Selling the Bug-Eyed Blue-Eyed Jesus (that’s just wrong)

6.18.09 | | 69 comments

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Tonight the Living Scriptures salesman showed up at our door. His car’s GPS had every member of our ward plugged into it and after visiting the Coes, it told him to drive to our house next. He was a nice guy, a BYU student, getting married at the end of the summer. I was able to offer him some good advice for his fiancee about getting a California teaching credential. So even though we didn’t buy anything and scored a free DVD, I still think he came out better.

The main thrust of his sales technique was to assume that we already wanted his product and it was only a question of how quickly we could afford to buy them. The problem is that I’ve seen many of these videos and although “Nephi and the Brass Plates” and “The Conversion of Alma the Younger” are quite good, the rest of the ones I’ve seen range from the okay to the terrible.

But I’m a snob. And so is my wife. Talking about the clip he showed us (from the free DVD) led her to describe their depiction of the Savior as noted in the title of this post.

But even more wrong than a bug-eyed blue-eyed Jesus is, in my opinion, using the Church’s records to sell your crap. Excuse me. To sell your spiritually minded child-pleasing art. According the the Church’s website, “Information on this page [taken from my ward’s membership list] is for Church use only and is not to be used for any commercial, business, or political purpose.” Like selling cartoons, one would imagine, even if they are inspired by sacred writ.

Kent Larsen wrote about this recently, tangentially, and I said I found it unethical. I did get one amen, but then the conversation veered off wildly and excitingly in another direction.

But I want to know how the people feel.

Using Church records to sell product. Yea or nay?

69 comments: “Selling the Bug-Eyed Blue-Eyed Jesus (that’s just wrong)

  1. MoJo

    No. Absolutely not.

    A while back, the patriarch of a family in my ward is one of those gung-ho “we’ll step on any new selling bandwagon for some quick cash and it may or may not be an MLM arrangement” types. He had his wife call the sisters to talk about whatever it was he was selling that month.

    When I directly confronted her as to how she got our phone number (because it was unlisted), she got a little tongue-tied because there was only one other way she could have gotten it.

    Then we (my DH and I) called the bishop. Apparently, we weren’t the first to complain about it.

    What makes me mad about it, though (because it’s not the use of the roster), is the subtext that “You should spend money on this because A) I’m a church member and you owe me this service, and B) if you don’t buy this LDS/doctrine-themed stuff, you’re a bad Mormon.” There is an implied obligation that, because you are part of my church “family,” you must buy my stuff to be able to look me in the eye every Sunday without guilt.

    I can’t stand that passive-aggressive manipulation using the weakest and most sensitive points of a person’s psyche.

  2. Kent Larsen

    Kent Larsen wrote about this recently, tangentially, and I said I found it unethical. I did get one amen, but then the conversation veered off wildly and excitingly in another direction.

    Th., you do know that I didn’t suggest using the ward list, right?

    I agree that using the list the way this salesman did is unethical. The list clearly states that it is not to be used for commercial purposes, and there is little or no question that the Church has a right to restrict how the list is used.

    On the other hand, I do think that there aren’t many options for reaching members, making it all the more likely that unethical tatics would be used, because they work and no real alternatives exist.

    So, in general I have to say no, you can’t and should not use Church records to sell your goods.

    BUT, there are ways of more subtly marketing to ward members that don’t require using the ward list. There is nothing to stop you from asking your friends in the ward to give you their address. And if you already know their address, you can contact them outside of Church about anything you want.

    This is the kind of marketing I meant when I suggested, in the post you linked to, that marketers might have representatives in each ward. If done right, it isn’t against the stated rules, although I can see why some might feel that it is on the eithical border. But to the extent that it is, any attempt to use a friendship to sell something could also be seen as unethical.

  3. Th.

    .

    Thanks for clarifying that, Kent. When this has come up in the past, I’ve never been quite sure what your stance was about ward lists specifically.

    What we have hear though is a company whose entire MO seems to be using Church lists of addresses. (If Nest would like to defend themselves, I think when can agree that AMV is not as hostile as I may be making it seem.) And it’s working.

    I asked this fellow what his door-to-sales success rate was and, after admitting he wasn’t as good at keeping his stats as his roommates, figured it was 10-20%. Not bad at all. In previous days he had been “tracting” out other wards in the stake, and presumably his roommates had been going a ward at a time as well. Plug one ward’s addresses into the GPS, it sets the most efficient path, and your day’s itinerary was set.

    He was recruited by a flyer offering free pizza taped to the door of his Provo apartment and decided he would like to sell a product he “believed” in.

    I told him that I didn’t like the product (and that I’m broke) but I didn’t tell him that even if I loved his product and was rolling in cash, I still wouldn’t have purchased from a company that does business in this way.

