"The Mormon Defense League" is out. "MormonVoices" is in.
That change became official Monday, when the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research announced a name change for its website aimed at defending the teachings and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
FAIR is a non-profit organization that, according to a press release, is operated by "self-motivated Mormons who seek to improve the public understanding about the church" through conferences, workshops and scholarly articles posted on the organization's websites. While it is dedicated to "providing well-documented answers to criticisms of the doctrine, beliefs and practices" of the LDS Church, it is not owned, controlled by or affiliated with the church.
The name change for the "Defense" website "better reflects our desire to help Mormons become involved in online discussions where positive representation of the church is needed to offset offensive stereotypes and misinformation," said FAIR president Scott Gordon.
The Mormon Defense League was a new FAIR project announced during FAIR's annual conference last August. At the time Gordon indicated the effort was intended to be "a resource for journalists" who find themselves writing about Mormonism in political, sports or other news contexts.
"Religion writers tend to do a good job," Gordon said. "Problems come when you get political writers or sports writers who are not as familiar with the nuances of the religion. So when you get a Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman or a Harry Reid, and someone makes a comment, the journalist may unknowingly pass on something that Mormons consider to be very bigoted, malicious or just inaccurate."
The new website was launched as part of an effort to monitor news reports in search of errors and misrepresentation. "If somebody writes something — whether a journalist or even a politician — that is egregiously bad, we will correct them," Gordon said in August.
And they will continue to do so under the new name of MormonVoices, according to John Lynch, FAIR chairman and a managing director of MormonVoices, who believes that the name change is important to help clarify what FAIR is hoping to accomplish as a source of information for those who have questions about Mormonism as well as for members of the church who wish to respond to those questions.
"As an organization we will continue to publicly stand up for the LDS Church and correct misinformation spread by public figures," Lynch said. But the new name is less confrontational and more outreach-oriented, and "more clearly reflects our approach and fits well with the admonition by our leaders (for church members) to get involved online."
"In the current politically charged environment where issues of Mormon beliefs are frequently discussed, Mormons increasingly want to properly represent themselves and not let stereotypes and caricatures remain," Gordon explained. "Through the website we want to empower members of the church to respond to the articles that are appearing in the press."
He cited a recent general conference address by Elder L. Tom Perry of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who said: "The growing visibility and reputation of the church presents some remarkable opportunities to us as its members. We can help 'disabuse the public mind' and correct misinformation when we are portrayed as something we are not. More important, though, we can share who we are."
According to Gordon, anyone can go to the new website to get "accurate information about issues regarding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." The site will feature "corrections regarding common misconceptions are provided, along with a 'FactCheck' service for writers and others who want to verify the accuracy of information regarding the Church, its doctrines, teachings or history."
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