Thursday Night Poll: Money-changers on the ward email list

Our ward email list occasionally gets little notices about home-based businesses of various ward members, and other commercial content. What should be done about this?


  1. I have heard about this sort of thing so much that I can only assume it’s a reality, but I’ve never received such an email myself.

  2. [now adding auto-forward filter to my gmail to send all such notices to Scott B…]

  3. Patrick says:

    What’s wrong with simply replying to the sender with a gentle reminder that the ward list (including electronic) is not to be used for commercial or political purposes? “A soft answer turneth away wrath….” ;)

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    There’s a ward e-mail list? I don’t even have a paper directory, much less an e-mail list. But yeah, I’d be annoyed if it were used in that fashion. Sort of like the LDS-oriented salesmen who knock on your door, who you just know got their mitts on a directory and are abusing it.

  5. Oh, Patrick. You’re spoiling all the fun!

  6. I received such an email from a member of our Elder’s Quorum pleading members of the Elder’s Quorum to lend financial support to his brother in law running as for the House as a Republican out in California. I don’t know what other emails this individual received in reply, but I replied back kindly that his brother in law’s views on Nancy Pelosi did not appeal to me and I would not support him in any way.

  7. It used to be that we’d get drop-offs and mailers for ever Scentsy/Stamp it Up/ModBe/Pampered Chef/Lia Sophia party ever offered. People would just go down the ward list and send them to everybody. Now, through the magic of email it’s instant and free, so the insanity has increased.

    I LOATHE the practice of soliciting to ward members. Inviting your friends to your vinyl lettering party? Fine. But if you and I have never hung out, let alone had a real conversation in the hall at church, don’t invite me to spend money so you can get your free hostess gift. Blech.

    I like the tar and feathering, but I’d opt for a nice Pampered Chef pizza stone to be hung about the solicitor’s neck.

  8. Weirdest thing I’ve heard in a while:

    In a neighboring ward a particular member’s business was suffering during the economic downturn (whose wasn’t?), so the bishop asked all the men in the ward to meet at the church at 5:30 in the morning to distribute flyers for the man’s business in the surrounding neighborhoods. This was, I believe, touted as an EQ activity.

  9. Millstones all the way, baby. Folks shouldn’t be allowed to highjack the ward newsletter. And I don’t go to church to hear commercials, either.

  10. If you have an LDS account, your email is automatically attached to a general mailing list that is supposed to be used for church announcements and updates.

    The ward and stake websites all have the same notice found on hard-copies of membership directories: “Note: Information on this page is for Church use only and is not to be used for any commercial, business, or political purpose.”

    So when someone abuses their access to a mailing list, even if it is an unofficial one like Yahoo Groups one that the YSAs in our stake use to discuss non-church activities (like birthday parties and movie nights), they should be subjected to the millstone around the neck.

  11. Mark Brown says:

    Off with their heads.

  12. Yet Another John says:

    Roosevelt? Really?

  13. My family is from Roosevelt.

  14. Michelle says:

    If you have an LDS account, your email is automatically attached to a general mailing list that is supposed to be used for church announcements and updates.

    If these emails are being sent through official channels, they can’t be actually distributed without the ward web admin’s approval. If this kind of thing is happening, it’d be easy to talk to the ward admin and remind them of the policy.

    If it’s a hand-created list, well then that’s another can of worms.

  15. Matt A. says:

    Sorry, but that would absolutely infuriate me. Perhaps I am overstating it a bit, but that seems a lot like moneylenders in the temple. Completely wrong and unethical.

  16. Barefoot Mike says:

    In the last two wards I’ve lived in, members have solicited me to buy their products/services (pre-paid legal, mortgage scheme, and alkaline water). It doesn’t bother me so much, but I’d rather they didn’t waste my time.

    By the way, you can hide your e-mail address on the ward website by logging into your LDS account and selecting the option.

  17. Mark B. says:

    The brother of a friend once called me (long before Al Gore had invented the internet) and asked if I could give him a copy of the ward list so he could use it to promote his business. I told him I thought there was a special corner of hell reserved for people who used the church directories for commercial purposes. He didn’t ask twice.

    And I still believe what I told him, but my older, more tactful self would probably just tell him to go to hell.

