Mormon Church Admitting the Internet is Hurting Retention of Members

by Simon in Oz Jan 2012

This is the first time I have heard a general authority openly admit the church is currently losing a lot of its members.

He even referred to it as an apostasy.

Church historian Elder Marlin K. Jensen attended a Q;A set up by Phil Barlow at Utah State University. He was asked the following question.

“Has the church seen the effects of Google on membership? It seems like the people who I talk to about church history are people who find out and leave quickly. Is the church aware of that problem? What about the people who are already leaving in droves?”

“The fifteen men really do know, and they really care. And they realize that maybe since Kirtland, we never have had a period of, I’ll call it apostasy, like we’re having right now; largely over these issues. We do have another initiative that we have called, “Answers to Gospel Questions”. We are trying to figure out exactly what channels to deliver it in and exactly what format to put it in. But we want to have a place where people can go. We have hired someone that’s in charge of search engine optimization. We realize that people get their information basically from Google. They don’t come to If they get there, it’s through Google. So, we are trying to create an offering that will address these issues and be available for the public at large and to the church leaders, because many of them don’t have answers either. It can be very disappointing to church members. And, for people who are losing their faith, or who have lost it, we hope to regain to the church.”


Jesus Smith
Re: Internet Apostasy
I believe apostasy in Kirtland was greater than 15%.

Re: The Great Google Apostasy
So, the church is now going to do more white-washing and lying to address the apostacy problem? Surprise.

Oh em ef gee
Talk about a day late and a dollar short!!!!!!

I left TSCC [this so called church] 10 years ago because nobody could answer my questions. I tried and tried to get answers beyond "pray about it". Nobody. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Bupkis even.

Here they are a rock solid decade later and this is their answer?


Re: The Great Google Apostasy
Where are all those people who have said that the Church is growing?
And why did God not inspire them to take action until after the survey results were in and the horse already bolted?

Re: The Great Google Apostasy

The True church is losing members because of the truth.

Re: The Great Google Apostasy
Can you imagine the weekly meeting of the 15?

'Bretheren, the surveys are in and it looks like the horse has bolted. What shall we do'

*hands shoot up*

'Yes Elder Bednar?'

'Why dont we try locking the stable door....?'

Alex Degaston
First time I corresponded with you Simon I followed up using Google
One day in April 2000 I came across and was frankly very concerned that you might be right. At the time I was troubled by a few issues I had just recently discovered (particularly the Section 101 of the 1835 edition of the D&C in concert with the 1831 reference in today's D&C 132) and had become quite open-minded on all things LDS-related. Nevertheless I wasn't going to just take your word for anything. You seemed sincere but Satan's cunning deceitful ways of using people was on my mind. So I decided to use Google to review your references when you sent me the titles/authors of 4 articles I could look up, Within minutes I found the full text of 2 of the articles and I found them on websites of very reputable academic institutions where prominent church members had been affiliated. Wow!! That was the moment when the burden of proof in my mind switched from the critics/antis to the Brethren on all these "difficult issues of the critics".

If Jenkins and the Brethren are banking on search engine optimization making a difference to save the church then they are pretty naive. This is just more evidence IMO that they are "in denial" as to the root cause. It's not that the Anti's and critics are skilled at getting their message out and they aren't. The biggest missing ingredient for them is simply a lack of top-down forthrightness on answering questions.

BTW Google just found for me the audio of this USU/Barlow/Jensen forum.

In particular I recommend listening to the segment at 30:00 for this quote.

Alex Degaston
Question for you about latter-day profits
In the meantime Levi have you been hedging your bets and paying your 10% gross income as fire insurance in case the LDS, inc. Brethren really are the Lord's true kingdom? Your money flow really could help them realize some latter-day living profits. In my case I cut off the revenue flow from 10% of my gross income to exactly zero.

Re: The Great Google Apostasy
"many of them don't have answers either". That is the most telling statement I've heard from a church authority.

