I delivered the following today as part of a panel discussion titled
“Mormon Media Studies: Across Web Time, Cyberspace, and Blogging Disciplines” in the symposium “Mormon Media Studies: Across Time, Space, and Disciplines,” at the BYU Conference Center in Provo, Utah. It was also reported in MormonTimes on 2/23/2011.
The Church provides scriptures, teachings of the latter-day prophets and apostles, and other instructional materials to help individuals and families learn, live, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the last few years, the Church has made great progress in providing materials electronically by way of websites, scriptures online, mobile applications, online videos, streamed radio content, and a huge online gospel library. Electronic means can provide materials more quickly, less expensively, and more directly to people who can use them. And multiple formats can make it more likely that people will engage with the materials.
For example, in addition to the printed text of general conference in the Church magazines and traditional CDs and DVDs, the Church also provides electronic text, audio, and video on LDS.org, Mormon Channel radio, YouTube, iTunes, and BYU-TV. You can even get daily quotes from conference on Twitter (twitter.com/ldsgencon). There are a lot of ways to get conference, and no excuse not to watch it and study it over and over again.
With the ever-expanding options of formats and delivery channels, the Church is evaluating carefully the right balance of what we can do and what we should do. The Church is in the middle of a gargantuan task to gather the magazines, manuals, videos, and other materials that have been translated over many years and get them into a central electronic repository in common formats, such as XML text, PDF, and ePub. Then they need to be indexed and categorized so they can be easily searched and studied. Hundreds of Church instructional and administrative materials are translated into 15-50 languages, and some basic materials may be translated into as many as 184 languages. Hundreds of materials times many languages equals many millions of pages of text. And that repository is not just text, but also music, art, and multimedia.
So, given the enormous number of materials the Church provides in many languages, the next challenge is in helping members and leaders become aware of their availability and how to use them. The Church has well-defined lines of communication from leaders at headquarters to leaders in wards and branches. But it is often difficult to get information all the way to members about Church materials that are developed to bless the lives of individuals and families. For example:
- Did you know that the Church produces a new Mormon Message video every 2-3 weeks? Mormon Messages are short, inspirational videos illustrating principles of the restored gospel. Most are for general audiences and some are created specifically for youth.
- Did you know that the Church has a 24×7 streaming radio station on the Internet and XM radio? Get online access to the Mormon Channel at radio.lds.org.
- Did you know that there is an online, interactive version of the new Personal Progress and Duty to God materials, including the ability to track progress online?
- Did you know that on November 30, there will be a new LDS.org? You can go online to experience the new version now at new.lds.org.
- Did you know that you can access a library of manuals, magazines, and conference talks on mobile applications that work on most of the popular devices?
- Did you know that the Church now offers an online study tool that allows you to read and annotate magazines, manuals, and conference talks? As you read, you can highlight and take notes, and all this will be synchronized whether you take the notes online or on a mobile device.
- Did you know that the movie “Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration” that is shown in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building is now available for your family on DVD? It’s part of a set of DVDs about Church History that includes 4 other movies and hundreds of Church history pictures, charts, quotes, and study activities. And you can buy this whole DVD set for $4.50.
There are scores of official Church websites that provide quality experiences to help you learn the gospel, as well as sites that provide practical information on topics from provident living to overcoming an addiction. There are dozens of official Church pages on Facebook. There are several official Church channels on YouTube. The viewership of the Mormon Messages videos on YouTube rivals the exposure of the best viral videos out there. Since its launch in August 2008, Mormon Message videos have been viewed more than 16 million times in more than 190 countries. Elder Holland’s Easter message was the top Internet video that weekend, and has been viewed more than 650,000 times.
There are 12 official Church feeds on Twitter. You can find podcasts and subscribe to the have the latest general conference talks downloaded to your mobile device automatically through the Mormon Channel in iTunes (iTunes.lds.org).
So, how can you become aware of Church resources?
- LDS.org has features on the home page that announce major products, as well as a section called Church News and Events (news.lds.org) that is a major source of information about Church resources, as well as other news about the Church.
- LDSMediaTalk blog. When I started this personal blog in June 2006, it was mostly ideas about how LDS parents and youth can use the Internet and new technologies to strengthen families and help build the Church. Given my new role as an employee in the Church Curriculum Department to promote the awareness of Church materials, I’ve found myself using my blog more and more to provide information about new Church products, with links back to official Church sources.
- Church News and other websites that specialize in providing news and information about the Church.
- Church Public Affairs Newsroom (newsroom.lds.org) and the Newsroom blog (newsroom.lds.org/blog). Although the information on the Newsroom is targeted toward the news media, opinion leaders, and the public, you’ll often find information about major new materials from the Church.
- Church Facebook pages have status updates about new Church resources.
- Church Twitter feeds. Follow Church accounts (and the LDSMediaTalk Twitter feed) to get updates.
- Church Channels on YouTube. Subscribe to Church accounts to be notified of new videos.
Once you find out about great Church materials and other resources, please share that information with others. Use social media, e-mail, and word-of-mouth to let them know about what you learned. Rate the videos, retweet good information, and click Share when you see something you think your friends would like to see. If you click Like on the Church pages on Facebook, you will get status updates in your news feed. The more you click Like on individual status updates, the more they will be seen by your friends. This is a great way to get information about the Church on your friends’ pages without overtly sending it to them.
If you have ideas on what to do to better inform people about new materials, please post comments below.