The co-founder of and current faculty advisor, Sheets has impressive experience in the professional worlds of creative advertising, brand marketing, and public relations.
Sheets explained that people often assume teaching advertising and having a testimony in the restored gospel are mutually exclusive. For Sheets, however, his testimony is not weakened, but is rather shaped by his knowledge and experience with advertising.
“Advertising is creative problem solving,” said Sheets, acknowledging that advertising also has the power to persuade for both positive and negative. The “new age of advertising,” explained Sheets, “focuses on four main points: authenticity, realness, messages with a soul, and accessibility.” And in efforts to connect with millennial audiences while implementing these four points, advertisers have recently used what is called “a social experiment.” Sheets cited aspects of Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign as successful examples.
Working with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sheets discussed a social experiment project he directed with his students designed to teach non-members about the Book of Mormon.
“When I say the word the ‘Book of Mormon,’ we [members of the Church] think of something… when someone else thinks of the Book of Mormon, they think of ‘The Book of Mormon’ musical,” said Sheets. “I wanted to create a social experiment…where non-members could be the ones to tell us what they see and what they think about it.”
Citing 2 Nephi, 31 and Alma 32 as inspiration for the social experiment, Sheets explained that members of the Church “need to find and seek the gift of tongues when [they] speak to people about the Church. For the Lord speaks ‘unto men according to their language unto their understanding.’” The goal of Sheets’ advertising social experiment aimed to promote the Book of Mormon to a new audience, engage people to have a positive experience with the Book of Mormon, and help people understand that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ.
Setting up stations in public areas around the world, Sheets and his team traveled to a diverse number of locations, including London, England; Chicago, Illinois; Cape Town, South Africa; and Sydney, Australia. At these different locations, the team invited 531 pedestrians (one person for each page of the book) to read a page of the Book of Mormon, looking for references to God and Jesus Christ on their respective pages. Participants not only came from different geographic locations, but had diverse religious affiliations and cultural identities. Sheets explained that the Book of Mormon Social Experiment was a powerful reminder of the similarities of God’s children and the Christian message of the Book of Mormon. Participants were surprised at how much their page related to the practices in their own religion.
“Through this experiment, the participants each became a witness that their individual page testifies of Christ,” said Sheets.
As a part of the experiment, Sheets and his team took portraits of each participant and asked for their name, religion, and where they were from. Using this material —along with their underlined pages of the Book of Mormon—Sheets and his team created a compelling and creative campaign that highlighted the unifying and uplifting nature of Mormonism’s most important book.
“God has put us here for a purpose,” said Sheets. “He’s given us opportunities to use all of the skills, beliefs, and talents He has given us… He wants us to use those gifts for his purposes… As we experiment with Him and as we live his word, we can see wonderful experiences and miracles in our lives.”