I recently listened to an interesting Freakonomics podcast about whether signs are effective, get ignored, or actually exacerbate the problem they seek to solve. Angela Duckworth, Stephen Dubner’s co-host on this podcast, is basically one of my favorite humans.
Years ago, traveling in Beijing, I chanced upon a sign at the now empty Olympic stadium that said (in English) “The tender grass, how hardhearted to trample them.” This specific sign didn’t make me want to walk on the grass, although the translation did make me laugh. Identifying walking on the grass as a moral failing, being hard-hearted towards the living organism that is the grass, was a novel approach. Sometimes signs can make us laugh and change our perspective. Usually if I see a sign that says “don’t walk on the grass,” I only alter my behavior in relation to what other people are doing. If there are clearly “cow trails” where humans have cut across the grass, I do too. If there are other people actually walking on the grass next to the sign, well, so do I.
Where I live there are often humorous signs on freeway to remind drivers in a fresh way not to do something or to do something. A quick search yielded a few of these that I found amusing and somewhat compelling:
- Drive like the person your dog thinks you are.
- Changing lanes? Use yah blinkah.
- Visiting in-laws? Slow down. Get there late.
- OMG. Are you texting? I can’t even.
- Buckle up. #yolo
There were a few others I found less compelling, or even off-putting:
- Camp in the mountains, not the left lane. (This one just makes me pissed off at those drivers who camp out in the left lane, more likely to aggressively pass them on their right).
- Hello from the other side. Buckle up and stay alive. (The song is fine, but this one feels dark–it makes me think of those terrible driver ed films from high school).
- Speeding leads to the dark side. (Oh, so now I’m going to die AND go to hell? Come on, man.)
The podcast talked about the road signs that read your current speed in real time, post it, and compare it to the speed limit. There was some evidence that these messages did reduce car accidents and caused people to slow down, perhaps because they alerted people who weren’t aware how fast they were driving to pay attention. But a similiar campaign, one showing the number of recent fatalities in a stretch of road as a way to get drivers to pay more attention actually found that fatalities increased when the campaign was running. Angela Duckworth and Stephen Dubner share some reasons that the signs may have had a negative impact:
- All drivers saw the messages, and they didn’t differentiate between speeders and non-speeders, just alive and dead.
- The extreme negativity of the message (you could be dead) reminded people of sadness in their own lives, things beyond their control, loved ones who died, etc.
- There’s a fine line between being cautious (good) and tensing up (bad).
- The sign doesn’t really tell you what behavior to change, just reminds you that driving is dangerous.
They then went to an example that I had direct personal experience with: the petrified forest. If you visit the petrified forest, there are signs that say “Because so many people are stealing wood at the rate of nearly a ton a month, this is undermining the integrity of the forest.” A researcher overheard one park visitor say to her companion “Oh, we’d better hurry and get ours then, before it all disappears!” They tested the theory that these signs caused people to steal more petrified wood by placing pieces of the petrified wood along the path near the signs and counting them up. The signs tripled the rate of theft. Yikes.
In the book Nudge (which I started last year, and I swear I’m going to finish it!) the author shared the story of an airport with messy men’s bathrooms trying to keep them cleaner by putting the image of a small fly in the bottom of the urinal to help men improve their aim by making a game of it. (No actual flies were harmed in this experiment). Dubner and Duckworth discussed the things we think about on a deeper level when we see a sign:
- Who wrote it? What authority figure is behind that sign, posting it or asking it to be posted?
- Who benefits from the changed behavior the sign is promoting? Is it me or someone else?
- Is the sign dictatorial or collaborative?
- Does the sign make you feel insulted or is it complimentary?
One reason humorous signs work for some people is that they feel collegial, and even if the message is insulting, it’s done in a way that also brings the reader inside the joke. Humor that’s lighthearted is even more effective than humor that’s scary and insulting. The take has to be fresh, not cliche.
The podcast ended by discussing a problem with doctors not washing their hands in a hospital. They tried signs reminding doctors to wash their hands, swabbing their hands for germs and posting those petri dishes of germs on all screen savers, and having a posse of hospital workers give out $10 gift cards for good hand-washing. Some of these approaches worked, some didn’t, some worked for a while, but not over the long term. They then discussed better ways to phrase signs (“Your mom would be so proud of your excellent hand-washing!”). Duckworth, who is a psychologist, suggested that a Beyonce song play after the 20 seconds of hand washing was complete to make it a fun game, but still with a social component to it (you don’t want someone to see you leaving the bathroom without Beyonce playing).