    ——–
    ——–
    ——–

    Mojo: Even sharing skillsets in a ward can be tricky because most of us seem to either 1) have unhealthy senses of entitlement or 2) be charitable suckers. But then turning these fraught relationships into commercial mining operations is shameless. But some people can’t see beyond themselves well enough to recognize the problems they generate.

  4. FoxyJ

    Yeah, Kent, if my friend in the ward holds a Pampered Chef party (or a Mormon books party) and invites me, I would not feel offended. Even if the only way they had to obtain my address were the ward list. Because they are my friend and they are getting my address. I still might not go buy their stuff, but it would bother me much less than the people who pitch things to the entire ward regardless of how well we know them, or even worse the case presented here of some random stranger visiting everyone in the ward.

    I also strongly detest the Living Scriptures videos;sometimes I feel guilty when my kids watch Dora on Sundays, since I don’t have any ‘Sunday’ videos for them, but I feel highly uncomfortable with the caricatured way in which the scriptures are presented on them.

  5. Th.

    .

    (I don’t want to change the discussion away from the real issue, so I’m writing in parentheses.

    (Living scriptures have numerous problems [kids thinking they’re the real story and getting canon and cartoon mixed up is probably the most cited], but the NEW DVD FEATURES are rather hilarious.

    (For instance, you can turn on subtitle option that puts scripture references on the screen. As if anyone will ever look them up. And there’s no such thing as tv osmosis. Besides, if, as the salespitch implied, Living Scriptures make better babysitters than regular tv, this whole notion of talking about them together as a family is laughable.

    (Also, the quizzes on each tv? The percentage of kids who would enjoy doing that has got to be well, well under 5%.

    (“Added value” is only added “value” if the additions add value. Which seems obvious, but most movie studios miss this point.

    (And to even further offtopic, I really liked Nest’s only theatrical release when it came out and I thought it was dirty pool of Disney to crush it by timing a rerelease of The Lion King for its first weekend, but in retrospect, maybe that’s not the main reason it wasn’t a huge success anyway. Maybe it’s because we don’t need another studio making Disney films — even ones based on the Stripling Warriors or George Washington. We need something new and fresh and frankly, I would like to see this Mormon animation studio impress me.

    (I love animation. I just don’t love retread pablum.

    (Now back to our discussion on marketing.)

  6. Hunter

    Nay, using ward lists for marketing purposes is wrong.

    But, so, too, is standing up during Fast and Testimony Meeting and, during a testimony, making some oblique (and totally irrelevant to her testimony) reference about her new stay-at-home business and how she’s trying to make it grow. Or on the first time you’re at the pulpit and introducing yourself to the Ward, telling everyone you’re an attorney in town with a firm who is accepting new clients and implying that the Ward members should pay him a visit.

    At least using the Ward list and standing on the front porch selling crap is more honest.

  7. nosurfgirl

    Hmmm. It’s a dilemma… especially because church and culture are so intertwined (in the happy valley/Mormon belt at least). For instance, Deseret Book has an R.S. bookclub program. They sell a bunch of books at a discounted rate to women in a relief society.

    Is that ethical?

    The living scriptutes videos are a good example, too. What about Temple Square itself, with all the shops surrounding it, catering to those who visit it as an LDS tourist attraction? I suppose they aren’t using the ward lists to do this, and so it’s harder to pin down.

    Then there’s the always resurfacing problem of ward activities and paying for things.

    The one thing that I find unequivocably unethical is Sunday School or Relief Society or Sacrament Meetings as a forum for “righteous” political discourse.

    It’s hard to not use the ward list for things like this. Our Young Women, for instance, use it to market their babysitting skills to likely families, particularly when they are trying to earn money for camp. I wonder where exactly the line is? I don’t think it’s easy to make out.

  8. Katya

    As fate would have it, I’ve actually read the entire living scriptures salesperson handbook from about 10 years ago. (Slow day at the copy center where I was working at the time.)

    At the time, they were very careful to say that you can’t just ask someone for the ward list because the Church doesn’t look kindly on that, at all. What they suggested doing was basically what Kent said, asking people in the ward for names of other ward members who might be interested in the products. Granted, those ward members are probably still getting the information from ward lists, but apparently the technique is different enough that it puts them in the clear.

    Also, even if I didn’t dislike Living Scriptures in the first place, having read about the manipulative techniques suggested in their salesperson manual would definitely turn me off the product.

  9. Angie

    Absolutely not – it’s manipulative and self-serving. However, it’s so widespread that I typically just ignore the sales pitches, party invitations, and political mailings that are obviously from the ward list.

  10. Th.

    .

    Hunter: Good point.