  18. Cynthia L. says:

    Dude. You people are harsh. Millstone had a slow start but now looks on track to take the lead. Yikes.

    The biggest offender in our ward is less active so I think everyone is wary of making a fuss because they don’t want to unnecessarily offend the person.

  19. Our ward has two email lists one for neighborhood news one for more church centered stuff with some overlap. You can subscribe to one or both or neither. It is not an officially affiliated with the ward just a few ladies in the Relief Society just run the list. I appreciate it. I don’t mind promotion on the neighborhood list. When anyone hears of a job posting they forward it to the list. So if someone makes handmade cards for sale or are having a yard sale or have lost their dog or is sending an open invite to their Tupperware party, or has an old dresser their re-homing it is all good. The good form protcol is you send your email to the central address an then one of people reviews it and sends it out to everyone on the list. There have only been a couple of cringe worthy emails in the five plus years it has been operating.

  20. I absolutely DESPISE being invited to parties, solicited to donate to relatives who are running for office, and other misuses of the ward list – all by people who never speak to me. It’s not so much the fact that they never speak to me – it’s the fact that they’re using my church membership to manipulate me into giving them money. It actually makes me a little bit crazy, it is so, so, so wrong.

    Okay, that being said – I let myself feel a moment of looniness about it, and then I just ignore it. In the range of human atrocities, this one is actually insignificant. (But I did vote for the millstone!!!)

  21. #8 – Sunny, that doesn’t sound altogether strange. Its essentially the modern day equivalent of helping a man bring in his harvest. See also Richard Edgley’s April 2009 Conference talk.

  22. Steve Evans says:

    This explains why nobody came to the Evans’ much-emailed-about Passion Party. Sales in the 1st Ward were abysmal.

  23. Well, I voted tar and feather because we need to humiliate them publicly.

  24. Mill. Stoned.

  25. A few years ago when we were in a stake in the midwest, there was a stake meeting (maybe a PH or Saturday adult session?) in which the leaders were trying to drive home the theme of emphasizing the temple in our homes. One of the leaders suggested that every home in the stake should have a picture of a temple displayed prominently in their home. Then he announced that the stake had made arrangements with a photographer who had done some nice prints of the closest temple, and that prints of various sizes, framed or unframed, would be available for purchase at a special discounted rate through the stake clerk.

    The announcement backpedaling from this plan arrived with conspicuous and comical speed.

    On a vaguely related note, the only well-maintained email list in our current Utah ward is one run by the RS president, and it functions in a vague area between official and social. It also serves as the communications channel for the ward’s semi-official RS book club. So when an email came our announcing that the upcoming book was something by Glenn Beck, and that it was on sale at store X for $Y, my wife immediately wrote an email to the RS president. We were both furious, but my wife wisely submitted a rather gentle protest email–saying, simply, that such a book selection seemed at odds with the Church’s claims of political neutrality, and that she wouldn’t make a stink about it but that she would not participate. The RS president quickly sent an apology for not thinking it through and considering the possibility of diverse political views, and immediately sent out an email withdrawing the book.

    This firm but friendly exchange seems to have made people much more aware of the inappropriateness of using Church communications channels for business or political purposes. It has been a long time since we’ve seen the Scentsy party announcements, etc., that used to circulate on occasion.

  26. Benjamin says:

    Our relief society also maintains a listserv, but I regularly chide those who use it to announce official activities. Instead, I’ve given all the auxiliary presidents the access to send e-mail through the stake and ward websites. It’s been a little tough to get the buy-in, but it seems to be working fairly well.

    The only catch is that I have stay very on top of having correct e-mails in the ward records. This has been made much easier since the introduction of LDS Account and, more recently, Through the directory application on, any member may edit his or her own e-mail address, or the clerk may edit any member’s e-mail address. It’s done wonders for helping me stay on top of this.

    And if anyone is interested, the Church is hoping to produce a new messaging system system for the stake and ward websites that could help reduce a lot of the problems currently associated with ward e-mail lists.

  27. In Mexico there have been sad cases of such members being bulletined across stakes as they are known fraudsters. I would feel uncomfortable having such commercial or political messages in my ward e-mail, but for the most part I’d delete them. We have in our ward a ‘cowboy builder’ who has done terrible jobs for several members, charging more than professional builders would do, doing ‘three months’ job in three… years! He was on the bishopric, so you’d imagine the conflict this posed for some members. Won’t say more to protect the identity of the not-so-innocent. He knows who he is.

