Friday, August 22, 2014

LDS Church Uses Internet to Proselyte, Monitor

by Brig Bagley

22 August 2014

The Mormons hardly dictate where the world and its society shifts. That is why it so often changes so many of its practices and policies--to mold to and to take advantage of what society has to offer. The explosion of the internet and social media is one example where the church first warned of, but now has embraced. Using its hired expertise of LDS lawyers, advertisers, and businessmen, church leaders have now exacted policies to incorporate electronic tools for proselyting. Half of missionaries today carry only a tablet instead of scriptures, not to mention a cellphone--both of which I would have been sent home for possessing. The unsaid other usage of the internet and social media is to monitor the activities of members' personal lives.

During the Kate Kelly and John Dehlin excommunication stories, I explored a few examples where members of the church were snitched on and disciplined for their opinions online. The church still uses the temple interview question #7:

"Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?"

This question was confusing, but easy for me when I answered it years ago. I didn't know why I would belong to a group that would teach things the church opposed. But looking back, this question is so sweeping and general, it basically incriminates you for being a mere friend of someone gay, feminist, atheist, etc. You cannot support your gay friends. You cannot affiliate with a feminist group. You cannot agree with a friend drinking, smoking, or getting tattoos. Basically, you can't leave your Mormon bubble, or they'll make sure you don't get back in.

Kevin Kloosterman tweeted his congratulations to the first same-sex couple married in Utah. He was a Bishop in the past. But when his Bishop found out about the tweet, his access to LDS temples was revoked. Just one simple tweet.

Several other members have been removed from their callings (their "jobs" in the church, such as a teacher, pianist, or leader) for their opinions on their blogs, Facebook posts, and the likes. Some members have been excommunicated, like Kate Kelly, founder of "Ordain Women". Kelly was certainly more on the radar than others, but local leaders, when informed on their own or other members about inappropriate opinions online, take action to squash it immediately. No free thinking in this church. Or if you do it, don't talk about it.

Sometimes I wonder if my family fears the discipline they would receive by just being supportive of me, an openly gay man--no longer a believer or member of the LDS church. I wonder if they will ever be able to think outside of the box--to love and accept me unconditionally--with the belief that affiliating with someone like me would jeopardize their salvation. I wouldn't be surprised. And it's hurtful. I'm far from the only person estranged from the church that feels that way.

I'm sure I've lost many Facebook friends with some of the many posts I have that are not becoming of an active LDS member.  I've been chastised by former leaders that I used to admire and respect on my posts. At family reunions, I have aunts, uncles, and cousins that consider me a lost soul with no morals now that I've taken a "path off the deep end".

I know I'm getting off topic, but I know this happens within the church for even the most minor infractions. Judging others is a forte for Mormons. It's not taught, it's learned. Ratting another member out for being imperfect is a great way to shift blame and guilt away from yourself. The internet just made it a lot easier.

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