Facebook sites for stakes and wards

Share discussions around the Classic Local Unit Website (LUWS).
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Postby lajackson » Thu Jun 17, 2010 6:38 pm

dannykos wrote:It's not easy to say no to somebody, who then turns around and presents multiple examples of policy breach as justification for their own actions.


No, but it gets easier, the more often you do it. Lovingly, patiently, referring the member to priesthood leaders when they do not understand the principle of obedience. A big cheerful smile.

On the technical side, I believe those things are being regularly reviewed already. Trouble is, unless the Church has a way to totally control the advertisements and links that appear on a page, which is still a problem at the site you mentioned and most others, I do not believe they would ever approve using it.

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Facebook- embrace it or fear it?

Postby kisaac » Sun Jun 20, 2010 2:44 pm

RussellHltn wrote:True, but ... the report of placing Primary activities on Facebook is concerning. If something were to happen, I think we'd see this issue being taken up.


I am caught in a dilemma on Facebook, and similar social sites.

I personally delivered flyers to neighborhood families, who were not LDS, announcing a primary activity. The only thing known about these families were that they had primary-aged children. I did this to help my wife, a primary leader, who did it at the encouragement of our area and ward missionaries, and with approval of the full ward council. Is this different than placing the same information on an un-official ward Facebook page?

(I used RussellHltn's above quote out-of-context, and agree with his cautions-he is wise)

I think we all know the dilemma. The scriptures tell us to "open our mouths" (d&C 33:7-10,) to talk to friends, neighbors and family, and social networking is the future of communication. I don't understand all of this social networking, and fear it a little. But, my 16-year-old has 210 "facebook" friends, and writes daily on her own internet blog. I hope I have and will "teach her correct principles" so she can govern herself...and in the end, I hope she "opens her mouth" to this network of friends.

I look at it like the missionary force of 19 - 21 year olds. Thousands of these youth span the globe as "official representatives" of the church...do they ever overstep their bounds? Try to explain things they really don't know about, or even embarrass the church by their actions? Sure, but they are still being sent out because the requirement to "open our months" is so compelling to us.

That being said, we must educate ourselves to social media before rushing to or from it, especially when it comes to sharing personal data of ourselves or the ward. The directions given to LUWS administrators is a good guide and can help us ponder almost any social media situation:
The site administrator, under priesthood direction, should:

  • Protect Church information on this site by carefully screening the information and its use.
  • Ensure that information is accurate and used only for Church purposes.
  • Be careful what is put on each unit's home page because it will be available to everyone with Internet access.

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Postby russellhltn » Sun Jun 20, 2010 4:10 pm

kisaac wrote:I personally delivered flyers to neighborhood families, who were not LDS, announcing a primary activity. The only thing known about these families were that they had primary-aged children. [...] Is this different than placing the same information on an un-official ward Facebook page?


I see some differences. First, it's only with the families that are in your ward boundaries. Second, it wasn't with all addresses, but just those with children.

But if you post it on a site like FB, there's potential for spreading the information to everyone withing traveling distance. I would think that increases the risk of the information falling into the hands of a pedophile.


kisaac wrote:The directions given to LUWS administrators is a good guide and can help us ponder almost any social media situation:


Good point. From the Administrator Quiz:

"How can the administrator help prevent the local unit Web site from being used inappropriately? (Choose the one that does NOT apply.)"

The answer "Do not show details about Young Men or Young Women activities on the home page." is not the correct answer, suggesting that it DOES apply.
Have you searched the Help Center? Try doing a Google search and adding "site:churchofjesuschrist.org/help" to the search criteria.

So we can better help you, please edit your Profile to include your general location.

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jltware
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Postby jltware » Mon Jun 21, 2010 12:49 am

I have always found this policy difficult to reconcile given the recent encouragement by church leaders to share the gospel using such social networking sites. It seems clear the church leaders want us to use these resources wherever possible to try and stimulate conversation about the gospel online. While I would certainly never say to ignore such a policy, I would point out that this policy is older than any of the conference talks / ensign articles discussing these topics, and could be considered to be somewhat superseded (to a degree) by the principles taught to us by our living prophets. I would also point out that the policy only really asks discontinuation of unofficial stake and ward web sites. It doesn't say anything about social networking sites (probably because they weren't anywhere near so prominent when it was written). One could argue that "facebook" is the website, and the ward page is simply the ward's attempt to follow the prophet's counsel by sharing the gospel using facebook.

