The Mormon Channel recently interviewed Church Public Affairs managing director Michael Otterson about current public perceptions of the Church, as well as what more can be done to help the public better understand Church beliefs and practices.
A recent study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows that over half of Americans know little or nothing about Mormons, 47 percent have an unfavorable view of Mormons and one-third say Mormons are not Christians.
Otterson told the Mormon Channel that the purpose of the Church Public Affairs Department is to help the public see the Church as it really is. However, Otterson added that the burden to accomplish that goal does not rest solely on the Church as an organization. Rather, public perceptions are influenced just as much — if not more so — by interactions with individual Church members.
“The body of research in public relations practice emphasizes very strongly that you cannot change people’s perceptions of an organization by simply sending out messages,” Otterson said. “You only change people’s perceptions of an organization by that organization’s behavior or actions, or by the actions of the people that represent it.”
“What I would hope people would respond to when they hear the word ‘Mormon’ is that they think first of all, these are people whose beliefs, whose doctrines, whose practices are rooted in Christ,” Otterson said. “And secondly, right behind that would be the idea that these are people who live their religion.”