Comments about ‘Wiki Wars: In battle to define beliefs, Mormons and foes wage battle on Wikipedia’

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Published: Sunday, Jan. 30 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

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Blackshear, GA

Wikipedia sounds much like the story of 3 blind men who described an elephant after each had felt a different part of the animal's body.

One, who felt the trunk, thought it was like a long, flexible tube, the man who felt of a leg, thought the elephant was tall and round, with covering like the bark of a tree, the other man, feeling the tail, thought it was like a rope.

Each described the elephant according to his own experience.

Evidently, those who post on Wikipedia do the same. So, unless you want to be one of the blind being led by the blind, stay away from Wikipedia and find your answers elsewhere (Hint: you might try looking at the source)... unless you're looking for prejudiced fiction representing truth, or just a good laugh!

Wikipedia was never presented to be a source of accurate information, the site even states that some of the "articles may contain misinformatiomn".

Most likely, it's just another way for its developer(s) to create interest and make money using the internet!

Provo, UT

I have found Wikipedia to be an incredible resource. I take it with a grain of salt knowing there could be errors however, in all my math, science and engineering searches I have found it to be incredibly accurate. Maybe it has to do with these subjects being less controversial or simply that one can reach a firm black and white answer.

I have long thought that too many people hear or read something and take full allegiance with whatever it may be. We were given the ability to think and reason and I often am disappointed how often this gift is neglected.

Sugar City, ID

@Charles. "Asking the LDS church to tell its own history is like asking the former Soviet Union to do the same. The only accurate and unbiased information will come from the outside."

If you are right then the crazy stories I heard about America from Russians when I was visitng there must be more accurate than my experience of living in America for decades! After all, the information about America these Russians were taught "came from the outside" and must be unbiased.

The most biased and unreliable sources come from haters outside of the country or religion or organization who claim objectivity. Wiki has no excuse for using a Mormon Hater to edit the articles about Mormonism.

Rainbow Phoenix
Farmington, Utah

I am not Anti-Mormon (I have Mormon Friends) but....the censoring of the more unsavory info on the LDS church seems a bit fishy, like they are hiding stuff.

Lewisville, TX

I think it makes more sense to assume any web site has a point of view, an agenda, a philosophical outlook. I don't go to www.lds.org expecting to find material on anything other than the Church, and I don't expect it to be presented in a self-critical way. Letting the public be the writers and editors is an interesting concept, but not one where you'd expect to find the truth of something.

Idaho Coug
Meridian, Idaho

For those who criticize the LDS Church's version of it's history in it's coorelated material, I think we need to acknowedge the differences between incomplete and inaccurate.

I admit that much information presented in the basic sunday school, priesthood and relief society teaching materials is incomplete - but not necessarily inaccurate.

For example, when the subject was the life and teaching of Brigham Young, mention was only made of his first wife. That is obviously incomplete as he had dozens of plural wives as well. But it did not say she was BY's only wife - that would have been inaccurate.

If a section about the translation of the BofM mentioned only the breastplate and spectacles process and not the hat in a stone process, that would be incomplete. If it said JS only used this process or did not use the hat in a stone process that would be inaccurate.

When the church does not mention JS's other versions of the First Vision it is incomplete. If they said no other versions exist they would be inaccurate.

Do I wish LDS coorelated material was more complete? ABSOLUTELY. But there is a difference.

Michael De Groote

I wrote this story about Wikipedia (in many respects) from the point of view of Roger Nicholson. That adds a certain bias to it, of course. I could have just as easily written it from the perspective of the Bob Jones University prof. "John Foxe." That would have had a different bias, but the result would have been similar.

I found the behind-the-scenes fights fascinating: The edit wars, the accusations, the using of rules as weapons. Cool stuff. The next time you are on an article on Wikipedia, just click on the discussion tab to see what the latest fights are about.

Wikipedia is great for quick knowledge -- and especially for finding the best references and online links to a topic. Some of its explanations of things are the best you can find on some topics. But for some controversial topics it falls down. I hope the article illustrates the process enough so that people can make their own assessment.

I am going to add a few more comments responding to some issues people have brought up.

Michael De Groote

Roger Nicholson did NOT have two accounts at the same time. The purpose of sock puppets is to gain artificial advantage in your arguments by having a fake identity support you. Nicholson withdrew one identity and used another screen name.

The article was accused as being too long. You should have seen it before my editors had me cut it down to size!

The article was also accused as being redundant. I don't think it was repetitive, redundant, nor did it go over the same thing multiple times. ;-)

Michael De Groote

If I was understanding Richard L. Bushman correctly, he was saying that the "Joseph Smith, Jr." Wikipedia article is accurate in the facts it is citing to -- meaning that those facts do have a basis in the historical documents.

