Two weeks ago, I got an email hinting at significant changes afoot in the Missionary Department of the Church. It referred to “a massive research/rebranding exercise” undertaken over the past year that has led to “some shocking and fascinating discoveries related to people’s perceptions of Mormons,” and a resulting new social media strategy centering on the relaunch of Mormon.org: a “progressive” approach that could “revolutionize” missionary work.
Yes, my hyperbole-meter immediately hit the red zone. But when it comes to institutional Mormonism I’m a sucker for all things progressive and revolutionary; plus, the email addressed me as an “influential blogger” and I certainly couldn’t fail in my duty. So despite cynical remarks from my fellow BCC permas (who were clearly envious), I agreed to attend a preview meeting designed to leverage feedback from the Mormon blogging community. At the appointed time (roughly) I settled into my seat at the JSMB, regarded the suited array of Bonneville/COB guys, and silently challenged them to impress me.
And they did.
Seriously, folks—I was surprised. I expected slick-yet-schmaltzy media, a site that featured the usual Mormonesque models providing the usual canned answers to the usual canned questions. But what I saw was almost the exact opposite: I saw garden-variety church members offering spontaneous answers to open-ended questions (well, okay, some of the thought questions are pretty predictable/boring, but there’s wide open space for interesting replies). I saw clean, contemporary visual design and intuitive site functioning. I saw content parameters that allow for great depth and breadth in the public face of Mormonism. In short, I saw a site representing the Church that I’d be pleased to link to—and that’s saying a lot.
The new mormon.org will launch this summer (current plan: mid-June). The preliminary index page offers several screenshots that give a preview of different facets of the site. Without question, the main event is the collection of personal profiles, the individualized building blocks of the site which have the potential to offer visitors a wide spectrum of perspectives on being a Mormon.
Here are a few details about the profile pages:
–Each page features an individual member of the Church
–Any member 18 and older can create a profile (you need your membership # to do so; there’s a separate site for youth)
–Profiles include your name, photo, and text you write yourself as prompted on the profile creation page
–Required sections include “About Me,” “How I live my faith,” “Why I am a Mormon,” FAQs and personal stories.
–Thought questions are provided for the FAQ and personal stories sections—the former are somewhat objective questions about what Mormons believe (What does Mormonism teach regarding baptism?); the latter focus more directly on your personal experience as a member of the Church (How has the Book of Mormon helped you understand the purpose of life?). You must answer at least one of each.
–Answers to questions need not be “correlated” but should follow these guidelines:
–There is an approval process for profiles (supposedly short, a couple of days), but those approved will not be edited in any way (no proofreading, even)
I just created my profile (a minimalist version, for now). I was gonna link to it, but it won’t be publicly viewable until the site launches. FYI, I spent a half hour finishing the basic requirements; I plan to spend time over the next few weeks answering more of the thought questions. Who knows–maybe my perspective will resonate with a few random strangers who happen across my page. But more importantly, the profile provides my friends and family members a personalized, non-threatening glimpse into my religious life.
They want a thousand profiles posted by the end of the month. Have you ever wished that the Church’s poster children looked and sounded and thought a bit more like the Mormons you love? A bit more like the Mormons you identify with? A bit more like . . . yourself?
Here’s your big chance.