Online LDS gospel discussion boards


I’m sure you recall Elder Ballard inviting members of the church to be more involved in online conversations a few years back. If not, you can read about it in the LDS Newsroom. He said, “That word conversation is important. There are conversations going on about the Church constantly. Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them.

“But we cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches. While some conversations have audiences in the thousands or even millions, most are much, much smaller. But all conversations have an impact on those who participate in them. Perceptions of the Church are established one conversation at a time.”

Participating in the conversations

There are many places where those conversations are taking place. Hundreds, perhaps even thousands of LDS-related blogs have sprung up since Elder Ballard issued his invitation. Some, like mine, have essays specifically targeted to answer questions about common objections to the church. We seek to portray LDS members as a happy, fun-loving and family-oriented people.

Many bloggers have comments turned on and welcome dialog about what they write. But for the most part, these discussions are limited to a few readers who share common interests. In fact, it is usually family and friends who follow these blogs. It is a rare blogger who has more than a few hundred visits a day. A typical blog posting might garner a few to a half dozen comments.

Group blogs, FaceBook and Twitter

I have written previously about LDS group blogs that have high readership and a large number of comments on each post. When I think of online conversations about the gospel, it is these group blogs that come to my mind. While I don’t read them as much as I used to, I have always been impressed by the diversity of opinion that can be found in the comments of the LDS group blogs.

Like most of the online world today, I have joined FaceBook and Twitter as part of my efforts to reach out to others around me and point them to essays on my blog when they come up in the dialog. I confess that I am somewhat addicted to both and find it easy to spend an inordinate amount of time on each. I have to be very careful to use them as tools and not as time wasters.

Conversations about the news

As a news junkie, I read the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News online every day. No, I’m not from Utah, but it is usually on those sites where you will find the most interesting conversations about the church. Let me rephrase that. It is in the comments to news stories about some aspect of LDS life that you will find the most attacks on our faith, church, religion, people and leaders.

Some stories will generate hundreds of comments. There are people who hang out there just to write awful things about the church and see what kind of trouble they can stir up. It’s almost like a chat room for the disaffected. I sometimes wonder if it wasn’t to these online conversations in particular that Elder Ballard was referring. The voices of reason are overrun by insanity there.

Online forums – message boards

That leads me to the subject of this essay: online forums. If you want to really participate in the conversations about the church, become a member of one or more of the popular LDS message boards. Did you know that there are at least a couple dozen? I did not realize it until I did a little digging. If you want to really discuss an idea about the church online, there is the place to do it.

I have a few favorites that I visit every day just to see what is currently being discussed. Yet, I confess that I rarely join the conversations there. I’m just there to get ideas about what is hot in the LDS community today. Each discussion board has its own tenor and you may find that the conversations on one forum are too crude while in another they are too esoteric for your taste.

Not all conversations are uplifting

So without further ado, here is the list of those that I visit on a regular basis. I have ranked the list arbitrarily by my own feelings as to how faith-promoting I find the conversations. My take on them may not be at all what you would consider encouraging or helpful. And although I have placed some very popular boards on the bottom of the list, I admit that I visit them frequently.

I know I have missed some. I also wondered about including some on this list because of their low membership or activity level. I chose to do so because they had something unique to offer. If you feel I have mischaracterized a forum as negative or positive, please let me know. If you would like to have me add to this list, feel free to add a comment and I will update accordingly.

Tim’s list of LDS discussion boards

Positive or mostly positive:
01. lds.net forums – 19,763 members – extremely active
02. The Nauvoo forum – very active – 10,131 members
03. International LDS Discussions – 10,604 members – very active
04. LDS Files – 9,141 members – no discussions – source of LDS news
05. Mormon Apologetics Discussion – 8,281 members – very active
06. LDS Tech Forums – 5,773 members – fairly active
07. Latter-day Family Resources – 2,625 members – very active
08. LDS Moms – 2,397 members – fairly active
09. Ask a Mormon – 1,376 members – somewhat active
10. About.com LDS forums – not many members – not very active

Mostly positive, mixed to negative:
11. Beliefnet – Latter-day Saints – no count – somewhat active
12. Jeff Snider board – not too active – 528 members
13. LDS Freedom forum – a little weird – 805 members – fairly active
14. Knowledge-Light-Truth – only 100 members – not very active
15. New Order Mormon – 943 members – fairly active
16. Folk of the Fringe – 65 users – not very active
17. Mormon Discussions – 710 members – fairly active
18. StayLDS forums – 237 members – fairly active

Negative:
19. CARM Mormon Discussion Forums – fairly active
20. Ex-Mormon Forums – 330 members – fairly active
21. The Foyer (Further Light and Knowledge) – 994 members – active
22. Post Mormon – 3,959 members – very active
23. ExMormon – RfM – no member count – very active

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.