    Angie: Where do you live? I wonder if I’m just not inoculated, living where I do.

    nosurfgirl: There are lines between reasonable marketing to a religious market and marketing through the religion itself. And we need to know what those are when it comes time to sell our books. (ps: please send your stake directory to theric/thmazing/com so I can send them flyers re fob bible; thanx)

    Katya: Shoulda thrown it on Wikileaks!

  11. Wm Morris

    (in keeping with the parentheses for tangents may I suggest people click on Luisa Perkins’ name above and add her wonderful blog to their RSS reader)

  12. Devin Yeates

    I just despise what I call “Mormon Commercialism”. Even walking into Deseret Book I get queasy. On using the ward list…absolutely not allowed.

  13. Laura Craner

    I’m embarrassed to say that I own the Living Scriptures movies. They caught us right after we’d had our first baby–she was 2 weeks old– and I was, literally, going insane and my husband and I miscommunicated and now we own more overpriced, poorly animated, disgustingly scripted DVDs than I ever imagined we could. Darn that contract.

    Anyway, the LS salesperson got our name from someone in the ward; we were a “referral”. But in retrospect I wish I would have called the other family to make sure they really did refer us and I wish I had had the mental capacity to stop the kid in his pitch and really grill him about his wife-who-was-about-to-have-a-baby-and-they-had-no-way-to-pay-for-it-except-that-he-go-on-the-road-and-sell-movies story.

    Since my head has cleared and we’ve gotten about four gazillion sales calls from them each year I have taken to chewing their heads off when they call and letting them know that I think they are unethical in their business practices. They have actually, finally, stopped calling.

    The only reason I can think that they go with the referral and in-home sales methods is because they know their products wouldn’t survive normal market competition. And because so many college students are suckers.

    I wonder if I can ebay the videos. . .

  14. Laura Craner

    Maybe all of that should have been in parentheses since it’s sort of a threadjack. My point: the referral system is not all that different from the actual ward list.

    Interestingly, the Cutco people use a referral system but instead of sending their salespeople to unsuspecting customers, they ask the referers (?) to call their friends and give them the Cutco representatives number. A gal from our ward was selling them and when I told to look up a phone number on the ward list she said she wasn’t allowed. Since I didn’t have any real referrals for her and since I didn’t buy any knives she was angry. But we all left with our dignity intact.

  15. Palad

    A few years ago, a friend from the ward asked if he could come over to talk about a business proposal. Sinnce I do consulting work on the side, I (naively) thought he wanted to engage my services. Come the appointed time, and he’s at our door with the stake president’s son, and they spend the next 2-3 hours trying to get us to buy into some MLM scam. After a little bit of research to back up my suspicions, I was so glad we turned them away without writing a check.

    But c’mon, the stake president’s son hawking a get-rich-quick scheme? You would really hope he would have more sense, considering his dad was a lawyer, and the MLM company involved was in the middle of a lawsuit.

  16. nosurfgirl

    “There are lines between reasonable marketing to a religious market and marketing through the religion itself. And we need to know what those are when it comes time to sell our books.”

    I would loooove to know what that line is. Honestly. I think that things get so hopelessly entangled. I mean, consider how Mormon Culture and Mormon Doctrine are practically interchangeable in some congregations. :) I’m not advocating, no, not at all. I’m just sayin’… good luck. Haha.

  17. Wm Morris

    We had a Living Scriptures salesperson knock on our door shortly after we were married (pre-children). He said that he had just been talking to one of our friends from the ward up the start and that they had given him our address. I asked him who that was. He was not able to provide a clear answer. I’m sure that their official corporate policy is that it all should be based on referrals, but based on that experience, I suspect that the letter of the law is not always followed.

  18. Th.

    .

    Anyone starting a media company aimed at Mormons, even if they don’t find this marketing approach unethical, would obviously be bonkers to try it.

    Open letter:

    Dear Folks,

    Try this and people will hate you.

    Sincerely,

    Theric

  19. Eugene

    Hey, that’s kind of the way my mission worked (in Japan it’s called “catch sales“). Though that probably also explains the long-term ten percent activity rate.

  20. bdc

    Here in Australia the federal Privacy Act stipulates that personal information can only be used for the purposes for which it was given.
    In short we take that to mean if you give your details to your Ward Clerk it can only be used for legitimate Church related contact. Allowing the information to be accessed by anyone without a legitimate entitlement to that information or used by anyone for any non-church related purpose would constitute a breach of the Act and punishable by substantial fine IIRC.
    How are these people getting copies of your ward lists?

  21. Th.

    .

    This I wish I knew. I know some of their salesforce actually transfered into our stake, so perhaps they just downloaded it from the Church’s website themselves. Maybe they thus became the “referrer” as well as the seller? Don’t know.

    But the fact that they entered entire ward lists into their GPSs wholesale, suggests something rather, mm, is insidious too strong a word?

