The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
SALT LAKE CITY — You've heard the self-describing labels used by LDS Church members — active, less-active and inactive Mormons.
Now, meet the "interactive" Mormons.
Church members from across the globe are providing a collective face and online voice for the latest version — 4.0 and counting — of www.mormon.org, the introductory website for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In less than three months, more than 13,000 Mormons have answered the call — first from a late-April announcement via a Twitter "tweet" and then a May offering on lds.org — to post a profile on the new mormon.org site.
In the photo-accompanied profile, they share information about who they are, what they believe and why they believe it. They answer in their own words common questions and concerns about the LDS faith. And they can link to their own blogs or social-networking page, such as Facebook or MySpace.
The previous version of www.mormon.org focused primarily on detailing LDS doctrine and beliefs.
"We were a little too scholarly — we wanted to become more conversational," said Ron Wilson, manager of Internet and marketing for the church's Missionary Department.
While the site previously explained "what we believe," he added, "it didn't tell why we believe and what we do."
That's accomplished with three of the site's five primary "channels," titled "Our People," "Our Values" and "Our Faith."
The profiles provide the personal element, the tenets comprise the faith element and the two together result in the values, from strengthening families to service and from missionary work to family history.
Another of the site's channels is FAQs — frequently asked questions. Many of the most common questions regarding LDS beliefs and practices are presented, with profiled participants offering responses. Also included is an official — and identified — response from the LDS Church.
Profiles and responses all go through a moderation process from the church to avoid inappropriate submissions, intellectual property/trademark issues, privacy risks for children and promotions of a business. Submitted text is also reviewed to ensure doctrinal correctness.
If something is declined by mormon.org officials, participants are given a reason and an opportunity to correct or amend the submitted material.
Besides the volunteer profiles, the website will feature 30 individuals who are part of an upcoming LDS campaign that will be used in print, radio, TV, Internet and transit advertising.
Mormon.org still allows users to interact online with specially assigned "chat missionaries." According to Wilson, the site typically generates between 10,000 to 17,000 chats each month, with 60 percent being sincere inquiries about the church beyond harassing messages or simple questions, such as directions to an LDS meetinghouse.
An "Ask Me a Question" feature planned for later this summer will allow website users to send questions to profiled Mormon participants of their choice; they, in turn, will be able to answer directly back.
"This isn't something we've staged. We're trying to be transparent. This is who we are," said Wilson, then describing the desired end result for mormon.org users.
"They have a virtual Mormon friend."
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