2011: What a Year for Mormons!

It would not be an overstatement to say that Mormons, or rather The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has had a BIG year in 2011! From a Mormon blogger's perspective, and as one who tries to keep up with everything 'Mormon', I finally reached a point where I had to say "uncle"! It didn't take long into 2011 before I realized that there was no way that one Well-Behaved Mormon Woman could possibly keep up with it all!

From this year's Mormon Social Media explosion to Mormons in politics, the LDS Church has definitely been having what is currently being referred to as a "Mormon Minute" --  or more like 525,600 of them!  I'll confess, that with some things I was thrilled from the onset, but when it came to other things, such as what happened on Broadway with The Book of Mormon Musical, I was concerned how it would reflect on the Church.   I will now admit, that overall, its gone pretty well -- as it seems nearly everyone that has seen the play is curious to know if Mormons are offendedand many of them have landed here on my blog to find out!

Having two Mormon candidates running for President has turned out to be relatively good for the Church as well, --  so far as an increase of attention to our beliefs goes.  Although, we have had to spend quite a bit of time responding to accusations that we are a cult.  Sigh...

I say "good" because due to the increased interest in Mormonism, Mormons have had more opportunity than ever before to share their beliefs with those outside of the LDS faith -- and not because I think everything that has garnered attention is necessarily "good".   Most notable is that the Church has been right there to support member's responses by continually creating excellent resources, about Mormonism and our beliefs, for members to share via social media.   Be sure to follow LDS Media Talk to keep up on new LDS products.  And let me give a huge nod to the team over at LDS Public Affairs who run the LDS Newsroom!  The Church has a number of behind the scene teams, who work diligently on everything related to helping people learn about the LDS Church and our beliefs, on the Internet -- and they are doing an exceptional job!

There are now more ways than ever before to share the gospel, online, that it nearly boggles the mind -- well at least mine!  Almost weekly the LDS Church is launching new media projects that are easily shared by members.  And if I do say so myself, we've been doing a pretty good job of doing just that!

If you haven't realized it yet, LDS members are very involved, and I believe, partially responsible for what is happening with the type of attention the Church is receiving -- particularly during this past year.  Your voice and how you are using it, is making a difference in how the Church is perceived by the general public.  Just this last week Inc. Magazine named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and more specifically the Book of Mormon as one of the 10 Surprising Brand Winners of 2011.  Check this out...

"When South Park creators Parker and Stone launched an obscene musical entitled The Book of Mormon, officials at the Church of the Latter Day Saints could have gotten their magical underwear in a twist. Instead, they made a simple statement that the musical was "entertaining" and directed people to read the book itself. Such mature restraint is unusual for a religious brand. (Imagine if the musical had been named The Koran!) 
Lesson: People like brands that don't take themselves too seriously."

Well, little does Inc. Magazine know but we do take ourselves very seriously, and that is precisely why we respond very thoughtfully to much of what is considered controversial --  staying focused on what actually matters.   Everyday now, I see members online sharing LDS media on Facebook, Twitter and Google+  just to name a few.  It's inspiring to see members learning how to respond in a positive manner to what might be perceived as negatives toward their beliefs!  We're learning that being defensive never works, but taking these opportunities to share our beliefs is the win!

I could probably write a book about all the awesome things that happened with the LDS Church and its members, online, during 2011, but since I've blogged about many of them I'll leave it at that...  But don't you think it was so cool that President Monson blogged!  We now officially can call him 'Prophet, Seer and Blogger'!  Who could have predicted that?  Certainly not me!

And what about our digital army of online missionaries that actively share the gospel online, over on Twitter -- every General Conference!  Even Deseret News picked up on that story!

A highlight of 2011 for the Church, in my opinion, was the launch of the new LDS website:  The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Videos.

Here's a little bit of what I shared about this new website, over on a post I wrote on Hubpages last week:

One thing I particularly appreciate in the making of each of these Bible videos is that no liberties were taken in how they might be interpreted. In fact, there is much more visual than audio in the videos – which enables the ability of each individual to reflect personally, on what the account means. Each short video is with integrity produced, in that it is true to the text of the King James Version of the Bible. Meaning that regardless of what Christian denomination you belong, you will feel the spirit of the actual scriptural account, through the Holy Spirit. And this is exactly as the videos are intended to be.
You can read my entire article/review HERE!

Over the last few days as I've been reflecting on what has happened with the LDS Church, particularly online, over this past year of 2011.  I'm really proud to have been a part of it all -- even if only observing from the sidelines.  Whether the Church and its members were responding to critics on various issues, creating new media, helping in our communities, building temples, reaching out to give humanitarian aid, etc...  they are doing it in a manner, that I believe, is befitting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I look forward to 2012 and what that inevitably will bring.  No doubt it will be that that which will take us take us all out of our comfort zones.  What were you, as a Mormon, most surprised by in 2011 -- or feel was most significant for the Church?

