Friday, 16 August 2013

How the Internet is like the railroad.

Recently the New York Times published an article highlighting the disaffection of one time Area Authority Hans Mattsson from the church.  The structure was typical; present Mattsson as a solid Mormon cloistered from the real world who 'discovers' a bunch of things that shake his faith, prop up his concerns to make them sound as legitimate as possible, and try to portray his story as some kind of growing tend sure to doom the Mormon church.

The implied message of the article is that the Church can't stop members from finding 'the truth' about their faith online, and so the Internet will undermine the church.  This really is no differnt then in ages past when they said that once Joseph Smith was dead, Mormonism would die, or that when the railroad reached Utah, Mormonism would die.

Well, we survived all of those events.  Actually we thrived in spite of them (or because of them) and so it already is with the internet.  Everything in that article portrayed as something that should shake a Mormon's faith is already countered online.  FAIR-LDS one such place where Mattsson could find all the answers he wants if he would look, and their Wiki is a one stop clearing house of answers to pretty much every accusation ever hurled at the church.

The Church can stand up to scrutiny and has nothing to run away from.  Back in 1998 Mormon critics Carl Mosser and Paul Owen admitted that when it came to scholarly debates on Mormonism, Evangelicals were 'Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It'  The momentum has not shifted in the 15 years since then.

Combating anti-Mormon accusation is a very small part of how the Internet is a blessing to the church.  At the ward level the internet has vastly expanded communication between members and between leaders.  Apps like LDSTools and GospelLibrary bless individual members daily.  Online resources like mormon.org, YouTube channels, Facebook pages, etc. are a growing missionary resource, and the recently announced changes to missionary work are going to transform proselyting as we know it today.

Going back to Mattsson, I find it very odd that a man who is rather older than I am, grew up in the church as I did but was unaware of things I clearly recall being covered in Seminary and discussed at other times, including on my mission.  There will always be disaffected members however who either don't avail themselves of the resources available to them, or worse who fall into apostacy through sin and seek to cover their transgressions by undermining the church so their departure looks virtuous.    I'm not saying Mattsson falls into that category, all I know about him is what is in that article, but I do know that there are people who do that.  There will also always be those all too happy to try and turn one Mormon's crisis of faith into a trend if they can.

I think really there are two questions that we can use to evaluate ourselves spiritually.  How hard is it for God to get you onto the straight and narrow path, and how easy is it for Satan to pull you off after you get on.  Those of us who got on the path without a big struggle can sometimes be the easiest to pull off.