“Church Television Special Brings 90,000 Responses,” Ensign, Feb. 1977, 94
“Thank you so very much for that beautiful television presentation. I certainly did enjoy it. It really gave me food for thought. Perhaps I will be successful in putting the thoughts into practice as I raise my two sons, with whom I have difficulty in communicating. Thank you for helping me see where I can improve our family life.”
This letter was typical of the 90,000 viewer responses received on “The Family … And Other Living Things,” a special one-hour television program produced by the Church and viewed in more than fifty major television markets throughout the United States.
The program, the first of its kind offered by the Church, was syndicated through local television stations, many of whom cancelled their regular, prime-time network broadcasting.
With a serious underlying message that love, effort, and communication are the basis of better family relations, the program took a tongue-in-cheek approach to everyday family situations. It had its poignant moments, too, and it included three “commercial” messages that illustrated how improvements could be made in the parent-child relationship.
Each message invited the viewers to call a special telephone number or to write in to Church headquarters for an eight-page booklet entitled It’s Next Week, which contains an extension of the program’s message.
Fifty telephones were installed on the twenty-eighth floor of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City, where volunteer hostesses accepted requests for the booklet not only during the viewing times of the show, but also for many days after each broadcast.
The program was first carried by a television station in Raleigh, North Carolina, on November 20. Three weeks later it received a final viewing on December 13 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Many viewers who responded to the program requested a second showing, while others were so impressed with the message that they asked for a regular series on improving family relations.
The impact of the program is reflected in a letter a viewer in Fort Worth, Texas, wrote to his local television station:
“During seventeen years of watching television I have never seen a program so relevant and needed by today’s people. I enjoyed the manner in which the program was presented; the actors and actresses were excellent in their parts, and the theme of the program should be mandatory or at least highly encouraged for prospective parents.
“Even the commercials by the ‘Mormon’ Church were informative and interesting, and they were enjoyed by my entire family. They were refreshing and educational, which is rare for commercials on today’s television programs. I was impressed because they weren’t biased, forceful, or self-righteous in their presentation.”
One lady from Milford, New Hampshire, wrote:
“When I think of the wholesomeness of your program as compared to ordinary, everyday family television, I yearn for more. Enclosed is a check for $25.00. It must have cost a lot to produce the show. I wish I could send you a check for the full amount and say, ‘Here, do another one.’ Thank you for caring enough about others to have given of yourselves so that we could learn.”
Although this particular viewer enclosed a check with her request for the booklet, there was no charge, and the program did not solicit funds.
Often, viewers requested not one booklet but many. Some wanted to share them with all their family members, friends, and neighbors. Other requests for hundreds of copies came from ministers of other faiths who wanted to distribute the booklets to their congregations.
Some of the more touching requests came from small children, one of whom wrote, “Please send me one free book because this family is falling apart. Thanks for bringing the book out. Thanks.”
Although some of the viewer response was from members of the Church, the overwhelming majority was from nonmembers. Many of these declared their own church affiliations, and then went on to express statements such as, “I do very much admire the Mormon Church for the power of its Christian presence in America.”
Telephone calls and letters—approximately 1,300 letters were received daily—were just two of the avenues for viewer response. Prior to broadcasting in the various areas around the country, local members of the Church were encouraged to invite nonmembers into their homes to view the program. Nonmember guests were presented with a copy of the It’s Next Week booklet, which contained a viewer response card seeking opinions on the program, and also asking if they were interested in knowing more about the Church’s “approach to the family and other important aspects of life.” These cards also were included with the booklets requested by viewers.
In addition, in states outside of Utah and other heavily Latter-day Saint populated areas, members of the Church received additional referral cards that they could distribute among their friends and their daily contacts to advertise the program.
For some, just watching the program was enough. They telephoned for the missionaries. For others, there was a special response. One young mother-to-be wrote: “I am 5 1/2 months pregnant with our first child. As my husband watched the show I saw him, for the first time, laugh, cry, and want this child, and it made me warm all over.”