Ep 238 – Internet Impact on Mormons

Panel Discussion

Posted November 29th, 2015

Randy is joined by Bob, Heather, and John to discuss the impact the Internet has had on Mormons and LDS membership growth (among other topics ranging from the evolving outsider view of Mormons to the latest LDS, Inc. retrenchment via its new policy toward gay parents and their children).






  • Nephihah

    What was that outro music?

  • The dial-up modem tones at the beginning triggered a flashback of trance-like reverie that caused me to miss most of the rest of the podcast. Tell me again what it was about?

    I knew a guy at NSA who could sing/whistle the training tones for a standard 2400-baud dial-up modem well enough that a modem on the other end of the line would sit up and say, “Yes? And?” Talk about an outmoded skill. Happens to the best of us and rest of us, eventually.

    • Lol, not exactly the response I was going for, but hey, I’ll take a “those were the days!” flashback comment.

  • articulett

    Great quick review of God’s not Dead with clips (since it was referenced in regards to how Evangelicals see atheists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ny_mzt-zSo (I also highly recommend God Awful Movie Podcast if atheists reviewing Christian movies appeals to you.)

    • Lol, thanks for this! Way more efficient (and effective) than just watching the movie at double speed. 🙂

      • Wendell Tately

        I watched the movie on double speed and found it to be riveting,
        but there were lapses in my attention. How many guys did it take to make Jesus?
        Bet they all can dance on the head of a pin.
        Hi, I’m a Life–Coach that understands the special needs of Mormons.
        As a Mormon Life–Coach, I know there are unique circumstances in Mormonism, to flourish there is much work to be done.
        Life-coaching can be the alpha and omega to understanding.
        Great cast for balding Manichean Mormons.
        But with the blessing of time we are all balding.

    • Heather Craw

      Loved it! Laughing hard. Thank you!

  • AnotherClosetAtheist

    The notion of “there was no historical Jesus” is completely rational.

    Here is a parallel: It is a fact that there were no Jewish slaves in Egypt. Since they weren’t in Egypt to begin with, they didn’t need to escape captivity, meaning there was no Exodus. No Exodus means that there was no Moses to lead them. Moses absolutely did not exist. He didn’t part the Red Sea, he didn’t climb Mt. Sinai, and he didn’t present any tablets to the Israelites, because he didn’t exist.

    And yet there is a Law of Moses without there having been a Moses.

    There is a Book of Mormon, despite that there wasn’t ever a real man named Mormon. There are four Books of Nephi, and there was never a Nephi.

    Christianity was a tiny apocalyptic cult that ended up getting imperial sponsorship. But we don’t actually have to think that there was ever a Jesus. He never said anything original, the four Gospels don’t harmonize or agree on much – including the date of his alleged execution. Paul doesn’t have much to say about the life of Jesus, despite his pretenses to having learned from him directly.

    Many Christians don’t see Adam and Eve as literal people, or the Fall as a literal story. The non-literalness of Adam and Eve and the Fall requires a non-literalness of Jesus and the Atonement.

    • Good point. Just because Jesus didn’t exist didn’t keep him from dominating the history of the western world for the last 2000+ years. If that’s not “existing,” I don’t know what is. Personally, I think Jesus was a real person, just not the way anybody thought. I think he died in northern India in about AD 87 and is buried there. He faked his death like Elvis and Jim Morrison to escape the rat race and try to live a normal life.

      • AnotherClosetAtheist

        Don’t get me wrong – it is perfectly reasonable for there to be a Jewish guy named Joshua who did some stuff and pissed off the Romans, and his story got blended with other existing mythologies. But I wouldn’t laugh away the hypothesis on his nonexistence like was done twice.

        And I agree with your statement on existing for 2000 years. I mean, the pharaohs claimed to be immortal gods on earth, and 4000-5000 years later and we still know all their names and deeds.

        • Glenn

          I’m no Historian, but I think the point John was making is that in order to deny a historical Jesus, you have to deny the research and conclusions of the vast majority of scholars who say there was a histotical Jesus (which is very different from Adam and Eve, or Moses, or Abraham, or Book of Mormon characters, who do not have the consensus of scholars claiming a historical basis for those mythical characters). It is unreasonable (or maybe just ignorant) for one to deny the scholorly consensus and rest conclusions soley on one’s own untrained comparative opinion.

          • AnotherClosetAtheist

            I don’t want to positively assert that there was no Jesus, don’t get me wrong. I said elsewhere that it is also reasonable that there was a Jewish guy named Joshua who said some stuff, pissed off the wrong people, and got into some trouble.

            But that there was a person named Joshua who did a single thing that the Gospels write about? I can maybe wrap my head around a Beatitude or two, but the rest of it is a little over the top.

          • Randy_Snyder

            I don’t think John’s claim is that even 5% of what’s in the New Testament is historical (to put an arbitrary Bob style number on it). But that simply there was a real guy from which a very embellished legend was built. The position he claims is untenable based on textual and historical expertise is that a story was constructed completely out of whole cloth based on no historical figure that started a following. And I agree w him.