Apparently the petri dish screen savers were the most effective approach, perhaps because, like hips, petri dishes don’t lie. They resulted in nearly 100 percent compliance. The hospital also outlawed neckties, lanyards, necklaces and most jewelry as all of these were also complicit in trapping and transferring germs from patient to patient. Those little changes added up to better results.
Which brings me to the idea of rules and norms at Church. As a high demand religion, we have a lot of rules (fewer since General Conference and Uchtdorf’s re-written FSOY guide, praise be). I’ve occasionally wondered about the efficacy of some of these rules because in prohibiting something, they also draw attention to that thing they are outlawing. We used to always joke as parents that if you say “Don’t make a mess,” all the kids hear is “Make a mess.” If you say “Don’t stay out too late,” they hear “Stay out too late.”
Consider the mixed message many YW have heard: “Modest is hottest.” On the one hand, it rhymes and sounds catchy. It also makes it sound like the benefit (namely, hotness) is for the one adding layers and covering up. The problem is that our mind (according to Duckworth) will be subconsciously suspicious about the authority figures behind the message. Why do they want me to do this? Is it really for my benefit, or for theirs? This low-level suspicion doesn’t motivate compliance and can actually undermine the message. It also doesn’t feel collaborative. The Church that also tells you premarital sex is bad is also telling you how to be sexy? Yeah, that sounds legit.
This mixed message reminds me of a fake ad my classmates and I made in the 1980s as a swipe at Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No campaign. In our version, a nervous teen walks down a dark alley while other kids try to convince him to study with sinister whispered messages that echo: “You’ll get good grades,” “You’ll be popular,” “Your parents will be proud.” At the end of the alley the kid yells “No!!” and runs away. While it was just a funny project for school (yes, we got an A–our English teacher was also subversive), we had inadvertently hit on what didn’t work about the campaign: the authority figure was telling kids how to be cool. Kids knew Nancy Reagan wasn’t cool.
There was an episode of Abbott Elementary in which the kids were discovered to be doing a secret TikTok challenge called “desking” behind the teachers’ backs, jumping from desk to desk while being filmed. The faculty tried several methods to get the kids to stop, but finally succeeded when two of the teachers completed the desking challenge, posting their video to TikTok, declaring themselves the desking champions of the school. Suddenly the kids realized that desking was no longer cool. Understanding that we are not the arbiter of what’s cool can be the first step in realizing how our endorsement undermines our messages.
Messages aren’t the same as coercion, of course. When you compel someone to obey, through bribes or penalties, you don’t really change commitment to the changed behavior. As Bishop Bill pointed out, you are just motivating them to tell you what you want to hear, to juke the stats. Jesus didn’t rely on coercion. He shared thought-provoking stories that stuck with listeners for a while until their viewpoint changed, and that wisdom has stuck with disciples for two thousand years. Organizations typically aren’t as good at it as that.
There’s recently been a rise in churches (particularly some high demand Evangelicals) requiring congregants to download “accountability” apps that reveal their online activity to their pastor who then addresses anything flagged by the software as problematic. Thankfully we haven’t gone that far (the Facebook policing and SMSC are already going way too far!). Of course, it will come as no surprise that these apps flag all sorts of normal things as problematic, and also, an online search, even about something that might be deemed sinful behavior, isn’t the same thing as committing a sin. Obviously, researching and writing a school essay about genocide isn’t the same thing as committing genocide.
- What behavior-changing messages from church have been effective? What made them work?
- Can you think of behavior-changing messages at church that have been ineffective? Why?
- If you were in charge, what messages would you suggest to improve behaviors? What behaviors would you like to see changed?
- Do you think the Church would track online behaviors of members if possible or would they recoil from such domineering oversight?
Problem with Mormon (or any church) messaging is the ever present coupling of obedience with promises of eternal salvation. In reality we are supposed to trust that our dear leaders have direct communications with God and therefore have our best interests at heart. Perhaps the most problematic Mormon messaging is related to tithing. As a bishop, I was never comfortable with advising families with financial problems that if they prioritized tithing all would be well. It is never that simple – there is no ROI linked to contributing to a trillion $ corporation before meeting essential obligations.
The most effective messaging is simple yet rarely delivered. It centers on adopting more Christlike behaviors without the link to a celestial glory payoff. Like loving our neighbors regardless of their church affiliation. Yet Mormons are bombarded with ineffective and mostly negative messaging. We are supposed to be against same sex marriage, multiple earrings, R-rated movies, liberals, freedom of thought… the list goes on. It is all very fear based and manipulative.
