Do you occasionally visit anti-Mormon websites? I do. Every few months I Google Mormon, Mormons, Mormonism, LDS, Latter-day Saints and Latter day saints. Note the slight variations in the search terms. You get different results with each one. I just love the new Google feature which brings up the most popular search terms as you type. That provides valuable information.
I am intensely interested in how the online community finds information on the church and our people. The searches have improved dramatically over the past year since I started blogging. After you Google Mormon, click on Video, News or Blogs to find a world of information that just didn’t exist a few years ago. It’s a miracle. Really, it is. But is it helping or hurting?
For example, in the news today under Mormon we find that the Reverend Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, once again called Mitt Romney a cult member. He must have gotten so much mileage out of that statement the last time he used it when Mitt was running that he decided to try it again. Doesn’t he realize that Mitt Romney is no longer the hot news topic?
Recovery from Mormonism
Today I paid another visit to one of the sites that continues to remain on the front page of any Google search for Mormon or Mormonism – the Recovery from Mormonism forum. In there I discovered that Flat Lander’s disciplinary council has been delayed until after the Nov election. Readers are having a field day with this one. It’s so sad to read some of the comments there.
If you have read any of the stories on the RfM site you may ask why I would go there or spend any amount of time there. Yes, many of the letters and comments are poorly constructed and filled with anger but in just a few minutes you can find common themes. I find it helpful to understand where ex-Mormons are coming from as many of them write comments on my blog.
The most common theme is deception. Many who write there report that they just didn’t know certain things about church history and were shocked when they discovered them. That to me is clear evidence of a need to teach our history better. Our youth and new converts need a friend who can help them deal with the warts that they will discover. We all know that they exist.
Compared to the Recovery from Mormonism site, Post-Mormon is a relatively new site, but is gaining in popularity. With 569 posts, you can also see that Flat Lander is not the “High Priest in good standing” that he claims to be. I’m not saying that participating in Post-Mormon makes you an apostate, but it’s clear that his problems with the church began long before Prop 8.
If you live in the Intermountain West you may have seen their billboards. I noticed some on a recent trip to Utah and looked them up when I got to a computer. The site is professionally done and seems to be well run. I’m sure many of you know a lot more about those who run this site. It is registered to Jeff Ricks out of Logan, Utah. You can read more about him in the Deseret News.
The tenor of letters and comments on Post-Mormon is mostly a step up from what you’ll find on RfM, but not much. There are still many that write for shock value, and seek sympathy for their particular case. Each exit story is unique, but again, all seem to have a common theme of loss. The result is a loss of faith through a perceived deception or some offense, real or imagined.
Labels in general are not good because they are never accurate or precise enough or even fair. However, the term anti-Mormon has been around a long time so I’m going to stick with it. For the most part, I find anti-Mormon sites to be run by Christian ministries, as opposed to former Mormons. This is not always true, but most of them focus on bringing Mormons to Christ.
I like that. We all need to focus more on Christ. I love the comments I receive from those who are working hard to remind me that true religion, at least the Christian religion, is centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ. When I engage in dialog with someone from one of these sites, I am almost always delighted to conclude the dialog with a new-found friend as we talk of Christ.
Two of the most popular online ministries to the Mormons are CARM and MRM. I have written about CARM previously and have enjoyed my dialogs with Matt Paulson, who seems to be the most active in reaching out to people like me. Take a look at the Mormonism Research Ministry, especially this: “Aren’t you just a bunch of biased and hateful bigots who persecute Mormons?“
New Order Mormons
I’ve written about New Order Mormons previously, but wanted to mention them again. One might be tempted to categorize them in with the Ex-Mormons and Post-Mormons, but I keep them separate because they do not advocate leaving the Mormon Church. Their focus is on helping those who no longer believe the doctrine to remain a part of the LDS community.
Another unique thing I like about the NOMs is that they introduced me to an idea that was just totally foreign to my way of thinking growing up in the Mormon Church – that it’s OK to doubt. Now don’t go thinking I’ve lost my testimony because I haven’t. It’s just that I never imagined that you could be a Mormon and not believe the doctrine. They call it being a cultural Mormon.
If you survey your own ward, I am confident that you will find several regular members who are cultural Mormons. They come to church regularly or semi-regularly but just aren’t interested in the doctrine. They come because they were raised in the church or their spouse participates and it contributes to a happier marriage. They probably don’t even know that they are NOMs.
Summary and Conclusion
Some may be offended that I have written about these sites that provide an alternative voice to the official LDS church point of view. It is not my attention to offend. Alternative views are a fact of life, especially in today’s Internet society. Our kids and grand kids know all about these sites and it should not be a shock that they exist. We can’t hide our heads in the sand.
You may feel that this is doing the Church a disservice by bringing light to these sites. I disagree. I have always felt that opposing viewpoints are good and that we can learn from everyone, no matter how much we may feel they are wrong. It has been my experience that those who create and write on these sites really just want to be understood and accepted.
The gospel is being spread through the Internet in a big way these days. Almost everyone turns to the Internet after being first introduced to the church by a friend or by the missionaries. It behooves us to know what they will find and be prepared to answer their questions. Besides, you might learn something that will strengthen your faith in what you will find. I know I have.
Note: Post-Mormon billboard courtesy of Jeff Ricks, but without specific permission