Saturday, November 15, 2008

This Prohibition Has Been Brought to You by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Remember those family-values PSAs that used to run on broadcast television? They showed people facing emotional crises, and how they were comforted by compassion, patience and love from their families. At the end of each 30-second melodrama was a voiceover saying "This message brought to you by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints."

The PSAs were part of a branding campaign to make the LDS church seem more mainstream and Christian at a time (the 1970s) when it was still viewed with a great deal of suspiscion outside of Utah (the Osmonds notwithstanding). The Mormon church is a world religion, with ambitious plans for expansion. However, it also had an unfortunate history of warfare with non-Mormon neighbors. So those commercials served two purposes -- to attract some people to join the LDS church, and to encourage other U.S. churches to stop viewing Mormonism as a threat. "We're on the same side" was the subtext.

Now, the LDS church has a new branding strategy -- they are the force of social conservatism. This was the year they flexed their political muscles.

First, during the presidential primary season, they called upon their members to donate to Mitt Romney's campaign. However, although the conservative evangelical elites were willing to back him, the evangelical masses preferred Mike Huckabee. They perceived Romney as a flip-flopping phony, and many of them still don't care for Mormons.

So, since the LDS church could not win them over with love, they are now winning them over with strength. By becoming involved in a big way in support of California's Proposition 8, Mormons have demonstrated that they can be the arbiters of social policy in other states just as they have always been in Utah. They have accomplished more on their own than all of the conservative protestant churches and the mightly Catholic Church managed to do in alliance. The evangelical wing-nuts may never love Mormons, but they will certainly respect them now.

So, what other social prohibitions can we look forward to, now that the LDS church has discovered its power? How about laws that make alcohol less available? They won't try outright prohibition (that would be political suicide), but I expect them to start nibbling away at the edges of our access. Which state will be the first to adopt "conscience" legislation that will allow teetolaling waitrons to work at Appleby's without being forced to serve alcohol? I cannot say, but I would lay odds that Wisconsin will be the last. The throw-down between the LDS church and the Tavern League will be worthy of pay-per-view.

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