  28. Yeah, count me among those who have never had an email business solicitation from a ward member; our SS Google Group comes every couple weeks to tell us about the lesson, and the EQ Google Group list doesn’t do anything at all.

    However, I was given a card and magic chocolate (apparently it cures Parkinsons, among other things) by a lady in nursery. Long story, but we were traveling, I took my daughter to nursery and stayed, soon discovering that the other two adults in nursery were also visitors, there with their kids. Some woman comes in and starts singing with the kids. Turns out she’s also visiting (we assumed she was the Primary person); she sells a multi-level marketing chocolate. She gave us all her card, her sales pitch, and a couple free samples of the chocolate.

    Still, no millstone. The chocolate wasn’t good enough to get worked up about, but wasn’t any worse than, e.g., Hershey’s. I think I had a little of one piece, and entirely forgot the other.

  29. I haven’t had this e-mail experience, but have had a sort of related experience with fellow members: the expectation I will give members a discount or do their legal work for free. I often do pro bono work for members, even for the obnoxious members who expect/demand I do it for free, but I prefer to be the one to make the decision or extend the offer. (My favorite recent experience was when the Stake Partriarch’s wife stopped me just before a sacrament meeting and handed me a letter about an alleged med malpractice claim. Immediately after the meeting ended she cornered me and asked what I thought about her case. I don’t do personal injury work, so how the hell would I know? I couldn’t help but laugh out loud in response and politely said I did not read the letter during sacrament meeting-I was preoccupied with sports scores on my blackberry.) I don’t understand why so many members assume or expect fellow members to knock X% off the price or do something for free. I know many members offer a member discount, at least in my experience, and I think it’s a nice fringe benefit of the social part of being a Mormon, but I get irritated at those who automatically assume or expect/demand a discount from fellow members. Whenever I solicit business from fellow Mormons I add the proviso that I expect to pay full freight for whatever I’m buying, e.g. car mechanic, computer help, yardwork, etc. (My car mechanic is a member and says this expectation drives him crazy and he’d prefer not to do business with members.)

    As to the OP, since deleting e-mail is so easy I don’t see getting too worked up about broadcast e-mails. I would probably hit delete before I even finished reading the e-mail, most likely while sitting through a boring SS or priesthood lesson.

  30. My ward, a YSA in Salt Lake, has an official email list that we send out the announcements, such as ward activities and such. It has never been abused by such tawdry emails soliciting goods and money. Part of it is, we are mostly college students, and the other is only two people have access to it, to send out emails.
    I am looking forward to the new It is really awesome.

  31. In my last ward in Austin, the RS president, who was the Bishop’s wife, used the RS email list to support a local political candidate. My wife didn’t have the courage to tell her of the inappropriateness but it was also the more surprising because the Bishop was the most intense Bishop I have ever seen. He was one of those people who was so strict about commandments that you wouldn’t want him to be your missionary companion.

    In these cases, I think it may be best to let it go and delete.

  32. “is not to be used for … political purposes?”

    hahah… seriously? How could I function without receiving all these political addict’s emails? Nit-pickers on display IMO.

  33. anon for this! says:

    Tackiest offender in my experience:

    A completely inactive person showed up for our ward’s trunk-or-treat, but instead of passing out candy from their car, passed out flyers advertising their (kid-oriented) business. Didn’t make me angry, but wow, tacky!!

  34. #8
    i was at first disghusted by that example… but upon reflection, I think how our jobs and businesses in today’s society are effectively our ‘farms’ from times past. Its our livelihood. And would not early members help each other out with their farms in times of need?

    Still… If the church wants to facilitate an opt in/out method of receiving such solicitation, great. In the meantime, I’d be happy to support your business. Just DON”T call me BROTHER when you slow or no pay me, or guilt me into patronizing your shop. I’ve had way too many personal and close associates experiences in which the “LDS card” was played too often and resulted in demands for discounts, slow/no pays, demands for rediculious levels of perfection, etc. To the point that folks make it a point to NOT do business with other members.

    IMO, business is business, and mixing your church can often lead to a bad outcome.