Personally, I would err on the side of caution, and follow the suggestions given previously about not calling it the "Smithsville Ward" page and renaming it to something like "Members of the Smithville Ward" and putting a disclaimer to disavow representing the church with a link to the official church website for any interested.

However, I think we need to be careful this old "law of Moses" policy isn't seen to take priority over the more recent counsel of our apostles. Perhaps we would be wise to follow the example of the Nephites, living the law literally, but realising it has become somewhat dead and also therefore trying to follow the principles of the more recent counsel. It would be unwise to become a pharisee and start trying to come up with new constraints based on the old policy by applying it to websites that are clearly outside the context intended by the author when the policy was written.

And +1 on not putting details of youth or primary activities, as this is clearly a security risk and the guidance given on LUWS about this can probably been seen in principle to be good counsel for any form of promotion. However, I see no problem with Single Adults for example using facebook as a way to communicate, as one would hope they can look after themselves somewhat and it could be a valuable missionary tool to both non members and less active members.

Just my ten cents worth, and I don't pretend this is official policy. But the most recent policy we have is hopelessly outdated (6 years in cyberspace is an eternity). I would suggest that if nothing more recent exists and the more recent counsel of prophets encourages people to use a bit of initiative, we would be wise to let local leaders with priesthood keys interpret the application of these somewhat opposing ideals as they see fit without us trying to oversee them. As has been pointed out, they are not (or are mostly not) in clear violation of the policy. If the relevant leaders know about them and they are satisfied that they are being used appropriately, then it seems within their stewardship to make those decisions.

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Postby eblood66 » Mon Jun 21, 2010 7:17 am

jltware wrote:I have always found this policy difficult to reconcile given the recent encouragement by church leaders to share the gospel using such social networking sites. It seems clear the church leaders want us to use these resources wherever possible to try and stimulate conversation about the gospel online.


I don't want to get into an discussion about what the policy means exactly but I don't see any conflict between the policy and this recent council. The policy concerns sites that represent units of the church. The council to open our mouths is to us as individuals. So a personal facebook page where I share my own testimony, beliefs and even where and when I attend church is perfectly in line with both policy and council. A ward facebook page on the other hand needs to be considered very carefully because of policy. I personally don't see why a ward page is needed though to follow the council to open our mouths.

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Postby jdlessley » Mon Jun 21, 2010 7:33 am

jltware, I think the points you use to support your position indicate a lack of understanding of the policies.

jltware wrote:I have always found this policy difficult to reconcile given the recent encouragement by church leaders to share the gospel using such social networking sites.
The policy is administrative and directed at Church units and organizations and not individuals or families. Church leaders have been addressing families and individuals when encouraging the use of technology to proclaim the Gospel. I have not found any comments or directions from Church leaders for Church units or organizations to use social networking sites in any manner.

jltware wrote:It seems clear the church leaders want us to use these resources wherever possible to try and stimulate conversation about the gospel online.
I agree with this statement. We as families and individuals are encouraged to use technology to spread the Gospel.

jltware wrote:While I would certainly never say to ignore such a policy, I would point out that this policy is older than any of the conference talks / ensign articles discussing these topics, and could be considered to be somewhat superseded (to a degree) by the principles taught to us by our living prophets.
Yes, the policy is old and yet it is still in force and the direction of the brethren. They will change the policy when they find it is necessary to do so. Because they have not recinded it or changed it they must feel it is still viable instruction. There is also no direction in any conference talk or Ensign article that indicates in any manner we have received any direction contrary to this written policy. I think you are confusing messages to individuals and families with administrative direction to Church units and organizations.

jltware wrote:I would also point out that the policy only really asks discontinuation of unofficial stake and ward web sites.
There are two policy letters still in effect. The first policy letterasks that Church units and organizations not create or sponsor web sites. It also describes the primary reasons for this instruction. The second policy letteridentifies the authorized Church web sites and e-mail services as well as those unit and organization websites and e-mail groups that are not authorized. It does not just include restrictions for unofficial stake and ward web sites.

jltware wrote:It doesn't say anything about social networking sites (probably because they weren't anywhere near so prominent when it was written). One could argue that "facebook" is the website, and the ward page is simply the ward's attempt to follow the prophet's counsel by sharing the gospel using facebook.
When taken in the context of Church units and organizations, the brethren have provided instruction about the presence of the Church, Church units, and Church organizations on the web. That instruction can be extended to social networking sites in this regard. The brethren have instructed us that "it is very important that information presented to the world be accurate and dignified and that it present a single, unified Church voice." In addition, they have told us "it is imperative that the rights of third parties be protected and respected through strict compliance with applicable laws."

