Pinning the Mormon Image: on Mormon (non)distinctiveness

By May 23, 2013

Last September, I wrote about the Mormon “hey girl” meme as a signifier of Mormon culture. I’d like to continue in that vein today when talking about Mormon pins on Pinterest. I’m not the first JI blogger to tackle the subject of Mormons and Pinterest–if you’re unfamiliar with the concept of Pinterest, go take a look at this excellent post, outlining the functionalities of Pinterest and examining how it intersects with notions of Mormon womanhood, written by Andrea in March 2012. A quick excerpt:

The reasons for Mo-Pinning are not really a mystery. For the scrapbooking, stamping, and crafting set, Pinterest is an alternate virtual outlet for the domestic inclinations of the young Mormon mommy.  Pinterest remains relatively free from conflict on divisive religious and political issues, so it also acts as an escape valve from other online forums. And for the particularly zealous LDS proselytizers, what better forum for sharing G.A. quotes, scriptures, and reminders to the world that ?we really are Christians!?

When you enter “Mormon” into the Pinterest search engine, you get a lot of wedding-dresses-with-sleeves, otherwise known as modest:

and insider jokes, like these:

and a variety of adorned quotes.

Then, there are the numerous Visiting Teaching and General Conference printables, the lists of Mormon bloggers, and, these days, pins having to do with the Book of Mormon musical.[1] It’s a wide variety of pins and I am capable of spending more time than I’d like to admit scrolling through these manifestations of Mormon culture.

A quick refresher from my “hey girl” post: pins like the ones above are not only fun, they also serve a purpose. They can be seen as a form of digital material culture that helps categorize religious experience through relationship-building, the construction of meaning, and the signfiying of allegiance to a subculture. Pinning and repinning specifically Mormon content strengthens community feeling and collective memory, but pins also act as a kind of digital bumper sticker, informing others (unasked) of your cultural loyalties.[2] The examples here make clear that the Mormon Pinterest experience is not about fitting in, not entirely or primarily in any case, as enough of these ‘bumper stickers’ pinned to your boards makes it a safe guess that you’re LDS.

But one of the things I find most interesting when it comes to the Mormon Pinterest presence relates to the excerpt of Andrea’s post above. Prettified quotes that run along general religious lines are the norm on Pinterest,[3] and the Mormon origins of quotes like the one above are only marked as such by the name underneath (in this case, Dieter Uchtdorf). And while quotes like these, for those in the know, ‘read’ as particularly Mormon, these pins are also repinned by mainstream Christians who vaguely like the sentiment but are unfamiliar with LDS teachings (and pinners are notorious for never checking the source). Quotes like the following, that not only explicitly mention Mormonism but do so in the context of Mormon doctrine are much rarer.

Yet markers of difference abound, from pictures of temples to I’m a Mormon images to quotes invoking the pioneer experience.[1] After General Conference, Pinterest is flooded with memes relating to the most popular talks (which is nice if you haven’t had time to watch, I guess). Primary activities and relief society lessons also make their way onto the site, and let’s not forget the deep love for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir that some pinners exhibit. Doctrinal differences might be kept under wraps, but there are still enough signs that the peculiar people have been there, if you know what to look for. However, the title of peculiar people might be contested. After all, once you’ve visted the Geek page one too many times, Mormonism starts looking pretty normal.

———————————————————-

[1] Interestingly enough, a picture of our own Matt B also shows up, quite prominently, when you search ‘Mormon’.

[2] That’s exactly why the owner of this board, “I am fascinated by Mormons” makes sure we know she’s not a Mormon. You wouldn’t want to claim a cultural loyalty by mistake–or, even worse, have other people claim it for you.

[3] “Religious” here, though, usually means Christian or agnostic/spiritual-but-not-religious. Judging by the quotes page, pinners take their inspiritation from Christianized spiritual figures, popular culture, and unattributed historical sources. But a search for “Quran” does lead to results, so diversity is slowly but surely making its way through, I guess.

Article filed under Miscellaneous Popular Culture


Comments

  1. I am ashamed to admit that, in spite of having a pinterest account, I still can’t figure out its utility or bring myself to use it. This surely reflects properly on my femininity.

    I love the picture of the Rock, though. His status as a Samoan would mean that he’s Nephite (according to some Mormon folk belief; others would pin him as a Lamanite) and the shock in his eyes about the Nephites dying particularly appropriate.

    Comment by Amanda — May 23, 2013 @ 6:52 am

  2. Great post, and especially enjoyed this:

    They can be seen as a form of digital material culture that helps categorize religious experience through relationship-building, the construction of meaning, and the signfiying of allegiance to a subculture. Pinning and repinning specifically Mormon content strengthens community feeling and collective memory, but pins also act as a kind of digital bumper sticker, informing others (unasked) of your cultural loyalties.

    Comment by Ben P — May 23, 2013 @ 8:28 am

  3. Like Amanda, I do not understand or use pinterest despite having two (don’t know how this happened) accounts, but it seems like it will have to happen some day. It’s so interesting that there is a board by someone who admits to being fascinated by Mormon culture but is not LDS. It seems ok to find Mormonism fascinating as an outsider (as I am), but I wonder how a board by an outsider fascinated by Jewish or Catholic culture would be taken? I’ll have to look around because I am sure such board exist. I do the lay leader infograph on the user’s board to be very helpful!

    Comment by Natalie R — May 23, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

  4. I really like Pinterest, mainly for home improvement ideas and images to keep for when I build a dream house. But some of the Mormon ones are interesting. I liked this infographic I found there for instance. A bit self-congratulatory but interesting nonetheless.

    Comment by Clark — May 23, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

  5. I, a Mormon, am fascinated by the Amish, Mennonite religions and cultures.

    Comment by Kris — May 23, 2013 @ 11:53 pm


Series

Recent Comments

Courtney JP on Review: Stone, William Bickerton:: “Thanks for the detailed and informative review. It is great to see the growing research and publications into other Mormon traditions. I look forward to…”


J Stuart on Review: Stone, William Bickerton:: “Thanks, Chris, for the review. Very interested to get to the book!”


David G. on Review: Stone, William Bickerton:: “Thanks for the review, Chris! I have yet to read the book, but I heard Daniel respond to an Author Meets Critics panel at JWHA…”


J Stuart on Janiece Johnson on the: “Thanks, Robin. I love how Janiece mixes reception history and lived religion methodologies.”


David G. on Janiece Johnson on the: “Thanks for the overview, Robin. Agreed, it's a great article that lays out important questions and possibilities.”


Daniel Stone on Janiece Johnson on the: “Awesome review Robin and great points. This article looks fascinating!”

Topics


juvenileinstructor.org