  35. Sidebottom says:

    I served my mission in the great state of Utah. We had a pair of stake missionaries in Ogden who used our teaching pool to grow their Amway business. Never met this couple face to face – they always showed up on their own between appointments. Amazing.

  36. My own personal opinion is that I don’t want to be involved in business transactions involving either family members, close friends, or people I know at church, just so that no one has any reason to be offended beyond just knowing me personally.

    In our ward there is the official email list through the church website, which as far as I can tell has not been abused. Then there is a RS email list, and an unofficial ward email list. I’ve only seen one or two questionable things on the unofficial list, and my wife says she’s seen nothing inappropriate on the RS list.

    However, it appears that Deseret Book has the old snail mail addresses of all the bishops in the US and Canada, and some 8 years after I was released, I still get catalogs, and the annual Christmas card ads addressed to “Dear Bishop…”.

  37. Gently tell them to knock it off – then hang a millstone on their doorknob with a note explaining what it is – then start sending totally inane e-mail requests to the offending person every hour on the hour for about a week.

  38. It’s just too hard to choose between the first four options. I couldn’t decide.

    I hate, hate, hate multi-level marketing and home based businesses that sell stuff like candles. I just never go. And I don’t receive too many invites lately.

    We have a woman in our ward who always mentions her business in her testimonies, class comments, etc. In fact, I have never heard her make a comment that didn’t somehow relate to her business. One Sunday, she mentioned it in all three meetings. I think she sits there and tries to figure out a way to work advertising into her comments. I wonder if she realizes how obvious she is.

    That said, I don’t have a problem with #8. He wasn’t asking for ward members to purchase goods or services from his business. He sounds self-employed and needed help with advertising. Normally, he would probably pay someone to distribute fliers. But, with the economic hurt, he couldn’t afford it, so he asked for help in distributing fliers. It was a service project. I can understand that.

    Then again, maybe my dichotomy is just because I hate certain home-based businesses. Was he selling candles? MILLSTONE!

  39. Lamonte says:

    You forgot the obvious right answer – excommunication.

  40. My sister for years refused to hire contractors from her own ward to do any work for her. Her reasoning was that if things went south, she still wanted to be able to sit next to the good brother or sister in sacrament meeting without resentment. I think it’s a good policy.

    A nearly active member used the ward list to mail out political flyers on behalf of a candidate of his choice. When his son (also a member of the ward) found out, he apologized to me (his bishop) and then confiscated his dad’s ward list. I’d gotten the political flyer but had no idea it came to me because of the ward list. Go figure.

  41. I’m with Stephanie.

    #8 seems OK to me. I can remember several EQ activities that directly benefited the businesses of the members: like helping weed and prepare an additional lot of land to expand a crop at a farm of an older couple; helping put sealant on the roof of the business (a bakery) of another member; providing a platform and a pickup to help move heavy machinery for another member’s business (and help loading the heavy machinery of course).

    I guess the members could have paid for all these services to contractors and simply add the costs to their business budget and balance sheets. But it didn’t feel wrong doing it and I don’t regret it. Helping distribute flyers seems like a similar activity to me.

    What I would consider inappropriate is to advertize these businesses at Church.

    And I also agree that some weird pyramid businesses that are pretty much 100% based on networking are a bit scary and also inappropriate to be advertized in church.

    Now… using the ward communication channels for fundraising for political purposes, and for the office of another state (#6)… HOT TAR AND FEATHERS!!!

  42. Stephanie – re: lady who weaves a business shout out into every church opportunity as possible… we must be in the same ward.

  43. I feel like my ward list gets overused not so much for people’s businesses, but for baby showers. We have a huge 20 and 30 something grad student population, and lots of babies coming all the time. I’ve been invited to more than a few baby showers for people with whom I’ve never even had a conversation. Makes me feel a little used. Just because I’m in your RS, doesn’t mean I owe you a baby gift.

  44. This mostly bothers me because its an abuse of trust and affinity, and really is not a far cry from its evil brother – investment fraud.

    Utah is one of the top three states in the nation for investment fraud. The other two are Nevada (greed) and Florida (Elderly). Utah makes it on the list, mostly, because of our inherent trust in our brethren. (#6 on the list)

    I say banishment to Roosevelt, let them gather in one place and swindle themselves into oblivion. I don’t think millstone coupled with Tar and Feathers could be nearly as painful as having to be the reciever of all the other network-marketing social pressures. Let the Noni-ers feel the wrath of the NuSkin-ers. Let the MaryKay-ers punish the Primerica-ers. Unleash the fury of the Sibu-ers on the Xango-ites!

