Antagonism makes good Mormon news

Some have claimed that all the attention the LDS Church has been receiving lately is a PR fiasco. Nothing could be further from the truth. It has become a PR bonanza. As an LDS blogger, I can write just about anything that mentions Proposition 8 or same-sex marriage and can guarantee a doubling of my web traffic for that essay. That comes in real handy to get my message across.

Six months ago, my web traffic was flat. I have seen a huge increase in the last sixty days. A review of Google Analytics for Latter-Day Commentary reveals that the most popular pages are my essays on marriage and sexuality, which are listed on the sidebar. Most visitors stay to read more than the original essay that they searched on, so my blog is gaining exposure because of it.

An Army of Davids

The message I am trying to get across is that the LDS Church is not a cult, that we are followers of Jesus Christ and that we take a strong stand on moral and social issues that face the world today. Of course I get lots of readers who disagree and say so in their comments. That’s OK. If they can read a message from me or from an Army of Davids like me, then I am happy with that.

I am just one of thousands of new LDS Bloggers springing up in response to the leaders of our church who have asked us to get more involved in the electronic dialog going on all around us. If you are one of those new, small LDS Bloggers, you may not think that it makes a difference to write good essays about the church, our beliefs or practices, but I can assure you that it does.

Change in the New Media

I’m sure you are aware that the rules of public persuasion have changed over the last few years. The old media – newspapers and broadcast television news – are slowly dying. They know that they must transform themselves to be more like the successful online news outlets of today. Who would have thought ten years ago that Matt Drudge could change the way we get news?

When an apostle encourages us over and over to get involved in sharing our message online, there must be something he knows that, if we follow his counsel, will make a difference in the world. I am convinced that we are still at the beginning stages of this new media revolution. We have the tools and potential to take the gospel to all the world through member blogging.

Unto the ends of the earth

It is highly probable that the antagonism towards the LDS church and the members will only get worse over the next few years. Our golden days in the sunshine of favorable media coverage are probably over. They seemed to climax with the 2002 Winter Olympics and have been flat or going downhill ever since with the FLDS raid in Texas, the Romney campaign and now Prop 8.

The difficult issue for LDS member blogging, as I see it, is the fact that we are so provincial. Besides the obvious language barrier, we write about stuff that mainly seems to concern us here in the Western United States. That’s mainly because that’s where most LDS member bloggers are located. I wonder if our readers outside of the United States tire of our local bickering.

Join LDS member blogging

I have written previously about ldsblogs.com, but it deserves another mention. If you are not computer savvy or not comfortable with the idea of building and creating your own blog using Blogger or WordPress, then by all means, go see how easy it is to start your own blog on the tool created by the MoreGood Foundation. LDS.net and ldsblogs.com are great places to start.

If you get involved in online communities just to add a sane voice to the wild and crazy claims made by those who don’t know, I recommend that you create your own blog. The first thing I want to do when I read a comment on a blog or forum is to know more about the individual who wrote it. That’s why most forums allow you to link back to your own blog. It’s a good idea.

Antagonism better than apathy

I would much rather see the kind of traffic I have been getting over the last sixty days than what I was getting for most of the previous six months. I don’t feel the quality of my essays changed, but I did write more content that was geared towards the national dialog. In other words, when I saw an article that seemed misinformed, I wrote my own and linked to it. The traffic went up.

Sure, I got visits from people who completely disagreed with what I believe and presented, and they were not hesitant to let me know, sometimes in a manner that was meant to hurt. In fact, because of our blogging activities, Carol and I both received threats and attacks in an attempt to get us in trouble with our employers. So far, we have been able to deal with it successfully.

Summary and conclusion

Blogging for me is an attempt to share the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It has been a bit of an eye-opener lately as I have come to see the results. Even emphasizing the most basic and fundamental of our beliefs has now become a risky activity. I am grateful that Blogger so far does not seem to be subject to the kind of attacks that happened to Meridian Magazine.

I stand by my assertion that all this antagonism towards the church and the members has and will continue to result in good publicity for the work of the Lord. I would rather face a world of antagonistic readers than the apathy that so permeates our society when it comes to learning about the fruits of true religion. We have so much to offer the world if they only knew about it.

