SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church has updated and enhanced several pages on its website dealing with a wide range of gospel topics, including some of the more delicate issues of church history.
The improvements are part of a larger, long-term effort to help families improve personal and family gospel study, church leaders said.
The improved "Gospel Topics" pages are found under the "Teachings" tab at the top of LDS.org. The enhanced page on "Race and the Priesthood" was posted last week, following publication of "First Vision Accounts" and "Are Mormons Christian?" The improved pages are intended to use scholarship, historical perspectives and outside resources transparently to help parents answer questions children might come across online, church leaders said.
The use of outside resources is a first.
"For the first time, we're linking away from LDS.org resources," said Elder Paul B. Pieper, executive director of the Priesthood Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "That's new. We've never permitted anyone on LDS.org to link to sites off LDS.org. If you look at the bottom of these pages, you'll see we link to the BYU scripture citation index and the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, for example."
"It's really a new day for LDS.org," he added.
Church members are cheering the enhanced pages, especially the one on race and the priesthood, which plainly "disavows" theories some critics have claimed were church doctrine and the basis for a ban on blacks holding the priesthood, a ban lifted by revelation in 1978.
"It's extremely valuable," said Roger Nicholson, a church member in Union City, Calif. "Now we can point directly to LDS.org and show people we don't teach that."
Study and faith
The topics pages are a piece of the major effort to enhance the church's curriculum with new digital tools and an improved website. Those initiatives began last year with the launch of a new youth curriculum program that pushed study and lesson planning for teenage Mormons to LDS.org and its new interactive learning and teaching tools.
The process of creating the new youth curriculum, combined with the overall digital revolution, led some church leaders and staff to consider how LDS.org could be used to design all church instruction for the home and families first, with Sunday instruction as a supplement, Elder Pieper said.
"This shifted our thinking completely," he added, "and we've been working on that for a year."
The changes will continue for another couple of years with similar enhancements to curriculum for adults and children, as well as continued improvements to LDS.org.
Improvements to the Gospel Topics section are also critical as the church grows, Elder Pieper said.
"It really comes from looking at a worldwide church and saying, 'What do we do when we have 20 million members or 50 million members? We've got to have a simple core we can build around. When we take the gospel into a new country, we take a copy of 'Gospel Principles' and the scriptures. Now we can take the scriptures and Gospel Topics."
For decades, church leaders have emphasized better teaching, Elder Pieper said. The overarching goal of the improvements to LDS.org is an emerging new emphasis to help church members, wherever they may be, become better learners. Each of the three enriched Gospel Topic pages includes multiple resources down the right side of the page, but the first resource in each case is a link to a page titled "Seek learning, even by study and also by faith," a phrase from LDS scripture. That page says the desire to ask questions comes from God and should involve reason.
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