  22. Kent Larsen

    Th (3) wrote:

    What we have hear though is a company whose entire MO seems to be using Church lists of addresses… And it’s working.

    Yep. That’s always the issue with unethical practices–the reason they get used–they actually work better than the alternatives.

    I do have to emphasize the problem that these unethical practices try to fix is a real problem. One we had some success discussing in Reaching the Market. The presence of better ethical methods of marketing would mitigate how much the unethical ones are used.

    (

    Plug one ward’s addresses into the GPS, it sets the most efficient path, and your day’s itinerary was set.

    Off topic, but probably not THE most efficient path, but AN efficient path. The most efficient past is a mathematical problem known as the “Traveling Salesman Problem” and last I checked it still hadn’t been solved.)

  23. Kent Larsen

    Katya (9) wrote:

    What they suggested doing was basically what Kent said, asking people in the ward for names of other ward members who might be interested in the products.

    When did I say that?
    In the Reaching the Market post I suggested that businesses could have a representative in each ward or stake (but I didn’t suggest there that they should do any particular method). Above (comment 2), I suggested that approaching your friends in the Church was OK.
    I don’t think I suggested that a representative should get referrals from friends.
    Of course, I don’t necessarily think getting referrals is wrong, just a lot closer to the unethical.

  24. Kent Larsen

    bdc (23) wrote:

    Here in Australia the federal Privacy Act stipulates that personal information can only be used for the purposes for which it was given.

    Sounds like what happens in much of Europe. The use of mailing and contact lists is much more regulated than here in the U.S. — makes it much harder for list brokers to operate.

    Here in the US, I think that a list can largely be perceived to be ethical through simply passing it through a third party. So, if a ward member gives you a copy of the ward list that doesn’t say on it that its from the ward or that it can’t be used for commercial purposes, you can do whatever you want with it.

    Of course, I don’t believe that is actually ethical. European-style laws would make such manipulations actually illegal.

  25. Harlow

    FoxyJ (#4)said “Yeah, Kent, if my friend in the ward holds a Pampered Chef party (or a Mormon books party) and invites me, I would not feel offended. Even if the only way they had to obtain my address were the ward list. Because they are my friend and they are getting my address. I still might not go buy their stuff, but it would bother me much less than the people who pitch things to the entire ward regardless of how well we know them, or even worse the case presented here of some random stranger visiting everyone in the ward.”

    Thanks for your comment. My wife attends a few Shampooed Pef parties in a year, and gives a few, and has considered signing up, except the startup cost of $300 is a bit beyond us. She doesn’t mind someone inviting her, and doesn’t mind if she invites and people don’t come. She has a friend, though, who always has low attendance at her parties. I think once or twice my wife has been the only person there.

    We have a neighbor who signs up for a lot of MLM distributorships, mostly to get their products cheaply, and she says PC is the best one she’s worked with (i.e., most reliable, easiest to work with–the hardest being the initial cosmetics company).

    I’m not the target audience for a lot of the MLM things. I don’t like the rhetorical connotations of a phrase like “pampered chef,” the connotations of privilege and being spoiled and all that, but I’m very interested in the economics of small group selling.

    (Interestingly, my feminist sisters, who are very attuned to the language of privilege and exploitation, like PC a lot, even though neither does a lot of cooking.)

    Fifty five or sixty years ago my mother had a tree planted in her name in Florida, and won a plane trip down to the Tupperware headquarters (for the planting, I think), met Brownie Wise, who gave her an autographed copy of Best Wishes. She sold a lot of Tupperware, as well as typing my father’s dissertation–and he said many times that the family would have been money ahead if he had hired a typist and let her spend the time on sales.

    I saw a PBS documentary on Brownie Wise and Tupperware, and it talked a lot about the economic freedom Tupperware’s business model gave to women (and about the shabby way Tupperware treated Wise when she left–tragic story).

    One reason I am not a fan of MLM is that, at least at present, it seems more about getting a big downline than actually selling things, and my wife (yes, she has a name, and normally I would mention it, but why give the privacy snatching spiders and bots another name?) finds a lot of stuff overpriced.

    But the stuff that isn’t overpriced, and that she likes, she buys when she can, partly to help her friends out.

    As far as using church lists I don’t like that, but there is an interesting logistical problem. If many or most of your friends are members of the Church and you were making up party invitations would you search through the phonebook (or whitepages.com) just to avoid using the ward list?

  26. MoJo

    But the stuff that isn’t overpriced, and that she likes, she buys when she can, partly to help her friends out.

    I have much thoughts on this subject (viz. not your wife in particular), and none of them nice, but will refrain.

    You may thank me.