LDS Bloggers making a difference


There are now many more LDS bloggers who are actively expressing positive and interesting things about their faith and the LDS Church. This is a huge increase from this time last year. If we have learned anything in the last few years, it is that we are still not understood by the majority of the world. We need more LDS bloggers, actively writing and sharing our message.

I mentioned Seth Adam Smith last week, but once again, I am blown away by this talented LDS Blogger who creates videos that portray depth and meaning through beautiful music and imagery. Today’s video is on the Anasazi Foundation. It is about leaving things behind and moving forward. It is a sublime message. I recommend Seth’s work and look forward to more.

Bloggers who report LDS news

I wish I could tell you who does Mormon-Chronicles or what is the purpose of the blog, but it has consistently provided a source of LDS news articles that you won’t find in Mormon Times or other pro-LDS sources. Go through the archives. You may be surprised at some of the stories there. I know I missed a lot of them and I think I’m a pretty good LDS news junkie.

Are gays taking over Salt Lake City? Chris Bigelow seems to think so in his recent essay, More Prophesying about Salt Lake City. He references Newt Gingrich‘s recent article on Gay Fascism. That seems to go right along with what Brian Fitzpatrick had to say in Crouching fascism, hidden media. You can read more about this viewpoint in the Salt Lake weekly. Interesting stuff.

Positive LDS news in blogs

Another recent favorite for me is Beetle Blogger. She just started a few months ago but has already built up a regular following of readers and commenters. I believe we’ll be seeing a lot more good stuff on the Beetle Blog for a long time to come. Article VI blog continues to provide great coverage of the issues of religion in the political arena. Good stuff and well worth reading.

Although Guy Murray’s Messenger and Advocate has been around for years, I found his coverage of the proposition 8 campaign extremely insightful. If you are a regular reader of the Bloggernacle then you are probably familiar with his work. If not, check out his blog and join the discussion there. Ditto for Connor Boyack at Connor’s Conundrums. Lots of great essays there.

Plugs for some of my favorite sites

I’ve always enjoyed Rough Stone Rolling. The man knows how to write headlines. Today’s offering is “Mormon Times, Vampires and Underwear.” Another favorite blogger that started about when I did is Mormon Soprano. I think she is under-read and deserves more serious attention to essays like this: “A Rebuttal To: “Mormonism LEGALLY Declared Not Christian.”

For great discussion on doctrine that applies to spirituality, testimony and every-day living, check out Jared’s blog, LDS Alive in Christ. Sometimes it’s only me and Jared going back and forth but I have found that we think alike on so many things related to spiritual experiences. Another under-read blog is Richman Ramblings. Larry is the CEO of Evergreen International.

You are probably already familiar with Clean Cut out of San Antonio, Texas. His essays are always worth the time to read. He also gets good participation in comments. Of course, there is Bryce’s Temple Study blog. Sometimes he will get dozens of comments on an essay, other times, nary a peep, but they are all worth reading. I always learn new things about the temple there.

LDS group blogs vs. solo blogs

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned any LDS group blogs. I confess that I stopped visiting them just about the time I started my own solo blog. I’ll still occasionally visit Steve Evans‘ group at By Common Consent or John Dehlin‘s Mormon Matters, but for the most part, I no longer spend much time on the group blogs. And what happened to Times and Seasons?

I have found that many of the essays and many of the commenters at the LDS group blogs just don’t think like I do. I confess that I am fairly conservative and tend to interpret the world around me though the lens of a lifetime of activity in and study of the doctrines of the LDS Church. So many of the essays on group blogs just seem to have a worldly liberal approach.

I know, it’s good to have multiple viewpoints of important political and social trends, but so many times when I try to engage in dialog on those group blogs, I find little support and much arguing about what I think are standard orthodox positions on doctrine and policy. I have great respect for fellow solo blogger Papa D, who has great talent in navigating the LDS group blog waters.

