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Mormonism’s “We’re Not Weird” Campaign

by Sharon Lindbloom
18 April 2023

Once upon a time The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints freely identified itself as being different. In 1976, the man who became the church’s 15th president wrote,

“Suffice it to say that [the LDS church’s] theology, its organization, and its practices are in many respects entirely unique among to­day’s Christian denominations” (Gordon B. Hinckley, What of the Mormons? a non-paginated tract)

President Hinckley was fond of pointing out that Latter-day Saints were “peculiar people,” quite different than the rest of the world. He even went on record in 2002 noting that one of the ways Mormonism differed from Christianity was the different Christ the LDS church followed:

“As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say” (Gordon Hinckley, “We look to Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2002, p. 90).

At that time, Mormonism was understood to be, and promoted from within as, different and unique. Yet in 2008 when President Hinckley died, the obituary that appeared in National Public Radio’s news included this:

“Mormons used to pride themselves as a ‘peculiar’ people. But being perceived as mainstream became increasingly important during Hinckley’s tenure, with the Church appearing more often in the public eye…” (“Mormon Leader Gordon B. Hinckley Dies at 97”)

Now, fifteen years later, the LDS Church’s current president Russell M. Nelson is carrying the same torch. Since President Nelson became the leader of the LDS church in 2018, much has been done to change the long-standing recognition of Mormonism’s uniqueness. These efforts include a “name correction” for the church (dropping “Mormon” and “LDS”), a new Christocentric logo, and a revised LDS temple endowment ceremony that now includes more mentions of Christ than it used to (to name but a few).

LDS author Jana Riess points out the most recent move to make Mormonism look more like Christian churches in an article dated April 8 (2023), “Mormons have discovered Holy Week. Why now? Here’s hoping that embracing Easter isn’t merely a ‘we’re not weird, please like us’ campaign.”

According to Dr. Riess, an adult convert from Protestantism to Mormonism,

“I can remember plenty of [LDS] sacrament meetings in earlier years when we didn’t discuss Easter at all. No special music, no retelling of the empty tomb. It felt impoverished to sit in the pews on what was supposed to be the holiest day of the Christian calendar and hear a prosaic talk on why we should rotate the items in our food storage. (Yes, that happened.)”

But Dr. Riess notes a greater emphasis on Easter in LDS meetings in recent years, a change that she says she’s “delighted” to see. Yet, though hopeful, she’s not convinced that the new emphasis on Easter — and the Holy Week leading up to it — is motivated by her church’s sincere desire to make Christ the true focus of her religion. She harbors concern that these recent changes made by the LDS church are but “one facet of an ongoing quest for assimilation.”

It’s not hard to see why Dr. Riess might feel this way. The new LDS church emphasis on Easter seems orchestrated – almost like a board room decision to change a brand direction. 

Inside the LDS Church Administration Building.

One of the things Dr. Riess cites is the frequent references to Palm Sunday that were included in April’s General Conference talks. She thought its frequency quite remarkable even though she had been informed of only four occurrences. According to Deseret News, the number was much higher than that: 

“The mentions of Palm Sunday were striking. In fact, leaders mentioned that day 20 times on Sunday. That’s one more time than that exact term had been said in general conferences in the first 192 years of the gatherings…”

Dr. Riess also points out a set of new, never-been-done-before Holy Week daily readings posted on an LDS church website. She notes that,

“the intended audience for the page is not current members of the church, but prospective converts. All of the Scripture passages are from the New Testament and none from the Book of Mormon, even though at conference last weekend, Elder Stevenson extolled the Book of Mormon as ‘a gift of unique witness, another testament of the Easter miracle that contains perhaps the most magnificent Easter Scriptures in all of Christianity.’”

In fact, the webpage Dr. Riess mentions is found on the LDS church’s website for non-members, Come unto Christ., and offers four invitations to meet with LDS missionaries and three links to request a missionary meeting. 

