Though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (‘the Mormon Church’) currently has 13 million members worldwide, it remains one of the most misunderstood religions. With the growth of the Internet, many common misperceptions have been perpetuated as inaccurate information has often been forth by critics of the Mormon faith.
As a result, Elder M. Russell Ballard, one of the twelve apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently encouraged members to join the conversation online. Instead of simply allowing others to define the beliefs of the Church, he stated that members of the faith should step forward to answer questions online. “We cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches,” he said.
Ballard continued by specifically mentioning the use of ‘new media’ as a way to share views. With the rapid growth of online video, video-sharing websites like Youtube have become a central place of discussion concerning the Mormon Church. Though many videos, including some of the most popular, do not accurately portray Mormon beliefs or history, a dramatic shift appears to be underway as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are increasingly becoming involved in the online discussion.
For example, one Youtube user said on his profile, “I am here on Youtube because I believe in spreading truth, making available positive resources, and helping people understand what members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe.” A similar message is echoed on hundreds of similar Youtube channels by other members of the Mormon Church.
Recently, the Mormon Church was again brought into the spotlight as Mitt Romney, a Mormon, ran for the presidency of the United States. Romney’s faith became a target from both secular and religious groups. Speaking about this issue, Mormon sociologist Armand Mauss said, “I think there is going to be a wholesale reconsideration with how Mormons should deal with the latent and overt anti-Mormon propaganda. I don’t think the Mormons are ever again going to sorrowfully turn away and close the door and just keep out of the fray.”
With nearly 20,000 videos about the Mormon Church currently on Youtube, and dozens more added each day, this online venue appears to be attracting the interest of Mormons and millions of others around the globe.