Summary and conclusion

The last few weeks have been difficult in the Blogosphere as there have been so many negative articles and essays about the aftermath of Proposition 8. Is it just me, or does it seem like the national media coverage of this has been very slanted towards the civil rights side of the issue? I read so little about the moral side. That message isn’t heard except in many of our LDS blogs.

Like Elder Ballard has said many times, we need to be the ones telling our story and defining what it is that we believe. I am grateful that Proposition 8 passed, just as I was when we worked so hard on Proposition 22. But the resultant national dialog has been, quite frankly, a world of difference compared to what it was eight years ago when we went through this same battle.

I remain convinced that more LDS people need to join the online dialog. We are just getting started. There is much work to be done. Just visit some of the blogs of those who opposed proposition 8 and read what they have written about us. They do not understand us and they have said so. Let’s give them more material, well written, well presented and shared widely.

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Update: Thanks to Dave Banack at Dave’s Mormon Inquiry on Beliefnet for linking to this essay. You may also be interested in reviewing my recent listing of the top ranked LDS blogs according to Alexa ratings. It breaks out solo blogs, group blogs and popular LDS websites.

How to promote your LDS blog


I started my blog about eight months ago in late September 2007. That was before Elder Ballard asked us in December 2007 to participate more in the new media. For the first few months I got just a few visitors a day. That’s OK, I wasn’t promoting my blog yet. They were just finding me through raw Google keyword searches. Besides, I was just trying to build up content.

After Elder Ballard extended the invitation to actively share the gospel online, I decided to switch my blog content from political / current events to almost all gospel-oriented themes. A few months later, I began to get a lot of comments from visitors who were opposed to my views. I felt it was time to start promoting my blog to the online LDS community or bloggernacle.

So I asked the major LDS Blog aggregators if they would add me to their lists. I immediately saw an increase in LDS traffic. I could tell they were LDS by the nice encouraging comments. I also got another influx of anti or ex-Mormon traffic. Apparently I was writing about a lot of the same subjects that were being discussed in the DAMU or disaffected Mormon underground.

What works for me

I think the reason I show up so high on so many Google searches is because of one major technique I employ. Linking to other sites raises your visibility higher and faster on the search engines than anything else. After I write an essay and before I post it, I go back through and add links on every major keyword or phase that someone might want to know more about.

It doesn’t seem to matter where I link, just as long as there are lots of links in the essay. For the most part I link to LDS.org and Mormon.org, but I have just as many links to Wikipedia. A lot of people are doing a lot of good in updating Wikipedia articles about the church. Thanks guys. I confess I also link to a lot of other major LDS blogs like Jeff Lindsay, FAIR and FARMS.

My content is more expository and apologetic than journalistic, so it is not really a true weblog. What I wrote six months ago should be just as pertinent today. The only exception is my running commentary of what Carol and I are learning in our Pearl of Great Price Institute class. I can’t wait to get to the Book of Abraham to see how much the papyri translation is discussed.

How to track your traffic

I’ve had over 13,000 visitors since I added a Statcounter in Nov 07, about a month after I started. I suggest you get yourself at least one counter. I have five. Besides Statcounter, I just love FeedJIT because of the live traffic feed on my sidebar. I love to watch where the visitors come from and how they got there. I also use Bravenet, Google Analytics and GetClicky.

My most popular post as far as comments was one I made on a subject I know nothing about and care very little about – Evolution. A lot of people wanted to set me straight, which I appreciate. Until recently my most popular essay was Mothers Who Know, which I wrote in response to What Women Know. It has now been replaced by Mother in Heaven – Heavenly Mother.

I think I’ve got enough basic material so I’ve decided to get serious about promoting my blog. I note in my stats that many first time visitors are spending more time online now. That means they are reading my backlog of essays. I like to get comments on the older essays and respond to them. To keep them visible I use a reader comments widget from Blogger Templates.

