Unofficial Market Research on LDS Tools App

I’ve been thinking about this for a few months, but McKay Coppins’ article today on “Mitt’s Mormon Army: How It Works” brought it the forefront.

So I’m wondering a few things, on-top-of-technology BCC readers:

Do you know that your information (name, names of your children, address, phone, email address) is likely available to anyone in your stake with the LDS Tools App? I understand that you can go into your LDS Account and make changes so that your phone and email are not listed, but would you appreciate a confidentiality agreement. Can you think of any other ideas to help negate any abuses to this system?

I should note, that I am generally in favor of openness and am excited to see the church digitize information, but wonder if caution is warranted.


  1. Chris Gordon says:

    It’s tough. Would a confidentiality agreement really prevent abuse? We already have an implicit agreement in place as members of the ward to only use the information provided for church reasons. On the other hand, the scenario in Coppins’ article is facilitated by ward information being available, but not necessarily dependent upon ward information as contained in the directory. What I mean is, as a user of technology and as someone whose social relationships are well-tied to my ward, I’d have found everyone’s email address through some means or another, probably at church or by pulling them from a mass email sent by someone else.

  2. Maybe this is off-topic, but I feel like Coppins is conflating multiple types of Church communications here. I can personally speak to the Colonial listserv – it’s not a ward listserv, ie, that’s not what the Sunday School secretary would use to send out next week’s lesson, or how the Relief Society would announce upcoming meetings. It’s an opt-in community board that’s mostly used to give away old couches and ask for advice about local mechanics. It seems like there’s a significant difference between what Coppins describes and using “official” church communication channels.

  3. observer fka eric s says:

    This is a topic that comes up a lot at the dinner table. To wit, last night the land-line rang four calls in a row from the same caller. My caller ID showed it was a client of mine. The client also happens to be a member of the stake. I give out another number for business, but the client/member persistently called and called. That was after she tried my business line 4 times.

    Last summer a young man was raising money to go on his mission by selling Living Scripture CDs. He came to our door on a Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. He knew where we lived because our address is listed in a stake directory. So on a very busy Saturday afternoon, we had to entertain him for a while and let him down diplomatically that we’re not going to spend several hundred bux on cartoons over the next year on credit . . . even though we support his desire to go on a mission and tug on the heart strings with the hard sell.

    I’d like an “opt out” box on or some configuration that allows address and tel. no. to be concealed.

    The most tricky, delicate dance of this issue is the social implications of the desire to be private or discrete with contact information. Once one begins suggesting privacy to other ward members, the stigma of “not one of us” or distance arises. When one provides contact information, it is akin to saying, “yes, I’m one of you in every sense of the assumed Mormon identity (Republican, Pro Prop 8, BBQs, Mitt crush, etc.).” If one says to the clerks or SLC, “no, I don’t want my contact info out there, thanks” then it is akin to saying “no, I don’t want contact and therefore I don’t want to engage in certain levels of activity.” Perhaps there is a middle ground of understanding to be cultivated where “no contact information” does not mean “a less desire to associate.”

    Basically, getting unsolicted political and commercial e-mails via stake directories is tacky and poor form. And its practically a full time job for most of us as it is to keep email accts free of span and unwanted junk that slips through. Personal contact information is an area in the internet age where I think the Church needs to catch up.

  4. I can see how issues could come up on a personal level such as described in comment #3, but for me they never do. My e-mail address in the LDS directory never receives a single thing it shouldn’t. No commercial solicitations or inspiring chain letters, just announcements from the executive secretary, the young men’s president, and the elders’ quorum president. Perhaps my ISP filters really well.

  5. BarefootMike says:

    I have had more trouble with my family spamming me with faith-promoting rumors, anecdotes of how evil America is becoming, and trying to get me to buy their multi-level-marketed wares. But I live in an inner-city ward where most of the “active” members are older and don’t care for or understand technology, so only a select few people even know this information is available online.

  6. All, of our contact info is in the ward list, and we’ve never been given any political propaganda, even with some hard core Tea Partiers in the ward. Though that maybe due to either of two things:

    1- We’ve had our Obama 2012 sticker on the car from the day they came out
    2- When people send us emails about the latest panic (liberals as devil worshipers, Harry Potter fans as devil worshipers, or political diatribes) we tend to reply all with corrections and/or facts. It only takes once and then we’re off the unofficial email lists but still on the official ones.

  7. Yes, I’m aware that the information is available to anyone who has an LDS account and happens to live within our Stake boundaries. Does it bother me? No, because no one has abused it and if they did I would kindly but firmly remind them that they are abusing the purposes of that information being made available. As a member of the Bishopric I rely heavily upon having access to contact information that is regularly updated to the LDS Tools app as it greatly simplifies the challenges of ministering and administering.

  8. In our stake, all the addresses and phone numbers get published in a printed stake directory, so it’s not just an issue with the ldstools app. I know that the stake does does try to allow for opt out to the printed directory, but they depend on the ward clerks to do that, so it assumes that they know who does and does not want to be listed.

    Either way, as long as we publish any kind of directories, either via the church website/ldstools or printed directories, there will still be well intentioned but misguided folks who insist on misusing that information. I am not feeling too threatened, as the benefits so far in my experience have outweighed the negatives, which have been few. But their should be an easy user friendly opt out, so that you can limit what is shown to even those in your stake. That should apply to both the electronic versions as well as the non-streaming media artifact versions (ie, printed).