Though some LDS members have posted online comments saying they have always experienced special Easter services at their wards, perhaps their experiences have been the exception rather than the rule. In all my decades of worshiping in a Christian church, leadership has never needed to publish a directive telling congregants and staff that Easter Sunday was a time to focus on Jesus. But in February of this year, the LDS church’s First Presidency did just that. 

Mormon Church leadership made a formal announcement canceling all Easter Sunday meetings other than the Sacrament meeting and instructed that “Sacrament meeting that day provides an opportunity to feature Christ-centered messages and sacred music.” News outlets reported on this announcement saying things like:

  • “[Latter-day Saints will celebrate at their church] on Easter Sunday, April 9, with worship services — including messages and music — to center on the Savior.” (The Church News)
  • “The Easter services will be a sacrament meeting with a focus on Jesus Christ.” (
  • “[C]hurch members will celebrate Easter on Sunday, April 9, with a single worship meeting commemorating the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (Herald Extra)

This notice to structure the Easter Sacrament meeting in such a way that it would focus on Christ makes me think that Dr. Riess’ experiences in her LDS wards on Easter (i.e., not discussing Easter at all) has not been at all uncommon. 

This 2023 Easter holiday marks a definitive change in the way the LDS church approaches the holiest and happiest of Christian celebrations. As LDS apostle Gary Stevenson said at this month’s General Conference, a more Christ-centered Easter for Latter-day Saints “includes a greater and more thoughtful recognition of Palm Sunday and Good Friday as practiced by some of our Christian cousins” (“The Greatest Easter Story Ever Told”).

No longer is the LDS church wanting to be recognized as different or unique. It wants to be recognized as part of the body of what it has historically called “apostate Christendom.”

And this really is the point. Mormonism began because (as Joseph Smith claimed) God said all Christian churches were wrong, all their creeds were an abomination, and all their professors were corrupt. By necessity, Mormonism had to be different.

That was then and this is now. What’s changed? Truly, nothing has changed. Nothing that matters, anyway.

The LDS church has never disavowed the statements against Christianity made by its leaders. Consider these few:

“With regard to true theology, a more ignorant people never lived than the present so-called Christian world.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:199)

“We talk about Christianity, but it is a perfect pack of nonsense…the Devil could not invent a better engine to spread his work than the Christianity of the nineteenth century.” (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 6:167)

“Believers in the doctrines of modern Christendom will reap damnation to their souls.”
(Bruce R. McConkie, “Damnation,” Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, 177)

Though the LDS Church wants to share in the validity and respectability the Christian church has built over two millennia, it still rejects the biblical doctrines on which Christianity stands. This includes a rejection of the biblical Christ that Christians worship and adore. LDS apostle Bruce McConkie taught,

“And virtually all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ whom they vainly suppose to be a spirit essence who is incorporeal, uncreated, immaterial, and three-in-one with the Father and Holy Spirit.”
(Bruce R. McConkie, “False Christs,” Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, 269)

Clearly, the Christ of Mormonism is not the Christ of Christianity. Therefore, regardless of how much the LDS church and its leaders talk about Christ, no matter how many times they say His name, despite to what lengths they may go to make the church appear more Christ-centered, nothing has changed beneath the wished-for façade of “we’re not weird.” 

Some years ago, while discussing an increase in mentions of Jesus Christ in LDS General Conferences, I wrote, “Mormon leaders may indeed be talking more about Jesus Christ in more recent General Conferences, but it is still a ‘different Jesus Christ’ of whom they speak” (“LDS Leaders Speak More of Jesus,” Mormonism Research Ministry, 2016).

Over the years I’ve written often about the LDS church’s efforts to look like a Christian church as it continues to initiate new strategies to that end. Each time the conclusion has been the same, and it’s the same today: Mormonism remains profoundly different from Christianity. Nothing has changed.

To see Sharon’s other news articles, click here.

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