Most popular posts

01. Mother in Heaven – Heavenly Mother
02. Mothers Who Know and What Women Know
03. The new Mormon history – Grant Palmer
04. Why can’t I attend a Mormon wedding?
05. Seer stone in a hat – Book of Mormon translation
06. Just where exactly are the lost ten tribes?
07. Changes to the Book of Mormon
08. No such thing as Mormon fundamentalism
09. Will President Monson change Mormon doctrine?
10. Rules, religion and society
11. The Book of Moses revisited
12. Has the prophecy in Joel 2:31 been fulfilled?
13. Pondering about the spirit world
14. Teachings of Presidents: Joseph Smith
15. The practice of plural marriage
16. Working for the LDS church as a blogger
17. Bruce R. McConkie, bold servant of the Lord
18. A different kind of religious education
19. A mother who knew
20. Multiple versions of the First Vision

A few suggestions

Jeff Lindsay had some great suggestions back in January of Tips for New LDS Bloggers. He also had a follow-up post in February that included lists of LDS blog aggregators. For those who don’t know, an aggregator is a website or blog that brings together posts from multiple blogs for centralized viewing or clicking. Here is my favorite list of LDS blog aggregators:

01. LDS Blogs – A comprehensive meta-list, slow
02. Mormon Archipelago – This is the bloggernacle
03. Planet LDS – Read LDS blogs in one spot
04. LDSelect – Customize your favorites in one place
05. Mormon Blogs – Also known as the blogregate
06. LDS Rankings – Not limited to blogs, but good
07. Mormon Blogosphere – New and a little slow

I’m sure there are others but these are the ones I found to be the best. I am listed on all of them. I get the most traffic from Mormon Blogs and Mormon Archipelago. Right now I get about 65 to 85 unique visitors each day. The majority of those come from these two sites. This is especially true on days that I post new essays. The rest of my hits come from Google.

There are a dozen or more major LDS Group blogs but this essay is about promoting your solo blog so I won’t list them. You should visit the major ones every day, or read their stuff on one of the aggregators. I prefer Planet LDS because I don’t have to click. I can just read in one place. Use good titles on your posts. Headlines sell but don’t be misleading. That can annoy readers.

Summary and conclusion

Let’s see, have I covered everything? This essay is about promoting solo LDS blogging on Blogger and maybe on WordPress if you prefer. I’ve mentioned aggregators, linking, stat counters, good content, headlines and comments. Oh, I need your help. Will you visit blogged for me and add a review? After a few reviews I’ll request a professional editor review as well.

Here’s a suggestion that’s often overlooked: go out and add comments on all the top LDS blogs. Don’t expect the author to comment back. The intent is to get your intelligent comment out there with the link back to your blog. S.Faux does this on a lot of my posts. I hope he is getting some traffic from me on his excellent Mormon Insights. I appreciate his comments.

I love blogging. It has been incredibly rewarding. I started blogging as a method to keep me motivated to study the gospel every day. It has more then accomplished that purpose. I have made some wonderful online friends and hope that I am sharing valuable content that is helpful in combating all the garbage that comes up when you Google “Mormon.” Happy blogging!

Are Mormons Christians?


I guess I should not be surprised by now. I have heard it and read it so many times that I still wonder how it is that some people don’t know. Of course Mormons are Christians. We are the Church of Jesus Christ.

It has been asked and answered many times in many ways and in many places by many people over the years. Yet it continues to come up day after day. I read it in forums, on blogs, on websites and in news articles.

Perhaps it is just simple curiosity that causes the question to be asked again. I like to think that the questioner is just repeating what they have heard others say and want to be reassured. Yes, Mormons are Christians.

Resources on the Internet

A Google search of the question brings Jeff Lindsay’s FAQ to the top of the list. Read that and you will find that the question is answered affirmatively in several different ways. He links to a great article in the Ensign by Stephen E. Robinson that addresses the topic in great detail.

Brother Robinson even wrote a book answering the question. Elder Holland addressed this most eloquently in the Oct 2007 General Conference. He makes it so clear that our break with conventional Christianity is over the Nicene creed, which is not Biblical in authority.

Maybe if all the LDS bloggers in the world added a post answering the question, people would get the idea that yes, Mormons are Christians. Perhaps then we could get the message across more clearly than some of the other links that come up in the Google search.

The leaders and the members agree

The leaders of the Church have been declaring this message for as long as I can remember. I have never heard a talk or sat in on a lesson in which it was ever said that we are not Christian. It is only in the last twenty or twenty five years that we have been accused of this falsehood.

Elder Ballard has said that the Church does not have the resources or the personnel to answer this question each and every time it comes up. He extended an invitation to members of the Church to get involved in sharing the gospel on the Internet and using the new media to do so.

