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Defending The Church In Public Online Discussions And Forums


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Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision. The battle for hearts and minds on the subject of the restored gospel is being stoked up by the Romney thing - and I believe that it is being increasingly played out in the comments sections of articles posted in online media.

I was horrified when I read the comments section on a recent CNN article about the new Temple In Kansas. The article itself was positive and quite fair. However I had never before seen anything quite like the comments section. There were over 3000 comments (50 pages), and these consisted almost entirely of an unmitigated flood and tirade of pure abuse and hatred against the church and the teachings of the restored gospel.

At least with Romney based articles, fair minded readers can be persuaded that bashing candidates for not being “true” Christians is unacceptable and rather bigoted. (Goodness knows what will happen if we ever get a muslim presidential candidate – but thats not the point Im making here). But because the subject CNN article was about Temples (and thus church doctrine), CNN had no option but to publish the comments . . on the basis that “everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”

The Mormon Voices site invites members to help defend the church online in public forums by contributing to the comments sections. But it is SO SO important to do it in the correct, controlled, and effective way – which I would suggest is best done as follows

I believe that the very best method is to completely avoid all the esoteric, cerebral and even doctrinal stuff (very interesting though it may be) . . and just say something very simple, very short, completely factual and very personal. When I do that, I find our “enemies” are entirely unable to dispute or argue with what I have said.

On the subject of “enemies” - “We encourage all our members to resolutely refuse to become anti-anti-Mormon,” Marvin J Ashton (Ensign, Nov. 1992, p. 63). We need to speak the truth in love, and not fall into the trap of participating in contention or feeling that we need to respond to every challenge.

For example - here is a general purpose "template" response that I often use - of course edited and adapted as necessary . . .

"I have been a member of the "Mormon" church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) in the UK for about 40years now. I honestly don't know of any other church that encourages and promotes among its members such a serious and detailed study of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ FROM THE BIBLE. Or of any other church that so strongly emphasizes His divinity. The vast majority of Mormons simply would not be able to recognize themselves at all in some of the previous comments that have been made. The real fact is that at the core of Mormonism is a rather plain, low church Christianity, with decaffeinated adherents who go about their lives paying their taxes, loving their families, serving in their communities, helping the poor, and making mistakes along the way."

(That last sentence BTW has been "borrowed" from a response to an unfavourable TV program by Mike Otterson in the public affairs dept.)

My point is that a response of this type disarms them leaves them absolutely no wriggle room to challenge or dispute anything that you have said. They simply cant argue with what you have experienced personally. (And Im not talking here about our formal testimonies) It also closes the door on the spirit of contention, which they thrive on. Sadly some will then just revert to name calling - but any reasonable person then reading a such a comments section will then easily see them for what they are.

As another example, you might post something like “I have been an actively involved member of the LDS church for x years. In all of that time I have never seen any black or gay visitor or member (and yes we do have them) treated or even talked about with anything less than full respect and consideration”

Some excellent guidelines and helps on responding in an effective way can be found at the Mormon Voices site. I believe that dignified, respectful, factual, personal, short and simple (for simple people to understand) is definitely the best way to go. Like the old sales guideline K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) And it goes without saying that name calling has to be a no-no

In fact – I now rather cringe when I see members engaging in debate about church doctrines and practices in comments sections. There is surely a more excellent way.

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It seems that you must accept both the good and the bad. Just today I read an article highlighting how the LDS is the fast growing church (Islam is second). So while there is bad, there are also some positive statements as well.

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In fact – I now rather cringe when I see members engaging in debate about church doctrines and practices in comments sections. There is surely a more excellent way.

I agree. I think the comments sections attract the extremists on both sides of the argument and do nothing to forward any productive dialogue.

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I wish that when those articles are published and the real antis come out; just let them have it. Pray that they all get rip-roaring drunk with their ability to write anything and everything they want. In doing so, any sane, rational human will see that those people are complete wackos. Then the next time those missionaries pass through their neighborhood they just might, just maybe, open the door and ask the simple question, "What do you guys really believe?".

The world is full of hate and contention. It comes in all colors, from all churches, religions, and philosophies. We are called to love our God and our fellow man. If we do that all else will fall into line in the Lord's good time.

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The problem is that these comments are generally done under the provisions of anonymity. Any anonymous person can post whatever they want... typically without any "real world" consequences. That's the beauty and curse of anonymity.

The "mob mentality" is a dangerous, slippery slope. It's a lot easier to blend into a mob mentality when you're all anonymous to each other. It brings out the worst in some people.

I post anonymously to help protect my identity, but I also don't post anything vulgar. Some people get their 'kicks' that way.

It's a pretty sad way to live and exist.

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The problem is that these comments are generally done under the provisions of anonymity. Any anonymous person can post whatever they want... typically without any "real world" consequences. That's the beauty and curse of anonymity.

The "mob mentality" is a dangerous, slippery slope. It's a lot easier to blend into a mob mentality when you're all anonymous to each other. It brings out the worst in some people.

I post anonymously to help protect my identity, but I also don't post anything vulgar. Some people get their 'kicks' that way.

It's a pretty sad way to live and exist.

I heard a talk recently - advice from the jewish anti defamation league I think - they were asked what is the most important thing to do to prevent another holocaust. They answered something like "prevent people wearing masks" meaning doing stuff anonymously. If I remember right the talk pointed out that many KKK members would probably have been considered good honest upstanding members of the community in their normal lives - but when they put on their masks they felt able to join in with lynchings and other horrendous stuff etc.

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The "mob mentality" is a dangerous, slippery slope. It's a lot easier to blend into a mob mentality when you're all anonymous to each other. It brings out the worst in some people.

Indeed it's the same mentality that has existed in history when mobs did terrible things that individuals wouldn't otherwise think of doing.

I am reminded of a great movie called the Ox-Bow Incident that illustrates this. In the end two innocent men were killed because the mob decided without evidence they were guilty. One man tried to stand against the mob. In the end he read a letter the one innocent victim had written to his wife and children. Needless to say those who participated in the mob could feel the guilt as they realized what they had done. It was very sad and very illustrative of how men without reason can do great harm.

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I heard a talk recently - advice from the jewish anti defamation league I think - they were asked what is the most important thing to do to prevent another holocaust. They answered something like "prevent people wearing masks" meaning doing stuff anonymously. If I remember right the talk pointed out that many KKK members would probably have been considered good honest upstanding members of the community in their normal lives - but when they put on their masks they felt able to join in with lynchings and other horrendous stuff etc.

I'm not sure I agree with that. Being known as a member of the KKK in its golden years didn't usually diminish public opinion of you as an upstanding member of the community, if anything, it probably elevated your status. Took a particularly shocking sex scandal to turn the tide of public opinion. The masks were mainly protection against outsiders, that is, the authorities. The Holocaust resulted from an environment in which the violent extremists were the authorities. Hatred of Jews- the outsiders- this was never kept secret by the Nazis, neither was the fact they considered Jews to blame for political, historical, social, moral and economical ills. Administrative and operative details were kept secret, but never the big picture (why else were they considered a threat?).

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I heard a talk recently - advice from the jewish anti defamation league I think - they were asked what is the most important thing to do to prevent another holocaust. They answered something like "prevent people wearing masks" meaning doing stuff anonymously. If I remember right the talk pointed out that many KKK members would probably have been considered good honest upstanding members of the community in their normal lives - but when they put on their masks they felt able to join in with lynchings and other horrendous stuff etc.

Few people know the origin of the KKK's uniform. Now you too can know the truth:

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