  45. harpchil says:

    I get as annoyed as the next guy about all this. I especially get annoyed by people sending out political emails from people who would never have my email address except that they needed it for church.

    One sister sent me one with a “funny” video complaining about how much money the government spends. I replied and told her that it was hilarious, especially considering that we live in a town where federal spending by the Army probably constitutes at least 75% of the local economy. Apparently she didn’t get the hint, though, because a few weeks later she sent another video talking about how “socialized medicine” will ruin America. I replied that I am a big supporter of the bill because my son had racked up nearly $1 million in health care expenses before his 6th birthday and that because of that, neither he nor I would ever be able to purchase private insurance. She replied and said she was unaware of our situation and apologized if she offended.

    And I haven’t received an email from her ever since!

  46. B.Russ,

    Someone will have to send the Amway missionaries to Roosevelt and make some converts…. they are a religion, right?

  47. My ward growing up was terrible for this stuff. It got so bad that you could not even got to Church without being approached in the hallway from someone. This one guy was awful, Thank heavens his family moved to Alberta. Just in the spring here a guy mailed out this letter talking about his new mortgage business, he stated he had 35 years experience in the cooking business so we should buy his mortgage stuff from him… he said something like you may know him from church or cooking the meal on New Year’s eve (there wasn’t a meal on NY eve!) he wasn’t even active and so now he left a bad taste for people and won’t be buying his products!

  48. Email lists are so 2008. Our entire ward uses Facebook now to spam each other.

  49. Conifer says:

    I agree that if it’s flat-out advertising, that’s terrible. But I do think an e-mail letting us know what kinds of businesses other ward members have would be nice so we could use them if we wanted to.

  50. I voted for #3. I’ve been to Roosevelt. Many times.

    Too many times…….

  51. Me 42, is it haircutting?

  52. #38, 42, 51: lol…

  53. #48–at least Facebook has the “defriend” and the “hide” options. I’m very involved in a tiny ward, and there are active members of the ward I would never friend on Facebook just because they annoy the heck out of me (including a former bishop). A ward email list offers no such protection.

  54. Latter-day Guy says:

    The solution is simple:

    1) Record the email address of the offending party.
    2) Create a new, free email account under a pseudonym.
    3) Set that new address up to forward automatically to the offender’s email address.
    4) Sign up your new pseudonymous address receive an obscene amount of newsletters (preferably from political sources they would find abhorrent, like, Rush Limbaugh, or NAMBLA), spam, and/or yahoo/google alerts (e.g., receive an alert every time a news story contains the word “the,” or every auction that contains the word “of,” etc.).
    5) Smile and enjoy the warm feeling inside.

  55. Latter-day Guy says:

    NB: Steps 2 – 4 are best done on a public computer (library, internet café, etc.).

  56. Here’s a winning example of weird invites from ward members:

    a family moved into our ward, and a few months later, their adult daughter got engaged. I received an invitation to the bridal shower without RSVP information, meaning that I didn’t know the bride or the person that invited me to the shower. Then we received an invitation to the wedding. When I told the mother that I would not be attending the wedding, she said, “That’s okay, we didn’t really expect you to come anyway.” Hmmm…. then what was the purpose of the invitation? I really, really don’t want to think that it was just to solicit a gift.

  57. Latter-day Guy, you should set up a website where people can submit email addresses and pay you like $4/pop to do that.

  58. In our ward/stake it’s really common for wedding invites/announcements to go out to the entire ward directory- or even the stake, if its a big family. I get wedding stuff all the time for people I’m not even sure who they are…

  59. Latter-day Guy says:


    That’s an idea. However, it’s probably best to let each individual do it on their own, as it has the benefit of being illegal in many areas, which, while adding spice to the hobbyist’s email-bombing spree, would only add jailtime/higher fines to one responsible for a larger or commercial operation. ;-)

  60. But just think, such a business is self-sustaining.

    1. Send email to your entire stake announcing a business wherein you accept emails of jerks who send commercial mail to the entire stake.