jltware wrote:Personally, I would err on the side of caution, and follow the suggestions given previously about not calling it the "Smithsville Ward" page and renaming it to something like "Members of the Smithville Ward" and putting a disclaimer to disavow representing the church with a link to the official church website for any interested.
I can agree with this. In addition I would make sure privacy of members is maintained.

jltware wrote:I think we need to be careful this old "law of Moses" policy isn't seen to take priority over the more recent counsel of our apostles.
The brethren appropriately review and monitor all guidance issued. When necessary, they will recind or modify this guidance. It is not up to us to ignore guidance simply because we think it is old. As I said before I can find no counsel from the apostles that contradicts, modifies, or even superscedes the written administrative guidance provided in the two policy letters I mentioned. I am assuming you are referring to one or both of these policy letters.
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Postby kisaac » Mon Jun 21, 2010 3:22 pm

jdlessley wrote:The policy is administrative and directed at Church units and organizations and not individuals or families. Church leaders have been addressing families and individuals when encouraging the use of technology to proclaim the Gospel.


Correct, and it's very important to make that distinction. The following quote, from Elder Ballard in 2008, addresses individuals, but asks us to use the internet for "unofficial" church "conversations," found here:
http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&vgnextoid=a6246a008952b010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD
Ensign » 2008 » July Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet

By Elder M. Russell Ballard
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles


Now, may I ask that you join the conversation by participating on the Internet to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration....

....It is also important that you and the people to whom you testify understand that you do not speak for the Church as a whole. You speak as one member—but you testify of the truths you have come to know.
I would hazard a guess that more "unofficial" ward facebook pages would meet the qualifications of the type of social media "conversations" that are being encouraged, and not many that are truly violating church policy. Maybe the keyword here is, in fact, "conversations."

Whenever somebody asks how to "export" MLS data, that's where the red flag goes up in my mind about cautions of violating church policy. While well intentioned, it's easy to unknowingly circumvent protections the church is carefully building into their official sites and tools. Privacy concerns, copyright issues, safety, etc.

For example, printing your ward lists from the new beta directory will not print names, addresses, photos, phone or emails from ward members who have selected to keep them private, or who have requested no contact. How would you ensure this if your RS pres is exporting and maintaining her own RS directory that she distributes on an "unofficial" facebook page or listserv?

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Postby lajackson » Mon Jun 21, 2010 7:39 pm

kisaac wrote:I would hazard a guess that more "unofficial" ward facebook pages would meet the qualifications of the type of social media "conversations" that are being encouraged, and not many that are truly violating church policy.


One challenge, in my personal opinion, is that there is no such thing as an "unofficial" ward page, whatever the site. A ward page is going to represent the ward and the Church, for good or bad.

And as I mentioned before, at most sites, things will turn up on that official page that represent neither the ward nor the Church, and those running the page, however well intentioned, will have no control in keeping those things off the page.

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who has access or control?

Postby n.oliver » Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:37 pm

lajackson wrote:there is no such thing as an "unofficial" ward page, whatever the site


Amen. As I see it, if Church HeadQuarters does not have control of the site it violates policy.

lajackson wrote:at most sites, things will turn up on that official page that represent neither the ward nor the Church, and those running the page, however well intentioned, will have no control in keeping those things off the page.


Which is (one reason) why CHQ needs to have final control.
(I can change our unit's site however I 'want', but CHQ has the power to change it to be within policy. And remove my privileges, esp. of accessing other people's data)


While Facebook is a great site to stay connected to friends, content is now by default public. Predators (or others looking to cause trouble) search the interweb for ways to contact their prey, there is a reason for website admins to know who is seeing what content, especially events.

The new features of the Local Unit Websites allows people to easily share events with others without the need of a 'Fan Page'. (iCal feed)


When a 14-year-old girl shares info on Facebook and trouble results and there is a legal loophole making Facebook accountable, that's Facebook's issue. They have resources dedicated to that sort of thing (I'm sure).

When a Mia-Maid shares info on an 'unofficial' ward/branch/stake 'Fan Page' on Facebook, then the reality of the Church getting into trouble is highly dependent on the local laws. We MUST remember that this is a global church, it's not just in the USA or Europe.


And then there's the data mining issues of social media... :D (can of worms there, eh?)

