One thing about excruciating pain is that it helps us appreciate the painless moments that we take for granted. I think that these moments are even more apparent (and appreciated) after the throbbing noise and nausea is a distant (but vibrant) memory of the past.
I wish I was at this point with my headache, but even in my current state of misery I can’t help associate my experience to that of being Mormon. Or more accurately: being a Mormon in today’s excitement over the media’s dubbed “Mormon Moment.”
For quite sometime we have plugged along, with the occasional annoyance from adversaries who felt it was their duty to yell at the rooftops their opinion. Yet, overall these rantings were largely ignored by the world and quite painless to us.
However, with the conclusion of 2011, being Mormon has been a lot more uncomfortable than before. Not to say it has been excruciatingly painful, but the abundant exposure of the media has stripped away the comfort of being devouted to the faith, but largely unknown (and unbothered).
With two LDS hopeful presidential nominees; faithful members headlining the cover of Newsweek, Forbes, Harper’s and other publications; Prophet and President of the Church Thomas S. Monson making the list of the Top Ten Most Admired Men currently living; and much, much more, the anonymity of being Mormon is no longer a luxury.
There is no doubt, as a whole, the Church is pleased with this exposure, even if is not exactly in the manner we want it. Yet, being a faithful member during this time of media ecstasy hasn’t been exactly agreeable.
The unpleasantries come when what is considered deeply important to us, the Latter-day Saints, is belittled. Moments like the infamous popularity of the Book of Mormon play; Robert Jeffress unenlightening theological commentary; and Deadspin’s take on racism at BYU—are all examples of what happens when the world takes notice of you.
Yet, I don’t want to come across complaining about the around-the-clock coverage we are receiving. If we didn’t want the attention than there would be no point to our missionary efforts.
However, I think the bigger question is how we react personally to all this attention, particularly the negative. Are we like David Archuleta or Charlie Sheen when it comes to the spotlight?
I only know both celebrities by how they have individually reacted to their time with the media. I was introduced to Archuleta when I saw him graciously lose to David Cook on American Idol. His humility that night set the stage for his courtship with the media, and each time he makes an appearance you get the sense that he is grateful just to be there.
I tried to find an obnoxious Mormon celebrity to be the antithesis to Archuleta, but I don’t think there are enough Mormon celebrities yet who can truly compete against Charlie Sheen. I don’t need to say much when it comes to how poorly Sheen has responded to his 12 minutes and 7 seconds of notorious fame—he has said more than enough on his own.
He gives a classic example of how badly one can respond to their media moment. As individual members it is easy to get caught up in the rage of not being understood. We can try Charlie Sheen’s method of screaming at what we feel are injustices or follow the Church’s approach when addressing negative exposure.
In 2008, I was given the opportunity to make such a choice. I am strong advocate for defining marriage between a man and a woman, and most of 2008 was spent volunteering my time in helping pass proposition 8.
When the amendment passed I attended, as opposition, a rally in Salt Lake City that called into question prop 8. I was surprised upon reaching Temple Square on just how large the protest was. There were thousands of people who angrily marched down E. South Temple Street to show their displeasure.
In addition to the rally, there were two groups who were there supporting the passing of proposition 8. One group stood on a corner and with bull horns venomously shouted at anyone passing by who disagreed with their stance. The other group (and significantly smaller) quietly stood on the street as a protest to the march.
I chose to be with the latter group and our quiet passiveness was in stark contrast to the chanting and screaming of both the rally supporters and the bull horn agitators. Due to our approach I was interviewed by a local television station.
At the end of the night, all sides of this conflict were heard, but personally, I feel my message received a stronger voice due to our willingness to not engage in the rage of the moment.
As the presidential elections intensify this year, it is very likely that we have only seen the dawn of awareness concerning Mormonism. However, no matter how intense the media might be, how we treat this attention will be an indicator of whether this Mormon Moment is a miserable headache or just simple growing pains.