Many thousands of regular members of the Church have added their witness of Christ in forums, on their own websites and blogs and in comments on many newspaper articles over the years. I too am just a regular member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

My witness of Jesus Christ

On this Easter day, I add my witness that I am a Christian. Yes, Mormons are Christians. We believe in Christ. We worship Christ. I can’t imagine there wasn’t an LDS chapel today where the talks in Sacrament meeting weren’t about the Savior, his atonement and resurrection.

I raised my voice in song today in worship of Jesus Christ. I spent two years as a missionary in Central America declaring the message of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I bore my witness to thousands that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Redeemer of Mankind.

Just because we don’t accept the non-Biblical Nicene creed does not mean that we do not believe in or worship Jesus Christ. We have so much in common with other Christians. We each want to do good in the world. I think it is only some ministers who are stirring up this controversy.

This one minute video clip from an Apostle of Jesus Christ answers the question succinctly:

And a more recent video from Elder Gary Coleman on Mormon Messages:

Working for the LDS church as a blogger


Larry Richman and I are good friends. We must be. He keeps sending me personal emails giving me clues into what the web team of the church is doing these days. I think he must have told Joel Dehlin, the CIO of the church about me because he also sends me his emails. They are most informative into understanding how the CIO of a large organization thinks. We go way back – to almost five months ago when I signed up to receive their emails. You can too. Anybody can.

I mean no disrespect. Larry and Joel take their work seriously. I think they have some of the hardest jobs in the church. I am convinced that the Internet outreach of the Church is only going to grow in the years to come. That means that the web team needs to grow. I’m sure you’ve seen their ads on the bulletin board at the church. Larry is so busy he is looking for another manager (posted 28 Feb 08). You can find lots of church tech jobs at tech.lds.org.

I wanted to work for the church once. A long time ago when I still made a living as a programmer, I applied for a programming job at Church headquarters. I was surprised when they called me up and said they would like to interview me. “But I live in California,” I said. I was even more surprised when they sent me a round trip ticket to come up for the interview. I think this was back when the church had some connection to the old Western Airlines.

The interview went well, I thought. We even discussed my first project – writing the interface for the point of sale system for the Mormon Handicraft store that stood across from the Church office building. So I moved my family up to Salt Lake and showed up in the personnel office on a Monday morning. “What are you doing here?” they asked. “I’m here to start work,” I said. “Oh, sorry. We just sent you a letter. We hired someone else who already lives here.”

My mistake. I was young and naive. There was no job offer. I only thought there was. No problem. I went to work for Management Systems Corporation down the street. I knew computers well and sold Apple Computers in their retail store. I was there during the big State street flood during the spring of 1983. Remember the floods? I had a blast in Utah for a year. My son was born there. But times were tough and we soon returned to sunny California.

Now I work for the Church again. No, I’m not an employee of the Corporation of the President. My sister is though. She works for an Apostle. I’m real proud of my big sister. She has done well. I’ve always heard that you can’t make much working for the church. The standard line is that it is a labor of love. I’m told that things have changed in the tech arena. So if you have tech skills, especially in web development, give them a call or send them an email. They’re hiring.

I work for the church in that I take Elder Ballard’s invitation to share the gospel via the Internet very seriously. I strive to write posts that shed a good light on the church. Sometimes I will take a current criticism of the church from the news and write my take of it in such a way that I hope is helpful to someone who is not a member of our church. Don’t get me wrong. I love a good dialog, but I prefer a discussion of doctrine over a haranguing from a Mormon basher.

Larry sent me an email today pointing out an article on BYU Newsnet, “Called to Blog: Fighting for the Church Online.” There is a great quote from Richard Holzapfel, a BYU professor of Church History. Holzapfel said that the way the gospel is being spread has changed. Missionaries used to go to islands by boat. Today, things are completely different. People search for information about the church online. “One of the ways they’re going to come to the gospel is through the Internet.”

The More Good Foundation was founded by Jim Engebretsen, assistant dean of Corporate Relations at the BYU Marriott School. Jim served as a mission president in Oklahoma from 1998 to 2001. Missionaries told him they were being turned down after investigators searched about Mormons on the Internet and found anti-Mormon websites. Engebretsen decided that something needed to be done and started the More Good Foundation in 2005.

If you would like an easy and friendly place to answer Elder Ballard’s invitation to start blogging. check out the More Good Foundation’s lds.net. It is kind of like MySpace for Mormons and already has nine thousand members. This online network combines blogs, chats, forums, photos, and videos. People don’t go to their neighbors like they used to. Instead, people Google things. The Internet is where many people will go to find answers to religious questions as well.

