Many have claimed that the internet has eroded testimonies and caused a mass exodus (estimated at ~100K members per annum). Others have noted the power of the internet to win new converts and to attract people through targeted campaigns like missionaries on Facebook, apostle pages, and the “I’m a Mormon” campaign. What do you think?
How has the internet changed the church for you? Is it overall positive or negative?
I think areas of most baptisms are going to be in countries where the church’s web presence is not well known to the average lay member. However, where the internet is widely available might also correlate to the areas of most dramatic reduction in membership numbers/activity.
I think the bad evens out with the good, because for every person that left the church due to accurate (or inaccurate, but mostly accurate) online articles there is probably three or four who have read it and dismissed the article or flat out avoid said articles.
I believe that it is a short-term problem. As the world gets progressively more difficult and frightening to live in, I believe that the Church will grow exponentially.
And with that growth, many of the “bugs in the system ” will work themselves out ( such ad the singles program, retention, etc….)
I wish there were 2 more options. The internet is both good and bad, but there has been a net loss (or net gain).
I’ll admit, I’m shocked when any well-educated person joins the church these days. I mean… don’t they have google? I can understand why people are staying, even the ones who know all the tricky issues, but why someone would join… it’s honestly hard for me to understand.
I suppose it’s possible they have deeply spiritual experiences that drive them to join the church, and I can see why people stay.And I do sincerely believe that the church is good for many people, and those people will be drawn to it.
(Either that, or they just haven’t googled the Book of Abraham yet.;) )
Jess Lang: “As the world gets progressively more difficult and frightening to live in, I believe that the Church will grow exponentially.”
Is it, though? The world is actually a far less violent place than at pretty much other time in history. Even in the short-term, crime rates are down, teen pregnancy is down, education levels are up, drug use is down, divorce rates are down…
I get that the message “hey, the world is actually a pretty good place and statistics show it is getting better” doesn’t really get butts in the pews on Sundays, but objectively, if we look at the last few centuries, maybe ignoring the 50s, you’d see that the world is getting easier and less frightening (especially if we stop watching 24-hour news channels and look at the statistics).
Jess: “As the world gets progressively more difficult and frightening to live in, I believe that the Church will grow exponentially.” This is an unfounded assertion. The world is getting better and better, even within my lifetime. Bear in mind that news stations make money through sensationalized stories, not cute waterskiing squirrels and touching moments with grandma. People are living longer, accuracy at ascertaining who committed crimes is more accurate than ever, countries are working together more than in the past, and the standard of living throughout the world is on the rise – not declining. Human rights issues are quickly brought to international community and addressed. Innovation is at an all time high. Even the 1950s was a far worse time despite the efforts of some to idealize it: we were in the grip of cold war and communist purges run by our own government that were often illegal, marital rape was legal and women often didn’t have the right or means to divorce abusers – they also couldn’t access reliable and safe birth control. How is it that the 1950s are so ideal? The mere fact that we have 24 hour news means that we are much safer than ever.
Jenn: “I suppose it’s possible they have deeply spiritual experiences that drive them to join the church, and I can see why people stay.And I do sincerely believe that the church is good for many people, and those people will be drawn to it.” I think this is precisely why people join. They are drawn to the community and they have spiritual experiences while in it. I agree that during the early fact-finding stages, many are turned off by information they can easily google that the missionaries are ill-prepared to answer credibly.
“I’m shocked when any well-educated person joins the church these days”…meaning, in your arrogance of being puffed up with pride in the education that you suppose that you possess, you ASSUME (didn’t your mother ever teach you what happens when you ‘assume’?) that one who acquires and/or keeps a testimony in the Gospel of Jesus Christ must be suffering from some manner of intellectual deficiency. I’d not only put my education (Bachelors and Masters in Mechanical Engineering, Masters in Chemical Engineering) and professional experience against anyone debunking the Church, but it’s been my experience that the converts tend to have higher education levels than their peers. However, I accept and even laud the testimonies of those that haven’t haunted the hallowed halls of ivy. Many who have positively influenced me in the Gospel have twisted wrenches, fixed toilet, plowed fields, and similar efforts which likely you look down upon as intellectually inferior. Many w/o a so-called formal education are, IMO, nevertheless well-educated and intelligent folks whom I profit to be in the company thereof.
