There Be More With Us Than With Them

I am a fan of the movies, and recently rewatched the classic western “Shane.” One of the memorable quotes from that movie says that “a gun is a tool. . .no better or no worse than any other tool; an axe, a shovel, or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it.” With my background in media studies among the Mormon community in Utah, I have spent a lot of time in discussion about that same concept applied to movies, music, television, radio, and the internet.

Joseph Smith MormonAll of these media are tools as well, and no better or worse than the person who creates the episode or website. The negative influence of the media is often lamented over the pulpit and in Sunday School classes, but the culprits are those misusing a neutral tool, not the tool itself. After all, the Church uses all these same media in an official capacity to build up the kingdom of God. Movies are shown in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building (as well as most temples), television and radio broadcast General Conference, as well as the Tabernacle Choir, and the Church has begun to use the internet as a missionary tool with mormon.org.

Of course, this last area is where the More Good Foundation is concerned. The fact that individual Church units should not create or sponsor websites of their own was addressed in the previous newsletter, but it was clarified that personal websites are no different from any personal communications. The possibilities of media as a missionary tool are incredible, however, few of us have resources, time, or know-how to create movies, radio or television programs, or compose music to share the restored gospel. But the nature of the internet has the potential to give every individual an equal voice. If you have a computer, you can talk to the world. We can share the gospel with power and reverance online just as we would in conversation, but reach more people.

Unfortunately, those who wish to misrepresent and tear down our faith seem to have flocked to the internet. Search nearly any combination of Mormon-related keywords and the results are regrettable. But “[b]e strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the [negative websites], nor for all the multitute that is with [them]: for there be more with us than with [them]” (2 Chronicles 32:7). The Church’s detractors are vocal more than anything else, but we can drown them out with our numbers if we refuse to abandon the internet as a cyber-den of iniquity and put it to good use, flooding the cyber-world with the Book of Mormon and its message.

I have been delighted to work with the More Good Foundation. This is certainly a good cause we should all be anxiously engaged in. In addition to a missionary tool, the promise of the internet as an online community is exciting. While the Church is ever-expanding, the internet has the potential to keep us united in constant communication, and a serve as a viable, positive resource for Church members. Those searching for slander, lies, and sensationalism will always find it, but the sincere investigator of Mormonism will recognize and prefer the honest words of a member to a mean-spirited attack. It is up to each one of us to make our words available to them and to each other.

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What’s Your Site?

I was recently reading a report from a well-respected research organization, and it indicated that a larger number of people are creating “content” on the Internet than ever before. Even more impressive is the fact that in the rising generation, over half of teens have created some sort of Internet content.

Mormon Blogger.com SiteWow! Think about that for a moment. If those sort of statistics hold as true for the LDS population as they do for the general population, that means that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of LDS teens have created Web pages, published or participated in blogs, or created some other type of Internet content. Add to that the adults who do so, and the numbers become staggering. (And they are increasing.)

Are you one of this burgeoning population of “Netizens,” adding to the information available online? Do you have your own Web site? Do you publish your own blog? Do you contribute to a wiki or some message board community?

If so, I’d love to hear how you are using the Internet. I’m interested in seeing–in an unscientific way, of course–if the research statistics I’ve been reading are applicable to our More Good Foundation community. If you don’t mind, just send me a message at awyatt@moregoodfoundation.org and let me know what you are doing and where (what site, etc.). I won’t share the information with others, but if enough of you respond, I’ll report back the results, in aggregate, in a future newsletter.

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LDSRSS.org

LDSRSS.org

Mormon Ldsrss.org SiteIn collaboration with Provo Labs and the Church, we’re excited to announce the creation of LDSRSS.org. At LDSRSS.org you’ll find several Church-related RSS feeds to which you can subscribe. For example, you can subscribe to “News from the Church” to be notified when new articles about the Church are released.

To subscribe to RSS feeds you’ll need to download and install an “RSS Reader” on your computer or use an online service such as My Yahoo or Google Reader.

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We Use term “Mormon” in Our Writing?

We Use term “Mormon” in Our Writing?

Why Do We Use the term “Mormon” in Our Writing?

I recently received an e-mail that I thought was interesting. Because the concern expressed by this member may be shared by others, I thought it worth addressing. It is a valuable concern that shows insight, but I fear that the writer is missing the point. This is an excerpt from the e:mail:

jesus christ mormonI earlier mentioned my interest in writing a web page intro– I am going to back out of that now, sorry. I am uncomfortable with some of the web pages I have been browsing through. I understand your decision to intentionally use the term Mormon, but I don’t agree with it. We’ve been asked by the general authorities to minimalize the use of the term, especially “Mormon Church,” since we are the Church of Christ, not Mormon.