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Postby jltware » Tue Jun 22, 2010 11:58 pm

Before I say anything in response to any of this, let me start by saying that neither I nor any units in my stake have any pages of the type in question. So my motivation in saying this is not to justify my own actions in any way. It is not "my position" I am defending, but rather I am advocating that we show some restraint before judging people who are trying to do their best to follow the recent council of the prophets and apostles to use these sites and talk about the church, many of whom may not be aware of or even have access to the rather dated policies in question.

jdlessley wrote:jltware, I think the points you use to support your position indicate a lack of understanding of the policies.


I think I understand the policy - it is fairly plain. I think rather you may have misunderstood the point I was trying to make

jdlessley wrote:The policy is administrative and directed at Church units and organizations and not individuals or families. Church leaders have been addressing families and individuals when encouraging the use of technology to proclaim the Gospel. I have not found any comments or directions from Church leaders for Church units or organizations to use social networking sites in any manner.


Very true, but I think many of the sites in question are set up simply by members and families. I don't think there are many Bishops sitting in the clerk's office during Sunday school updating their facebook page. I'm happy to be corrected on that if you know any Bishops who do.

Even if they were, aren't families the basic unit of the church, and isn't the church a group of members of the church? As I said originally, I think it is important they disclaim representing the church or a unit of the church, and simply claim to be what the are - "members of the Smithsville ward" or "Single Adults from the Smithsville ward".

jdlessley wrote:I agree with this statement. We as families and individuals are encouraged to use technology to spread the Gospel..


Are you implying then that units are not encouraged to use technology to spread the gospel? Why then have many missions started TV, radio and internet advertising campaigns?

jdlessley wrote:Yes, the policy is old and yet it is still in force and the direction of the brethren. They will change the policy when they find it is necessary to do so. Because they have not recinded it or changed it they must feel it is still viable instruction. There is also no direction in any conference talk or Ensign article that indicates in any manner we have received any direction contrary to this written policy. I think you are confusing messages to individuals and families with administrative direction to Church units and organizations...


I never claimed it was not in force, merely that we should recognize it for what it was intended and not take it out of the context in which it was given. Facebook was created in February 2004. How many general authorities do you think had heard of it when this letter was being drafted? I agree the principles it lays out can be applied to any site claiming to be the ward's website, facebook or otherwise. I do not think it can be applied to a page claiming to be "members of Smithsville ward" that is set up purely as a communication tool or social avenue. It certainly is of no relevance for a "YSA of Smithsville Stake" facebook page, as there is no "YSA of Smithsville Stake" unit in existence. I think you are extending the policy to include pages that are not explicitly included and that could not be logically conceived to be implied in the context of the original letter, given that most of these types of sites didn't exist when it was written. It is a little like some other religious groups saying New Testament references to not drinking blood refer to blood transfusions. I suggest we obey the principle exactly as it is written, and not try to extrapolate and make up our own restrictions above and beyond what is written.

jdlessley wrote:When taken in the context of Church units and organizations, the brethren have provided instruction about the presence of the Church, Church units, and Church organizations on the web. That instruction can be extended to social networking sites in this regard. The brethren have instructed us that "it is very important that information presented to the world be accurate and dignified and that it present a single, unified Church voice." In addition, they have told us "it is imperative that the rights of third parties be protected and respected through strict compliance with applicable laws."


Yes, but as you pointed out, this doesn't apply to church members, only to units. If the site properly states what it is, ie. a group of members of whatever ward, then your own argument would suggest that this falls more under the counsel given to members, not units (ie. the recent encouragement to open our mouths and use technology to share the internet).

jdlessley wrote:I can agree with this. In addition I would make sure privacy of members is maintained.


I see no reason to think privacy has been breached, unless somebody is posting details of youth and primary activities that would be best not posted. Nobody's name or any details will be visible unless they first join facebook, agree to their privacy policy, and then join or accept an invitation to join the group or become a fan of the page. The web site administrators have not given anybody any private details, the members have provided those themselves to whatever degree they feel comfortable with. Trying to shut down such sites because of privacy concerns is simply following satan's plan and taking members' agency from them and forcing them to walk what you consider to be a safer path. I chose not to follow this plan in the preexistence, and I see no reason to change my mind now. I also see no way the church could enforce this even if they wanted to, as they have no authority over facebook, and they only have authority over the members if they choose to submit themselves to their council. So the whole point seems fairly academic, as there's no way to do what you suggest and stop these sites anyway.

jdlessley wrote:The brethren appropriately review and monitor all guidance issued. When necessary, they will recind or modify this guidance. It is not up to us to ignore guidance simply because we think it is old. As I said before I can find no counsel from the apostles that contradicts, modifies, or even superscedes the written administrative guidance provided in the two policy letters I mentioned. I am assuming you are referring to one or both of these policy letters.


