although the Deseret News stated that Maxfield was the one who requested pulling that statistic, and yet rather than publishing a statement that the 36 hadn’t been verified, they completely pulled the number, as if it had never happened. Here’s how that looks to me, a lay person:
- Maxfield: Here’s a completely unsurprising statistic that every person in the church could probably guess at unless they are completely unobservant.
- Disaffectosphere: Ha ha! I knew they were lying when they implied [thing they never said nor implied that was obviously not true anyway].
- Maxfield: I withdraw that unsurprising statistic because the church hasn’t verified it even though it’s pretty much common sense. I am definitely not being pressured to do this by unseen forces such as my employer. These are not the droids you are looking for.
- Disaffectosphere: Conspiracy! Conspiracy! Who has a screen shot?
- Enterprising Internet-Users: (seconds later) Why here’s a screen shot right here. Forever. Because the internet.
And thus we see how something as obvious and uncontroversial as 36% of members attending church weekly (which is actually pretty doggone good given that the church counts you as “active” if you attend once per month or more) becomes a huge conspiracy through redaction.
Are there valid reasons to redact? Sure. Maybe the 36% don’t attend weekly. Maybe that was “active” (so attendance might be less frequent). The number could be simply unverified or misreported or questionable. I imagine it’s not a million miles off the mark, though.
Here’s the birth process of internet conspiracy theories:
- Thing is said.
- Unfavorable reaction.
- Mormon social media freak out. (This is the foreplay stage. Still time to turn back.)
- Thing disappears. (Conception. The spark of life.)
- Theories of a cover up spread like wildfire.
- Alternate theories that an insider intentionally screwed up to expose the church are put forward.
- The church pretends it never happened.
- Lather, rinse, repeat.
Angels are silent notes taking, indeed.
In response to this incident, I’ve come up with my own set of statistics about church.  Warning: these are also not verified by the LDS church. Also, I made them up. In a ward of 100 active, adult, regularly attending members, you can bet your bottom dollar that:
- 91 of them are terrified of porn. 11 of the 91 think Victoria’s Secret ads are porn. 6 of them use Victoria’s Secret ads as porn.
- 74 think Sean Hannity is smart.
- 65 have never made it past 2nd Nephi in the Book of Mormon.
- 49 think Mormon Doctrine is.
- 46 pronounce Giddianhi Gid-ay-ahn-hay. 37 pronounce it Gid-ee-ahn-hay. 12 pronounce it Gid-ee-ahn-ee. 5 just wrinkle their nose and ask the teacher.
- 42 find sexist jokes funny and appropriate for sacrament meeting talks.
- 34 did home or visiting teaching this month. 12 of the 34 count nodding your head at someone in the hall as a visit.
- 31 think that Saturday’s Warrior is an accurate depiction of pre- and post-mortal life.
- 22 display the Proclamation on the Family in their home. 28 received it as a gift. 4 have read it. OK, really only 2 and that’s because they had to give a talk on it.
- 12 would break the Sabbath if they were out of Diet Coke.
- 8 display a picture of the first presidency in their house. 2 have it in their bedroom. Watch out for these folks.
What made up stats would you like to publish in the Deseret News?
 And other times, you get National Night brought to you by Mentos and the Singaporean government:
 In related news, Catholic attendance is highest around Christmas and Easter.
 Completely fictional.