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.
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.