I never said to ignore it, merely to take it in the context in which it was given. I agree that the recent council does not contradict, but it does call into serious question the logic of trying to ban any site that mentions a unit of the church. How can you share the gospel using the internet if you cannot mention a unit's name or specify any meeting details? What exactly are you going to invite people to? We need to be careful not to make the words of living prophets of no effect by being too administrative. If members are attempting to follow the counsel of the prophets as best they understand, then let them, as long as they do not do anything that directly violates a direct instruction (ie. in this case, create a webpage called "Smithsville Ward web page of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"). Anything short of that and you have only a questionable extrapolation of a very old policy to go on, and it would probably be best we let people exercise their agency as they see fit, especially if their motive is purely to follow the council of the prophets. You don't know their background and could do a lot more harm than good by jumping on their page and vandalising it with demands that they shut themselves down. Besides that, it's just plain rude, and nobody here (or nearly nobody) has the authority to do it. So we would do well to mind our own business.

Clearly, if their actions are bringing the church into disrepute, then this is a different case, and the same handbook guidelines would stand as for any non internet related case where a member had publicly behaved in such a way as to tarnish the church's image. However, this should be handled by the person's priesthood leaders who have the priesthood keys to stand as judges in Israel, not by a group on an internet forum who have too much spare time on their hands (myself included).

If you have a problem with their actions, first ask yourself what you are doing to share the gospel using the internet. At least they are "anxiously engaged in a good cause and doing many things of their own free will and bringing to pass much righteousness". Personally, I am guilty of doing too little, so I wouldn't set myself up to try and judge others. Having a facebook account or a ldstech forums account does not qualify me to fill that role. Leave judging to people ordained and set apart to fill that seat.

n.oliver wrote:Amen. As I see it, if Church HeadQuarters does not have control of the site it violates policy.


I would say if the church does not have control over the site, it clearly isn't a unit website, and therefore it is impossible for it to be in violation of the policy that only applies to units. If it was set up by any priesthood leader, then a phone call or email would result in changes being made or the site being removed. The fact that church administrative staff don't have access doesn't make it evil, and is of no relevance in determining whether it is a ward/stake site or not. Priesthood leaders with priesthood keys run the church, not the admin offices or anybody therein.

If a person claims directly to represent the church or a unit of the church who is not it's priesthood leader, then that person is apostasizing and needs to be counselled or if necessary disciplined. But this is a handbook matter and not the situation these letters refer to. These letters clearly refer to "unit websites", and a website over which the unit's ordained leaders have no control is by definition not a unit website.

As far as legality goes, as you pointed out, the church has no control, and therefore as long as it doesn't pretend to have control, it can't be held responsible. In fact, the members could make themselves liable to the church if they do anything that could be said to defame the church. I doubt the church would ever pursue such a course of legal action over such a frivalous situation though.

n.oliver wrote:I would hazard a guess that more "unofficial" ward facebook pages would meet the qualifications of the type of social media "conversations" that are being encouraged, and not many that are truly violating church policy. Maybe the keyword here is, in fact, "conversations."


I'm afraid when our definition of conversations refers to posts on a web page, then that line is of necessity blurred. Clearly these are not "conversations" in the true sense of the word where one person is communicating to another, because the conversation is public and therefore you are also communicating with anyone in the world who cares to listen. Your conversation is a web page, and your web page may be a conversation. The distinction is ambiguous.

n.oliver wrote:Whenever somebody asks how to "export" MLS data, that's where the red flag goes up in my mind about cautions of violating church policy. While well intentioned, it's easy to unknowingly circumvent protections the church is carefully building into their official sites and tools. Privacy concerns, copyright issues, safety, etc.


I agree, but again, that is a problem with other policies, not with the policy being discussed per se. Anyone planning to use the information from MLS for any reason other than church purposes is violating church policy. I do not consider facebook to fall under the definition of a "church purpose", and so no information from ward directories should be added by people with access to this data. If it is, then the leaders clearly consider that the page is a "ward web page" in order to justify the use of church data. In this case, their own admission would make the page a contravention of the policies being discussed.

All in all, we could discuss this all day (longer probably), and I'm sure people who feel strongly won't agree. I personally would never set up such a site. I don't agree with it in principle. I don't like them. But I refuse to set myself up as judge, jury and executioner, and so I would allow others to exercise their own agency, as long as it doesn't clearly violate the policy as it is written. And at the end of the day, what other choice do I have? I don't control facebook and have very little authority to do anything else.


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