I see the Internet and Social Media as having both positive and negative influences. As far as greater accessibility to the “dirt” on the LDS faith, it was always there (Elias Howes tome “Mormonism Unveiled” was published in 1834 and widely distributed shortly thereafter). It also provides greater access for apologetics. The chief detriment is simply a greater ability to be distracted. Never mind the insidious influences of pornography and general weirdness which is but a few mouse clicks away for most. The Internet, like anything else, is neither inherent good or evil (our parents’ generation had this same debate regarding TV, our grandparents radio, and I suppose the previous generations were in pink fits about the moral hazards of Nickelodeons and pulp magazines!). It can be used for either purpose.
Future growth of the Church (or lack of same) will not be due to technical or social aspects but primarily a function of the diligence of the members preaching and/or being an example of the Gospel, and the receptiveness of others to receive it. We can only control the former, the latter we leave to free agency and the Lord’s will.
Obviously it cuts both ways for the church right now, but as the dozen or so controversies are credibly addressed to the extent possible and the remainder are inoculated against, the balance will tip in favor of the church provided they also show some movement toward more inclusion and toward expressing unconditional love for those who are still excluded.
The new Pope seems to be lighting the way today, all we have to do is follow, which is something we seem to excel at.
The world is getting better and better, even within my lifetime. I totally agree!
The internet has lots of bad stuff, and it is addictive. It’s got some great stuff too. This is all good news for the Plan of Salvation. It’s the Fall of Adam on steroids. Lots of forbidden fruit to choose from, and lots of spiritual death resulting from it. It’s like we are leaving the Garden of Eden all over again, and entering a new lone and dreary world of pure and absolute vanity: the non-physical, spiritually disconnected, isolation of the digital realm. But it is also a realm that can compliment and assist the real one, if it is managed properly.
Right now, the internet offers too many choices, and because we are connected all the time, it’s like we are swimming in open seas, and it’s hard to excercise self-control while the digital waves are crashing all around us.
In the future, individual humans will learn to pre-program a personalized digital realm that reflects their own values. We will pre-program our lives in advance with all sorts of apps, alarms, reminders, data, which track and take care of their every step, their every bite, their every thought, eliminating the “too many choices” problem of today’s digital world. We will give ourselves less digital freedom, in order to have more personal freedom. Instead of being a distraction from the real world, the internet will become a tool to live more fully in the real world….maybe?
Douglas, I think your response to Jenn’s comment is a bit disproportionately strident. For one thing, she specifically said she understands why people in the church remain in the church, so your comment about someone who keeps a testimony of the church is refuting a point that she didn’t make. Secondly, she never made any mention whatever of her education, so for you to call her puffed up with pride in the education she supposes she possesses, is again, taking a shot at something she never said. Her point (as I read it) is that with the proliferation and ease of access to information regarding sticky issues surrounding church history, it’s logical to assume that people who do their due diligence on the church are going to come across a lot of unflattering information that would tend to turn them away, as opposed to toward, the church. I don’t think that’s an unfair assessment, and I don’t think she made any value judgments in her comment whatsoever. Obviously people join the church for many reasons, personal, intimate experiences with members of the church being primary among them. If more educated people are more likely to research the church before becoming involved, and the bulk of information they’re likely to find regarding the church is negative, then it makes sense that many of those people would be turned off before they put themselves in a position to experience those intimate experiences that would lead them to church membership. I don’t think a comment like that makes any inherent judgment about the truthfulness or value of the church.
@Jenn- I have had those same thoughts as well, why door should educated people join the Church? In the last six months the missionaries here have been working with one Post. Doctoral guy in Engineering but they dropped him because he was mostly interested in learning Englsih, which is fine but the missionaries don’t do that. The other guy is working on his PH.D. in Engineering and is coming along but he claims to see spirits and demons and things so the elders are going to talk to the Mission Pres. about what to do. Like is he hallucinating or maybe just super duper spiritual then the rest of us who don’t see anything!