Lest we kid ourselves, the SCMC is very much alive and pervasive. Couple that with the ever present ward busy bodies who monitor and report social media activities and we do have a form of online behavior tracking. You can be certain that W&T postings are monitored. Perhaps it is too much to hope that a religion that contains the name of the Savior would stop with the musket fire messaging and preach love and tolerance.
I remember having a FSOY full-size pamphlet and a pocket-size version when I was a teen. Not sure how much sway they really had. Definitely gave our advisors a common vocabulary for standards. I feel like I had a solid grasp of what the Church generally expected of me. In practice, it gave me a user guide for things to feel guilty about. Felt somewhat sinful when I went on a group-date several months before turning 16.
Mainly, I remember the CTR rings being ubiquitous as a kid. That was the preeminent LDS sign to me. Choose the Right is a handy slogan to be sure. I’m curious if that is still prevalent today, both in rhetoric and jewelry.
On the digital front, inasmuch as members get a personal login for the website and app, I have to think there is a certain amount of tracking functionality, at least for church-owned content. I doubt there is any malicious tracking going on, but I can’t help but wonder how granular the Church gets with it’s web analytics for Church content with a login.
I don’t have any answers and wonder the same thing the Hawkgrrl asks…what is the best way to influence the behavior of others. As an aside, I think of the vaccine wars of 2021. My wife made the wonderful observation that mandating and shaming did nothing to increase vaccine acceptance. If they really wanted to get people to be vaccinated they would have made it illegal…People would have fought tooth and nail to get it if it was not allowed.
This article is really on point for me. My commitment and attraction to the church isn’t based on being shamed into obeying authority. I love the essential idea of Joseph praying to God without anyone directing him to do so, and (rebelliously) getting an answer contrary to the religious authorities of his time. His submission is to God, not to a human leader.
I model my life after that story. I have no interest in being told what to do and being told church authorities know better than me and that I should mindlessly obey and support my leaders. In fact that approach can sometimes pressure me into resisting counsel I actually agree with. I really relate to the story of people stealing more petrified rock by the sign.
In my area leaders have been pushing talk after talk on avoiding social media and discussions like this one. The more they say it the more I am determined to follow my own personal authority on this matter. They don’t get to decide what I think, what I write or what I say. That is between God and me.
My commitment is to follow Jesus Christ. To me the church’s role is to invite, and set a good example, not to surveil, and try to control members behavior. For me at least, it is always more effective when leaders offer counsel, and then defer to personal revelation, acknowledging that there can be exceptions in some circumstances. Trying to force conformity will generally backfire with a personality like mine. Although this approach may work for some people, I don’t think I am the only person in the pews reacting this way.
When we discuss messaging and rules in the context of the COJCOLDS, we have to recognize one key issue: the difference between the perspective of Q15 leadership (average age 78) and that of the younger generations. The gap between their perspectives seems to be getting wider and wider.
There has always been a gap between how 75-year-olds see the world and how 20-somethings and 30-somethings see things. But what is different now is that young folks are rejecting institutions like never before. They don’t trust politicians, corp executives, or Church leaders. When I was a kid in the 80s we might have seen things differently than the older folks but we still believed in institutions.
The culture is different today. Younger folks don’t like rules for the sake of rules. When I once tried to explain the many contradictions of the Word of Wisdom to one of my then teenagers by saying it was about obedience, not health, she replied “why would I obey something that makes no sense (we were discussing Green Tea vs. Diet Coke).
At the risk of stereotyping future generations….the Bretheren are going to need to make rules that make sense (i.e., principles not specifics). If not, Tik Tok will tear the rules apart. I think the new FSY guidelines that were just introduced is an example.
The way that Nelson asked members to stop using the term Mormon was very ineffective for me. In particular, his claim that every usage of the term Mormon was now a “victory for Satan” was very insulting to me. We had just been through a phase where the Church was promoting the use of the term Mormon (the “I’m a Mormon” campaign). I knew in my heart that simply referring to the Church by the term Mormon was certainly not a victory for Satan. As a result, I have rebelled and use the term Mormon when referring to the Church more frequently than I previously did. I recognize that this is perhaps childish behavior, but I continue to do it anyway.
