A controversial speech given by the newly appointed Relief Society president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the church’s October 2007 General Conference has shown that online forums are a new way for people to communicate about the church.
As soon as the talk by Julie B. Beck was over, activity on Mormon-related blogs and Web-based forums exploded, with hundreds of postings stating opinions both for and against the talk.
"Her comments sound like that of an uneducated, reincarnated 1800s lady," said one posting on a popular board aimed at those who have left the LDS church.
On other pro-LDS forums, comments were made touting the truthfulness of the same talk.
Web forums have been a popular method of communication for many years, and it seems that LDS culture is catching up.
"I think the main role it plays is providing access to information that is otherwise unavailable through other Mormon channels. I think that alone is making a very significant impact on Mormon culture," said Jeff Ricks, founder of the popular Web forum postmormon.org
Some forums, like postmormon.org, are populated mainly by people that are no longer active in the LDS church. Others, like fairlds.org, are dedicated to defending the church, its members and its history.
Both of these online communities have thousands of members. Ricks suggested that the reason for the popularity of these boards is anonymity; some feel that if they speak publicly against the church, they will be punished.
On these sites and several others, the hundreds of posts in the minutes following the talk show that these new online communities are indeed contributing to the overall LDS culture.
Much of Beck’s talk borrowed from a well-known talk given by former LDS president, Ezra Taft Benson, titled "To the Mothers in Zion," in which he urged women not to delay or limit child-bearing.