  9. I’ve never had a problem, but #3 is scaring me. Perhaps I’ll remove my info. from the list.

  10. To wit, this is what anyone who logs into the local directory on is presented with the first time – and every time unless they click don’t show me this dialog again:

    [quote]The purpose of this online directory is to help Church members more effectively communicate as they serve in their callings and minister to one another.

    This online directory provides household and individual photos, phone numbers, and email addresses – all of which are editable by adult users for their own record. It also provides a leadership directory showing MLS callings.

    In some areas, by default, members personal information will not be visible to other members of their stake/district until they choose to share it (opt in). The default opt in/out state for member information is determined by Area Presidencies.[/quote]

    So whether your data is by default shared in the online directory is a decision made by your Area Presidency. If you would like the default changed, reach out to them. If you don’t care but want to restrict your data it can be removed by opting out.

    One other point is made in the LDS tech wiki concerning data availability being driven by laws governed by the country you live in:

    [quote]Data privacy

    Each head of household can edit their profile and select whether or not the household should appear on the directory. In some countries, households will be visible by default. But if you are accessing this site from a country (such as European countries, Mexico, and Australia) whose privacy laws require consent to share personal information, your household will not be visible until you explicitly opt-in, allowing others in your ward/branch and stake/district to view your contact information. You may also choose to opt-out at any time.

  11. I’m glad to have my info on the stake contact. If someone crosses the line, I will tell them that they are exploiting a resource and violating terms of use. I use LDS Tools routinely to remember where the kids are hanging out or where I’m supposed to take a loaf of bread or whatever else. The Living Scriptures thing I would just shoot down immediately and donate $20 to the kid’s mission after warning him that he is breaking the privacy rules.

  12. Not only are all addreses available on the app, but in two taps on my ipad I can also get an aerial picture of the address I’ve selected. In another tap I can instantly get directions to the home from wherever I am located. For Curch purposes like home teaching or splits with the missionaries it is pretty cool, imo. But, I can see how it could be used for other purposes. Hasn’t happened to me so far, but the app is neat and handy for my purposes working in a YSA branch where our geographic boundaries are also the stake boundaries.

  13. Several years ago, the small city where we were living at the time discovered that their water supply was probably tainted. As the only member of the Melchezidek Priesthood Group leadership that was in town that night, I got to be the one heading up notifying everyone in the ward. Without the home teaching lists from the branch roster, there was no way we could have done it. If the home teachers didn’t have their people’s contact information, I gave it to them. For those groups of people whose home teachers I couldn’t reach, I contacted them myself. All those calls were made, and I went to Walmart and got bottled water for my family and was back home before the local military base even started their calling trees.

  14. It’s not the LDS Tools app that concerns me so much as it is the tools who happen to be LDS, and what they do when they get a hold of it.

  15. Ziff few!

  16. Bah! Auto correct strikes again.

    That should be Ziff FTW!

  17. For a long time I went to absurd lengths to guard my contact information, especially my address, from public access. If there were ever a problem with having my utilities or PO box in the name of “Partial” rather than “Parshall,” I could always challenge the problem-raiser to provide evidence that it was *my* misstatement and not an employee’s assumption about the spelling of my name that I had never gotten around to correcting. I’d rather not be listed in the church directory at all — what if the conspiracy kook who forwards my columns to Glenn Beck, the FBI, and Dieter Uchtdorf lives in my stake boundaries, or has a buddy who does? But I’ve given up the effort, largely because of databases exactly like the stake and ward directories. It’s just too easy for any nut to find you now.

  18. John Mansfield says:

    It is only possible currently to download a contact directory for a member’s own ward, not for his stake or other wards in his stake. Lists of names for other wards are available, but to get contact information for a household, the name must be individually clicked. Some enterprising marketer could automate the process and with a confederate in each stake amass a million contacts, but there is no straight forward way to download phone numbers and addresses for the whole stake. You can create a map with tags marking the locations of all households in the stake, which could have terrible consequences if some quorum secretary working at the CIA forgot which computer he was working at and the home teaching list somehow became part of the Al Qaeda Predator Drone Strike List. It’s a good thing that nearly all of the tags have an exclamation point and rollover text reading “Mansfield: Unverified location.”

  19. You can access names and contact information as well as callings for all units of your stake. However, you cannot access the names of children in any ward other than your own.

  20. NewlyHousewife says:

    Thank you for the reminder–I always keep forgetting check that I opt-out my email (you can call my cell as much as you want, it’s usually on silent anyway), but sometimes I swear even after I click it’s still there.

  21. I agree it is an easy and convenient way to access information, but I was not asked if it was OK for my information to be available, so I made it “private” as a matter of principle. (Even though I am not the “Head of Household”, don’t get me started!) We are in Australia, which according to comment #10, makes it against the privacy laws to publish the information without consent. My Stake is notoriously disorganised, so possible mistake at that level.

  22. “Even though I am not the “Head of Household”, don’t get me started!”

    With LDS Tools on iPhone, one can use the “Group by” button in the upper right corner to choose whether to display by individuals or household. I routinely have it set to display by individual. Makes sense, since two of my VT folks have a different last name than their spouse. Also, most folks under 35 do not have a household phone number, just individual cell numbers.

  23. cydlawenhau says:

    Jenny, the (Australian) Privacy Act includes a section that allows private organizations to make contact lists of their members so long as those list are not distributed outside the membership.
    Personally I’m fine with my ward knowing where to find me. Bit maybe that’s that the closeness of the community that exists in our ward make misuse in the way the article describes inconceivable.

  24. I didn’t really feel like digging through all the comments to see if anyone else said the same thing, but here’s my question: Hasn’t that information always been available to everyone in your stake in that little paper thingy we call the “stake directory”?

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