#10 – I’m not strident, merely offended at smart-aleck comments about WHY would someone who is “educated”, as she deems it, have an interest in the Gospel? Answer, which I’d be surprised that either of you can’t figure out, is that part of this “due diligence” is not only the competing messages regarding the Church but also their respective agendas. There never has been a shortage of mud to sling at the Church. Those who investigate must determine for themselves whether the ‘mud-slingers’ (I’m being a tad absurd to illustrate a point) are motivated by truth (and justice and the American Way), or their motives are baser and/or more sinister.
Hence why Moroni would be inspired to place his challenge in Moroni 10:3-5. An older missionary couple, not TOO many moons ago when yours truly labored on his own full-time, said it best: “Spiritual things must be understood spiritually”. That’s the only approach that will ultimately provide a testimony. Yes, study it out in your own mind as the Lord admonished Oliver Cowdery, b/c you must not offend your own God-given intellect. However, if “logic” were sufficient to prove the Church true, then we’d go to Vulcan and get Mr. Spock to explain it to us.
Whizbang, tell the missionaries that some people actually do see auras, spirits, and demons.
The Holy Ghost is equal opportunity — it reaches out to all who will listen, including the well-educated. To suggest that only the ignorant will join the Church is certainly untrue but also unkind. But it has always happened, hasn’t it? When one wants to denigrate the Church, truth doesn’t matter. The Pharisees saw Jesus attracting the ignorant, and the British in the 1840s+ saw Joseph Smith attracting the ignorant, and it still happens today. But the work goes forward.
I enjoyed Jenn’s comment as she expressed what she felt and balanced it with the realization that spiritual experiences could account for it.
Douglas, no one is disagreeing with you. I’m not sure why this seems go be so upsetting to you. If spiritual things must be understood spiritually, then one must approach them spiritually to have a spiritual experience. Otherwise, they’re likely to just seem odd. This is exactly the point. If someone researches the church from a logical perspective, they are not likely to be moved to join, as only the holy ghost can bear witness of the truthfulness of the gospel. The original point was that more educated people are probably more likely to investigate the church from a logical perspective, which is much easier with the proliferation of the internet, and hence are less likely to join the church. I don’t see this as objectionable to a Mormon sensibility. No one is saying they’re better. Perhaps they’re not the elect.
Perhaps they’re not the elect. Or perhaps the church should do it’s laundry.
I find the disaffected have a million reason to NO LONGER have faith in the truth claims of the Church. That is their prerogative, but to denigrate others who they think aren’t as enlightened as they are, is simply foolish. Humility is economically neutral.
I live in a Australia, On Sunday after the HP class, I had a discussion with the teacher who is very conservative, and I am not. He managed to fit into the 10 minute conversation that if I did not repent and see the church as he did I would not see the celestial kingdom, that the church needed to be united, and I wasn’t, and that if I couldn’t fit in I could always leave.
The problem I think the church has is that it is very conservative and if you look at LDS.org.au apart from a couple of announcements for youth conferences you see a picture of Christ, but all the other things show a very male controlled (pictures of men who have been called to positions, and men doing things, Mormon leader proclaiming the importance of family at a marriage day event(notice they get into the txt that said Mormon leader is a mining executive), and ultra conservative culture on display.
There is no such day as marriage day. It is a very conservative group of anti gay marriage people meeting to celebrate the inclusion of “man and woman” into the marriage act in 2004, so gays could not get married.
There is also a message by an American Area presidency member who had a close encounter with hurricane Katrina.
Now 80% of Australians under 40 do not object to gay marriage (though it is not legal yet), and conservative American culture is not a respected brand in Australia.
If I were looking at this site it would make me go the other way very quickly.
The fact that my priesthood class teacher is backed up by the culture of the Leaders, coming from the Area Presidency (americans), means there is very little room to for people who are not ultra conservative in the church. So the missionaries are looking for the small % who will not be repulsed by LDS.org.au and the cultural garbage they will get at church.
50 years ago when we joined the church we only had what the Missionaries told us to go on, the Gospel. Now you can see the culture that the church comes packaged in and if you find that offensive, you will go no further.