Firewall for non-members at Mormon.org

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famaxwell
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Firewall for non-members at Mormon.org

Postby famaxwell » Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:24 am

Let's say I'm a nonmember who's visiting Mormon.org. I decide I want to check what the Mormons are doing in my own city.

I click on Visit Us. Next, below the words, "We welcome all to join us.", I type "Seattle, WA", and click on the Submit Button Locate.

The Find A Church screen appears. I see a little map of Seattle. To the left of the map, I read:

Assigned Residential Ward
Seattle 1st Ward
2415 31ST AVE W
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON
UNITED STATES
1 206-285-5343
First Meeting 10:00 AM
Worship Service 10:00 AM


Okay, this is interesting, I think. Still curious, I click on the Seattle 1st Ward hyperlink.

A little box appears, containing the same info as before - Seattle 1st Ward, address, phone #, meeting schedule. But there are also links for Directions and Website. Hey, the local Mormon church has a website! I click on it.

A new browser tab opens, and I see the home page for the Seattle 1st Ward. The same meeting times are listed. But I wonder if there's anything happening on a weekday. Maybe I don't want to wait until Sunday. Hmm, there's something on the right labeled Ward News and Information. I'd like to know more about this congregation, so I click on More... .

The tab refreshes, and I now see, in large letters, Stake and Ward Web Site Sign In.

You must be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and you must live in a participating stake to use this Web site. New users must obtain an account. Registered users can enter their user name and password below.

What? You mean I have to have an LDS Account to read the Ward News and Information? How do I get an LDS Account? After a while, I figure out that only LDS members can have LDS Accounts. But there's no event information available to the general public. Do the Mormons want non-Mormons to visit them, or not?

As a nonmember, I find this rather offputting. Every commercial website I visit allows me to click on links, and find out more information. Commercial websites want my business, and aren't going to put firewalls between me and the information I'm curious about. So after all the interesting testimonies and videos on Mormon.org, this is a big letdown. I was curious about what the local Mormons are doing, but there's no info available.

So I go back to Google. What's that evangelical church my co-worker attends? Yeah, it's Mars Hill Church. I find it on Google at http://marshill.com/. I go to their website - it's really nice-looking! Under Visit, I hover over Locations, and then select Seattle, Downtown. There's a big icon for a "Potluck in the Park". I click on it, and get a Facebook event page with information about the potluck, a map, and see that there are 179 people planning to go. I start looking at the photos of the attendees. They look happy and friendly. Maybe I'll go to the potluck, I think.

For a moment, I wonder again if the Mormons are having any fun events I could attend. But I suppose if they were, they would let people know, right? The events would be listed on their website, right? So if the events aren't on the website, then they're probably just for Mormons. Right?

==================

I write this to illustrate my major concern about the Mormon.org website. It does not allow local units to publicize events which nonmembers might want to attend.

I actually live in the Seattle 1st Ward. And we do have a potluck scheduled for next week. But how are non-members going to find out about it? Is the ward supposed to send out press releases to the local media? Or purchase advertisements in the newspapers? We could put it on the ward website, yes. But that's not accessible to the general public.

The firewall doesn't just prevent non-members from learning about ward events. It also prevents less-active members from doing so. If a less-active member doesn't have an LDS Account, he or she will not be able to check the Ward News and Information. (In fact, this could reinforce their sense of separation from the church.) The firewall hides, from both the less-active and non-members, info about all sorts of interesting stuff in my ward -- potlucks, holiday parties, service projects, weekly get-togethers for new mothers and their young children, pickup basketball games, ward campouts, stake concerts, firesides -- activities where the NMs and less-actives could feel the fellowship of the saints.

Other local churches here (such as Mars Hill) are using the Internet effectively to encourage visitors to come to their activities. In my opinion, we should be doing the same -- to an equal or greater extent.

Maybe a ward's Calendar Events need to be divided into two groups: "inside" and "outside" the firewall. Events tagged as Outside could be viewed online without having to login with an LDS Account.

Or maybe there should be an option for units to publicize local events directly on Mormon.org. The procedure for doing so should be as easy as posting an ad on Craiglist.

Regardless of how it's done, we need to make sure that online visitors to Mormon.org can easily find out about local Mormon events. And the local units need to be able to control what is publicized on Mormon.org. Ultimately, if someone does a Google search for "Mormons Seattle" or "LDS Church Seattle", the top results should include an LDS-produced, nonmember-friendly, webpage listing all the unique local events sponsored by the Seattle wards.

If we don't do these kind of things, then I don't think we're using online tools effectively to share the gospel and rescue the members who have strayed.

emckirdy
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Postby emckirdy » Thu Jul 26, 2012 9:16 pm

Hear, hear! This has been a frustration of mine for years.

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johnshaw
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Location: Syracuse, UT

Postby johnshaw » Fri Jul 27, 2012 4:59 am

I totally agree with this conceptually. In my stake I can't even get members to use the calendar, so I'm not sure I'm ready to move to this level yet.

jaj78
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Location: Boston, MA

Postby jaj78 » Fri Jul 27, 2012 8:13 am

Seems like I remember instructions to not post the time/locations of youth activities on the ward general information page, at very least.

Our ward is trending toward more privacy than more broadcasting, for the sake of controlling what is actually being sent to the general public.

For what it's worth, I think that events that are polished and especially good public opportunities SHOULD get a little press time. Our stake had a "Savior of the World" play and got permission to open a facebook page and have stake members send links and such to their friends.

I don't see the problem with people who want more information either a) calling a phone number to talk to someone about it or b) coming to a Sunday service first. Visitors are welcome, but I don't think having the world at large privy to all the goings/comings is necessary.

Inside/outside firewall sounds like a decent approach, but I wouldn't want complete transparency.

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:07 am

jaj78 wrote:Seems like I remember instructions to not post the time/locations of youth activities on the ward general information page, at very least.


Correct.


Note that the Ward Website mentioned is the old one. The new one is not yet in place.
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