  27. S. P. Bailey

    I am allergic to MLM. Cousins approaching me at family reunions. “Friends” hitting me up on Facebook. Thankfully, I haven’t personally seen the misuse of church information thing …

    But I am kind to low-level MLM salespeople because they are often victims of the system. I would never buy MLM junk. But I have turned more than one MLM sales approach into a discussion of MLM methods of exploitation, things the little guy should watch out for, etc., etc.

  28. Harlow

    MoJo, please don’t refrain.

    Shortly before he was murdered Joseph Smith wrote a letter to Daniel Rupp who had sent him a book on American religions, and said he would be happy to send something about Mormonism for a second edition. He was not afraid of people comparing his religion with others, for, “by proving contraries truth is made manifest.” (See Gene England’s foreword to Dialogues With Myself for extended comment on this letter.)

    If we don’t test our opposing ideas against each other how do we know how strong our beliefs are?

    You and I may have substantially the same opinions about companies that sell through small group parties, or different, or complementary or contrasting ideas, but unless you express your opinions how would we know?

    (My friend Jen Wahlquist always tells her students not to end paragraphs with a rhetorical question, but this is an epistemological question.)

    You may have missed the substantial reservations I expressed, or you may have caught them and have something to add. The words you read from my fingers may have a different connotation than they do to me.

    The sentence structures and syntax and vocabulary I use have a particular meaning to me, but that meaning doesn’t always translate to readers, who sometimes think I’m saying something quite different than I am.

    But I can’t know that if people stop the refrain of speech by refraining from speech.

  29. Harlow

    S. P. Bailey said: “I am allergic to MLM. Cousins approaching me at family reunions.”

    I was at a reunion maybe 10 years ago and my cousin was talking about some weight loss products she was selling. I asked her how much they cost, and she said, “Harlow, you’re not fat.” Which is true–had I taken my shirt off she could have counted my ribs–but I wasn’t asking for myself.

    I have often wondered why she didn’t take the opening I had offered.

    I have very high sales resistance, maybe too high, so I’m not a good prospect either for recruiters or salespeople, but surely I would not want to say there is something unethical about direct sales, about something that provided a fair amount of the income that allowed my father to finish his degree.

    I don’t know if I would have bought anything from my mother, or if Tupperware would have been considered MLM or not. I don’t know if my mother had a sponsor or recruited other people, or how she got into selling. I’m fairly sure she dropped it after the family returned to Provo with my father’s doctorate.

    As for the idea of marketing the sacred or around the sacred, I have much to say. Whether I’ll say it here or not depends a little on how much time I have.

  30. MoJo

    MoJo, please don’t refrain.

    Okay.

    Harlow, just for the record, I DID catch your tone and was actually concurring, but my philosophy on those invite-a-friend-in-your-house-to-buy-kitsch parties is something I haven’t encountered outside my own head.

    First, my experience starts when I was about a tween when my mother was invited to one of these parties (jewelry). She explained the concept to me and I said, “Why do you HAVE to go and why do you HAVE to buy something?” She told me it was just what you did. Subtext: Polite. Be polite. You MUST be polite, even if you don’t have the money to buy overpriced sh*t. (Which we didn’t.)

    Next, about that time, too, one of the men in our ward was peddling those living scriptures things (the 1970s-1980s version). I don’t know why he thought we had any money, because of where we lived. But my dad was polite (miracle, really, all things considered) and we sat through the spiel. I remember my dad’s disdain.

    Fast forward a couple of years and I got roped into going to an Herbalife rah rah rah session. My dad says to me on my way out the door, “Don’t sign anything!!!” Well, I was 16, so nothing would have been binding. Anyway, I sat in this cordoned-off ballroom of a hotel and listened to the pump session and the explanations and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how anybody could make money that way unless you had six levels of people underneath you. I was SIXTEEN and I knew it was an elaborate money-laundering system.

    Fast forward to me in my 20s and I got invited to one of those kitsch parties. I don’t remember what it was. Candles or crappy kitsch sofa art or lingerie or something. Doesn’t matter. I went because it was polite because that’s what my mom said. I didn’t have any money and besides, they had nothing I liked. And then I saw the prices.

    And got mad.

    But not mad enough not to go to a Mary Kay party for a friend of this friend. That was okay. They didn’t do the hard sell and I got a facial out of it.

    But…

    I never went to another one again. I didn’t reply to any of the invitations I ever got. I wouldn’t dignify it with an RSVP.

    IMO, parties like that require leveraging one’s friendship to make money. Hon, just ask to borrow some money; I’ll do that. It’s honest. Don’t invite me to parties to spend money on crap you know I don’t like when you know I don’t have any more money than you do.

    It’s a passive-aggressive marketing tactic that plays on a woman’s sense of obligation to her friend. Polite. Be polite no matter what. No matter how much you hate it but don’t know why because you don’t want to dig too deep into why you hate it because then you’ll resent your friend for putting you on the spot.