I have found that to be true. I get so many hits from Google. I can see that people are looking for information about the subjects I have previously written about. You can watch the hits come in on my little sidebar widget. I just wish more people would leave comments, especially honest seekers after the truth. So far, most of the comments are from good faithful members or, on occasion, from a professional Mormon basher. What kind of reader are you? Leave a comment.

Sharing the gospel using the new media


Once again, Elder Ballard drives home the message that using the new media to share the gospel is not only acceptable but encouraged of the members of the church. I am particularly interested in the new media because of my involvement in the Internet. Web development and social networking is such a major part of my everyday work.

I first created a Web site in early 1995, just after the White House went online (Oct 94) and a year or two before the church created an official web site. My interests in using the Internet and the web have not changed much since that first web site done in raw HTML 1.0. It was plain text with a few links – it did not even have photos.

And what did I post on my first Web site? Why links to other early church news junkies like myself of course. We were part of the first LDS email lists and discussed many topics of interest to fledgling web developers. In addition to discussing how to make our Web sites more attractive and functional we discussed LDS news.

Like my first site of LDS-related links, many if not most of those early Web sites and long since disappeared (Whatever happened to John Redelfs, the Iron Rodder of Alaska? Update: John is actively blogging again after a six-month respite). I still occasionally find a post or an updated page from some of the early contributors to the discussion. We had doubters, lurkers, iron-rodders and flamers even then – no different from most discussions today.

Yesterday, at the BYU Hawaii graduation, Elder Ballard encouraged members of the church, especially these new graduates of a church-sponsored educational institution to use the new media to share the gospel. Elder Ballard asked the students to “join the conversation by participating on the Internet, particularly the New Media, to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration.”

Said he, “How different your world is today. If you read newspapers, the chances are you read them on the Internet. Yours is the world of cyberspace, cell phones that capture video, video downloads and iTunes, social networks like Facebook, text messaging and blogs, hand-helds and podcasts. As many in my generation are just getting onto email, that’s already becoming old hat to most of you.”

Elder Ballard taught that the new media fosters conversations about the church like never before. “That word conversation is important. There are conversations going on about the Church constantly. Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches.”

In other words, we need to get involved – to post replies to misleading statements and questions on the thousands of news sites out there that are now open to our input. Our voice and position as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can and should be heard. Elder Ballard said we should consider sharing our views on blogs, responding to online news reports, and using new media in other ways.

“Most of you already know that if you have access to the Internet you can start a blog in minutes and begin sharing what you know to be true. You can download videos from Church and other appropriate sites, including Newsroom at LDS.org, and send them to your friends. You can write to media sites on the Internet that report on the Church, and voice your views as to the accuracy of the reports.”

“Recently, a columnist, writing in a major U.S. newspaper, was irresponsibly inaccurate in his description of the Church and our beliefs and practices. Dozens, perhaps even hundreds of Church members and others who understand our beliefs commented on the newspaper’s website correcting the misconceptions he was spreading and calling for accuracy.” We can make a difference in this world of the new media.

“Far too many people have a poor understanding of the Church because most of the information they hear about us is from news media reports that are often driven by controversies. Too much attention to controversy has a negative impact on peoples’ perceptions of what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really is.” Our voices can be the positive ones that need to be offered in contrast to the shrill and inaccurate voices of those who do not understand us.

There are now hundreds, no thousands of Web site and blogs run by members of the church, most of them positive. But I am concerned that some of my fellow members of the church who use blogs to air their grievances about some doctrine or practice they do not understand or agree with are not thinking long-term. Long after they have resolved their own doubts or concerns, their electronic diatribes remain forever available to be read by anyone.

Update: I love this comment from Ben Crowder who makes it very clear: “If you didn’t catch it, that’s an official endorsement of blogging (and Facebook et al.) by an apostle. :) Granted, he’s specifically talking about missionary work, but I don’t think that means every post you write has to be straight from Preach My Gospel. If we’re true to who we are, the gospel will shine through us even when we’re talking about non-Church topics. There are many, many ways to share the gospel.”

What do you think? Is it OK to say whatever you want about your views of the church and the doctrine because that is part of freedom of speech, or do we need to be more careful with what we write and leave for posterity on this new media?

