NBA exec taking leave to guide Mormon missionaries in western Pa.
October 29, 2005, 3:53 PM EDT
PITTSBURGH -- Mormon missionaries have found western Pennsylvania to be one of the hardest places in the country to gain converts, so the church has asked an NBA marketing guru to lead a missionary push in the region.
Jay K. Francis, 59, has taken a three-year leave from his job as senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the Utah Jazz and the Larry Miller Group, the entity which controls all entertainment enterprises for Jazz owner Larry Miller.
"If someone is interested in learning more about the church, great," Francis told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "We would hope the spirit would touch their hearts. You don't sell someone into joining the church the way you sell Jazz tickets."
Francis, who is a lifelong member of the church, will oversee 120 missionaries aged 19 and 20 from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in western Pennsylvania, and parts of West Virginia, Ohio and New York. The mission field Francis will oversee stretches from Uniontown, about 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, to Jamestown, N.Y. That area has about 10,000 Mormons, about 7,900 in greater Pittsburgh.
"Pennsylvania has the smallest number of Latter-day Saints per person of any state in the union," said Evan Stoddard, mission leader for a Mormon congregation in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood.
One in 53 Americans is Mormon, but in Pennsylvania, the ratio is 1 in 301, and in greater Pittsburgh, 1 in 702, according to an almanac published by the church.
Stoddard, associate dean of liberal arts at Duquesne University, a Catholic school, said the stable, traditional, family oriented outlook of people in western Pennsylvania _ many of whom have family ties to churches _ make it a difficult place to win converts.
"People often aren't too open to look at other ideas beyond those they have traditionally held," Stoddard said.
Mormons believe the Christian church fell into apostasy shortly after Jesus Christ's 12 apostles died and that Joseph Smith, who is viewed as the first Mormon prophet, was chosen to restore the one true church. Smith founded the church in 1830 in New York state.
Among other beliefs that separate the church from other Christian denominations is a belief that Jesus Christ visited America after his resurrection, a story related in the Book of Mormon. The church also believes divine revelation continues through the church's president, and that faithful Mormon families _ not individuals _ can become gods in the afterlife.
Francis will have a home and car provided by the church, but he and his wife sold property to finance their move her along with their 14-year-old son, Jordan, the youngest of four.
"We didn't have to say that we'd come," Francis said. "I could have told them to pick someone who is older. I still have to work. Life is not set for me."
REXBURG, Idaho --A longtime Harvard University educator and administrator was installed Tuesday as president of Brigham Young University-Idaho, where he promised students the school wouldn't be hampered by rigid academic tradition as it sought to cut costs, boost student numbers and improve the quality of its education.
The ceremony welcoming former Harvard Business School Dean Kim B. Clark included Gordon B. Hinckley, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- whose request earlier this year brought Clark to Idaho -- as well as Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and Harvard President Lawrence Summers.
Clark, 56, said his three chief aims -- cutting costs for students, boosting enrollment opportunities for church members and raising educational standards -- only seemed impossible to accomplish when tackled simultaneously.
"We are not bound by tradition, nor are we limited to our own understanding or to the wisdom of men," Clark told students, faculty and church members at BYU-Idaho's Hart Auditorium, the Idaho Falls Post Register reported.
Until five years ago, BYU-Idaho was a two-year school known as Ricks College. Hinckley announced in 2000 that it would expand to include four-year degrees.
In May, Hinckley persuaded Clark to head the church school in Rexburg in eastern Idaho.
Clark, a Utah native and Mormon bishop who grew up in Spokane, Wash., had been dean of the Harvard Business School since 1995, and a faculty member there since 1978.
Though some questioned Clark's decision, religious scholars told The Associated Press earlier this year that the move was both a sign of Clark's allegiance to his church and a symbol of his elevated status in Mormon ecclesiastical circles.
"While this seems obscure in the eyes of the secular world, for context, if one were thinking for the church, Kim Clark is clearly on the radar screen," said Philip Barlow, a member of the Mormon church and religion professor at Indiana's Hanover College.
After its move to four-year status, BYU-Idaho has quickly added students. With 11,600 full-time undergraduates expected in 2006, it is one of the state's three largest universities, along with the University of Idaho and Boise State University.
Are Mormons Christian? New Web Site and 7-minute Video Say ΄Yes΄
David M. Bresnahan
March 21, 2008
Salt Lake City, Utah Are Mormons Christians? A new web site and video presentation launched by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (known as the Mormons) answer that question as they invite people of all faiths who want to learn about, or strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ to judge for themselves.
Of special interest is a 7-minute online video presentation entitled "The Bread of Life." The moving and inspirational video may be the best 7 minutes ever spent online.