Perfect analogy, 'cuz that is what Joseph did in Kirtland
Bolted out of town at night on horseback.
Re: Perfect analogy, 'cuz that is what Joseph did in Kirtland
Interesting that God has inspired them to act to prevent a great apostasy of members only after the surveys were in showing that it had already happened.....
According to the link...
...about 20 people attended.

While that's laudable, when it's said in GC by one of the Big 15 I'll be a little impressed.

Thank *GOD* ETB [Ezra Taft Benson] is dead, because I think he'd have a bone to pick with Marlin about whether a good Mormon can be a Democrat. Ezra is probably rolling over in his Apron over *that* one!

He mentions creating "answers to Gospel Questions"
Joseph Fielding Smith had a book out by that very title which as it turns out is great fodder for antimormons!

That book contained great references on the curse of Cain and lots of other goodies modern mormons are not supposed to talk about.

Not only do I not pay that "fire insurance"
Tithing is nothing more than a shake down IMO.

No, I haven't paid a cent since I found out the truth. Not only that, when I find out that a company is owned by a mormon, I stop buying that product or using that service. The thought that even a penny of mine goes to support an organization that makes a young person feel so bad about themselves that they feel that they have to kill themselves over "chastity"......I just can't do it.

Case in point "Rhodes" bread dough. I used to like some of their products. When I found out that they are owned by mormons.... I was done there. Since then, I have learned how to bake from scratch.

the god of thunder
Re: Oh em ef gee
Or they would go "is it necessary for your salvation" Of course it's necessary I wouldn't have asked it otherwise.

Re: The Great Google Apostasy
I find it fascinating that instead of facing the actual problem, they are trying to funnel people to "their" sites on the internet and control what people see. They have already tried to funnel people to via search engine optimization and through but if someone that is even halfway internet savvy will search until they find their answers. I predict that the problem will only get worse for the church until they face the true issues, which are doctrinally and historically-based.

Scooter in TX
but it's a great cottage industry for future snake oil salemen
in the algorithm field.

I hope DD in a PhD program in computer science is taking note.

Remember daughter, as long as you can promise people, like the marments, that you have the Secret Power of the Priestesshood to steer all internet searches back to or

you will always have a job.

and if you fail.

you will always have a job.

All hail Gaia!

Re: The Great Google Apostasy
dumpweed Wrote:
> I find it fascinating that instead of facing the
> actual problem, they are trying to funnel people
> to "their" sites on the internet and control what
> people see.

Me too. The genie is absolutely out of the bottle. There is no way they are going to stop the bleeding by attempting to corral and control information. Also any attempt to actually address the historical issues will hurt them more than help them as far as the numbers go. This is OLD thinking based on the idea that what they are peddling is actually true. It may have worked in the past, but it was a thinking that only worked in concert with the ability to control communication among members.

If I were their marketing/PR guy, I'd tell them to change the conversion and get away from the absolute talk. Make church fun and more accessible. Open the temple so non-members could attend weddings. Study what the successful community churches are doing and incorporate some of that. Shift to a less dogmatic program to something more generically values based. While you're making the change, never address any historical issues.

LDS, Inc. ends when the money ends, and they have A LOT of it. They may have to wait until a couple generations for the old guard die off. That will allow collective amnesia to set in and forget all the absolutist thinking that's killing them now. The numbers will likely drop precipitously, but they can get on their feet again since the money will probably hold out.

Additional images and notes to further illustrate - Monson fears mouse
how the Internet and Google have dissected Mormonism.

The image of Thomas Monson leaping up on a temple chair to avoid a computer mouse is spot on!

Trivia question: Who is the man in the Church Office Building that Tommy Monson hates to hear from the most?

Answer: Not Boyd Packer but Greg Dodge, manager of name resignations in the Membership Dept.

Re: The Great Google Apostasy
If they had wanted to keep in the church, they should have taught me all that stuff I learned from Google while I was growing up. Their non-denial of many of those Google facts was also very telling.

Then again, informing its membership would probably do much more harm to retention than help. I probably would have left the church much earlier had I known then what I know now, knowing how analytical I was.

‘Containment! Containment!’ --Too late, leaders!
The dam is beginning to burst and the Truth flood the riverbanks!