When asked to answer such comments, my short answer is to share the following conference address by President Hinckley, where he addressed the meaning of the term “Mormon”:

http://www.moregoodfoundation.org/GBH199010SM1.php

My long answer uses excerpts from the same talk. Now I am quoting President Hinckley:

Many of our people are disturbed by the practice of the media, and of many others, to disregard totally the true name of the Church and to use the nickname the Mormon Church. Six months ago in our conference Elder Russell M. Nelson delivered an excellent address on the correct name of the Church. He quoted the words of the Lord Himself: “Thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (D&C 115:4.)

There is no doubt about what the real name of the Church is; it is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” However, President Hinckley continues by saying:

The Mormon Church, of course, is a nickname. And nicknames have a way of becoming fixed–I suppose that regardless of our efforts, we may never convert the world to general use of the full and correct name of the Church. Because of the shortness of the word Mormon and the ease with which it is spoken and written, they will continue to call us the Mormons, the Mormon Church, and so forth–They could do worse.”

So what should we do? Should we spend all of our time and effort insisting that people call us with the proper name, or should we spend our time making sure that, irrespective of the name people use to refer to the Church, we follow the example of Jesus Christ (and Mormon, perhaps, since he was a great prophet) to such an extent that people will “see our works and glorify God?” Teaching people through the Internet about our true beliefs is also a way of following the Savior. Don’t we all have the responsibility of sharing the Gospel?

The answer should be obvious, but let’s go back to what President Hinckley has to say:

More than fifty years ago, when I was a missionary in England, I said to one of my associates, “How can we get people, including our own members, to speak of the Church by its proper name?” He replied, “You can’t. The word Mormon is too deeply ingrained and too easy to say.” He went on, “I’ve quit trying. While I’m thankful for the privilege of being a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of the Church which bears His name, I am not ashamed of the nickname Mormon.” “Look,” he went on to say, “if there is any name that is totally honorable in its derivation, it is the name Mormon. And so, when someone asks me about it and what it means, I quietly say ‘Mormon means more good.’”

What does President Hinckley conclude based on this experience?

mormonWe may not be able to change the nickname, but we can make it shine with added luster (emphasis added). After all, it is the name of a man who was a great prophet who struggled to save his nation, and also the name of a book which is a mighty testament of eternal truth, a veritable witness of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our real goal needs to be to “add luster” to the name Mormon, since people will continue to call us with that name. This is the reason that we freely use the terms “Mormon” or “Mormon Church.” We should serve people in the language to which they are accustomed. If they search for us using the term “Mormon,” we should provide them answers using the term “Mormon”; this is the language with which they are comfortable.

The Savior taught: “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). He didn’t say: “insist that they call you with the proper name until they do it.”

One of our main responsibilities as members of the Church is to share the Gospel with the entire world. The staff at the More Good Foundation is committed to sharing our message with the world, in a way that the world needs to hear it.

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What About the Church?

I have a friend who loves to go to the temple. He loves the feeling he gets within its hallowed walls, and he loves doing work there for his ancestors. When he told me about his feelings about the temple, I was impressed and suggested that he might want to create a Web site about his temple so that others could learn of his love for temples and temple work.

Mormon Lds.net SiteHe was excited about doing this, and went off to work on it. I didn’t hear from him for a couple of weeks, so one day I called him up and asked how it was going. He told me that shortly after our previous conversation, he had gone to the temple and mentioned to the Temple President that he was going to create a Web site about the temple.

The Temple President cautioned my friend that he may want to check with the temple department of the Church first. “After all,” said the President, “the Church doesn’t want Web sites about temples created.”

When I heard this from my friend, I realized that there was a lot of education to do. It is true that in March 2001 the Church sent a letter to ecclessiastical leaders instructing that all Church Web sites be taken down. This is the specific wording that was used in the letter:

…the First Presidency has requested that local Church units and organizations should not create or sponsor web sites. They have also determined that existing sites should be discontinued.

The policy was later clarified in a letter sent in December 2004, where it was stated that Church unites were not authorized to create sites apart from the official sites created by the Church. Further, it was stated that:

This restriction includes but is not limited to temples, missions, visitors’ centers, auxiliaries, quorums, classes, Scout units, and committees for special events.

This is obviously where my friend’s Temple President got the idea that my friend should not create a Web site about the temple. The Church policy states that the Temple President is not authorized on his own to create an official site about the temple, but there is no restriction on individuals and non-Church groups from creating or sponsoring their own Web sites about temples.