To be clear, I actually think that coming up with an alternate nickname for the Church besides Mormon could be a good idea. The alternate name should make it clear to outsiders that our Church follows Christ. If Nelson would have just said something like, “Because our beloved church is so small, many people not of our faith have no idea that we are followers of Christ when they hear the term Mormon. While we are proud of our past, and there is nothing inherently wrong with the term Mormon, we feel like using this new nickname, X, that contains Christ’s name, will more effectively help those not of our faith understand that we are followers of Christ when they encounter the name our church. We know that many people participated in the recent ‘I’m a Mormon’ campaign, and we appreciate your support. This must feel like a really abrupt change to you. Unfortunately, while we feel that the ‘I’m a Mormon’ campaign had a positive impact, most of the world still has no idea what a Mormon is. In order to help people not of our faith better understand that we are followers of Christ, the Church is going to use our new nickname in places where outsiders are likely to encounter the Church’s name. While there’s nothing wrong with continuing to use the term Mormon to refer to ourselves internally, would you consider joining with us in using this new nickname when discussing the Church with your friends and acquaintances that are not of our faith so that they might more easily understand that we are followers of Christ?” (Note that I didn’t make the new nickname, X, of the Church be “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” since that is simply too long for people to remember. We can look to our RLDS friends rebranding themselves as the “Community of Christ” as an example of choosing a more manageable name that contains the name of Christ.)
My desire to continue to use the term Mormon really was about Nelson’s messaging. Had he asked nicely (not Satanic victories) and simply explained how a new nickname could help outsiders better understand that we believe in Christians (and if he’d provided a reasonable name–TCOJCOLDS is far too long, and “The Church of Jesus Christ” is too arrogant), then I probably would have made an effort to use the new nickname. To make the claim that the term Mormon is a “victory for Satan” doesn’t ring true and is just insulting to me, so his approach just caused me to actually increase my usage of the term Mormon. I now go out of my way to us the term Mormon when speaking with other ward members (I previously might have used the term “The Church” when speaking with other members, but now I intentionally use the term Mormon more frequently instead), and I somewhat surprisingly haven’t received any pushback about this at all. It seems like a lot of the people who would have just gone along with the new name have also given up on it since no reasonable alternative nickname was provided. My high school kids say that even all of the full-time CES seminary teachers here in the Mormon Corridor reverted back to using the term Mormon only a few months after Nelson asked them to stop.
An example of positive messaging from the Church is many of the talks given by Uctdorf. Uctdorf tends to invite people to try to follow Christ in ways that speak to me. I think that part of it is that he tends to speak about following Christ’s teachings in a positive, uplifting way that actually makes me want to do better. Another thing that he tends to do is not constantly talk about how the Church is good and the World is bad. Uctdorf recognizes that Church members are as flawed and broken as people not of our faith. I find it a lot easier to follow Uctdorf’s invitations to do better when he is speaking to all of us (including Church members) rather than constantly insulting people of the World–many of my friends aren’t Church members, and I consider them to often be better people than I am, so having Church leaders constantly denigrating people outside our Church (“The World”) is insulting to me.
I think that behavior-changing messages tend to fall on deaf ears because culturally, Latter-day Saints tend to care more about judging by appearance than by inner virtue. Some assume the worst out of people because they see certain behaviors or looks as indicative of something sinful when in reality, it can be quite the opposite.
During a mission conference a few years ago, one Elder in my district was dealing with a depressive episode. Since I’m a very affectionate person, I comforted him by wrapping my arm around this Elder, squeezing his shoulder, and scratching his back for a brief minute. He instantly lit up and felt better. However, there was a senior missionary couple behind us that almost had a stroke watching us. Immediately after the conference, they rushed to my Mission President to tell him that I was promoting “homosexual behavior.” Thankfully, he understood that southern men (like me) are culturally more affectionate, but he still counseled me to avoid publicly displaying affection to other Elders in order to “avoid misunderstandings.” So the fault wasn’t on the couple who misjudged me, but on me for “giving the wrong impression.”
John 7: 24 says “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge unrighteous judgment.” The JST version uses “your traditions” instead of “the appearance,” but either way, I think the intended meaning remains the same. We shouldn’t assume the worst out of people based on preconceived notions that happen to be traditionally dominant. If we really want others to change their sinful behavior, we need to look beyond the surface level of people.
I’m with mountainclimber479 and lws329 regarding how an authority figure is putting out the orders. If you tell me something hyperbolic like “victory for Satan” about something that has been embraced by prior leaders, well, I now officially think you’re pushing it and not a great leader (based on my own experience as a leader). Hyperbole tells me more about you than it does about the thing you want me to do, and what it says isn’t great. In fact, it implies that you think the people you are talking to are idiots who will lap up your every stray thought as if it’s manna from heaven. Don’t be so overbearing! Your farts don’t smell like lavender bath bombs! Have a modicum of humility!
