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A new book shows Mormons have a problem: an image problem. Dr. Gary Lawrence -- who is a Latter-day Saint, a political pollster and market researcher based in California -- says recent news events are not the problem. Rather, it's the way Latter-day Saints talk about their faith.
Mitt Romney's run for the Presidency, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints case in Texas, the protest after California's Proposition 8 vote: All of these news stories put Latter-day Saints and their church in the national spotlight.
But Lawrence says those stories are not the problem when it comes to the faith's image. He conducted a national survey that's the basis for a new book he is now promoting.
"The No. 1 thing that came out, of course, is that our image is upside down. Thirty-seven percent have a favorable impression of us and 49 percent have an unfavorable impression, and those are lousy scores," Lawrence said.
It's even worse when compared with how Americans view other religions. The ratio for people who view those of the Jewish faith in a positive light is nearly 3.5-to-1; the same for Baptists. Catholics' enjoy a positive ratio of nearly 2-to-1; Mormons, less than 1-to-1.
"Thirty-seven percent of all Americans do not know a Mormon, and 55 percent of all Americans do not know an active Mormon. In fact, those who know one Mormon have a worse opinion of us than those who don't know any Mormons," Lawrence said.
Lawrence says his findings point to a fear factor in most Americans about Latter-day Saints and what are perceived as weird beliefs and secretiveness.
One of the biggest gaps he found in his poll: 84 percent said they have seen Church ads, talked with missionaries or received literature; but only 14 percent know what Mormons believe.
He has some advice for fellow Church members. "Simply be yourself. Relax. Don't go into a conversation with an agenda [like] ‘I have to get a referral for the missionaries.' Just be yourself," he said.
Lawrence also suggests Latter-day Saints join community organizations, and when they are explaining their faith, use words that people of other faiths understand.
For more information on the book, CLICK HERE.