Sunday, February 12, 2012

The "Arab Spring" of the LDS Church

We all watched the news as many Arab nations fought for their freedom in sometimes peaceful and sometimes bloody revolutions. Radical changes have been made and continue to be made throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East. Those dictators and despots have been forced to change or force expulsion.

A similar wave is making it's way through the membership of the LDS Church. On the surface, the Ex-Mormon movement has very few characteristics to a political revolution, but the way this revolution has been sparked and the way the LDS leadership is dealing with this crisis has many parallels.

Social Media and The Internet 

The riots in Egypt and Tunisia were organized and promoted on social media sites like Facebook. Videos and accounts inspired citizens to organize and fight the tyranny that plagued these nations. The Internet brought world wide attention to the situation.

The Internet has also had a devastating effect on the growth of the LDS church. The LDS church has watched the growth rate steadily decline since the public release of the Internet in the 90s.
You'll notice the steep decline starting in the mid 90s dropping from nearly 5% to the 2010 growth rate of barely above 2%.

During the Egyptian revolution, Mubarak attempted to curb the revolution by shutting down the Internet in his nation. The attempt to stop the flow of information ultimately failed.

The LDS church has responded to the deluge of information on the Internet by launching a multi-million dollar Google Adwords campaign in concert with the ImAMormon campaign. A search for "Mormon Negro" will display a link to the with the LDS spin on the former racist doctrines of the LDS Church. Each click costs the LDS church money.

The LDS church has invested in search optimization to ensure that Apologist sites appear at the top of each Mormon related search. The effectiveness seems to mirror Mubarak's attempt to block Internet access in Egypt. The information continues to be shared on blogs, message boards and social media. The flood of detractors continue to blog about their findings and participate in groups organized on Facebook other social networking sites. It is simply not possible to stop the free flow of information and the attempts to do so exacerbate the frustrations felt by faithful members that discover the real history of the founding of the LDS church.

Denial of the Problem
 We all watched the drama unfold in Libya. In the beginning stages of the revolt, Gaddafi insisted that al-Qaeda and outside influences were responsible for the revolt. He went on to say that young people were being duped by drugs and alcohol. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad blamed 'foreign planning' for the rebellion in his nation. The leaders of Arab nations insist that the recent rash of protests and rebellions are due to external pressures and have little to do with the corruption and oppression perpetrated by these brutal dictators.

The LDS church has also pointed the finger at outside forces for the recent wave of apostasy. They point the finger at "anti-mormon" Internet pages that make it extremely difficult for people to receive an honest and fair appraisal of Mormonism. 

Marlin Jensen was recently quoted as saying:

Never before have we had this information age, with social networking and bloggers publishing unvetted points of view.

"the church is concerned about misinformation and distorted information, but we are doing better and trying harder to get our story told in an accurate way."
At Utah State Jensen was quoted saying:

"The fifteen men really do know, and they really care. And they realize that maybe since Kirtland, we never have had a period of, I’ll call it apostasy, like we’re having right now; largely over these issues."

It's interesting to note that quickly following this Q and A session at Utah State that Marlin Jensen was released from his position as church historian. He is also later quoted, backtracking on his original statement:

“I have heard that our overall activity, especially in the United States, is as good as it’s ever been. To say we are experiencing some Titanic-like wave of apostasy is inaccurate.”
This denial doesn't seem to have much of an effect. The word is out  and is being spread throughout the Internet and the media.

Outlook - The Future
The future of the governments in the Arab world seem to be pending on their ability to reform and address the demands of the people.  In a recent 60 Minutes interview, Bob Simon spoke with Faisal al-Qassem of the Al Jazeera network regarding Al Jazeera's role in the "Arab Spring" movement.

"We are here to reveal everything, to cover everything. That's why they don't like us. We are talking here about Arab governments, Arab regimes. I'm not talking about the Arab people. The Arab people love Al Jazeera."

When Simon asked if Al Jazeera had an agenda, Al Qasim responded:
"What is wrong with transforming the Arab world from tyranny and despotism into a democracy? What's wrong with that? If there is an agenda, it's a very good agenda."

The critics of Mormonism have also formed their own "Al Jazeera"  of sorts on the Internet. Many of these critics would like to see a reformation of the Mormon church. Many others are demanding honesty from LDS leadership in regards to their history. 

I too would like to see moderation in the Mormon church. The demand for 100% conformance to Mormon beliefs crushes intellectual inquiry. I have also called for a repudiation of the church's former racist doctrines.

This "Arab Spring" of the LDS church will continue to accelerate until the leadership comes to grips with their history. The Internet has accelerated this movement through blogs and social networking. At this point, the "unhallowed hands" appear to be slowing the "work" from progressing. The LDS church can now choose honesty and moderation or face eventual collapse.