There can be no question in the mind of anyone who visits the site and views the beautiful video presentations, reads the inspirational sermons, listens to the music of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, or sees the beautiful artwork Mormons are Christians. The web site provides many resources to help people develop and strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ.
The new site located at www.JesusChrist.LDS.org took more than a year to design and create, according to project manager Brian Hansbrow in a release sent by the Church. He said the site is designed to give people a deeper understanding of who Jesus Christ is. It features articles, video clips, artwork, an interactive music page and other sections all focused on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. (Note: Sadly the death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world was left out - 1 Corinthians 1:23)
Elder Russell M. Nelson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said the web site helps to further the work begun by Jesus 2,000 years ago when He sent His Twelve Apostles throughout the world to preach of Him.
"In those days they could talk to a few people, here and there," he said in the release. "In our time, we've had radio, television and now we have the Internet. And the Internet is a very excellent way of promoting the word of God." (and LDS propaganda)
The increased discussion in the media for more than a year surrounding the presidential campaigns about whether Mormons are Christians or not, was a major motivating factor that brought about the web site, according to Hansbrow in the release.
Many people are not aware that the word "Mormon" is just a nickname and that the official name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons believe in and use the Holy Bible and believe it is the word of God, but they also use another book called The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. (DNA disproves the claims of the Book of Mormon)
The Book of Mormon is also believed to be the word of God by Latter-day Saints, and comes from the writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent. The writings were on gold plates and were translated into the present book by Joseph Smith and published in English in 1830. Members of the Church consider Joseph Smith to be a prophet of God.
The web site is divided into four main sections. "Faith in Christ" provides help to those who wish to learn of Christ and develop their faith in Him. It includes easy-to-read information, beautiful pictures, and links to the scriptures and multimedia resources.
"His Life and Teachings" helps web site visitors to learn more about the life of the Savior and the teachings he gave. It includes sections that describe who Jesus Christ is, the meaning of the Atonement, and what Latter-day Saints believe about Jesus. (LDS authorities teach that Jesus Christ was married and had children)
The third section of the web site is "Testimonies of Him." It contains the teachings and testimonies of modern day prophets and apostles who witness to all the world of the reality of Jesus Christ and the Savior of the World and Son of God. This section of the site also contains information on how all people can become a witness of Christ. (Modern day Mormon prophets have no prophecies to be measured against)
The final section of the site is the multimedia portion which contains video presentations that can be viewed online. Each is well produced and of very high quality.
One visit to the new web site should clear up any remaining questions about what Mormons believe they believe in Christ. (Muslims and Mormons believe in Jesus Christ also but not as Christians do)
David Bresnahan is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster. He has worked in all areas of journalism and public relations since 1972. He has authored several books, hosted talk radio programs, owned a radio station, on-line newspapers, and other businesses. He is an independent journalist and public relations consultant.
Easter musical by Irvine Mormons leaves out Jesus Christ's face
'Savior of the World,' now at the Irvine stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has a cast of 190 Mormons - but the story's title character is out of sight.
By CAMERON BIRD
Friday, March 21, 2008
The Orange County Register
There are 190 cast members listed in the program for the Irvine production of the Mormon-made musical, "Savior of the World," but the identity of Jesus Christ remains a mystery.
"Everyone's vision of Jesus is a little different," said co-director Linda Simmons, explaining the omission following Wednesday night's opening performance.
Split into two acts, "Savior of the World" recounts only the bookends of the Christ story: his modest birth and his surreal rebirth. At no point in the 2 1/2-hour performance does the audience get a full flash of the protagonist's face, shrouded during the second act by the hood of an ashen robe.
Mark Mortensen, who plays the sagacious disciple Peter, said the portrayal taps into a truth forgotten by many contemporary Christians. "You believe because of what you feel, not because of what you see," he said.
And when warm halogen and ellipsoidal spotlights cascade over the resurrected Christ and the actor's velvety voice rises, audience members seated in the first few rows can certainly feel it.
"We wanted to create an immersive experience," said Simmons, who brings to bear experience as a commercial director for Disney and Mattel.
Unlike past productions of "Savior of the World," Irvine's is "in the round," meaning that the audience surrounds the stage. Standing on three separate balconies that line the theater's perimeter, more than 100 Church members compose an ethereal "angel chorus."
In addition to the elaborate set and setting, Simmons scented the theater with frankincense, myrrh, cedar and pine. "The smells of Jerusalem," she said.
Both the cast and crew worked pro bono. If not for that, Simmons said, "Savior of the World" would've been a $500,000 production.
This was an "exercise in loaves and fishes," she added, alluding to the biblical story in which Christ multiplies food for the starving masses. Exactly where all the motivated talent came from, she said, is an open question.