    Face it: We are a culture of sales. We are exhorted to sell at every turn (missionary efforts, anyone?).

    Indulge me a moment while I quote my current novel-in-progress. The bishop’s son to his future stepmother:

    Trevor: “If I go on a mission, it’ll only be if I got called somewhere foreign. Take the path my sisters didn’t. I’m not looking for some spiritual experience, and selling something I don’t believe? Priceless training.”

    Cassie: “That’s rather mercenary, don’t you think?”

    Trevor: “I’m all about taking advantage where I can get it. I don’t want to spend my life at four hundred people’s beck and call. I figure, as long as I follow the mission rules and do a good job, the Lord has no right to complain about my motives.”

    To me, that’s honest. That’s what we as a culture are expected to do: Sell sell sell.

    Doesn’t really matter what, does it?

  31. Katya

    >26.

    I misread you in comment #2. When you said: “There is nothing to stop you from asking your friends in the ward to give you their address.” I thought you meant “their” = “someone else in the ward’s” addresses (which is what LS basically asks people to do) not “their” = “their own” addresses. I realized the mistake just now when I reread the comment.

  32. Mark D.

    I have never seen an MLM organization sell anything that I would actually consider a good value. The same goes for any door to door sales operation. The economics are all against it.

    If you want to indirectly contribute to some charity, fine, but as for-profit businesses, MLMs more closely resemble multi-level exploitation organizations, where it is the customers and especially the bottom rung participants that get exploited the most.

  33. Angie

    MoJo – I completely agree that all those parties (Pampered Chef, scrapbooking, jewelry, etc.) are trying to cash in on the church relationship. I say this because I can count on one hand the number of invitations I have received from people I would consider true friends.

    A quick update on the latest in Mormon parties – I live in the Las Vegas area, and this week we received invitations to hear about two separate food storage companies.

  34. MoJo

    Angie, let me clarify…the ones I went to were not by church members. I shouldn’t have made it sound like they were. HOWEVER, the living scriptures thing and the other man in my ward who used the ward list to solicit business from us were.

    And also however, every one of the invitations I have received for such parties since (many!) WERE from members and, moreover, women who don’t know me and/or who have never said so much as boo to me.

    So my philosophy on those home parties is pretty much across the board, but the secular ones were people who knew me and were my friends. The ones I have been invited to after I made my personal policy were ones who were clearly poaching church members. For me, it’s a 50/50 thing.

  35. manaen

    To me, the blue-eyed Jesus and using Church records to sell stuff are of the same piece: the real Jesus drove the commercialists from the temple; the followers of this false Jesus are the commercialists in the temple. I guess you’d have to be.
    .
    I’d be grateful to anyone who explains to me how LDS-themed depictions of the false blue-eyed Jesus are OK if we want the Church to look like this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ea6hMDsYVlo

  36. Mahonri Stewart

    Just about The Living Scriptures videos… they are actually what made me really interested in The Book of Mormon as a kid and led to my latter of love of the book. I agree with Theric that I thought that Nephi and the Brass Plates and the Conversion of Alma The Younger were good, but it was the gravitas of _Mormon and Moroni_ that really pulled me in.

    About the “blue eyed Jesus”… well, that portrayal kind of annoys the heck out of me. I don’t really think it’s exactly anti-Semitic, but it smacks pretty close.

  37. Satsuki

    Theric, I think the same guy came to our place two nights ago. We listened, declined, and sent him away with a couple of chocolate chip cookies. I should have asked who gave him our name…I rather suspect it was the Living Scriptures representative who is attending our ward for the summer.

    In any case, I think that in general it’s uncool to refer people to salesmen without asking first, be it with or without the aid of a ward list. For Living Scriptures it’s even worse because they actively use their knowledge of your religious beliefs and values to sell you a product not endorsed by your church. I think that makes it more slimy than other products that don’t have any religious slant. In our sales pitch we got a lot of, “On Sunday you really want your kids to be watching something that enriches and teaches them…right?” And also a bunch of, “This will really help your Family Home Evenings!” And a whole lot of, “You want your kids to know scripture stories…RIGHT?”

    The whole buy-this-because-you-are-a-good-mormon-parent-who-wants-to-raise-righteous-kids thing is just irritating and manipulative. ESPECIALLY if I was fished from a ward list.

  38. Th.

    .

    Yeah, some of the things he said like kids-will-watch-tv-no-matter-what-and-geewhiz-but-tv-is-evil have much simpler solutions than spending dozens and dozens (and dozens) of dollars on their product. It would be better parenting altogether to just not make the tv a babysitter at all.

  39. LGM

    My response to the LS guy that tried to put me on a guilt trip 30 years ago was “so you don’t think our kids can make it to the CK without the Living Scriptures”. He didn’t have much to say and left soon after.

