a little black e-book for Mormons
Ever wanted to meet a Jew turned Mormon? How about a female, in her mid-20s, living in South America, who is a former Buddhist? I haven’t, really, but a new feature on Mormon.org allows you to search for them: Meet Mormons. (FYI, lots of former Jews, no former Buddhists meeting my target criteria). Strangely, there’s one more box without dropdown options. I’m hoping they add a sexiness rating. (You know you are too!)
So, two questions here:
- Do you think anyone will actually use this to investigate the church?
- What social psychological research is the LDS Church drawing on to think this is a good idea for converting people to the religion?
My guess for number 1: Virtually zero and the feature will be gone in a year or so because it will actually be counter-productive. Most of the people who use it will be flamers. The few genuinely interested will ask honest questions and get back bizarro answers from ordinary members, leading them to conclude the Church is bizarro.
My guess for number 2: Social contact theory; getting to know someone in an outgroup reduces prejudice against them.
One of my friends is featured with a video on this site, which prompted me to look at it closer. What strikes me most is that all the answers are very generic, and don’t seem to be uniquely mormon in any way. Change any reference to the LDS church to another christian religion and the answers would not seem out of place at all.
I think that the hope of the church is that if an investigator uses this site for “research” they’ll see that mormons are all such “normal people.”
There are folks in the COB who review all submissions, and heavily edit or block submissions if they don’t meet the goals of the site. There will be no “bizarro” answers because of this editing. And the chat feature is all manned by missionaries.
Kari — I was about to ask this of ProfXM just before I read your comment, but maybe you know: How do people get their pictures and profiles on this site? Do they have to be “called”? Is it the “Missionaries on the Internet”?
The thing I think is funny is that you can select “Africa” as a continent, and you can select “African American” as an ethnicity, but there’s no way to say “I’d like to meet a black person in Africa who’s not American.” 😉
My friend is a fairly well-known artist, with an artist father who’s even better known (and both had been on faculty/staff at BYU). So I’m assuming it was the fact that she’s well-known, but not so well-known that the church would be accused of loading the site with celebrities.
Now I’m checking to see if there’s anyone I know or am related to – currently no. But you never know!
So I just tried the chat feature – it’s run out of the MTC (based on the URL that came up). Apparently you can see people’s profiles, but you can’t actually chat with them, just with missionaries. How lame is that?!?
methinks this is a branch of the “Missionaries on the Internet” project that you posted about earlier. Bait, perhaps? 😉
chanson – I realized I only answered part of your question. I had focused on my friend’s video.
Any member of the church can create a profile, post a picture, and answer any of the set questions provided — you just need your member number and confirmation date. However, all submissions are screened heavily and nothing gets made public without approval.
Julie M. Smith wrote a great piece of satire at T&S about the approval process. It’s well worth the read.
Kari — I’d love to read it, but your link is broken, and I don’t see it on T&S.
Oops, don’t know what happened to the link, probably forgot closing quotes or something. Here it is:
Oh, that satire! That was hilarious! I actually linked to it here. At the time, I didn’t realize it was about a real website, though. I thought it was just a joke about the sort of thing the LDS church might do.
I wrote a piece going extensively over this redo at Mormon Matters. I am somewhat of a (rather amateur) design lover, and so I liked what they did, and I liked what the firm that did the site design did (as can be read about here)
I guess Mormon Matters has a more “disaffected friendly” crowd than some of the other sites, but what surprised me in the comments was the cynicism about this direction. While I thought such gestures like “Meet a Mormon” were designed to give an albeit highly-controlled glimpse into authentic Mormons (and, to try to answer the second question…the design firm’s research showed that people don’t understand the diversity of Mormons. They were trying to dispel the idea that Mormons all come from the same background (even if, as has been pointed out, they expose some gaps and weak points), many of the people thought that every thing — down to periodic misspellings on various profiles — were engineered to give the appearance of authenticity.
Even if the church didn’t touch any answers, some are disgruntled that the church has very discerning taste on which profiles they authorize in the first place.
If you mean my remark about African-Americans, I just think it’s funny (and ethnocentric) that Americans think that the worldwide generic “PC” term for black people is “African-American”.
But that’s not a Mormon thing, nor is it confined to that site. I first noticed this amusing point decades ago on “The Cosby Show” when they had an episode exploring the question of whether Santa Claus is caucasian, Asian, or African-American.
I was like “Wha…?” OK, maybe he’s black, but he’s not “African-American” because he’s not American. Duh. He’s a citizen of the North Pole! But in the US people seem to forget that not everybody is an American…
Well, that had been a point of contention with some of the commenters at the Mormon Matters thread. Also, other points that some people found were that whatever filter they are using sometimes catches “false positives.” E.g., someone says he WANTS to go to Europe, or he visited Europe on a trip, so the person is put in as someone with a European background.
Or, as Profxm points out, some search criteria simply won’t yield any results. Whoops!
The “African-American” issue is also true with “Native-American.” An indigenous person in Mexico would not call themselves “Native-American.”
Anyone notice “Antarctica” is an option? I was really hoping to meet and marry a ex-Muslim, Native-American woman from Antarctica. I don’t care her age. But none showed up.
Good news: they were kind enough to approve the profile of spamLDS, complete with blatant lies about how Mormon apostles and prophets don’t get paid.
Oh, wait, apostles and prophets get “modest stipends,” which is totally different from the “salaries” received by clergy in other churches. Riiiigggghhhhtttt.
I don’t really see any problem with the church displaying testimonies of its members, though I think plenty of unofficial sites are doing a much better job of that. The Mormon Women Project, for example, is an extremely well-done site.
I do think that the categories for looking up testimonies by race, previous religion, etc. are rather bizarre and a bit silly. I’ve never seen another church do that.
15 – I believe that there are other “perks” that GAs receive in addition to those stipends. A private jet, etc.
Now, the private jet may be owned and paid for by an individual LDS member. But it is a perk that not everyone has access to. And from my understanding, there is nothing wrong with this, except that it may be unethical. But I don’t think accepting a perk is illegal, necessarily. I don’t always understand the tax code….
Now, one could argue that ministers/pastors etc. also get “perks”. How many people will buy their pastor a free meal, etc. and I would assume that’s not declared (I think usually under $20 things can be a gift anyway). But to claim that all levels of LDS leadership are free of any influences (financial gifts, incentives) is a fallacy. Now, if they were to open up the books and declare all of it, that would be another thing.
On the “no paid clergy” thing, my understanding is that back when the church owned a bunch of for-profit corporations (I know they still do, but they used to own a bunch more), the GAs’ “stipends” actually came from those corporations (for sitting on their boards of directors, etc.).
So one could argue that technically — in the sense that their salaries didn’t come from tithing funds and so on — they weren’t “paid clergy.” And not having paid clergy was, of course, a mark of the True Church.
But somewhere along the way, the church divested itself of most of those corporations, and necessarily changed the source of the “stipends.” Coincidentally, “no paid clergy” has stopped being a mark of the True Church.
At least, I don’t hear it coming from official channels anymore, just from Mormons like “G. West” who were around in the ’70s and ’80s when the church still taught it and haven’t caught on to the change.
Wait — I just realized that “Why dont Mormons have paid clergy?” is an “official question” on the site. Wow. That’s disingenuous. “Why do Mormons have so few paid clergy?” or “Why don’t Mormons have local paid clergy?” might be legitimate questions, but implying the church has none is not honest.
Also, am I the only one who finds it, well, at least odd, but perhaps a little creepy, that so many profile summaries end with “I’m a Mormon.” I mean, duh — the site masthead is “Meet Mormons”…