When Ken Stevens got an afternoon coffee at Salt Lake Roasting Co., he was surprised to see a Book of Mormon on one the tables.
“I did a double-take,” Stevens said. “It was the Book of Mormon, but it looked different than the usual.”
No, Stevens was not experiencing his own ecclesiastical visions – it’s part of a new effort by the LDS Church to revitalize the dwindling youth membership.
“We’re losing the youth, and that’s something we can’t afford,” Elder Marlin K. Jensen, a General Authority for the LDS Church, said. “So Church leadership has agreed on new strategies to recapture the lost sons and daughters of Zion.”
Elder Jensen is referring to the release of a new ‘hipped up’ Book of Mormon that is printed and typeset in ways that research shows appeal to younger demographics, particularly younger trendsetters. The limited edition prints are then strategically placed in specific hangouts where key influential young people go and share ideas.
In addition to the stylistic changes, some content changes have been made, too, such as a dialing down of prejudicial messages towards people with brown skin. This was in response to polls which show these are unpopular with younger demographics.
“The research shows younger people are turned off by racism, and in many others aspects simply find the Book of Mormon stodgy,” said Ruth Todd, spokesperson for the church. “So the goal now is to show young people, ‘hey, we can hang’.”
Church leadership believes that the popularity of irony among this demographic will also aid their cause.
“Thanks to so-called feminists and scholars, many of those we’re trying to reach out to no longer accept anything that claims to be the ‘one true’ thing,” says Todd. “But if they are intrigued by the mythology, cosmology or rich imaginative qualities in the Book of Mormon, they may adopt the Church in their lives just for that in and of itself.”
For Stevens, the strategy seems to be working.
“There’s just something different about the Book of Mormon now,” Stevens said. “I’m digging it – and I never thought I’d say that.”