Kathryn Skaggs

UPDATE 12/28:  Well, this year is surely going out with a BIG BANG...  Our dear Mormon Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, made the list of the Top Ten Most Admired Men living in the world, for 2011!  

"These results are based on a Dec. 15-18 USA Today/Gallup poll. In 1946, Gallup first asked Americans to name, without prompting, the person they most admire living in any part of the world. Since 1948, Gallup has asked Americans to name separately the Most Admired Man and Most Admired Woman, and has done so each year except in 1967 (when only Most Admired Man was asked) and 1976."

Read more about it here...

Church News: President Monson is listed among Gallup Poll's ten most admired men

Deseret News: President Thomas S. Monson one of Americans' 10 'Most Admired Men,' Gallup poll says

LDS Newsroom: Year in Review: 2011 Another Year of Progress for the Church 
"In 2011 new temples were announced and others dedicated, and increased public attention was focused on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in what many journalists have called the “Mormon Moment.”

Deseret News best of 2011: The family
"This year the Deseret News shifted its focus to six core areas of editorial emphasis:the family, financial responsibility, care for the poor and needy, education, values in the media and faith."

Looking forward to 2012
"We wind down from Christmas festivities and look back on what the old year has brought. At the same time, we start gearing up for what the new year might bring."

By Common Consent: 2011: The Year of the Mormon
"What a wild year it’s been. Never has Mormonism been so culturally relevant, and never has the undulating curve of popular opinion shifted so wildly, so quickly. "

Without CHRIST there would be NO Christmas!

I couldn't let Christmas pass without taking the time to share some of my feelings about Jesus Christ, and wish each of you a very Merry Christmas!  It's late Christmas Eve as I'm writing this post, and for the first time in nearly 30 years, I am not home for Christmas. (although most of you probably won't read this until Christmas day)  When my husband and I realized that we would be alone come Christmas morning, the decision was quickly made that we would spend this Christmas with our oldest daughter and her family.  Christmas without children, for me, was not an option.

It was a real treat to see how my daughter has taken traditions that we developed in our home as she was growing up, and then added some new ones.  My favorite was how they light a candle representing Jesus Christ -- He being the light of the world, and then one by one we each got to light our own little candle from His.  We then went around, by candlelight, and shared our testimonies with each other.  It was a sweet memory that I will cherish for years to come.

The best part about not being home for Christmas, is that someone else gets to do all the cooking!  Which leaves me with a little more time for pondering the true meaning of Christmas.  Earlier today I heard this...  Without CHRIST there would be no Christmas.  That struck me when I heard it, because it is so true!  Without the mission of Jesus Christ, the giving of gifts would not have the meaning behind it that it represents.  It would be simply shopping for others.  In fact, everything that we think of when we think of Christmas probably wouldn't exist.  Evergreen Christmas trees that remind us of eternal life -- His greatest gift! Or the star atop the tree that reminds us of the great Light that came into the world on that first Christmas night -- The Light of the World!  And Christmas lights, too!  Think of all the beautiful Christmas carols that we sing each year, such as "Oh Holy Night", "Silent Night", "Oh Come All Ye Faithful", "Joy to the World", "The First Noel"!  Each of these songs are songs of praise and joy at His coming! Christmas music fills our hearts with the Spirit of Him.  Why, without Christmas carols -- these songs of the heart -- who can even imagine Christmas?  I could go on, but I think you get what I'm trying to convey here.  For the most part, the majority of our traditions point to Jesus Christ and what He means to the Christian world.

To me, Jesus Christ means eternal families -- my eternal family.  I've said it before, but without the possibility to be with my family beyond this life, nothing else has much meaning.  I have a deep testimony of the mission of Jesus Christ -- Who He Is, what His mission here upon the earth accomplished, and His perfect love for each one of us.  That great love is part of the greatest love story ever told, which resulted in the greatest gift to all mankind!  And that is what CHRISTmas is all about.  It is the celebration of His birth -- of Him who came into the world to save us from our sins and make it possible for us, through Him, to overcome this world and be lifted to greater heights!

Christmas is so much more than what commercialism and the world has done with it -- even with the many attempts to ignore its origins.  And what I love most, is that even with all the modern-day commercialism of Christmas, it is still impossible to ignore the true meaning of Christmas!  It's all around us, in all the symbolism that is CHRISTmas!

Christmas Video: A Gift to the World

This video is from the new LDS website:  The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Videos

Without CHRIST, truly there would be no Christmas!

Kathryn Skaggs