And it’s precisely because I chafe at these types of edicts that I do have a *little* patience for the anti-mask / lockdown / vax people. (Well, less on the vax ones). Some of the edicts during the pandemic were either poorly considered or poorly communicated or too much or too little. It’s an impossible needle to thread, when you are trying to prevent Stephen King’s The Stand from becoming reality. I do remember when the CDC said masking didn’t work, so don’t wear masks, and my first thought was “Wut? Masking is well known and common to prevent the spread of illness throughout Asia.” And then it turned out that they only said that because they didn’t want all the masks to get bought up. What they should have done is just told people the truth: that masking is effective, but we want to preserve the supply for doctors and nurses until we can get more, so please just limit your contact with others and wear cloth masks for now until more are available.
That’s kind of the core problem with telling people what to do–if you aren’t honest about it, people know. It’s disingenuous. It’s kind of like when my daughter was 9 and jealous that her brothers got to do the sacrament, and she said it would be cool to pass it. I downplayed it by saying it was lame, and she was not at all convinced (and neither was I). The simple truth, which she knew then and knows still, is that the church discriminates based on gender, through and through. It’s the water we are swimming in.
My son (junior in HS) has always been keenly interested in the experiences his dad, grandpas, aunts, and uncles had as missionaries around the world. But he recently shared with us that he’s not sure he wants to go on a mission because, in his words, serving a mission has come to feel “morally icky.” His main turn-off? That Church leaders use hyped-up rhetoric to shame kids into going. Every time he hears another talk about how God expects young men to go, how it’s your duty, and on and on, his (previously strong) desire to serve decreases. Put simply, he doesn’t want to validate this bad behavior with compliance—doing so feels like a moral issue to him. The other turn-off is having missionaries in our home—very nice, wonderful young people, offering absolutely everything to go about doing good—who always, always employ the same manipulative tactics to coerce us into some kind of behavior modification. “Will you commit to _____?” [Talking to this many friends about the gospel this week/choosing someone to give a Book of Mormon to/praying as a family every morning AND every night without fail/making a new habit for the Sabbath Day….] “Do you commit? And you? And you? Wonderful. We want to come back to talk to you about how you did. What day are you available next week for a short visit?” It feels like having a slimy car salesman in the house, though they’re otherwise so sincere and kind! This has been absolutely universal, leaving my son to recognize that this is how missionaries are trained, and how you are expected to treat people when you offer your service. If he *does* serve, we hope he sees how to carve a space for himself where he can subvert these expectations and treat people with the love and generosity of someone who *doesn’t* want to impose reformation on people, but just love them. If he doesn’t, it will be because efforts to modify behavior—on the macro level in getting young men to serve, and at the ground level as a missionary—feel unChristlike, unloving, and immoral to him.
@hawkgrrrl, great post. I like the way you frame the issue and your examples.
I’ll address one of your questions: Do you think the Church would track online behaviors of members if possible or would they recoil from such domineering oversight?
2. What personal data do we collect?
We collect personal data that (a) you actively submit to us, (b) we record, and (c) we obtain from third parties. We may process your personal data with or without automatic means, including collection, recording, organization, structuring, storage, adaptation or alteration, retrieval, consultation, use, disclosure by transmission, dissemination or otherwise making available, alignment or combination, restriction, erasure, or destruction of your personal data.
a. Actively submitted data. You submit personal data to us when you join the Church, seek Church ordinances, request Church materials, request access to Church tools or services, or engage in other interactions or communications with the Church. When you interact with the Church, we generally process name, birth date, birthplace, telephone number, email address, physical address, photo, gender, donation/payment information, and so on. You may provide us with additional information to participate at your own initiative in surveys, contests, or other activities or events. Participation in surveys, contests, and similar activities is optional. If you do not wish to participate in, or provide personal data in connection with, such activities, this will not affect your membership status or ability to use available Church tools or services. In each such case you will know what personal data you provide to us because you actively and voluntarily submit the data.
b. Data we obtain from third parties and passively submitted data. When local law permits, you may submit personal data, including contact information about someone other than yourself (in other words, a third party) to allow us to make contact with that person, make a delivery, or otherwise meet your request. When providing personal data about anyone other than yourself, you must first obtain the other person’s informed consent if his or her consent is legally required.
If you or someone else has provided us with your personal contact information and you would like to request that we do not contact you further, please follow the unsubscribe or opt-out procedures provided on the specific site, newsletter, email notification, or please contact us at DataPrivacyOfficer@ldschurch.org.
We may process and make publicly available personal data obtained from published sources. We may process and publish living information in compliance with applicable local laws.