For tickets, visit www.irvineproductions.com
New LDS ad campaign touts the 'Truth Restored' (Was Jesus Christ Lost? John 14:6)
By Carrie A. Moore
Deseret Morning News
Friday, April 4, 2008
A new advertising campaign for the LDS Church that has been test-marketed in selected areas looks to focus public attention on "Truth Restored" as an answer to life's greatest questions.
With the 178th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints set to begin Saturday, church leaders will focus on specific doctrinal issues for church members. But the new ad campaign is designed to reach those who know little or nothing about the faith.
Developed by the church in conjunction with Brigham Young University's advertising department (Mormon Holy Spirit), the ads inside publications such as Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report and Sports Illustrated, and targeted at specific geographic markets are a departure from the faith's long-running "Homefront" series.
The new print ad campaign features people who identify themselves and their quest to find God, describing a life challenge that sent them looking for meaning in the divine. "I felt so destroyed by my addiction to alcohol and drugs," writes Jovanny Vasquez, of Bronx, N.Y., in a two-page ad that appeared in U.S. News in the Las Vegas area in August.
Appearing alongside the image of a man dancing with a woman and two children, he continues, "I prayed with all my heart to find a solution to my life. I was at the point of losing my wife and family. The God I was looking for was a merciful God. I wanted to know how to be forgiven."
At the bottom of the page, the church's logo appears in large lettering, with the phrase TRUTH RESTORED underneath in smaller type, followed by mormon.org beneath them both.
The campaign, which has adopted a slightly different format for TV, radio, billboard and Internet advertising, has been running for about eight months in four different areas of the country that correspond to designated LDS mission areas: Las Vegas; Las Vegas West; Independence, Mo., including Kansas City and Wichita; and New York Utica, which includes Albany, Syracuse and Utica.
Kevin Kelly, a former New York advertising executive and associate professor of advertising at BYU, told an overflowing auditorium at the school last week about developing the campaign with the church, with oversight from LDS general authorities on the Missionary Executive Council.
In surveys or pretesting done before the campaign began in those markets, results showed 63 percent of respondents didn't know the main claims of the LDS Church. So in an all-out media blitz, the team sought to "have people keep bumping into our message," Kelly said.
"The idea was that (our) media would do the heavy lifting, and that church members would then just answer people's questions, and if they couldn't answer then they would pull out their wallets."
The campaign includes pass-along cards for church members to carry, with answers to questions about topics including life after death, God's involvement in the world and how to keep one's family and marriage safe and secure based on LDS gospel principles.
After three months of intensive media in those markets, surveys were done again and showed that many more people than before "felt it's possible to answer life's deeper questions," Kelly said. "This was thrilling as an advertiser. People were actually looking for answers and also described the main claim of the church, that Christ's church and its teachings have been restored."
After several months, one mission president reported 76 convert baptisms that he believed were in some way attributable to or had been influenced by the campaign, Kelly said. The ads provided "identified messages that are relevant" to everyday people and increased traffic to mormon.org, he said.
Scott Swofford, director of media for the LDS Missionary Department, said the campaign was designed to target areas of the United States "that best mirror the country as a whole." It includes TV and radio spots featuring "man on the street" interviews, but simply walking up to people and asking them to sign a release and talk on camera or for radio "is almost impossible," he said.
The team called casting agencies that supply extras for film and television, told them they needed a diverse population, and had them send the extras to a street corner at a specified time, he said. "Then we asked them questions about life satisfaction that they had never heard before. They were actually questioned on camera, and it wasn't rehearsed, but these are people used to signing releases and appearing in front of cameras.
"I was shocked at how cooperative they were and how honest in their opinions," he said. "We had a wide variety of people to compare and contrast. Many of them expressed opinions that contrasted their own religious belief."
Their comments, including statements like "I would like to think God knows me," and "I don't think God cares about me," were condensed into radio and TV ads, followed by a voice-over that says, "After centuries of confusion, truth about life's great questions is now restored. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Visit mormon.org"
Swofford said the focus of the campaign is "what are things that resonate commonly among us, and does the restored gospel shed light on your question about life?" (The Mormon Gospel is not the Christian Gospel - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
He said eight months "is a pretty short time to decide whether the campaign is working," but the team will continue to analyze data on how it affected people who actually joined the church. "What we do know is that traffic to mormon.org increased from 200 to 300 percent from pretest levels. Of the referrals coming in, many of them are from that site, but we don't have specific numbers yet that say things have improved or changed.
"Whether the net result will be an increase in baptisms we're still trying to figure out where that is."
Early feedback from missionaries, church leaders and members in the test areas is "really enthused. ... Many reported retention (of converts) was better, and we've probably shipped over 500,000 pass-along cards."
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