    2. Receive flood of business at your business, from people who are ticked off that you sent commercial mail to the entire stake.

    3. Profit!!

  61. Latter-day Guy says:

    Ooooh! Wheels within wheels, Cynthia!

  62. Bruce H. says:

    I voted for millstone, because it’s the harshest choice on the list, but deep down inside I believe spammers should be flayed alive, dipped in hot pitch, rolled in crunchy magnesium nuggets, and set on fire.

  63. Latter-day Guy says:

    I’m sorry, Bruce, but I think you might be confusing the death penalty with funeral potatoes.

  64. #63 – There’s a difference?

  65. britt k says:

    the death penalty generally doesn’t have enough cheese

  66. GatoraideMomma says:

    Wedding invites and sometimes other announcements like babies, showers, etc. are tough decision when you are the one sending them out by mail, handouts, e-mail, facebook, etc.
    You don’t want to offend people by NOT inviting them and you don’t want them annoyed because they were invited and don’t know you that well. Like why didn’t the Bishop’s family invite me to their son’s reception even though we’ve never met him?
    Some people want to go and meet these “unknown” people. Someone taught him at age 4 in Primary for two months and feels connected, etc. etc.

    A wise ward member said invite them all and let them decide if they want to come. Mailing by snail mail is not prohibitally expense, electronically, it’s free. But I honestly don’t think everyone sending out an invite Expects all to show up or even if they drop by a present. We have a record of dismal turn outs for receptions in our stake for marriages and in part I think it’s because people feel that they cannot afford a gift or much of a gift. In most cases the celebrating couple or whatever baby shower, etc. just wants you go come foremost.

    When it’s a big expensive wedding with sit down dinner, etc., etc., I think those families limit their invites.

    I just don’t like the invites to weddings that include the couple is registered at Wal-mart, Target, BB&B, Cash preferred, etc.
    Shower invites: I appreciate knowing where they are registered as a shower is an opportunity to shower them with gifts, a celebration should not assume that is expected. Same for graduation from HS or college.

  67. I once had an HP group leader come to me and show me his weird advertising pyramid scheme that he was pursuing with great zeal. I tried to explain it didn’t work, couldn’t work, and was most likely illegal as well. He didn’t believe me and said he’d keep trying because someone else was making money off it too…

    I would have been much happier if he just wanted to sell me some food storage or pampered chef stuff or something. Never received an email though. I would just delete them unless the subject seemed interesting to me, and not think any worse of someone who was only trying to provide for themselves or their family with the tools and connections available to them.

  68. In my area, the listservs for our singles wards are all moderated by someone in each ward called to manage it. There are separate mailing lists for each ward, for each ward’s RS and EQ, and one for everyone. The sender chooses which list is applicable based on whatever they are sending. The email then has to be approved by the moderator before it’s sent out to everyone. I think if your email isn’t approved the moderator sends you a message explaining why. We all get a lot of emails and not all of it is church related – a lot of open invites, some jobs, some ‘for sale’ – but none of it is commercial or political. I think it’s probably the best solution for getting people info they might want while assuring some level of “quality control.”

  69. By The Rules says:

    Would the millstone around the neck be on dry land, or deep sea?

  70. Sunny, I drink maple syrup. Damn, that’s STILL classier. I just can’t help it.

  71. LOL! No one will be surprised by this: Um, can someone delete t his please? This was meant for a different post. Read Sunny’s comment in my email, then added it here, thinking it was the Guilty Pleasures post.

  72. No! Your comment shall stand as a witness against you for your cruel mocking of my love for canned frosting.

    Fools mock, but they shall mourn! Bwahahaha!!

  73. Oh Natasha.

  74. Hi Cynthie :-)

    Here’s an interesting co-mingling of church and business: Our stake center has a bulletin board which is used for snapshots of church activities, EFY ads, and upcoming activity flyers. There is also currently a flyer for a used ’02 Corolla. Thats weird enough, but it was the text on the flyer that I thought was strange on many levels: “Bluebook value: $14,600. Church member price: $12,000. Owned and maintained by institute director.” It leaves me wondering, does the fact that the person selling the car has a “high profile” calling increase the intrinsic value of his vehicle? Maybe if he had been called as stake president he could sell it for $13k… primary worker on the other had, and he would have to beg someone to take the thing off his hands.

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