11 comments for “Antagonism makes good Mormon news

  1. mormonsoprano.com
    November 25, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Great post! I second your sentiments completely. I have also seen a dramatic increase in my readership over the past 4 months. Although it is a lovely temptation to think it is because of my brilliant writing talent …ha… the truth is there are plenty of people out there who are interested in hearing a Mormon perspective. We are a “hot topic” these days. Our mission work online does not necessarily always focus upon people not of our faith. I believe that as members, reading each others blogs and sharing our thoughts helps to strengthen our collective testimonies and become a stronger and more articulate community. The bar has been raised. It is no longer enough to be active members of the church rearing our families. The pioneer days of clinging to Zion and removing ourselves from the world are over. It is required of us to become fully involved in our communities and the world. As recognized by the New York Times and many other news journals recently, Mormons are in the spotlight more than ever before. What a great blessing and opportunity to rise and shine!

  2. Clean Cut
    November 26, 2008 at 5:08 am

    Great post indeed. Many fascinating things to think about. I love the analogy for “an army of David’s”. Although I’m not particularly concerned with web traffic to my blog, it is good to have enough interested people to engage in conversation. It’s also nice to have a place to give Mormonism a fair hearing. There are way too many misperceptions and falsehoods out there about us, even if many of them are somewhat based on fact. And often when I visit other blogs to try to clarify, they don’t want to hear what I have to say about my own faith.There is no doubt that much good is accomplished from our participation with our blogs. I can speak from personal experience of how much I have learned and grown in understanding of my faith through blogging. I’ve also enjoyed good thought provoking words such as this post. Keep her up!

  3. cogger
    November 26, 2008 at 6:12 am

    If you think this is helping your out of your mind. There are three groups reacting to the Mormons on this issue and your not gaining ground with any of them. First and probably the largest group are those who don’t care or have not heard of prop 8. They don’t alter the equation either way so we can forget about them. Second are those who supported this measure this group is mostly religious and ironically they have traditionally been the group with the most antipathy towards you. While they will support you while your in the same boat the minute you step out your all heretical cultists again. Remember what this segment said about Romney. Third are those who see this as a civil rights issue they equate your support now with previous actions by the Latter Day Saints like their opposition of the equal right amendment. Among this group the reaction has been visceral (trust me I know living in San Francisco I’m hearing it a lot) among them neutrality or fondness has been replaced in some cases by what could almost be called hatred. They see you as people who have come in and stolen their rights. Don’t take my word for it ask missionaries who have been working in liberal areas what kind of reaction they have been getting. And this doesn’t even mention the division this issue has caused within the church. But sure your blogs getting more hits and that’s always good.

  4. Tim Malone
    November 26, 2008 at 8:26 am

    Hi Cogger, thanks for coming back to visit my blog and leave your comments on this essay. You raise some interesting points that deserve a response. I appreciate the opportunity to engage in dialog and hope you will return.Yes, I do think that all the attention the church has been receiving in the news lately has been helping to expose more people to the Mormon faith. It is precisely the first group that I am most interested in – those who don’t care about or have not heard of the Mormons. Most of them are in the Eastern half of the United States.They may not have heard about or care about Proposition 8, but they are probably wondering why we are being attacked. We’re interested in raising their awareness of just who we are. This is happening because of all the press – good or bad. They are starting to ask questions and read in-depth stories about the church.You’re probably right about the second group – the religious, or more accurately, those who profess Christianity. They already know a little bit about the LDS Church. Some think they know a lot, but what they have learned came from misinformed sources, or even hostile sources, like former antagonistic members.This is a prime opportunity to leverage this season of good will from those with whom we stood shoulder to shoulder in this battle for proposition 8. While they may not have been as vocal or active as we were, they were silently supporting our activities. For the most part, they feel the same way as we do about marriage.I don’t have much hope for getting our message to the third group. You are also correct that many, if not most of them are hostile towards us, or as you said, hate us. Yes, I have seen it first hand in many of the comments on my blog. They are not interested in dialog, or in learning our point of view. They want to destroy us.It is unfortunate that there is a perception of division within the church. For the most part, those who were not with us on this issue, were already on the sidelines. The majority of those who resigned or signed on with Andrew Callahan, had not been attending church regularly for many years and were already disenchanted.So yes, it is nice that more people are visiting my blog and the blogs of many of my fellow members who are writing about this and other issues. The issue is not proposition 8. The objective is educating people about what it is that we believe and helping them find it from informed sources that know it and can share it.

  5. Greg
    November 26, 2008 at 8:27 am

    Hi Tim – thanks for sharing your thoughts. More will join the conversation, more good will come of it. I wouldn’t worry too much about that. In this respect, I find inspiration in President Hinckley’s wonderful sense of humor and native optimism.I am sorry to hear about the personal attacks upon you and your wife. That is unfortunate, but I suppose something to be expected. But it is a sad commentary upon what used to be called “civil dialog” in our society.In any case, your post caught my attention. Thanks for posting some great content and making it easy to find.BTW – my blog experienced similar results following my choice of blog topics. One you might be interested in is Proposition 8, Mormons, and the New Statesman.Best regards from a fellow LDS blogger.

