Last month The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a video describing the relationship between Joseph Smith and Masonry on it’s YouTube channel. This masonry video is the latest installment in the animated “Now You Know” series on both the Church’s YouTube channel (previously called the Mormon Channel) and website. What do we know about this relatively new “Now You Know” series? (Note: all 27 videos in the series are listed at the end of this post.)
First, we know the project began in early 2018 under the name “Mormon Topics” (back when it was okay to say “Mormon”). The March 12th casting call for actors in this series describes these as 4-minute topical videos and provides a project summary.
“MORMON TOPICS” PROJECT SUMMARY:
The Mormon Topics videos will give honest and “real talk” answers to questions explaining further detail about our faith. Those cast will speak authentically and conversationally to the viewer, and possibly with others, as he/she explains and clarifies topic details, shows us interesting visuals, or takes us to locations that add meaning.
Interestingly, this series has maintained “Mormon topics” in its description despite the baggage. On the Church’s website, the description states “Watch this series talking about Mormon topics you might not know about.” The first few videos use the term “Mormon” freely (those released before President Nelson’s name “correction”). The vast majority of the videos only use the term at the beginning to explain that a more proper label for members of the Church is “Latter-day Saints.”
Second, this is the latest in a long line of official topic resources for non-members. Besides the missionary-oriented resources at Mormon.org (now ComeUntoChrist.org), the Church’s newsroom debuted a new Mormonism 101 page with Frequently Asked Questions in 2012 as well as a “Topics and Background” section. With one major exception, the Church didn’t typically create videos along with these topics.
The need for more direct topical videos soon became obvious. In 2014, a returned Latter-day Saint missionary struggled to find a good video on the Book of Mormon to share on social media. He decided to make his own with two friends. The project resulted in a 5-minute video “What is the Book of Mormon?” published on January 1, 2015.
Eventually the Church picked up the baton, publishing a series of 10 short videos on the Mormon.org YouTube channel in May 2016 explaining “Mormon Beliefs.” Topics included those you’d find in missionary discussions: Who Is Jesus Christ? Why Do We Have Prophets? What Is the Holy Bible? Where Is Jesus’s Church? What Is the Book of Mormon? How Can I Follow Jesus Christ? Why Are Families Important? What Are Mormon Temples? What Happens When I Die? (Disabled) What Is a Church Community?
And then we come to 2018. Along with beginning the “Now You Know” series, the Church also created a short series of explainer videos a few months ahead of the Rome Temple dedication. These videos, located on the missionary-oriented Mormon.org YouTube channel, discussed common questions about Mormon temples: What Is a Temple Endowment? What Are Baptisms for the Dead? Can I go Inside a Latter-day Saint Temple? What Is a Temple Wedding Like? What Are Temple Garments?
How are the “Now You Know” videos different?
Publishing these videos on the Latter-day Saints YouTube channel exposes them to a larger subscription base than other official Church YouTube channels (1.09 million subscribers versus 303K for ComeUntoChrist.org and 102K for the Church Newsroom). It also makes me wonder if they were trying to reach several audiences.
The Church clearly provided these videos hoping members would share them in their own social media feeds (every member a missionary!), but the topics of these videos go beyond straightfoward descriptions of belief. These videos also address some of the more unusual (and controversial) aspects of our history like multiple First Vision accounts, translation of the Book of Mormon via seerstones, and even freemasonry. While the Church has provided resources for members on these more difficult topics in the last few years, the reality is that relatively few have taken advantage of the Gospel Topics database, Gospel Topics Essays and Church History Topics. I’m curious if Church leaders were hoping members might learn from these videos themselves. It’s kind of like the Saints church history volumes providing a surface level understanding in a way that’s easy to digest. Those who want to learn more can turn to additional resources.
Of course, these videos are also useful for anyone using the internet to locate information about the Church regardless of membership status. Search engines put videos higher up on lists of search results. For those just wanting to satisfy curiosity without digging too deep, these videos will be the more attractive option. As web marketers attest, “Watching a video…is passive. It’s much less demanding and more of an automatic process, asking a lot less energy and effort on behalf of the person watching.”
“Now You Know” videos (in order of YouTube publication):
- Mormon Prophets (June 1, 2018)
- Baptism for the Dead (June 4, 2018)
- Restoration of Christ’s Church (October 22, 2018)
- Is God Just or Merciful? (February 12, 2019)
- Choosing Between Good and Evil (March 11, 2019)
- 13 Mormon Beliefs (March 15, 2019)
- What Happens After We Die? (April 1, 2019)
- What Is the Book of Mormon? (April 10, 2019)
- What Mormons Believe about the Godhead (April 17, 2019)
- Apostles: Special Witnesses of Jesus Christ (May 7, 2019)
- What do Mormons Believe About the Afterlife? (May 9, 2019)
- Did Joseph Smith Use a Seer Stone? (June 24, 2019)
- What do Mormons Believe About God? (July 10, 2019)
- The Word of Wisdom: A Health Code (July 15, 2019)
- Missionaries of Jesus Christ (July 23, 2019)
- God Loves His Children (July 26, 2019)
- Where Did We Come From? (July 30, 2019)
- What Happens to Our Bodies and Spirits After We Die? (August 1, 2019)
- How the Church of Jesus Christ is Organized (August 6, 2019)
- The Holy Bible: A Witness of Jesus Christ (August 8, 2019)
- What Is the Purpose and Meaning of Life? (September 20, 2019)
- Where Did the Book of Mormon Come From? (October 15, 2019)
- What is Doctrine? (October 22, 2019)
- Who was Joseph Smith? (October 25, 2019)
- The Judgment of God or Final Judgment (October 29, 2019)
- Joseph Smith’s First Vision (November 1, 2019)
- Joseph Smith and Masonry (December 18, 2019)
 The Church’s website only has the first 26 “Now You Know” videos listed. I have not yet seen the masonry video uploaded there.
 A statement and associated video on “Sacred Temple Clothing” was released by the Church’s Newsroom in October 2014. A former church employee stated that this video was created a couple years prior as a response to hidden camera footage from temple ceremonies being published on the internet by Mike Norton (aka NewNameNoah). Norton told the Church that he would release a video showing U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a temple ceremony. (See Mormon Stories Podcast #810)
 The “Baptism for the Dead” Now You Know video has since been added to the Newsroom topic of the same name.
 Liraz Margalit, “Did Video Kill Text Content Marketing?” at Entrepeneur.com (April 26, 2015)