Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Mormon Church in a Social-Media World

For over 170 years the Mormon Church controlled its own story. It had a public relations department that could monitor, screen and manage the message that the rest of the world would receive and thus control how the public would see the organization. Its correlation department could pick and choose what foundational stories to emphasize and even which parts within these stories would be taught. More specifically the correlation department could even turn raw organic history into faith promoting stories with the power to emit faith confirming feelings by leaving out pertinent material within these stories that if left in would not achieve the same effect.

But the world changed…and God’s prophets, Seers and Revelators were caught off guard and ill prepared for the new world they were forced to operate within…the world of Social Media, internet, Facebook and Twitter . In other words, they lost control of their own message. The war they had prepared to fight…was not the war their armies found once they were deployed on the battleground. They had prepared for conventional warfare but were thrust into an insurgency war that included raid and covert operations. The new world of social media has exposed the church for the one thing that it desperately does not want to be seen as...a manmade institution functioning like all other man made institutions… subject to the same societal pressures as other manmade institutions with no evident access to any advanced inspirational insight.

Despite this shift in the churches battleground it has been slow to adapt and change. In many ways the church is still using a rulebook for a world that no longer exists. Yet it is interesting to note that this new world that the church is being forced to operate in is having an impact on the church.

• The church has had to accommodate a woman’s movement that began as a social-media campaign that demanded that the church allow woman to pray in General Conference.
• It has altered its scripture headings to accommodate the reality of its altered history being spread throughout the blogernacle regarding blacks in the priesthood, non-existence of Lehite DNA among so called Lamanites populations and the lack of support for the traditional translation story for the Book of Abraham
• It has softened its strict stance regarding the Gay community due to the overwhelming backlash from Proposition 8…it is now ok to be gay…just not actively gay.
• With the ever growing reality that the official foundational stories have been altered for faith promoting purposes…the church has rewritten lesson manuals to inoculate church members to some of these difficult issues but spun them in such a manner as to maintained belief…in effect create safe harbors where belief can be maintained.

The church has lost it the ability to control its own story…for in this new world…there is always going to be an alternative opinion to the official church narrative and both members, doubters and former members will have a voice to share their thoughts through the internet and all of its social-media outlets. The question for the church is whether or not they will adapt to this new world or continue to ignore reality and continue to fight their battles with their old playbook.

Has the church has been forced to adapt or face the inevitability of becoming irrelevant.

But the emergence of Social Media has cost the church control of its own message. It is no longer the captain of its own ship. As demonstrated by the examples given, Social media has forced the church to do things that it otherwise would not have done. It can adapt to pressures of social media and survive or it can ignore it and be religated to irrelivance.

Can we really believe that if not for social media the church would have had a woman pray in general conference? If not for the power of social media would the unvarnished foundational claims of the church become so widespread? The church is being molded not by inspiration from god but by fingers tapping out The church has become reactive rather than proactive. But then the church has always been reactive rather than proactive…pretty much what one would expect from a man made church.

I should also point out that social media also gave mass to opposing viewpoints. Before social media, the church could deal with the lone those wolves can find each other and form wolfpacks. Before social media, dissidents, doubters and skeptics sat alone in church, now they can find each other, form groups of the likeminded and reach critical mass…with the emphasis on “critical”...this mass is now demanding change with a stregth the church has never before had to face or deal with.


Anonymous said...

It's interesting that when I left just 8 years ago the thought of making a change from within was laughable. They always reacted extremely late to public perception and the writing on the wall.

But the speed with which they've polished their posture towards gays and accommodated the women agitators recently is startling!

I still think they're rather tiny changes but the fact that they came as a result of internal agitation is remarkable as you pointed out... "The church is being molded not by inspiration from god but by fingers tapping out"

Great post!

Anonymous said...

It will take an educated, income producing membership to keep the church running in the future. With the majority of new members coming from Central/South American and African countries, who is going to bankroll the building of new temples, malls and chapels (to accommodate newly built neighborhoods)? There is a dearth of "first world" converts and many of our youth are leaving. Expect more accommodations in the future, if they are savvy business men.

Hanna Tycc said...

whoops, didn't notice the anonymous thing. Barely sent comment...

Daniel said...

Dear fellow ex-mormon,
After a very rocky start to university life I have decided to create a Facebook page for college/university aged ex-mormons to help with the recovery and transition to normal student life. I have just started the group so there are very few members but in time I believe this will be a very important resource to help people my age in what is an incredibly difficult transition. Please share this any way you can.


Hailey Cox said...

I feel there is a similar phenomenon in the Catholic church. Since Pope Francis came into his position- the catholic church's response to controversial issues has been greatly softened. He was named Time's person of the year for goodness sake.

In this day and age where the internet holds nearly infinite resources at a click all religion will have to adapt or die due to all the reasons you pointed out.

Very well written post and very interesting. Thanks for sharing.