Your location-based information may be collected by some mobile applications for the purpose of helping you find the nearest temple or meetinghouse location or for a similar reason. You can edit the settings on your device to opt out of location-based services.
Read the last paragraph very carefully and consider its implications. (I’ve added asterisks to off set that paragraph.)
Now read how they can use the data they collect on individual members.
3. For what purposes do we process personal data?
We process personal data for ecclesiastical, genealogy, humanitarian, social welfare, missionary, teaching, and other operational and administrative purposes.
We use personal data to provide ecclesiastical and other related services to fulfill the mission of the Church. We may use personal data to (a) contact you or others, (b) create and maintain membership records, (c) fulfill requests you make, (d) seek your voluntary feedback, (e) customize features or content on our tools or services, (f) evaluate eligibility to participate in temple and other ordinances, missionary service, volunteer or leadership positions, or (g) administer Church religious education, welfare, or other Church programs. In this context, the legal basis for our processing of your personal data is either the necessity to perform contractual and other obligations that we have towards you or carrying out of our legitimate activities as a church.
We may also use your data to comply with applicable laws and exercise legal rights as the basis for our data processing.
We may also use your personal data for internal purposes, including auditing, data analysis, system troubleshooting, and research. In these cases, we base our processing on legitimate interests in performing the activities of the Church.
Seems well intended, but some of the language, like item 3(f) leaves a lot of room for the church to create a profile of the member based on actively collected data and online behavior through cookie tracking, and then use it (algorithmically?) to ” evaluate eligibility to participate in temple and other ordinances, missionary service, volunteer or leadership positions.” What does this mean???
This is the point at which I may sound a bit paranoid, but it is worth considering. Unless you have been unplugged for the past couple of months, you know what Clark Gilbert is doing to CES, forcing new employment agreements making it a snap to terminate an employee, and destroying clergy privilege for CES employees as a part of that process. You also know there is a newly created office in the COB, The Ecclesiastical Clearance Office. Rumor are out there this office has already unilaterally terminated some CES employees with a single phone call and with no explanation for why the members employment was terminated (a recent BCC blog reviewed these happenings). It’s also rumored that the Strengthening Church Members Committee has been tucked under the ECO. I’ve also been told Elder Kevin Pearson, Area President over Utah, is over the ECO. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Elder Person was former CEO of Ingenix, a healthcare Big Data firm–this is most relevant.
I realize this sounds kind of paranoid, is based on some deductions which may not be true and includes hearsay. Take from it what you will, but I think Clark Gilbert has no problem with “domineering oversight,” and believe Elder Pearson may be cut from the same bolt of cloth (see the talk he gave on missionary service recently in the Alpine Tabernacle).
I love Angela Duckworth and highly recommend her book Grit.
I hate signs that tell people what NOT to do, which really just plants an idea into most people’s minds that they previously had never considered. I’ve listened to enough Mormon stories episodes to see the damage here. Way too many stories involve young children learning sexual terms in a bishops interview that they had to go home and look up and voila, curiosity takes over from there.
I also prefer signs that presume good behavior. Rather than saying “stop stealing nature” say “thank you for preserving our park for future visitors.” Instead of saying “masks required” I enjoyed signs that said “thank you for helping us protect the vulnerable during this challenging time.” You get the picture.
Yellowstone had great signs in summer 2020 during the pandemic. Things like “please maintain a safe distance of three bison between other visitors” or “please keep a distance of 6 ft between other visitors, 20 ft between you and bison, and 200 ft between you and bears” etc. Good times. Informative but fun.
@Jake C: My experience is that CTR rings have been replaced with temple rings. We’ve replaced choosing the right with staying on the covenant path.
@mountainclimber479: When we say the prophet is fallible, I usually ask TBM to provide an example. They used to be hesitant to provide a response. But I’ve noticed that even TBM feel comfortable claiming the victory for Satan as being a stretch. While they view using the Church’s name as a positive, they definitely do not see using the term Mormon as a victory for Satan. Seems everyone but the prophet agrees with you so you are in good company =).
See, this is what I have never understood. In D&C 107:4, it states pretty definitively that “out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood.” So wouldn’t that suggest that “Mormon” would be preferable to TCOJCOLDS using the same reasoning? Or is our on-going use of Melchizedek Priesthood another series of victories for Satan?
