SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — In an age when the Internet has become a primary way that people communicate, three young Latter-day Saint women endeavor to discuss their faith. They don’t do it in their Sunday best sitting in a church house; they do it sitting in front of a Web cam with a high-speed connection.
“We wanted to create a space where people could come to discuss religion,” one said.
“The response [to the videos] has been great. People are talking. We wanted people to talk. You don’t have to agree with me, but just creating the space to talk has been beneficial.”
In an effort to create more “space for talking,” many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are making their voices heard digitally.
West Allen, a Church member from Las Vegas , organized an activity designed to allow young members of Mormon congregations near his home to share their beliefs on video, later to be posted online. Allen hopes the footage will have a positive impact on those that see it.
“In my mind, watching something on the Internet can be as effective as meeting face to face,” Allen said. “People can feel when something is genuine.”
Creating a forum to discuss religion is a growing phenomenon on the Internet. Like many issues before it, religion has become a topic of discussion for scholars and “YouTubers” alike.
According to a recent CNN report, approximately 79 million users watched more than three billion videos on YouTube.com, a video sharing Web site, in January of 2008. In addition, as of early April 2008, there were more than 84 million videos available for viewing on the site.
Elder M. Russell Ballard, a senior leader in the Church, emphasized, in a recent speech given on the Brigham Young University-Hawaii campus, how important it is for members to join the ongoing online conversations concerning religion.
He has also noted that Church members should express their feelings and beliefs but that they of course should not present themselves as speaking officially for the Church.
In response to Elder Ballard’s remarks, many members of the Church are doing what they can to use the Internet as a tool to communicate with friends and strangers alike by creating blogs and posting materials on video sharing sites.
“My goal is to put the right information out there. I want to do what I can to dispel the misconceptions and misunderstanding concerning our faith,” says David Grow, an active
YouTuber and member of the Church. “I have received hundreds of messages from Church members and those of other faiths saying they are glad I put up the videos.”
Those posting video emphasized the key roles accuracy and authenticity play when discussing religion online.
They say that though some may not agree with all aspects of your theology, if you check your facts and share with honesty and with dignified expressions of personal belief, most people will respect that. Further, they stress the necessity for a kind of “credible openness” that is expected online.
“Speak on what you know,” Las Vegas youth leader West Allen says. “Make it personal. They [members] should share how the Church or the gospel has personally benefited them and their families.”
Many Mormons using video sharing sites are tapping into the resources available to them on the official Web pages of the Church, including the Church’s newsroom website.
This article was prepared by the LDS Newsroom at lds.org.