Mormons and mainstream America


Of all the commentary on Mitt’s ‘religion’ speech today, I like this one from Patrick Buchanan. He called it “a splendid and moving defense of his faith and beliefs.” While declaring, “I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause and no one interest,” he did not back away an inch from his Mormon faith.

He also said, “Each religion has it own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree.” As Pat Buchanan commented, “Surely that is right.”

Another article I liked was one in which Elder Ballard responded to the charge of the church influencing public policy in this AP article. I don’t know why this is such a big concern of the evangelical crowd out there. It seems ludicrous that a Mormon who may become elected president would take policy direction from the leaders of the church.

Jennifer Dobner from the Deseret News, whose article I commented on yesterday wrote, “Evangelical concerns that the Mormon belief in continuing revelation could somehow threaten the country by influencing public policies are overblown, Ballard said. Revelation, he said, is most often experienced as a simple answer to a prayer.”

Saying that we’re going to have to agree to disagree on theological questions about God, Elder Ballard said, “They’re locked into the Nicene Creed . . . We’re locked into the restoration and the experiences of Joseph Smith, and that will undoubtedly be an issue until God himself comes.” We will keep talking about our faith, hoping to bridge the gap by sharing our beliefs.

For all their differences, Mormons have a lot in common with other churches, Elder Ballard said. He said he’d like to see all faiths work together to preserve shared values and grow in mutual understanding. Some of those shared values are a love of truth, of peace, family, education, freedom, honesty, service, faith, healthy lifestyles and many, many more.

What do you think? Do Mormons have a lot in common with most of Americans today?

Elder Ballard and my list of the Four F’s


I have been pondering Elder Ballard’s talk in General Conference on Saturday afternoon about not overwhelming our friends and associates with too much information when they ask about the church out of curiosity. He said: “All members should be prepared to offer simple, direct information, in part to offset misunderstandings and false information about the church. Four subjects that may be addressed to answer such queries focus on Facts, Faith, Family and Fruits as they relate to the church. Short and concise statements on these subjects should be written down to be used when there is an inquiry.” I especially like that last line. In that spirit I present a summary of my four F’s here:

Facts: The Mormon church is one of the largest and fastest growing Christian denominations in the world. It was organized in 1830 and has over 13 million members worldwide. There are more members of the church outside of North America than in. The church has approximately 53,000 full-time missionaries who serve all over the world. To accommodate the tremendous growth a new meetinghouse is dedicated somewhere in the world an average of every day. There are over 120 operating temples where faithful members go to participate in ordinances of salvation. The church has the largest family history and genealogical organization in the world and makes it’s records available to anyone who seeks them out.

Faith: We believe in Jesus Christ. He is our Savior and Redeemer. We worship God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. We are baptized by immersion and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. We believe a man must be called of God to preach the gospel by those who have authority from God. We believe in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon, another witness of Jesus Christ. We believe in the resurrection and that men will be judged and rewarded according to their works in this life. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and that the Lord will come to reign personally upon the earth in the millennium. We believe in ‘Restored Christianity’ in which the authority of God’s priesthood was lost with the death of the Apostles and restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1829.

Family: The Mormon Church is pro-family. In fact, it is one of the most family-centered organizations on the earth. The church makes great effort to ensure that individual time spent in church activities is kept to a minimum so as to not take away from family time. We believe that happiness can best be achieved in a family setting and that we can be with our families in the life to come through the ordinances of the temple. The church is focused on helping families to achieve happiness and has many programs to assist families when they experience some of the difficulties of life. We believe that families can be together forever, that there is marriage in the eternities and that we can ensure our family being together through participation in temple ordinances performed by priesthood authority and by obedience to God’s commandments.

Fruits: Faithful Mormons on the whole tend to be healthier because of their adherence to the Word of Wisdom, abstaining from coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco and drugs. The church also teaches its member to be frugal, avoid debt, save for emergencies and continue lifelong educational pursuits. Most Mormons have a strong work ethic and a strong focus on self-reliance, depending on their own efforts and that of their families in difficult times. Mormons are known for their honesty and morality and are taught to be good citizens wherever they live. They also give of their time to the church by accepting volunteer assignments and for many, dedicating two years of their lives to serve full-time missions. The members of the church as a whole have contributed nearly a billion dollar in humanitarian aid over the past twenty years.

I could go on and on. These are just a few things that came to me without looking anything up.

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