“I consider it progress that they are thinking more like a company and less like the Soviet Union.”

That’s John Dehlin in today’s Salt Lake Tribune.

Excerpts from “Church asks Mormons: Which websites, writers do you read?“:

The LDS Church is surveying its members about their readership of key websites and Mormon writers, a move that reflects the faiths growing interest in managing its public image as two Mormon candidates make headlines pursuing the White House. […]

The survey … seeks members reasons for using various media outlets and asks if they find seven specific journalists and bloggers “trustworthy, consistent with church positions and teachings, enjoyable, candid and honest [or] thoughtful.”

The list of writers includes conservative radio host Glenn Beck; popular LDS bloggers Joanna Brooks, of religiondispatches.org, and Jana Riess, of Beliefnet; Newsweek and Daily Beast reporter and blogger McKay Coppins; “Mormon Stories” podcast host John Dehlin; Salt Lake Tribune lead religion writer Peggy Fletcher Stack; and LDS Church public affairs managing director Michael Otterson, who also blogs for The Washington Post. […]

“It shows me that they care about their consumers, and that they are willing to change, said Dehlin, whose weekly podcasts address sensitive LDS topics. “I consider it progress that they are thinking more like a company and less like the Soviet Union.”

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--- We are men of action, lies do not become us. ---

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15 Responses

  1. Huh. I wonder how the faithful feel about being referred to as “consumers” of LDS Inc.? That description is certainly honest. But is is palatable to the average, um, consumer?

    *Programming will resume after a brief message from our sponsors.*

    “Brothers and Sisters. Are you worried about burning to stubble during the Second Coming? For just 10% of your gross income …”

  2. Chino Blanco says:

    This is obviously a ploy by Michael Otterson to get himself included in a list of real journalists and bloggers. I mean, that thing Mike does in the Washington Post is called “blogging”? Who knew? 😉

  3. MoHoHawaii says:

    My guess is that someone is trying to figure out whether Brooks and Dehlin should be put on an enemies list or whether they are too influential for this to work. Only a tiny fraction of LDS members read Mormon-themed blogs of any kind; therefore, prepare for a crackdown on bloggers!

    I think great they slipped corporate shill Michael Otterson into their list of independent voices. Kind of like when a preschooler cheats at Uno. The deceit is so obvious that it’s charming in its own way.

  4. Chino Blanco says:

    I noticed this interesting question: why didn’t Meridian Magazine make the list? Not to mention dozens of other more mainstream sources of Mormony info? Uh oh. Maybe MHH’s #3 is right. Witch hunt?

    Edit: McKay Coppins (one of the journos named in the poll):

    “Its easy to look at a list of journalists compiled by the Mormon church and see a witch hunt, but I doubt it. I didnt personally feel targeted when I saw my name on the list.”

    Fair enough. It’s admittedly very easy.

  5. chanson says:

    I consider it progress that they are thinking more like a company and less like the Soviet Union.

    The magic of lowering your expectations! 😉

    But seriously, regarding their inclusion of Otterson on the list — it’s possible that they’re genuinely curious as to whether members see church-sponsored spokespeople like Otterson as being as trustworthy as independent journalists and bloggers.

  6. dpc says:

    I don’t consider Glenn Beck to be a particularly reliable newsource. Still, I think he’s a very talented entertainer.

    The only two that I question their trustworthiness is Joanna Brooks and John Dehlin. Joanna Brooks always seems to put some kind of spin in her writing. I can’t quite put my finger on why I feel this way, but whenever I read something she’s wrote, I always feel that she is more interested in proving her point than anything else and that she’s not giving the whole picture.

    As for John Dehlin, and even though he directly denied it when I asked him, I am convinced that as time goes on, he will set up a splinter group apart from the Mormon church. I doubt it has anything to do with this survey, but it would be interesting to know how many would make the break and join him.

  7. chanson says:

    Joanna Brooks always seems to put some kind of spin in her writing.

    And Michael Otterson doesn’t? Or have we already excluded him from serious consideration in this discussion?

  8. dpc says:


    I have a hard time describing exactly what it is that Ms. Brooks does. Everyone has a slant, even Michael Otterson; that’s a given. But Ms. Brooks is different. Maybe it’s that it appears that she accepts her sources uncritically. Maybe she comes across as a little passive-aggressive. Maybe she comes across as a little superficial. I really don’t know.

  9. Alan says:

    I don’t see how they could implement a witch hunt off “at least 1000” surveys. I’m curious about how the Church went about deciding to excommunicate the September Six, the parameters behind thinking they had “too much [bad] influence.”

  10. Chino Blanco says:

    I agree it gets pretty silly trying to imagine all the dark intent behind a survey that’s only going out to a thousand members. At the end of the day, this news is mostly a nice acknowledgement that somebody on the inside is reading along and curious what others think about this crew.

  11. Chino Blanco says:

    By the way, the folks channeling Nibley with their “No, Ma’am, That’s Not Journalism” criticisms of Brooks might wanna read up on advocacy journalism. And come to think of it, a refresher course in gonzo journalism might be helpful in understanding what Dehlin is up to.

  12. Alan says:

    When the GAs lecture on the evils of “relativism,” they’re actually just channeling their PR troubles. =p

  13. The Other Mike says:

    If it is done properly, “only 1000 surveys” can do a very good job of representing the views of millions of people. It is fascinating that they are interested in studying how people perceive the weight of these writers’ words. The church is very concerned about how best to convey its message in the wild web, outside of the block schedule.

  14. Smorg says:

    I’m only familiar with the first two (Beck and Brooks); with the former I’d fact check even his claim of what he had for breakfast in the morning, the latter is a lot more reasonable.

    What drew me to this post was your heading of it. It’s funny! The first time I went to church with my missionary sisters this zealous church gal had nearly 30 min on the podium (more than the 2 testimony givers before her combined) and was so into the LDS’ founding prophet that as I sat there listening a thought came to my mind that if she would only replace every instance of ‘Joseph Smith’ in her speech with ‘Joseph Stalin’ (same initials, after all, it isn’t that big a stretch) she would make a great party apparatchik during the Soviet Union’s Stalinist era. 😛 It seemed a strange thought to me since I had the impression of the Mormons as being really far to the right of today’s religious right and yet here they sounded like a bunch of socialists.

    Of course, she was also repeating this idea of ‘obeying the prophet uber alles’ every few minutes, telling a story about how a young elder was compelled to get rid of his wife because she failed to obey the prophet’s decree about not wearing more than one earring per ear. It added to the Orwellian 1984 atmosphere of the meeting. Big brothers (and sisters) are always watching! I would have belted for the door had I not been sandwiched by the sisters. 😛

  15. chanson says:

    It seemed a strange thought to me since I had the impression of the Mormons as being really far to the right of todays religious right and yet here they sounded like a bunch of socialists.

    That’s a peculiar irony about Mormonism. You’d be hard-pressed to find a group more terrified of taxes and “big government”, and yet they willingly tithe 10% of their income to a corporation that functions just like the very worst stereotypes of the Soviet Union. See this post for more discussion on that point.

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