So, their answer is to control access to information?
Through search engine optimization?

That sounds like an admission that the church's claims don't stand up to scrutiny. Seriously, that's pathetic. If your claims are so far-fetched, confused, and unbelievable that exposure to counter-evidence is what's killing your membership numbers, you need to do a hell of a lot more than to republish your dogma in a different form, and manipulate google.

Like, maybe revise your claims-- oh wait, can't do that.

Re: The Great Google Apostasy
Diluting old urine would be a relief only for the ones standing in it, others may hope for improvement, but.... it's not the color that is most bothersome....

(I'm only answering the question that really should have been asked here in this thread of course!)

lol... google is impure and puny....
or so says the D&C

131:33 How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.

Instead of what's said in the D&C, the church is actually employing the "these are not the droids you're looking for" tactic.

Re: The Great Google Apostasy
"Diluting old urine would be a relief only for the ones standing in it, others may hope for improvement, but.... it's not the color that is most bothersome....

(I'm only answering the question that really should have been asked here in this thread of course!)"

Love your re-using of that quote in this context! (ie. the question that should have been asked)

"D&C 131:33 How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints."

Wonderful observation of how that applies to google!

Just wanted to let y'all on the board know how much I appreciate your wit and insight. You make my day, everyday!

Re: The Great Google Apostasy
When I was considering dating an LDS woman back in 2007, I decided to look up the LDS marriage rites using Google. I had been told in the past that the actual ceremony involved both parties being dressed in nothing more than their underwear.

The first site that came up when I typed in "Mormon Marriage Ceremony" into Google was an evangelical Christian site that could only say that Mormon marriages were from the Devil and to avoid the ceremony altogether. Because I didn't just want someone telling me what to do (and because I think the Satanic solution is too pat--I prefer fuller explanations), I explored the second site that came up--a lengthy letter that former Mormon Bob McCue wrote back in 2003 shortly after leaving the LDS church. I found his take, though over 50 pages long, to be both thorough and reasonable, and it made me realize not only what the temple marriage ceremony was about but also what was expected in Mormon marriages. His letter helped me to see that dating this woman, particularly steady dating this woman, would cause many more problems that could lead to a lot of trouble down the road.

And that, I think, is the beauty of Google searches. Not only can you get the truth about religious dogma, but you can find people in the know who can write about their experiences realistically in a way that church propaganda never could.

LDS church elders will be trying to come up with pat answers to questions that people will be using Google to search for, but those pat answers will never be able to show the actual details of living the Mormon experience, precisely because LDS leaders cannot see beyond the "dark vs. light" mentality that clouds most religions.

Re: lol... LDS Inc is impure and puny....
This could easily apply to the church who today stretch forth their puny arm to stop the TRUTH from pouring down upon the heads of the Latter-Day Saints.

Re: The Great Google Apostasy
As usual the church is about 20 years behind the curve. They will have to do exactly what the Reorgs did. Ironic that they (me included) used to make fun of the Reorgs for being so weak on JS, BOM, etc.

If only God had foreseen the Internet and warned the GAs!
The church has been able to over-play its hand for generations now. It has had massive control of information and assumed that it always would have. It even considered taking over the "Salt Lake Tribune" in order to "control its negativity".

In the past the church could intimidate free speech. It could isolate disaffected members from each other. It could make historical facts hard to find, and easily deny those few problems that did turn up.

The church got use to having that kind of power and took the membership for granted. The church has never employed any self-restraint because it hasn't had to. It took as much power and control as it could possible get away with.

There was no effective means of resistance by the members, so there was no need for self-restraint by the church.

Just one stupid outcome was that members ended up scrubbing toilets while the church was building multi-billion dollar malls.

In the past the church was worried about the "Tribune's" (limited) powers where a letter to the editor might cause the church a problem for a single day along a highly-limited area of the Wasatch Front. Many good Mormons didn't even take the Trib.

Meanwhile the growing Internet tidal wave was making those same messages virtually eternal, worldwide, and available in every home through a simple mouse click!

