LDS.org responds to Julie and T&S discussions

June 29, 2007 | 58 comments
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Apparently folks in the Church Office Building drop by T&S from time to time. Today, this press release was posted to LDS.org, responding in part to Julie’s post on the recently posted Ensign article on MMM. The press release says in part:

Some [linking to this post at T&S] have suggested that the article signals a “new openness” by the Church and have speculated that such “openness” can be attributed to intense media scrutiny of the Church during a political season or to certain individuals or particular departments at Church headquarters.

In fact, the Church is responding to the rapidly changing news and information of today’s world. The Internet and other new or “social” media formats, such as blogs, have brought to the public a huge number of information sources that are updated constantly and that allow for more clarity, context and detailed information. These are significant developments that have brought new communication opportunities to the Church through its Web sites.

Others can parse this as they see fit, but I see it as an implicit admission of Julie’s main point, namely that the Church is trying to use new media to be more open precisely because it thinks that it can now present its message with greater nuance. Thoughts?

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58 Responses to LDS.org responds to Julie and T&S discussions

  1. Steve Evans on June 29, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    Nate, I agree with your interpretation of the press release, which seemed to be a mix of establishing official Church sites as a viable source of information and discussion, with a description of how the Church is adapting and responding to the opportunities of new media.

  2. John Williams on June 29, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    Wow… I wonder if anyone General Authorities have dropped in for a casual browse here and there…

  3. John Williams on June 29, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    By the way, would anyone at the Times & Seasons staff care to share how much traffic the blog gets, as well as whether or not this press release increases traffic?

  4. Jesse Harris on June 29, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    I’m not surprised. Many moons ago, someone from lds.org dropped by my website for a spell. I imagine that the church has plenty of PR folks who are feed ninjas and Technorati junkies.

  5. John Williams on June 29, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    Gazing into my crystal ball… I see a merger between “The Ensign” and “timesandseasons.org.”

  6. Julie M. Smith on June 29, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    {Note to self: the next time you are tempted to dash off a half-baked post while simultaneously eating cheerios, arguing with a five-year-old re the necessity of education, supervising a 4th grade math lesson, and trying to convince a two year old that his superpowers will not, in fact, help him if he jumps off of the landing, think twice.}

    To the extent that they thought I was attributing the differences between the articles “to certain individuals or particular departments at Church headquarters,” they misread me. I see the difference between the two as reflecting different time periods and sensibilities, not internecine strife.

    Further, I don’t buy their claim that the best explanation for the contrasting approaches to the MMM is that the Internet allows for a depth of discussion that old media did not. As my original post pointed out, the key differences between the two are interpretive choices, not length. (And note that the Institute manual is 643 pages long–it easily could have included something the length of the current Ensign article.)

  7. Kaimi Wenger on June 29, 2007 at 7:49 pm

    I think your earlier point can be reconciled with the LDS.org statement, Julie. After all, shifts in interpretive choices may be linked to shifts in the different informational vectors available.

    You emphasize the conscious choice that must have gone on in the decision, and the LDS.org statement emphasizes the changing conditions of information dispersement that underlie the new article. The fact is, I think, that those changing conditions (LDS.org statement) undoubtedly affected any conscious decision (your point) about the article.

  8. Ben Huff on June 29, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    This LDS.org piece is a nice example of the principle it articulates, too:
    “The Internet and other new or “social” media formats, such as blogs, have brought to the public a huge number of information sources that are updated constantly and that allow for more clarity, context and detailed information.”

    If the Church is getting into the rapid response and dialogue of internet media, this piece is a nice example, responding to thoughtful commentary on a popular Mormon blog.

    The piece also makes a nice gesture, acknowledging that independent efforts (like this one) play a helpful role in internet-age flow of information about the Church:
    “Many Church members on their own initiative take part in sharing their beliefs and opinions on the Internet. Thoughtful expressions of their personal faith and experiences with the Church help dispel stereotypes and misinformation.”

    I think the Church is doing a great job in its recent moves in this direction. Hurray!

  9. John Williams on June 29, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    The press release is very diplomatic and complimentary. Congratulations to Mormon bloggers. You have been validated by the Church itself.

  10. Ben Huff on June 29, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    Um, Julie, by “particular individuals” could they have meant good ol’ Mitt Romney? or new books/movies on MMM? or Russell’s mention of certain GAs’ talks in the 80s and 90s, or Marlin Jensen (comments #3 & 9)?

    By “particular departments” . . . what was that you said about CES? (your comparison was pretty unflattering)

  11. John Williams on June 29, 2007 at 8:16 pm

    @Ben Huff

    I think the “individual” is Elder Marlin K. Jensen.

