By Rosemary Pollock
Sunstone Explores Mormons on the Internet
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The Internet and the changing demographics of The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the topic of one session of the annual
Sunstone Symposium, held Saturday at the WestCoast Hotel in Salt Lake City.
Characterized as "a fluid space somewhere between the printed and spoken
word" panel moderator, Hugo N. Olaiz, a doctoral candidate at the University
of California at Berkely, discussed "Virtually Mormon: Mormons at the
Olaiz suspects the demographics of the church members using the Internet are
younger and more liberal than the general population of the Mormon church.
He sees church net users seeming to base their judgement more on content,
rather than on the author's status.
General manager of LDS.net, an unofficial church web site, Scot Denhalter
said the anonymity of the Web gives users a kind of equality. " There's
simply no assurance of what you read on the internet is scholarly or true,"
Denhalter cautioned. "Web users can't hear your tone of voice in a message
and the validity of what you're reading is always in question."
Web staffs often experience manpower limitations that create some mediocre
content. "Three people can't handle the big dreams you may have," he said of
his own Web site company. Olaiz would like to see a study done on the Church
and Web usage.
Panelists agreed genealogical work is the best and has limitless
opportunities on the Internet. However, they did express hope that the
Church would soon let wards and stake put Web sites up again. The Church
asked for all unofficial web sites taken down last winter until some
standards could be established.
Panelist, Mark Fisher, co-founder and Web manager of Mormon Links,
classified all LDS Web users into six categories. He believes LDS Web sites
are needed for children, new members and investigators. A fourth panelist,
Scott G. Kenney, founding publisher and editor of Sunstone Magazine, said an
intriguing Web site would be one relating to Church history. Kenney is
currently working on a new Sunstone Web site on Mormon history,
Sunstone panel looks at LDS Web use
Deseret News 12Aug01 I4
By Lynn Arave: Deseret News staff writer