Raging against machines to preserve one's lifestyle has in Joseph Smith another memorable history: the destruction of The Expositor, a Nauvoo press that dared print the "interchanges" and dalliances between Joseph and several women. There is no question that Mayor Smith ordered the printer’s destruction. What I ask is, given other presses (even the New York Times) were also bad-mouthing the Mormons, why didn’t Smith order their demise as well? Let’s get back to this in a minute.
Fast-forward to 2012. The LDS Church attempts to shut down MormonThink by scheduling disciplinary courts on the founder, and then only a couple of months later on the managing editor on Sept 30. The latter court of love is “postponed” after media fall-out. Then a week later in General Conference, there are no less than three talks particularly dedicated to warning members to avoid the modern press, like those found on websites run by 21st-century William Laws.
Some quotes (paraphrased since the actual transcripts have yet to be released—we’ll update then) include:
"Some have emerged themselves in internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and in some cases invent shortcomings of early church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony. Any who have made these choices can repent and be spiritually renewed." Elder Quentin Cook, 6 Oct 2012
Apostle Neil Anderson warned: "There has always been a few who want to discredit the church and destroy faith. Today they use the internet. Some of the information about the church, no matter how convincing, is just not true."
Elder Walter Gonzalez declared: "Today surrounded by so much information we might think that navigating millions of webpages will give us all that we need to know. We can find good and bad information on the web. But information alone is not enough. God has given us another source for greater knowledge even knowledge sent from heaven. Our heavenly father can give us such knowledge when we navigate the celestial web in our hearts and minds."
Elder Holland clamored against "Those who were once with us but have retreated, preferring to pick and choose a few culture hors d'oeuvres from the smorgasbord of the restoration and leave the rest of the feast."
And some years ago, President Monson told the youth:
"Should doubt knock at your doorway, just say to those skeptical, disturbing, rebellious thoughts: ‘I propose to stay with my faith, with the faith of my people. I know that happiness and contentment are there, and I forbid you, agnostic, doubting thoughts, to destroy the house of my faith. I acknowledge that I do not understand the processes of creation, but I accept the fact of it. I grant that I cannot explain the miracles of the Bible, and I do not attempt to do so, but I accept God’s word. I wasn’t with Joseph, but I believe him. My faith did not come to me through science, and I will not permit so-called science to destroy it.’ "
While the leaders never speak about MormonThink directly in conference, it is clear by word and action they want it avoided or destroyed. There are, however, dozens of other popular sites dedicated to discussing the history of Mormonism. Why, then, are the GAs so particular about hunting the founder and editors at MormonThink?
This is the same kind of question asked about why Smith didn’t go after other presses. It should be obvious by now. It’s a matter of access. That is, access to the press or the editor or the site. Smith would’ve been hard-pressed to send his legion to N.Y. City or Boston or elsewhere. Nauvoo was local. If he had legions in place in those cities with the power and strength to take out the presses, there is little doubting about the attempt.
Older men like my stake president, like Elder Anderson, Elder Cook and Elder Holland find sites like MormonThink as an enigmatic weapon or disease. They don't understand it but want to inoculate members, telling them to avoid the sites at all cost, and to repent if they ever do come into icky contact with them online. In fact, they really seem to prefer members avoid or take special care going on the Internet at all (unless it is for advertising the church as a member-missionary on facebook or doing genealogy at familysearch).
The Internet is one of the most important inventions of humankind. It has changed the face of the planet and will only increase in its position evermore. It is not a fad. It is not going away. And yet, if Anderson, Cook or Holland had a switch that would turn off the Internet everywhere in the world, they would power-down The New Expositor without pause, despite the miraculous human change it brings about.
Technology, like the Internet, with its foundation in semi-conductors on-top of the theory of quantum mechanics, validates science each day with every data-bit sent across the network. Trillions of data points. It’s the same quantum theory that validates radio-active dating methods of the old-age earth theory and evolution. The same foundation that allowed Watson & Crick to develop a precise understanding of DNA structure that has spiraled into revolutions in medicine. The same underlying evidence and methodology that confronts Ancient American historical claims of the Book of Mormon, of Noah’s ark, of Jaredite barges, of Adam & Eve as first humans, and so much more. The evidence is overwhelming and continually pouring forward with new scientifically sound technology filed daily at the patent office.
And modern Luddites fear that their way of life is going extinct. They want to toss aside in heaps the framework of science and the weaving of technology in everyday life just as the framers and weavers resisted the rise of machines centuries before.
Ned’s people are gone. They did not win. They lost the idea war in a complete technological slaughter. It’s sad to watch old suits who protest progress. But they are teleprompt-reading dinosaurs at the brink of extinction.
Thank you, President Monson, for supporting the Paisley Perestroika at Sunday's GC.
Giggidy on the choice tie. Did you tuck it in because the Church is tightening its financial belt?