  40. Mark G

    Dearest Theric,
    I definitely made a disappointed Popeye face to myself when I thought he might have been using a ward list, but then he told us that he was finding members by referral. You saw his GPS? I hope some bandit doesn’t steal it and find out what time church is on Sunday.

  41. Th.

    .

    I asked him some pretty direct questions. He didn’t realize he was being interviewed for AMV. Heh heh heh.

  42. Terrence

    So I’ve carefully read each response and find each comment intriguing. I was looking to buy these living scriptures and these comments lead me to reconsider, and reconsider I did. After careful thought its come to my attention that many here have commitment and race issues. No one knows what Jesus looks like and what he looks like really doesn’t and should matter.

    The animations of the sample I got seemed to be fine, in fact perfect for the kids and family. 37 bucks to get the stories into my kids minds, like my friends kids, are priceless.

    You can read to them till you face is blue, act it out, and teach it over and over, and they’ll somewhat understand it. But, I have seen the difference from just one time use of the dvds, that my kids truly became more excited about the stories in the scriptures and reading them.

    Priceless…

  43. Terrence

    One more thing…

    I know they are not suppose to use the church directory or they get fired, and don’t think they do. I know that they don’t disclose the name of the referrer if so requested by the referrer.

  44. MoJo

    After careful thought its come to my attention that many here have commitment and race issues.

    BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!

  45. Th.

    .

    On this topic, I’m about to go tangential so here come the parentheses:

    (

    I would like to see a movie where Jesus is ugly and unattractive and wearing poorly fitting clothes — maybe a little dirty — scratchy voice. Much as Isaiah described him, giving the audience the uncomfortable feeling of despising and rejecting and esteeming not. Most religious movies make being a Christian feel the same as watching a Brad Pitt movie. I would like to be challenged. Jesus was challenging. He didn’t ask people to believe in him because he had beautiful flowing hair.

    )

  46. Wm Morris

    If any parents are looking for alternatives to Living Scriptures, I highly recommend the Church’s illustrated, simplified (but not simplistic) versions of the four standard works. Yes, they require reading so can’t be used as babysitting tools (until your child can read), but they are a good way for young ones to become acquainted with the stories in the scriptures.

    This is not to say that the illustrations are without “race issues” (to borrow a term from Terrence), but they are an elegant translation and don’t shy away from the actual content of the scriptures.

  47. Murray

    Using a ward list to market products (to seomone in our ward that we don’t now) is a not acceptable, but I think to approach friends directly is OK. I have done it myself in my younger selling days.

    ON the blue-eyed Jesus topic, there was a Church made movie, maybe 20 years ago, that had a very semitic looking Jesus. I really like the authenticity of that. The Jesus of the more recent Church made movies is too much of an American 1970’s hippy style guy. And too effeminate I think.

  48. Th.

    .

    Regarding The Testaments, I like to be able to tell the difference between Jesus and Thor.

  49. Luisa Perkins

    Th. in #52: Yes! We ask people to find beauty through worship in our hideous ward buildings. As much as I wish we had more of an Episcopal aesthetic in that regard, I’ve always found it to be an apt metaphor for the way Isaiah describes Christ. Cement blocks + industrial carpet = “there is no beauty that we should desire him.”

  50. Murray

    Bryan in #56 – thanks for the link to the Kieth Merrill article at Meridian. I felt the Spirit several times while reading that. I will watch The Testaments with greater appreciation in future!

  51. ET

    I think Terrance’s position, while perhaps extreme, should nevertheless not be too hastily overlooked. Anything which encourages one to believe in Christ is of God and we profess to seek after these things. Whether or not it fits into the realm of our own aesthetic tailorings, while worthy of discussion, is perhaps cursory. I share everyone else’s… malaise, shall we say, of the Anglo-Saxon representation of Christ. To say that it’s laughable because it’s historically inaccurate is one thing, but we can’t ignore that it indicates an importance placed upon racial accuracy, which is what I think Terrance is probably driving at more so than an inherent racism. We don’t want the blue-eyed bug-eyed Christ because we believe (know?) that that is not racially accurate. But perhaps what Terrance is pointing out is that we should be able to accept any representation of Christ wherein he is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind because ultimately, those things supercede racial identity. To that end, I think these videos are probably more concerned with the doctrinal milk of the gospel, not the meat.

    Now, whether or not they’re worth x dollars or should or shouldn’t be marketed in a particular way is a matter of personal preference, the ethics of which certainly make for an interesting discussion. I wouldn’t like to have my contact information exploited, but only because I don’t want the hassle of refusing a product that doesn’t interest me. And while I agree that, in principle, the practice is unethical, I don’t think I’d mind so much if it was a Cub Scout using the ward list to sell Scout-o-rama tickets. My point is, would we be having this discussion about ethics if the Living Scriptures were more to our liking?