My problem with not using the term “Mormon” is that it is the only term we have that describes those who accept the Book of Mormon as scripture. There are several branches of us Mormons, so historians break “Mormons” down into the name of the person who led the branch as it broke off. Those of us in the largest branch are Brighamites. That is our logical nickname if we want to reject “Mormon”. And there just isn’t one that implies Christian that isn’t already in use. Calling the church by its full legal name is simply too long for most conversations. It is fine for journalists, because our branch of Mormonism should be differentiated from other branches. I object to churches simply identifying as “Christian” for the same reason, that is, they should identify which branch. Using just “Christian” was fine when Christianity was a branch of Judaism. And so, I rejected the advice/demand that we stop using the word “Mormon” for purely practical reasons. There is not another word. And there s no good reason to invent a different word out of thin air just to avoid “Mormon.” With this whole subject, everything about not using “Mormon” was just wrong. It was a stupid idea, presented in a very stupid way.
And, Hawk Girl, not to argue with you, but, yeah, I think I will. The reason the CDC didn’t tell the truth about masks at first was exactly the reason in your little story about people picking up rocks. When the sign explained what is happening because everyone is taking rocks home, the rocks disappeared faster. That sign told the truth and inadvertently encouraged people to get theirs before they were all gone. If the CDC had said, please leave the masks for doctors and nurses, people would have run out to buy masks before they were all gone. They would have been gone within the hour. People would think “I have just as much right to live as a doctor,” and run out to buy all they could. What the CDC should have done, is made the person show proof they are a doctor or nurse before purchasing. We ID people for booze and cigarettes, so why not ID them for their occupation to buy face masks.
It was just a bad situation for the CDC, with the choice of several bad or worse options.
This is a fascinating post, Angela. If I remember right from psychology, the idea that people sometimes refuse to do something precisely because they’re pushed to do it is called reactance. (Sorry to any real psychologists if I have that wrong.) Whatever the name, though, it does seem like a phenomenon that GAs are utterly unaware of. They figure that God is on their side, so they can be as condescending or pushy as they want, and they don’t need to worry about messaging at all.
One way I see this is in the audit committee report we hear every General Conference. It includes not a single number, just an internal auditor saying “We spent the money right.” To refuse to show Church finances to members to me is just so utterly condescending. It definitely reduces my willingness to give money to the Church.
A recent example of a message I liked was one I got from an airline shortly before my flight. It told me about things I couldn’t bring in carry-ons. Its tone was just very collaborative and not at all a “because we said so.” I wish the Church would adopt more messaging like that.
Also, mountainclimber479, I wanted to high-five you when I read this, because I have done *precisely* the same thing:
“I knew in my heart that simply referring to the Church by the term Mormon was certainly not a victory for Satan. As a result, I have rebelled and use the term Mormon when referring to the Church more frequently than I previously did.”
Anna: Fair point about the public buying up masks rather than allowing them to be saved for doctors, but I’m not 100% sure that’s what would have happened. It could have.
My personality leans conformist, I’m a bit of a people-pleaser and conflict gives me literal stomachaches, yet even for me if you push too hard, I’ll dig my heels in.
For example, as I mentioned in the Best and Worst GC thread, the constant, over-the-top exposure to GC talks in every Sacrament talk and every RS lesson we’ve had for the last 10 or so years (hey, when exactly did this become such a thing, anyway?) has absolutely backfired. I’ve stopped watching General Conference altogether, because why bother? I’ll hear about it soon enough anyway.
In private conversations with friends, I’ve finally started admitting that President Nelson’s style of hyperbole yet also literalism doesn’t really work for me. I appreciate some of the changes he’s made, but his whole “take your vitamins” spiel got overplayed enough that I just tune it out now. But what has surprised me is when I say this, how many of my friends have quietly conceded that they have reservations about him as well.
And that’s not even getting into how the many, many, MANY quotes of RMN and “we loves you’s” and “beloved prophet” references start to feel almost….. uneasy? Like we’re getting into “Methinks thou do protest too much” territory.
I just can’t stop chuckling at the thought of President Nelson producing fragrant lavender farts! The angels in heaven are rolling their eyes at me….
I can’t believe we are ten comments into this discussion and no one has quoted these famous lyrics: “Signs, signs, everywhere a sign … do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” I’m hard-pressed to think of any actual, physical signs in an LDS chapel worth discussing. Maybe the absence of signs is noteworthy. There is no sign at the entrance to a chapel telling members what to wear or not wear.
I’d even suggest the idea of a long list of implicit do’s and don’ts is a bit dated. Don’t go to R-rated movies. Don’t do this or that on Sunday. Don’t read unapproved or uncorrelated book about the Church. I’m not sure most of these suggested behaviors have a lot of current relevance. More and more, particularly among younger Mormons, “do your own thing” is closer to the mark. Yes, some of them are leaving, but the ones who stay are still great kids.