  12. Julie M. Smith on June 29, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    Ben,

    I assumed that, due to the previous reference to Romney (“during a political season”), that “certain individuals” wasn’t another reference to him but rather tied to “particular departments” and hinted that I was trying to spin this as a “CES versus the Ensign” or “Elder Jensen versus President Packer” contrast. I wasn’t. And I certainly didn’t intend for my reference to CES to be unflattering to CES as an institution but rather to point to changes across time. (I would imagine that any future updates to the CES manual will reflect the new Ensign article.)

  13. Ben Huff on June 29, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    Right. It was mostly really others who ran with the Elder Jensen idea.

  14. John Williams on June 29, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    On a side note… you might want to delete Adam Greenwood’s post about how this blog is rated PG-13… that big green rating is the first thing newcomers might see as they link in from the press release.

  15. Ben Huff on June 29, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    Elder Jensen is a great guy and was very impressive and memorable in the recent PBS documentary, but to suggest that he is personally driving a new direction for Church public communications (as some comments on Julie’s thread suggested) is a bit far-fetched. More likely he is in a position to do his good work partly because there is a broader sense that that kind of open, sincere style is the right style for the Church today.

  16. Seth R. on June 29, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    I really like the direction the Church seems to be going in the last few months. I’ve always felt openness is the best policy for the Church, and that the days of “no comment” are dead and gone.

  17. John C. on June 29, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    I suppose that this marks the end of screeds in the ‘Nacle.

  18. Adam Greenwood on June 29, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    I love that the Church is confidently adapting to the internet. Truth will prevail.

    John Williams,
    Thanks. That “rating” is a joke. We got it because we discuss missionaries, but I think you have a point and I moved it downscreen.

  19. Kevin Barney on June 29, 2007 at 9:20 pm

    Very cool. Props all around to Julie, T&S, the Nacle in general, and the Church. I agree that the Church’s recent openness has been a breath of fresh air. Congratulations to Julie for articulaing a substantive example that received this kind of notice.

  20. bbell on June 29, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    Does Julie get a Niblet for this?

    The fresh air like Kevin says is awesome. By a raise of hands who want to see Jensen in the Q12?

  21. Adam Greenwood on June 29, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    Really, BBell.

  22. bbell on June 29, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    Adam,

    I like him.

    He has come off so well in so many interviews and esp the PBS documentary.

    What are your objections? Do not tell me politics. Both Packer and Faust are Dems

  23. Julie M. Smith on June 29, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    bbell,

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Adam wasn’t objecting to Elder Jensen personally but rather to the idea of selecting apostles via a blog-based vote.

  24. jjohnsen on June 29, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    Well if it becomes possible, he’ll have my vote as well.

  25. bbell on June 29, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    You mean we worship in a theocracy and not a democracy?

    Really? I never would have guessed. : )

    Congrats. You a playa now.

  26. Aaron Brown on June 29, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    Congrats, T&S, for being belated recognized by the Church. After having 3 different Apostles anonymously guestpost at BCC during the last year, we’ve been feeling rather lonely (albeit extraordinarily well-connected and influential). It warms my heart that others occasionally get to experience the intimate daily brushes with hierarchy that BCC regularly enjoys.

    Aaron B

  27. LRC on June 30, 2007 at 12:39 am

    So, when will the GA’s have their own blog?

  28. Frank McIntyre on June 30, 2007 at 12:49 am

    Aaron,

    oh, sorry, Aaron. Those were all actually me.

    John,

    Our sidebar has a counter on it that I think you can click on to get traffic info. It is no more perfect than any other counter, but maybe it will give you an idea.

  29. Geoff J on June 30, 2007 at 1:58 am

    Wow.

    The interesting part to me is not that folks in SLC read ‘nacle blogs like T&S — I already assumed that was the case; the bigger news is that they actually chose to link to you in a real live press release. That means that for whatever reason they decided to make it crystal clear that they acknowledge T&S as an influential voice on the Web — at least sufficiently influential (and sufficiently church-friendly) to link to it on the official church Web site. I’m not exactly sure of all that implies but it certainly can be viewed as a form of validation for T&S. (And who knows — maybe this release in general could imply some secondary acknowledgment of the faithful blogs we call the bloggernacle in general as well…) Very interesting indeed.

  30. Jonathan Green on June 30, 2007 at 3:47 am

    The Holy Grail is still a link from the conference issue of the Ensign. Hopefully, it will be via an exemplum, and not an index prohibitorum.

