Friday, 22 August 2014

Mormons and the Perils of Social Media

Those of us who have been around social media for a long time know too well the perils of ‘sharing your faith’ online. We are familiar with robust exchanges of view, from thoughtful comments to ill-considered plaudits and brickbats, the angry exchanges, and the downright rudeness. Whatever your position on issues of faith, when you step into this arena you must be prepared to take the rough with the smooth. When you are a Mormon I imagine you get more than your fair share, what with half the online Evangelical world looking to put you right, and the other half cheering them on.

Yet Mormons have taken to the Internet with the best of them. Half the church’s 85,000 missionaries are given digital devices, the church has a sophisticated presence on the web, and members enthusiastically populate forums, blogs, and social media. How would you feel, however, if your church leaders used this net presence to check up on your faithfulness?

It has been reported that, “Some local church leaders have found individual pages, for example, a good way to learn the needs of their congregants.”  How would you feel if a chat with your pastor began with the words, “I saw something on your Facebook page, and wondered if everything was alright?” Maybe you would feel it showed pastoral initiative but…

How would you feel if your faithfulness was brought into question because of comments you made? If your involvement in church was proscribed because you took a different view on an issue? This is what has been happening to otherwise good Mormons.

The most high-profile victim is Kate Kelly, founder of the Ordain Women, who has been excommunicated, a decision she is now appealing. Her parents had their temple recommends revoked because they refused to take down their profiles from the Ordain Women website. But there are many more examples of this heavy-handed approach to social media activity.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports one woman losing a calling in the Young Women’s presidency after she posted a picture of herself nursing her daughter on her private Facebook page.

A man was “released” as elder’s quorum president because of his views on same-sex marriage.

A woman in  Australia was excluded because of “feminist views” she expressed on social media.

There are rules and guidelines for teachers, and others in public life, on the use of social media. Care must be taken to not inadvertently get into a compromising situation. But private citizens being censured by church leaders like this, and the trolling of social media for intel on your church members hits a new low.

The Mormon church has been making great efforts to deal with its questionable history and it hasn’t turned out well for them. They need to deal with the present and realise from their history that you can’t hide this stuff anymore. No sooner is there a development than its around the world, reported, commented on, and watched carefully. For a church that prides itself on its web presence it still has a lot to learn

You can read more about it at the Salt Lake Tribune


  1. Can you provide links to these "stories" such as the Salt Lake Tribune story, and links to the other stories whether it be blogs or Facebook or whatever.
    I have looked and looked to verify these events and can not find anything.
    Thank You.

  2. Sorry, did not see link to Salt LakeTribune at end of the post.

    It appears that what happened to those members was done by local leaders. And the leaders were totally out of line for doing what they did to the members. Unfortunately some leaders overstep their authority. The Salt Lake City church leaders need to make sure this behavior by local leaders stop.
    At the same time, this type of behavior goes on in other religions by leaders and congregants. It never ceases to amaze me how you and other LDS critics are quick to point things like this out but turn a blind eye to more egregious behavior by so called mainstream Christian churches (that are really cults). A good recent example is the behavior of Mars Hill cult church leader, Mark Driscoll. Silence by you and other so called Christians and mainstream Christian churches is really condoning this type of activity and behavior.

    1. I apologise for the time it has taken to post these comments. Ministry and personal circumstances have kept me away from my blogs for a while. Two points I would raise in response.

      Firstly, there is a pattern within the Mormon community of always saying it is someone else's fault, never a "Mormon problem." The Mormon Church is quite different to what you call main-steam Christian Churches in that yours is a top-down, hierarchical organisation in which every member and leader takes their lead from the people at the top. The Mormon Church, therefore, is held to a different kind of account, the local Mormon Church not having as much autonomy as your comment suggests. Your comment, while welcome, hardly counts as an "official" righting of what you insist are wrongs done locally. If the things done are wrong then why has the Mormon leadership not done something about it? Where is the official and public righting of wrongs?

      With regards Mars Hill, Washington, and Mark Driscoll, it is not the business of a blog entitled "The Mormon Chapbook" to address that issue. However, the internet has been buzzing for ages with comment and criticism of Mark Driscoll's conduct as a leader. Other leaders have called him to account, and you almost certainly only know about this because of the internet buzz and the criticism by other Christian leaders. Mars Hill Church is a multi-site church that is independent of denomination and yet Mark Driscoll has been so challenged that he has stepped down as pastor. I don't see anyone doing anything like that in the Mormon Church. I suggest there is great irony in that.

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