Religion and the Internet

John Dehlin is one of the first to blog about The Church of Latter-day Saints, on the online scene called Bloggernacle. With Dehlin’s podcasts and blog posts, he holds quite a following. Many people drove for miles to attend this conference.

 

One such group that attended was from Salt Lake City. Chad and Todd Smith were familiar with some of the bloggers in the conference and went in order to learn more. These two spoke with enthusiasm about the scholarly things they were learning about the LDS church.

 

Boyd Peterson, the Mormon Studies Coordinator, has put together the past five LDS conferences.

 

“The purpose of these conferences is to create an academic study of religion,” Peterson said.

 

Peterson said this is often a difficult perspective because it has been such a black and white subject in the past.

 

“The topic of Mormons has had this ‘either or’ type of attitude, for or against,” Peterson said. “This makes it difficult to look at it from a studious perspective. Now I think that is going to change since the spectrum is becoming more vast.”

 

Peterson is in charge of the conference, and is also the one to decide what the topic for the conference will be. The last was on Islam because of the current events of the time.

 

“I saw that so much was on the Internet now,” Peterson said. “Mitt Romney was getting a lot of interest online.”

 

In the Thursday 1 p.m. session of the conference, Dehlin spoke about the people who may commonly be found on a website called whymormonsleave.com. This site is for people who once believed and no longer believe. Dehlin has studied the people who fit these criteria.

 

“Reasons for losing faith in the LDS Church are not the common ones you see in loss of faith,” Dehlin said. “Reasons such as being offended, or wanting more lifestyle options were not among the reasons given.”

 

Dehlin said the most common reasons given were: doctrine issues, church history concerns and issues with Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon. He continued to describe these people throughout his presentation.

 

The conference also covered the positive and negative things that occur because of the Internet when it comes to Mormonism. Rosemary Avance described an experience she had as she started studying the LDS Church.

 

From a church perspective, the Internet can be negative because of the anti-Mormon literature that is so prevalent online. Avance is a non-Mormon theological scholar who spoke on faith Thursday at the conference. She shared her experience of taking lessons from LDS missionaries.

 

She spoke to them as a scholar, not as an investigator of the church. The missionaries told her they could get her a lot of literature about Joseph Smith if she wanted it, but they mentioned, “don’t Google Joseph Smith.”

 

The conference also covered reasons why the Internet positively affects the church. Dehlin gave the example of those who are surrounded by the less desirable types of members. He said these people say in times when they struggled with the church, the Internet was helpful. When the only thing around them to represent the church was the negative examples within their family, they would have left had it not been for the Internet.

 

By Tiffany Thatcher
Asst. News Editor

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