For instance, the Elder’s Quorum President in the Danbury Park East Ward cannot create a Web site for the quorum and post personal information, quorum events, and provide ability to sign up for welfare assignments. These activities carry potential problems with privacy rights and security issues. However, that restriction does not extend to individuals who could create Web sites that talk about priesthood quorums and the amazing work they can do. The difference is that you are creating a personal site *about* the Church, rather than an offical site *from* the Church.

It is in the Church’s interest for people like my friend to create Web sites that help to spread the word about how the gospel (or some aspect of the gospel, such as temple work or priesthood quorums) has positively affected lives and brought people to Christ.

Do you have a story to tell about the Church? The Church is supportive of stories being told in a faithful, respectful, and positive manner; this helps the Church.

So, spread the word–individuals and non-Church groups can be anxiously engaged in creating the type of Web sites that will help the Church.

Questions? Feel free to e-mail me at awyatt@moregoodfoundation.org

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Announcement: We are hiring

Moregoodfoundation MormonWe are hiring part-time PHP programmers to work 10-30 hours per week, and we’ll pay a $50 finder’s fee to anyone who helps us find an employee.

Contact Richard at rmiller AT moregoodfoundation DOT org or 801-705-5107.

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Increase Others’ Understanding of Us

Writing Articles to Increase Others’ Understanding of Us

I have been with the More Good Foundation for a few weeks, and I am thrilled to participate in this work. I am becoming ever more convinced that the Foundation’s ideas about getting positive LDS information out on the Web, as well as its approaches to most effectively have that information found, will truly bear much fruit so far as increasing the world’s understanding and even acceptance of the Lord’s true Church.

Moregoodfoundation MormonMy first contact with the Foundation occurred when I responded to an e-mail from BYU that invited students/alumni to apply for an internship. I did so and was soon asked to come in for an interview, whereupon I met Allen Wyatt and Giuseppe Martinengo for the first time. I had prepared for the interview by visiting the Foundation’s Web site, and Allen and Giuseppe were able to build on my newfound knowledge by telling me a little about, for instance, the fact that in their work they strive to make information more accessible to non-members by using terms like “Mormon” instead of “Latter-day Saint.” It’s true–the average Joe will have no idea that we tend to call ourselves “LDS.” He will go on Google and search under “Mormon,” and, currently, that won’t return the best sites about us. Joe will read a little of what is returned in such a search, feel that his curiosity has been satisfied, and chalk up the Mormon Church as one more religion he definitely doesn’t want to get involved in.

The More Good Foundation hopes to level the playing field by meeting people on their own terms. If they want to call us “Mormons,” then that’s what we are. If Google produces more search results under “Mormons” than “LDS,” so be it. We are no less members of the true Church, and we can use the Foundation’s Internet research to our advantage, writing “Mormon” articles that are (*gasp!*) positive and truthful.

I have been busy with, among other things, writing articles about Mormon beliefs and practices that I feel will greatly benefit anyone who comes across them. It’s surprising how easy it is to sit down and write a paper on a basic topic like honesty, charity, or baptism. To show volunteers some examples of the kind of material the More Good Foundation is looking for, I want to invite anyone who has interest to take a look at the site www.olympicmormons.org. Nearly every article posted there has been written from scratch. Pay special attention to the Basic Mormon Beliefs articles, and keep in mind that I wrote most of them simply from personal knowledge and experience, not even referring to another person’s article to give me ideas on the layout or key points to include. Three of the articles I managed to write in one four-hour sitting, and I don’t even have a degree in English!

I say all this just to drive home the point that practically any member of the Church could volunteer a bit of time and lay down some basic knowledge and beliefs that could be shared with the hungry world via the Internet. Please write something, adding to our goal to see “more good” on the Web.

To reiterate a call by Giuseppe in a previous newsletter, try to do a paper that totals around 800-1000 words (that’s only a page and a half). Possible topics include, but are not limited to: faith, repentance, atonement, baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, priesthood, scriptures, prayer, temple work, forgiveness, Word of Wisdom, sacrifice, the Sabbath day, fasting, service, law of chastity, eternal marriage, and tithing. Have fun!

Comment by Giuseppe: As Chad explained so well, it’s very easy to be part of this great work. Another thing you may consider is to send us short stories or personal experiences that illustrate some gospel principle. I would be particularly interested in missionary experiences (when you were a missionary or when you met the missionaries) but you may want to write about other experiences… So, go ahead; don’t be afraid; discover the excitement of writing and be published right away…

Also, please log in and update your profile (skills, etc.)

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