  52. MoJo

    would we be having this discussion about ethics if the Living Scriptures were more to our liking?

    Yes.

    The topic is not Jesus or racism or “fear of commitment” (to what?).

    The topic is soliciting business under the cover of the gospel.

  53. Th.

    .

    Yeah, if I liked the product I might be more angry because I would feel wrong buying it but would want to and that would irritate me to no end.

    We don’t want the blue-eyed bug-eyed Christ because we believe (know?) that that is not racially accurate.

    Actually, not for me. I don’t mind seeing African or Japanese renditions of Jesus. But when one racial reinterpretation becomes dominant I think we have a problem. And I don’t think it’s unfair to call that problem racist in the broadest sense.

  54. nosurfgirl

    We watched the Genesis Project movies when I was little. I loved that Jesus. He spoke hebrew (with english translation) and looked and dressed like someone from that time. Still very attractive, but neither blue nor bug-eyed. :)

  55. bdc

    You know – this insistence on a ‘historically accurate’ representation of Jesus is a fairly recent phenomenon.
    IIRC many of the old masters painted scriptural scenes to look like a westernised, stylised version that was much more like the time they painted in then the time the scene was set.

  56. Th.

    .

    Q (serious and not sarcastic): Now that we have a better sense that this world is composed of many disparate cultures, do we have a greater responsibility to be historically accurate?

  57. Adam K. K. Figueira

    Let me get my vote out of the way first: using church lists for marketing = unethical. I love ET’s Scout-a-Rama example because it shows the potential for hypocrisy if we’re not careful with this stance, but still.

    I’ve been reviewing this post in preparation for posting my interview with a Living Scriptures sales manager (which this post inspired) on TLDSC, and a couple of things have occurred to me.
    They both come from a team presentation I did in a critical thinking class in college about logical fallacies, for one of which we pointed to the tendency of people to imagine Christ in their own racial image. For this event I prepared a version of a famous painting of Christ, photoshopped so that his skin tone changed throughout the image. Doing that was an interesting exercise in evaluating my own biases. In the class someone (not a Mormon) said that the only way to know what Jesus looked like would be for someone to see him and then tell us about it, and he didn’t know of that ever happening.

    You can imagine the discussion that followed, in a class populated largely with Mormons and facilitated by a professor who was both a Mormon and an army Chaplain. Lets just say that it involved some quotes from Joseph Smith.

    The professor pointed out that Christians make a big deal out of being created in God’s image, and perhaps they return the favor when they imagine God to look like them. He also said maybe that’s a good thing because it reflects not a shallow understanding of the world, but a deep internalization of man’s relationship with deity.

    Honestly, when you’re talking to a group of white Americans about their Heavenly Father and older brother Jesus, do you expect them to intuitively think of either as black, Asian, or even Jewish, even if they know all about the historical aspects? What about when you’re talking to a family in Africa? Do they naturally imagine a white guy?

    Maybe the important thing is to let each culture identify in its own way with Christ – thus preserving the universality of his message – and not to force one culture to represent Him in a historically accurate but very temporal way. Even staying within Gospel parameters, I think there is plenty of room for this. There is so much more to be gained from an interpretive portrayal than from one that obsesses over historical details, in my opinion. Of course, many of the representations we see are what they are because of unchallenged preconceptions rather than thoughtful interpretation.

    I think Th.’s comment about an ugly Jesus is more relevant than the racial issue in this sense, because it becomes a matter of interpreting Christ’s doctrine, and not his genealogy, only half of which was Jewish/earthly/mortal anyway.

    I think we so often see him portrayed as beautiful because people want to demonstrate his divinity, and that’s one way of doing it. Calling LS or Greg Olsen, or whoever else evil because of their choices about how they depict Christ really robs them of their right to use their own understanding and agency in worship.

    So to A: Th.’s Q: I think we have a responsibility to allow more diversity in the depiction of Christ, which includes, but does not limit us to, stringent historical visual styles.

  58. Adam K. K. Figueira

    Let me just add quickly that while I realize this is a discussion about marketing techniques and it might be very easy to say that LS salespeople’s jobs have nothing to do with worship, after talking with my LS friend I really believe that the films’ genesis was their creator’s desire to express his personal worship.

  59. Th.

    .

    I agree that people ought to be able to interpret the appearance of their Savior through their own image. The problem with mass-market representations, as I see it, is the cultural hegemony inherent when powered people’s representations become the primary ones available.

    Sheesh. I sound like Henry Louis Gates.

  60. Adam K. K. Figueira

    Well, if I had that kind of vocabulary at my command I’d use it too.

    I agree, though. How to fix that seems to be an important recurring theme here. Sites like this also provide part of the solution, though. I’ve been introduced to a number of things here I would never have found outside the radical middle.

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