  6. cogger
    November 26, 2008 at 10:43 am

    You make some interesting points Mr. Malone but when it comes down to it I don’t think this is the best way to introduce people to the church. While the any publicity is good publicity idea has merits I don’t think it applies in this instance. I have a hard time imagining that seeing or reading about a protest accusing a church a bigotry will spark interest in conversion especially among the first group I discussed that is politically moderate. When looking at these protests people often forget what advertisers know half of the battle for public opinion take place in the collective unconscious. Again and again people are seeing Mormonism linked with bigotry and whether that message is rational or not it will seep in. I would be very interested to know what kind of response Mormon missionaries have been getting especially in liberal areas as this would help us to move beyond speculation. As to contention within the church in the long run I think your right that this is just a blip on the radar or as one LDS spokesman put it a ripple. The other aspect of this is that it will make life for Mormons in liberal areas more difficult. On the other hand I admire your optimism.

  7. Tim Malone
    November 26, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Hi Cogger,You honor me with your continued response. I am gratified to be able to read your views. It helps me understand better how others see us and confirms several things that I have already encountered, especially the charge of bigotry.You are correct in that this is certainly not the best way to begin a dialog or conversation about what Mormons believe. It puts us on the defensive right away. It also gets Mormons out of their comfort zone. For instance, my wife has had an ongoing conversation with her exercise partner at the gym about how we can take the stand we do considering our history of plural marriage.Even though Carol comes from a long-standing Utah family with several plural marriages back in the late 1800’s, she has had to think about why this is different. Although we still maintain the doctrine, we dropped the practice of plural marriage because of social and legal pressure. I am fairly confident that the LDS church will never drop our opposition to same-sex marriage.It may become the law of the land again, either by the Supreme Court overturning Proposition 8 or by another ballot initiative in 2010 that amends the constitution and nullifying Proposition 8. However, such marriages will never be recognized in the LDS Church. Those who actively participate in same-sex marriage cannot be members of the Church unless they give it up.There are two ways of looking at this issue. The majority of the negative press reports simply parrot what the opponents of the proposition have been saying all along – that this is a civil rights issue and that Mormons are bigots for opposing it and taking rights away from other citizens. Yet there are some who see it as we do – that it is a moral issue – and report it accordingly.I maintain that any publicity is good publicity because it draws attention to the subject and causes honest people to investigate further. Reading or viewing reports of a people being accused of bigotry and hatred is strong motivation, especially when viewing the images of those who have been protesting at our temples. Temples are a major curiosity to people anyway.We have reports of individuals in this moderate group coming up to our temples just to thank us for our stand on this issue. There is also a petition circulating right now that is addressed to the President of our church, signed by thousands of these moderates, thanking us for standing up for preserving the traditional definition of marriage. Our firm resolve has not gone unnoticed.Yes, the opposition continues to hammer on the message of bigotry. We continue to respond with the message of morality. We are determined that our message gets heard, even among the loud and strident voices of the opposition. In the end, respect from those who hold the same values of morality increases, while those who are anti-religious increase in anger and hatred.Yes, it has made life for Mormons in liberal areas more difficult. It has brought challenges even to those of us who live in rather conservative areas. The issue has made many people choose sides when they perhaps would have preferred to remain neutral, even within the LDS Church. I have heard good and bad reports from missionaries as a result of the publicity over this issue.I am optimistic. Like many, I was a little surprised to see the extent of hatred displayed by those who came to our temples proclaiming tolerance and acceptance. Those protests did no good for the cause of those seeking to acceptance of their views. It was especially those demonstrations that brought the most attention and the supportive response from the moderates among society.

  8. cogger
    November 26, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    This dialogue has been a great pleasure and I am glad to have the opportunity to discuss this with someone who is on the pro 8 side (there are very few in my neighborhood) and is so well informed.I think most of the people coming up to you and showing you support belong to the second group of religious conservatives. That petition in particular I believe to be a product of the second group many of the signatories are people like Jame Dobson who have previously been critical of you but defend you now because you share the same boat. It has been leaders of other faiths who supported prop 8 that have been your most vocal supporters in recent weeks. But I think you understand that they are fair weather friends.I think one of the main tests will be seeing if the LDS church get behind the campaigns which will probably be waged in 2010. To be honest I am puzzled by by the Mormons large involvement in this ballot measure as your church has not previously seen much need to impose your version of morality on others outside your church.As to the practice of plural marriage I see no reason why it should continue to be illegal as the original opposition to that practice of the Mormon church was in large part motivated by intolerance.Unfortunately for the Mormon Church it is those least likely to have an interest in conversion that will support you the most in this and those most likely to be converted that will be turned off.