The more general discussion of tone and messaging does strike home. General Conference offers the whole spectrum. I’ll bet I’m not the only one who gets bad vibes from the hardliners who still think rules and veiled threats are the best way to inspire the listeners. Instead of the current hit-or-miss system where each speaker chooses their own topic and their own style, maybe someone official should seriously ask what tone and approach would be most encouraging to listeners, best adapted to make listeners feel good about being Mormon and going to church on Sunday — and direct speakers to follow that path. Call it Messaging 101. They need to study Messaging 101.
If they won’t change GenCon format to be more appealing, at least make the whole messaging approach friendlier and more upbeat. The current We Are In Retrenchment phase of leadership mentality has most certainly moved the tone of Conference toward a “the sky is falling” theme with a lot of downer messaging. Like that’s what anyone wants to hear.
At BYU in the mid-90’s the posted signs admonishing students against walking on the grass, trying desperately to keep us on the sidewalks: “Cougars don’t cut corners!” Sometimes staying on the sidewalks would have added three or four precious minutes to my walk. So I thought to myself, “Cougars blaze trails!” and took the shorter path across the grass.
I’ve always been bothered by the sign that says “Unauthorized Entry is Prohibited” Is this a double negative? Is Unauthorized entry ever allowed? Why not just “Entry is prohibited”?
There is a sign at the front of our chapels that says “Visitors Welcome” Are there any caveats to this?
In the culture of the military, heavy negative reinforcement is a feature, not a bug. But that is a natural outgrowth of an organization that puts destructive weapons in the hands of 18-year-olds every day, and needs a way to keep that power under control. One very important lesson we were taught early on (and repeatedly hammered into our minds thereafter) is that “the operating manual is written in blood”. Whatever vehicle or aircraft or machine or weapons system you were trained to work on usually had a thick user manual filled with warnings and cautions about the consequences of improper or careless use, and we were told that each dire warning was put there because of some actual catastrophic incident of the past that resulted in fatalities, severe injuries, and/or prison time. While I initially thought it absurd that the barracks laundry room had a sign on the wall that said “DO NOT DRINK BLEACH”, it then occurred to me that the sign was there for a specific reason–that someone actually tried to do that at some point in the past. Same thing with Claymore mines, which are stamped in big letters “FRONT TOWARD ENEMY” on the business end. The rules exist to keep you alive, and common sense should never be assumed, especially among young adults under 25 who’s brains are not yet fully formed.
The “white bible” missionary handbook has a similar purpose. Some of the prohibitions contained therein are ridiculous, but they were put in there because some elder in the past did something stupid that was worthy of punishment, but didn’t have a rule expressly against it the time. The difference is that missionary rules are often presented as divine commandments (rather than as the earthly risk management guidelines they actually are) so they are thrusted out of their original contexts and take on entirely new meanings. They are often positively framed, but in ways that are false and potentially damaging (e.g. obedience to mission rules bring blessings like more contacts, more baptisms, etc.). And sometimes they are negatively reinforced, but in an arbitrary way without much context (e.g. “follow Rule X with exactness or you will be sent home early”). The unfortunate result is that years later, we have new generations of Church leaders who believe in the “virture” of obedience above all else, along with the false doctrine of the Vending Machine God/Prosperity Gospel, as well as kooky folk doctrine about Satan having dominion over bodies of water, to include backyard pools. Not to mention all the other former missionaries who are still trying to salvage their mental health.
Rules are important, but they need context and proper framing.
Before you get too “vaccine confident,” consider looking at the many data. Many folks “believe” and project specific attitudes and behaviors about Covid policy without having substantiated such behaviors and beliefs with scientific data. Policies of the CDC do not align with the many data available. Double-blind randomized control trials suggest that (1) masks are negligible, (2) vaccine does not prevent transmission or reinfection, (3) the spike protein damages mitochondria, (4) the adverse effects of the vaccine for healthy people are worse than the infection. For the elderly, for the obese, for those with co-morbidities (like diabetes), the vaccine demonstratively saves lives.
Look to the data, not the dogma.
YouTube’s “Vinay Prasad, MD MPH,” and “Drbeen Medical Lectures,” approach the data with clear, unbiased, scientific analysis. Highly recommended.
Travis: I know this topic is very important to you. I discussed the vaccine with my hematologist (who said there are unknowns with any vaccine, but the knowns of covid were much worse), and I waited to get it after seeing what actual doctors did. Over 96% of doctors felt it was safe enough to be fully vaccinated. Yes, there are always contrary opinions. We’ve talked about this before. This is not that post. Moving along.