  31. m&m on June 30, 2007 at 3:58 am

    The interesting part to me is not that folks in SLC read ‘nacle blogs like T&S

    Recently I read somewhere of someone whose full-time job was to do this sort of thing. Wish I could remember where (I think it was the Newsroom). Anyone else read this?

  32. john f. on June 30, 2007 at 5:54 am

    Very good job T&S. I cringed that it was Julie’s post they linked to partially because I personally didn’t like how the post was titled Glasnost. That implied, to my mind, a comparison of the Church to a Stalinist regime that begins to open up when a statesman like Gorbachev directs specific renunciation of totalitarian measures. The comparison works for numerous critics of the Church but not so well for me. Also, I am aware of numerous other posts about the Ensign article and Mountain Meadows Massacre that contained, perhaps, more substantive analysis and awareness of which issues were key, etc.

    Still, it is very deserved that the Church’s first official acknowledgment of the faithful LDS blogging community was to Times and Seasons. Part of me also wished a link might have gone out to BCC in the same press release, but if T&S is being read, then so is BCC (by the way, T&S, it might be time to update the links on the blogroll if traffic is being directed here from lds.org).

    I have one question that I can’t resist asking: to all who opined with such confidence over the years that the Church was just around the corner from an Alternative Voices II statement in General Conference ordering the members not to read blogs or the internet, is there any chagrin for taking such a pessimistic view of the Church?

  33. john f. on June 30, 2007 at 5:56 am

    (By official acknowledgment, I actually meant “direct link” since I am aware that lds.org has alluded to Mormon blogs in general in the past.)

  34. danithew on June 30, 2007 at 7:53 am

    Very cool to see a nod in the direction of the ‘Nacle from the official Church site. I thought the first sign of recognition might come in a general conference talk – but it makes more sense that it would happen via one internet site to another.

  35. Adam Greenwood on June 30, 2007 at 7:58 am

    Congrats, T&S, for being belated recognized by the Church. After having 3 different Apostles anonymously guestpost at BCC during the last year, we’ve been feeling rather lonely (albeit extraordinarily well-connected and influential).

    I thought that dude sounded like Lobias Murray. Who were the others?

  36. Julie M. Smith on June 30, 2007 at 11:02 am

    “That implied, to my mind, a comparison of the Church to a Stalinist regime that begins to open up when a statesman like Gorbachev directs specific renunciation of totalitarian measures.”

    /cringing

    If those were the associations that the title brought out for you, then it was indeed an unfortunate title. I hope that enough of you are familiar with what I write in the Bloggernacle to know that I have no such view of the Church.

  37. Dave on June 30, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Julie, I thought Glasnost was a fine title. Better than something like “Random Thoughts on Whether There’s A Slight Shift Towards LDS Openness and Media Engagement.” It’s not like this is English class where you can *assign* people to read what you write; one actually has to make posts sound interesting enough (especially in the title, which gets displayed on aggregators) to get people to click on over to read the post.

  38. Seth R. on June 30, 2007 at 11:52 am

    Titles are meant to provoke and encourage people read the post. Inflammatory titles tend to do that very well. I think it’s a breath of fresh air for a population that’s so used to controversy-avoidance-behaviors.

  39. Carl Youngblood on June 30, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    T&S administrators, do you have an analytics account of some kind? If not, go get a free Google analytics account now. It would be interesting to know how many visits are coming from folks in the Church Office Bldg.

  40. Geoff J on June 30, 2007 at 12:42 pm

    Carl — see comment #27. According to the tracker T&S averages 1500-2000 visits per day. No big bump in the last day or two. (T&S probably gets a lot more consistent traffic than the LDS newsroom to begin with actually).

  41. John C. on June 30, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    I think that all it would take is a massive blow up of internet angst and the Brethren will be much more concerned about the blogs. If they get a lot of people talking about how the blogs ruined their testimonies, I think they will be more concerned. That said, most of the people who wander over here already have a viewpoint, so I don’t think there will be a wild upswing in such statements.

  42. Wilfried on June 30, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    Julie, I think “glasnost” was a perfect title. Short and catchy. As you know, it means openness, clarity in Russian. The press release article has as its title The Church and New Media: Clarity, Context and an Official Voice. That’s pretty matching. And perhaps the site linked to your title because they wanted to reinforce their message without saying it themselves. Towards outsiders who have negative views of the Church, it’s not a bad idea to send the message that we do pursue glasnost.

