The Internet has given unofficial and dissenting Mormon groups more breathing space, while the official LDS church is increasingly taking an optimistic approach toward this technology, writes Hugo Oaiz in the independent Mormon magazine Sunstone (December).
At first the open and dynamic quality of the Internet worried church leaders and other LDS members as participation in this technology could override the authority of the church. Dissenting and unofficial Mormon groups used the Internet to organize, interact and post scholarship not approved by the church. A recent example of how the Internet could subvert traditional church structures was a commercial site launched in 2001 providing confidential counseling for Mormons who do not want to turn to their bishops.
But Olaiz questions how far these unofficial group reach ordinary Mormons or provide a true open forum. The tendency is for these unofficial groups, such as discussion groups, to break off from each other and turn increasingly specialized, thus mainly preaching to the choir. The official LDS church has tried to curb these groups (particularly those using the church name), including preventing its own wards from having home pages, but it now realizes that maintaining a positive presence on the Internet for education and evangelism is the best antidote.
Even so, Olaiz writes that mainstream Mormons see the Internet as only a supplement to ward life, while dissenters and others on the margins rely on their virtual involvement for communication, dialogue, and “channeling their ideas into activism.”
(Sunstone, 343 N. Third West, Saltake City, UT 84103-1215)