What is real 1

For those who were around in the 80’s, you might remember a church video called “What is Real”. Serving my mission in the early 1990’s, I showed it to nearly anyone who we met more than once. It is actually not a bad story, for a church video, if you can get away from the cheesy script and stereotypical portrayals of the characters. It uses the analogy of a movie set where the characters slip in and out of the real-ness of the story to speaking to us by looking into the camera. It uses that to ask the question…”What is Real?”

For those who want a bit of nostalgia the video is on YouTube here.

Our own Hawkgrrrl back in 2012 posted regarding the photoshopping of lds.org pictures. The general response appeared to be one of disgust – as in the particular case mentioned, it was a young girl. However, these type of things often take on a different feeling when they have a personal connection…

My own mother called me recently to tell me a story. Here in Australia, and in other areas of the world, the Ensign comes with an insert that covers local stories. As it turns out, my mother (then RS President) and the members of the local Relief Society were featured in one of the stories where a picture was taken. One of the sisters (I have de-identified her) and my mother had recently been given this insert by one of the elderly members in their Ward (the event was about 5-6 years ago). Neither my mother nor this other sister were aware of the picture until it was recently brought to their attention. Upon looking at it, the sister realised that the photo had been altered. The dress she was wearing was low cut, but being pregnant at the time, comfort was the order of the day. As you can see from the photo there is a t-shirt (white) depicted as being worn under the dress. This sister was not wearing that on the day, and in fact, did not own such a t-shirt.

What is real 2


I guess my gripe with this is that these are REAL sisters, in REAL clothes, at a REAL service project in the REAL world. Apparently, there is someone whose job it is to draw a line somewhere as to what the members are wearing, and it’s level of apparent modesty. Never mind the good that they were doing, the time they had given up or the positiveness of the story.

Without reading too much into this…this type of behaviour could very well be seen to be analogous to the way the church has sanitised its own history. Keep the nuts and bolts, but pretty it up around the edges. Make it seem that little more perfect. Unfortunately, the end result is, certainly for my mother and this particular sister involved, one that has little to do with the service they were rendering and more to do with trying to understand why someone would want to do this?

The video “What is Real” has taken on a very different meaning for me than what it did 25 years ago. The question then was finding the real-ness in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The meaning now, just like the image above, is disentangling the truth and fiction of what the Church had presented as its history.

My questions are:

  1. Whose job is it to do this?
  2. Are they still doing this today?
  3. Should you be notified if there is an intention to alter your image?
  4. What does it say about us as a Church?
  5. What would you do if they did this to your image?
  6. Does this seem analogous to the broader issues we see in church history?