You know the commercial. One person is walking down the street eating a chocolate bar. Another approaches from the opposite direction eating peatnut butter. They collide. “Hey, you got chocolate in my peanut butter…”
I was just a child when that commercial came out. My understanding is that before these Reeses Peanut Butter Cups commercials came along, the idea of mixing peanut butter and chocolate together seemed odd, if not kind of gross, to most people. It is true that many chocolate bars had nuts in them at the time, and you could certainly buy chocolate covered peanuts. But somehow it took these commercials to change the cultural perception of the mix.
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, depending on your viewpoint), this kind of cultural change isn’t that easy to accomplish. It turns out that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were invented in 1928, and it took until the 1970s and this commercial for them to gain widespread acceptance.
While Mormon culture has had some similar things come along (think CTR rings, for example), the way these changes seem to happen isn’t as straightforward or under the control of promoters. We don’t have mass media to speak of, so there isn’t a way to get a new cultural idea out for even most English-speaking members in the U.S.
Normally, from what I’ve observed, cultures seem to change slowly, drifting along as pushed by the eddies of a multitude of small influences. Occasionally, larger tides come along to influence the direction of culture. These larger influences come from things like technology, other cultures, and, very occasionally, promotion.
The Mormon subculture in the U.S. also drifts along this way, with the influence of the broader U.S. culture perhaps the most influential force. But as for large influences, I think we basically have one: General Conference. A large part of new cultural ideas accepted by Mormons originated in General Conference. We’ve been told “Lengthen your Stride,” and have been taught the six b’s, along with a host of other ideas that became popular in Mormon culture, all from what was said in General Conference.
For those of us who would like to see some improvements in Mormon culture, the lack of another venue, one more suited to commercial and non-doctrinal messages is a significant stumbling bock. Change seems almost impossible without such a venue or venues.
I suppose I could always hope for some new General Authority to suggest in Conference that just because members should avoid sex, violence, and drugs in their entertainment doesn’t mean they must put up with insipid story lines and an unrealistic portrayal of evil. But I don’t think I’ll keep my hope in such an unlikely occurance up too much.
Instead, what should we do? What steps can we take to improve Mormon culture?