Utah vendors put Mormon faith behind their products
Sandy • To the uninitiated, the T-shirts Mark Thayer is selling bear an interesting pattern of circles and lines.
To those who get the riddle that the symbols represent the "plan for salvation" that is part of the doctrine among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the shirts are, Thayer boasted, "the best thing since the CTR ring."
Thayer, co-owner of Houston-based Oh My Words, and his business partner Robert Hall were two of the vendors at the first Latter-day Expo, a public trade fair of all things marketed to the LDS faithful.
The event, held Saturday at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy, is an extension of the annual convention of the LDS Booksellers Association, a nonprofit group of more than 300 businesses that sell LDS-related products.
Thayer's company has been selling their LDS-themed shirts for about 10 months, mostly through the website lds-happiness.com. Like the well-known "Choose the Right," or CTR, shield, his company's design is meant to get people to ask questions, and is "a simple unobtrusive way to share the gospel."
"We've had nonmembers say, 'I don't know what it means, but it looks cool,' " Thayer said.
Some of the vendors at the Expo were selling products specific to LDS buyers. Tracy Uptain, co-founder of South Jordan-based Missionary Messages, for example, was selling pre-printed postcards that LDS missionaries can send home to their loved ones.
"My son served in a Detroit mission, and his complaint to me was that he never had time to write," Uptain said.
At vendor booths, people could buy jewelry, board games, DVDs, toys, clothing, artwork and books many of them touting LDS values.
Meanwhile, entertainers with LDS ties performed at one end of the Expo. Beyond 5, a boy band formed in Utah County, sang while The Jets, a family pop band popular in the late '80s, signed autographs and posed for photos with fans.
LDS authors were on hand to sign their books. In one room, movies with spiritual messages were screened, including last year's popular LDS thriller "The Saratov Approach."
Some products were not exclusive to LDS buyers. Judith Campau, founder of a company called Write For Her, showed off her creation scarves with uplifting messages silk-screened on them.
Campau was inspired to create the scarves three years ago, after moving to Utah from Michigan. Shortly after she moved, her mother back in Michigan was diagnosed with cancer. Looking for a way to help, Campau printed a message of love on a scarf.
"She told me how much it meant to her," Campau said. "She felt it."
Campau, who is LDS, prints some messages that are faith-specific, but many that are more general.
David Bowman, an LDS artist from Snowflake, Ariz., sells his "Expressions of Christ" artwork at events for both LDS buyers and evangelical Christians. The audiences are quite similar, he said, though "evangelicals wear their faith on their sleeve" and might break out in prayer in the middle of his booth.
Bowman stresses that his images of Jesus appeal to a wide range of the faithful. "Let's break down some of those silly walls between Mormons and evangelicals," he said.