  43. DKL on June 30, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    My thoughts are this: The church has entered a more open phase, but it is stubbornly unwilling to acknowledge any change of that sort for two reasons:

    1. They are vainly trying to perpetuate the myth that the gospel never changes
    2. The acknowledgment of change implies a need for change, and therefore a mistake

    Personally, I see it as evidence of the fact that there is still a lot of organizational maturation that needs to occur in the halls of leadership in our church, even if they are starting to address some of the issues surrounding openness. Perhaps we can call this, “The Post Alternative-voices-phobic Stage” of our church’s history. Naahh. Glasnost rings much truer.

  44. Jack on June 30, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    DKL,

    They also could be trying to avoid the death-blows of too much change. Too much too fast will kill anything, animal, vegetable, mineral, organizational, or what-have-you.

  45. Adam Greenwood on June 30, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Glasnost has the same associations for me that it does for John F., but we already had that debate in the original thread and I don’t see the need to rehash it here.

  46. DKL on June 30, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Adam, if one doesn’t like being compared to communists, than one shouldn’t behave like communists. And it won’t due to defend organizations that act like communist organizations by simply denying that they acted like communist organizations.

    Glasnost remains the perfect title, and I don’t care which thread we discuss it on.

  47. Ugly Mahana on June 30, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    Can someone please come up with a term for the newly recognized openness, or new oppenness, or whatever, that has the same ring as “anti-Nephi-Lehis.”

  48. anonymous on June 30, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    According to LDSPA insiders, the driving force behind the new period of Glasnost–or whatever we’re calling it–is most definitely Mike Otterson, the church’s media relations director. He’s a former journalist, and now one of the heavy hitters at the COB. The man has a vision, very much in line with Elder Jensen’s, of absolute transparency in all these types of matters. Just wait and watch, my friends. Things are going to get really interesting in the next few years with Brother Otterson.

  49. Adam Greenwood on July 1, 2007 at 12:18 am

    I don’t live in the-world-according-to-DKL. Neither does the Church.

  50. Aaron Brown on July 1, 2007 at 2:47 am

    Now that we’ve had some glasnost, when are we gonna get some perestroika? :)

  51. Wilfried on July 1, 2007 at 8:38 am

    Ref. 47

    Mormonost ?

  52. Seth R. on July 1, 2007 at 11:05 am

    Just as long as the Church doesn’t end up run by the local mafia.

  53. DKL on July 1, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    Adam, I don’t either. I live in the real world. And it looks to me like the church is increasingly living in it, too. Too bad I can’t say the same for you.

  54. Matthew Stevens on July 2, 2007 at 12:21 am

    For me, the most interesting part from the mentioned Newsroom “commentary” was the admission that these articles, commentaries (what have you) are indeed sanctioned by the Church, expressed in statments such as “all materials on Newsroom and other Church Web sites are carefully reviewed and approved before they are posted.”

    I welcome a return to the discussion initiated a few weeks ago in response to just such a posting in the Church Newsroom on what constitutes official Church doctrine (link needed). What can and should be taken as the official word? Furthermore, in light of Bushman’s suggestions in the Pew Forum, my not-so-secret desire to uncover the hidden Mormon theology that must be just beyond my immature reach may actually have led me to a more meaningful discovery – the richness and meaning of no committed theology at all. Any thoughts?

  55. Alison Moore Smith on July 2, 2007 at 3:18 am

    You go, Julie!

  56. Bookslinger on July 2, 2007 at 11:27 am

    I admit I experienced some pucker factor when I first saw that my blog’s tracking stats revealed that I was getting visitors from LDS church-owned IP numbers in Salt Lake City.

    That wasn’t quite as scarey as getting a page (on my old-fashioned pager/beeper) from an 801 area code number which, when I did a reverse lookup at http://www.anywho.com, was a church-owned number in the admin or similar office building.

    I then realized I used my pager number when ordering from the Distribution Center. It seems that I purchased the last copy of a certain translation of the Joseph Smith Testimony pamphlet. When they went to print more, they realized that they had lost the original/master, and wanted to know if they could buy back a copy for them to make a new master. I sent them one, and told them not to bother with sending me the 40 cents.

  57. Julie M. Smith on July 2, 2007 at 11:29 am

    Bookslinger, that’s hilarious.

  58. Ana on July 3, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    As a PR professional, I have to say that any big organization that’s NOT considering new media, blogs, Facebook and so on — and hiring feed ninjas and technorati junkies — would be making a serious mistake. I’m very glad the Church isn’t making it.

    Anonymous, I’m fascinated by the idea of a PR leader like you tell us Br. Otterson may be. He sounds like someone I would be thrilled to work for.