But he basically cautioned that not every account in a historical document is accurate because people were more biased against Joseph Smith in his day than they are today.

In other words, a contemporaneous historical document can lie or distort or have bias and citing to it does not make it true and unbiased.

Wikipedia prefers secondary sources over primary sources. A paragraph by Fawn Brodie about the First Vision, for example, holds more water under Wikipedia rules than Joseph Smith's own first person accounts. Weird, but that is the way it is set up.

Also, it is very hard to get non-Mormon editors accept anything published by BYU -- leaving some of the best available scholarship out of the picture.

Western Hemisphere, Earth

Look, it's natural for intellectuals, and wannabe intellectuals, to try justifying their respective sides of the story. Whatever story that is. At the end of the day, and at the end of our lives, we either believe or we don't believe. That's it. Good luck, my friends.

Kyle loves BYU/Jazz
Provo, UT

Re: Janet

Sure professors hate it when students use wikipedia but the smart ones use it as a starting point and use the links to find reliable sources from peer reviewed journals. It's a good tool as long as you realize what you're reading isn't absolute truth. Then again I've never read a textbook that is perfect either.

Syracuse, NY

Wikipedia is great when you want to look up info on your favorite movie star but I am frankly stunned that so many people use it as a serious source of information. College students, for example, are taught to NEVER cite Wikipedia as a source for any research they do. Papers that cite Wikipedia are laughed at and receive failing grades.

Saint George, UT

I use Wikipedia primarily for entertainment.

I also use it as someone else described - for "quick information". It's a starting place when trying to track down facts.

But I personally question much of what I read on the site.

It's most just interesting and good for entertainment.

Cottonwood Heights, UT

No surprize here. I've learned that Wikipedia is the LAST place to find accurate information on history or religion as it is always slanted to the editors view.

Saint George, UT

Awesome article.

Gus Talwynd
Salt Lake City, UT

Nothing sparks controvery like the religious wars. Mormons complain about anti-Mormonism, Catholics complain about anti-Catholicism, Scientologists complain about anti-Scientologism. However, Mormons consider their faith superior to either Catholics or Scientologists (if they even consider Scientology a religion) and Catholics (like every other religious group) see their faith as the "one true faith."

It is sincerely doubtful that a person can find any unbiased information on religion written by a truly religious person. Yes, a trained historian might come close, but like history, it is written by an individual with a particular view.

Probably as bad as getting accurate information on religion is getting accurate information on political issues. Like religion, politics is rife with controversy. It's like the Bible, some say it is the direct word of God where the history shows it was written and re-written over hundreds of years by various authors and translated into other languages without necessary scrutiny as to accuracy of translation.

To the faithful, these points don't matter because they have their faith. They believe what they want to believe and take satisfaction in that belief. Intellectual pursuit always gives way to belief to avoid conflict.

Taylorsville, UT

Don't feel too bad, I tried to comment on a mistake that the DN had made when reporting of the sex of an accident victim and somehow that violated the comment rules and it wasn't posted. I guess Wiki isn't the only place that information has to be taken with a grain of salt.

brookings, SD

Oh my, a tizzy over Wikpedia. I tell my students that if they quote it in their term papers it is an F for the course. That solves that problem a little bit. Had to drop an F on a student last semester; though warned, he did it anyway (I think he was in a hurry).
If one ventures forth into the real world and has a set of beliefs, then those beliefs will be challenged. Period. And that is good news indeed.
Is the information on Wikipedia right, accurate, truthful, or opinion? People can and do change it accordingly, esp. if it involves religion and politics.
Expect the world to review and cast a hard eye on your beliefs. If you wish to send out the "correct" version of one's faith, then get a web site, etc. That is how faiths do it, and politicians.
Wikipedia is not to be trusted. It is a free country, too.

Rainbow Phoenix
Farmington, Utah

At my school if we use Wikipedia, some teachers will yell at us. Anyway as in my last post, what are the Mormons hiding that's so bad, that they have to change a faulty website? Please answer to my inquiring teenage mind!

Michael De Groote

"If I had to give people advice, I think I'd tell them to start with something they knew very well and also something that is not controversial," Foxe said. "They should start at a place where they can make a real contribution." For example, he said, begin on your hometown -- but don't start on "Joseph Smith, Jr."

"For somebody who is new to Wikipedia to go to 'Joseph Smith' and think they are going to make a big impact, that's a mistake. There's just too many people there and it's just not going to work," Foxe said. "I guess people want to make a big splash and come to the really argumentative kind of articles."

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