Everything has now been turned on its head:

1) Anonymous posting has destroyed the church's powers of intimidation.

2) Disaffected Mormons can now find each other easily, talk, and even get together when they want.

3) Powerful search engines can now arrange facts and provide documentation and interpretation in seconds!

You would think that God's "True Prophets" of Mormonism would have seen this disaster coming and would have prepared the membership long ago. But they've been sitting ducks instead.

By their fruits ...

Re: The Great Google Apostasy
Why should they worry about membership retention when they have said that there would be a natural weeding out before the second coming... ;) (at least that's what I've always been told)
I know, I know, they want $$$.

Re: The Great Google Apostasy
Oh my freakin heck!

You mean to tell me they hired a search engine optimization specialist to detour folks away from other legit fact based sites and bring them back to for more brainwash material RATHER THAN JUST ADDRESSING THE DOCTRINE HEAD ON!!!!!

I would have more respect for them if they would just say, "hey, ppl are leaving because they found out JS was marrying other women that were already married and a couple of them married brigham young after his death." "We can explain it da.da.da. etc..."

They are wolfs in sheeps clothing. Matthew 7!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Re: The Great Google Apostasy
Fascinating posts.

It seems that the church has been in slow decline for the past ten years, if not longer. And there's no solution in search engine optimization, focus groups, and the other things that Marlin Jensen mentions.

The problem is not that the answers aren't getting "out there," but that there are no good answers. If there were, the answers would have been successfully articulated long ago.

If this is the case, what will be church's future? I think that depends on the leadership. If they try to liberalize the church along the lines of internet Mormonism or the Community of Christ, they will face stagnation or slow decline, possibly coupled with schismatic movements among conservatives. On the other hand, if the leadership tries to take a very conservative position along the lines of chapel Mormonism or the Church of Scientology, they will face a rapid decline as the older generations die off and the younger generations reject any implicit encouragement to shun apostate friends and family members.

Of course, I'm just speaking here as a man rather than as a prophet. I'd be curious to know what futures other people foresee.

Elder Marlin K. Jensen given emeritus status...aka fired!
In true form they just "killed the messenger"

Elder Marlin K. Jensen given emeritus status

Re: The Great Google Apostasy
I agree that the only strategy that makes sense is to make the church more open and fun, but I wonder whether there is enough time for that. The church actually used to be much more fun than it is now, but that culture was based on a century of firm belief, and has been largely killed by correlation (aka corporatization).

As many other corporations have discovered, a healthy corporate culture is not something that you can buy, no matter how big a check you may be willing to sign. It is an organic thing that must be grown for years, and be rooted in the personal experiences and values of an organization's employees (or, in this case, members). The church's potential salvation, if it exists at all, will be found in its members rather than its checkbook.

Provo Girl
Re: The Great Google Apostasy
Wow. Dear Salt Lake Old Boys: You can optimize these search engines all you want and direct people to your web sites. Once they're there, what will they find? The same old sanitized, correlated "truth" rife with ommissions and edits.

Your fraud-invested institution is crumbling. There's nothing you can do to stop the real truth from flowing out in the Information Age.

Re: The Great Google Apostasy
i couldn't imagine having to be the person to present this kind of information to the 15 - my parents are much, much younger (60s) and even tho i've tried to explain things like twitter and facebook to them they still don't get it - there's this whole world that's passing them by... (i don't use either personally, but that's by choice, not ignorance)

they've never sent a text and even tho they have cell phones they still have everyone's phone numbers written down in an address book - the paper kind

just last summer i saw my mom actually dial my sister's number (they talk several times a day) and so i programmed her phone for her - not sure if she actually uses her contacts lists tho...

i know not everyone in that age group is so technology averse but, again, i couldn't imagine trying to talk to tommy and boyd and the like about search engine optimization, social media, etc.

it must be like talking to a rock - a rock you have to pretend you respect...

Re: The Great Google Apostasy
So the solution is not to address the issues, but to try to find ways to manipulate Google, so non-official Morg sites get buried during searches.