  9. Tim Malone
    November 27, 2008 at 1:34 am

    Thanks Cogger,I wish I understood more about your background. Do you have a blog or a website where I can read more of your writings?I agree with you that most of those demonstrating support of our efforts are religious conservatives. It is unusual to find ourselves on the same side of something with James Dobson. While the public offers of solidarity are appreciated, many are careful to point out that we still fundamentally disagree.Certainly not all religious organizations have been united in this cause. When we visited some of the local churches to ask them to join us, we were surprised by some of the responses. You may be right that the support we have seen in recent weeks comes from fair weather friends. We seem to be taking the heat for all.I was also involved in the efforts to pass proposition 22 back in 2000. At first I did not see proposition 8 as being any different. We did the same things – gave money, walked precincts, stood on street corners waving signs, made phone calls – but the response from the media is far more acute in singling out the Mormons this time.It was amazing to see the activity level among LDS church members on this ballot measure. I’m not sure to what it can be attributed. The letter from the First Presidency encouraging us to give of our time and means was the same as what I remember hearing over the pulpit back in 2000. Perhaps we just feel stronger about it now.Several inside the campaign and the church described this as a line in the sand. And yet, I heard church leaders say they were surprised when proposition 22 passed and would be surprised if proposition 8 passed. To me, that is evidence that it is not just the LDS Church that feels strongly that same-sex marriage is a moral issue. Lots of people voted yes.I had to laugh at your comment about plural marriage. Yes, if proposition 8 is overturned then I foresee someone proposing that the laws against polygamy marriage be overturned as well. It will never happen in Utah, but it is not hard to believe that polygamy could become acceptable here in California. Imagine that!Back to the three groups – I think most agree that we don’t have much chance of anybody in the Castro coming over to our side on this. The offer stands but is not likely to be accepted – just look at how they treated those evangelists who went in there with bibles. That’s crazy! We have only three chapels in San Francisco.We don’t seem to be having much success with the second group either. They are fairly set in their determination that we are a cult, that we don’t believe in the same Jesus as they do and that we are far too focused on works over grace. But for now, we welcome their support in helping us share our belief that this is a moral issue, worthy of our efforts.So once again, to the point of my essay, the publicity is doing the most good in bringing attention to our faith for those who otherwise would never have considered what we have to say. Suddenly, they are asking around and looking things up on the internet, hitting my blog and many others like mine.Who are these Mormons and why are they being attacked? Come and read more.

  10. cogger
    November 27, 2008 at 2:59 am

    I’m sorry at present I don’t have a blog though I plan to start one if my time frees up next semester. I think there are a number of reasons why protesters targeted LDS.1.While Mormons are only 2% of the population in California they gave almost half of the money to the yes on 8 side. When Mormons get behind something they get stuff done and as this campaigns proves can be a potent political force due to their monetary resources, group cohesion, and member participation.2.Mormons are a convenient target. Polls show support for Mormonism is low among the general population and it’s easier to target an unpopular group. Targets like black churches that were more outspoken than the LDS church would be politically incorrect.3.Gay marriage is a national issue and as such is generating protests nation ride fortunately for protesters Mormon temples are also located nation wide often in highly visible places.Protests are easier if you have something highly visible (like an enormous temple) to protest against. In large part the anger you see directed your way isn’t because the people really hate Mormons but because your the easiest most politically expedient target. All though some people do take it personally and have a more visceral reaction to the churches Prop 8 campaign.As to prop 8 passing I think your entirely right that it is evidence the population in general doesn’t support gay marriage. The question is how much longer will that be the case. Proposition 22 passed by 61.4% 8 years later proposition 8 passed with 52.3%(and that was with the help of an unusually large contingent of black voters). It was only a few decades ago that you could go to jail for sodomy. So while you have won the fight today you are fighting against the tide.As to how this will affect the LDS church the proof will be in the pudding but I would not be surprised if growth drops below 2%. If not in 2008 (since all this happened in November) than in 2009.

  11. Tim Malone
    November 27, 2008 at 6:10 am

    Hi Cogger,You’ve summarized it nicely. I’ve nothing else to add except that I agree with your observations. Thanks so much for sharing. It was a pleasure reading your comments.

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