Saturday, February 5, 2011

St. Petersburg Times Details How The LDS Church Uses YouTube To Rebut Erroneous Stereotypes About Mormons On

On February 6th, 2011, the St. Petersburg Times published a well-crafted article exploring how members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are using YouTube to create videos which serve to address and debunk erroneous stereotypes about Mormons. A group of filmmakers came from Utah with cameras and settled inside a modest church across from the University of South Florida to make individual videos to be posted on, and this attracted local media interest. Read the full article HERE.

One of the video subjects is retired professional golfer Bruce Summerhays, who came to Tampa to lead the Florida Mission, where he oversees an average of 160 missionaries at any given time. The 64-year-old Summerhays converted to Mormonism at 16. He spent more than 30 years as a club professional, then went pro at age 50. He earned the nickname "Iron Man" among players like Arnold Palmer. He and his wife, Carolyn, have eight children, all grown. Summerhays' own video, which will show him on the course, walking with his wife and working at the mission, is in postproduction and will be posted on Summerhays said "I'll take any opportunity to spread the message of the Gospel. There's a lot of confusion about what the church is and what it represents."

In 2010, the LDS Church revamped its website,, into a more contemporary and hip meetup for believers and curious types. Producers then began the quest for "cool" Mormons to appear in a series of slick video profiles for YouTube. "We thought we'd start with a dozen or so and see where it went," said Ron Wilson, senior manager of "We put feelers out to friends and neighbors. Who do you know who's not what some people think is the typical Mormon?" And they found an incredible variety of people representing the ethnic and occupational diversity which exists within the LDS Church -- but a diversity which is NOT a stand-alone device, but a precursor for unity in Jesus Christ. So they decided to start putting their stories on video. The videos went viral on YouTube, rapidly exploding from 10,000 hits to as many as 800,000. They're warm, digestible and habit-forming, and pop up when you're searching for things like skin cream reviews and funny clips.

Unfortunately, there's another YouTube video by a Mormon that also went viral -- and it won't end up on That, of course, is the video of Jessica Beagley disciplining a rather fractious adoptive child; the video has attracted a tsunami of second-guessing and faux horror by armchair experts who most likely haven't been exposed to that type of frustration. More background on the case available HERE. But Jessica Beagley's video is also useful in the sense that it reminds us that when we join the LDS Church, we don't magically shed our weaknesses and imperfections; we merely embrace a new strategy to deal with them. And progress isn't always endlessly forward; one occasionally stumbles and takes a step or two backwards.

But the member videos on show our better side, while simultaneously reminding the public that we are still just as human as everyone else. You can read profiles of other everyday Mormons HERE

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