          • AnotherClosetAtheist

            That is called the “mythical” approach to Jesus, which I tend to agree with too. Though according to Wikipedia, this idea seems to be falling out of favor in academic circles.

            It seems that the “majority consensus” of a historical Jesus is criticized for being theologically motivated, having poor methodological soundness, and having too scarce of sources to actually draw a conclusion.

            I really dig the Irreligiosophy episodes of the Gospels and Acts. They nuke them hard. The Gospel of John was so clearly a Greek invention, that it requires Jesus to speak Greek for his plays on words to work. If John mingled the philosophies of Hellenism with Judaism, the rest can’t be much better.

          • Randy_Snyder

            Yes, I love those episodes. Chuck knows his shit and is great despite which ignoramus is his co-host (the new guy is way more endearing and tolerable than Layton was). But I think the majority consensus on John is that it’s the least historical of all. Superhero Jesus. No wonder it’s the favorite of so many Christians.

  • Jared Sholar

    Randy, she was 17 & I was 19! not that much of an age difference. Plus there were a lot of girls that flirted with me back then, it think you were just jealous.

    • Too late, your history as a person has already been set in stone because it was on Infants on Thrones.

      • Jared Sholar

        I know, what is the use now. Between that and my “rebuking and calling him to repentance” I don’t know if I can believe anything he says anymore. 1st the church manufacturing the truth and now Infants…I really don’t even know which was is up anymore.

        • Hey, at least you have Randy on record, in the same episode, explaining how much we all suck when recalling our memories… But who am I kidding, no one will connect those dots, just trying to make you feel better. 🙂

        • Randy_Snyder

          If you want Jared, I will cut and paste your entire response right here. 🙂

        • Randy_Snyder

          Cut and pasted from Jared 2010 (rebuke was too strong but annoyingly condescending had the same angering effect, lol):

          “Rough Stone Rolling, yeah, I read it when it came out. My wife started reading it and didn’t quite like the thoughts it was making her have and thus stopped reading it. Go figure, someone actually stopping doing something that they feel is causing damage to themself. Interesting concept huh? Lol, sorry man, just giving you a hard time… and only doing so because I care. I heard once that the choices we make are like two wolves fighting within us, one good and one evil (maybe this “evil” one is the “natural man”, but anyway) when asked which one will win, the answer came “the one I feed”. It appears, through the little I know about the situation, that one could say that you may have “feed” the wrong Wolf.”

          • Randy_Snyder

            I take it back. Insinuating my natural man is feeding an evil wolf is a rebuke! Lol

          • articulett

            That’s an interesting reply… I wonder if Jared’s indoctrinators used it on him… I think a lot of cults or manipulative groups could use a similar analogy to prop up their idea as being the good wolf to feed– and criticism of their faith as the evil wolf.

            It’s a little more intellectual than trying to manipulate people with the idea that an invisible bad guy is responsible for their seeds of doubt.

    • Randy_Snyder

      Told you I got stuff wrong. But you did have a way w the ladies.

  • Frank

    I think it’s time for Heather’s PPI

    • Heather Craw

      I’m still waiting for the Infants’ PPIs. All i could find were ones for Matt and John which I very much enjoyed. Where are the other 6?

      • Glenn

        Scott is still editing his (that we recorded in August 2014).

        • Better late then never Scott! 🙂

        • You let people edit their own PPIs? Isn’t that a bit like letting them choose their own dating site photos?

  • jewelspice

    either I’m an idiot or a big Fan cuz I listened till 1;30 am….good discussion., I particularly enjoyed the talk about how quickly this last handbook policy came to light. and Bob I loved the old modem at the beginning . it brought back good memories of hubby giving me my first internet connection in 1995,

    • Thanks for the kind words! And I’m glad the modem brought back good memories. 🙂

  • Malachi

    Did Randy get a new microphone? His voice sounds clearer. Not only that, he sounded so happy and peaceful in this episode. Are we witnessing the evolution of the “angry atheist”?

    Also, has everyone noticed how naturally Heather has become an infant? It’s awesome! The addition of John Hamer worked the same way and I loved that as well. The chemistry of the Infants would impress even Walter White himself.

    Wonderful episode, thank you all for making my morning commute enjoyable.

    • Glad it sounded clear. There was a bit of discrepancy between panelist volumes, and I tried to level it out. Randy can confirm, but I don’t think he had a new microphone.

      • Randy_Snyder

        No new microphone. I think I was just tired that night which made me sound mellow but thanks for the backhanded compliment Malachi. I guess I must have sounded like an intense, angry, unhappy atheist in the past. So angry!!!! 😉

        • Malachi

          Well please don’t think I ever mind you being angry, especially as I was (and still am) angry about many of the same issues (fuck Brigham Young forever).

          It was just such a contrast! Angry, mellow, it’s all good 😀

          • Randy_Snyder

            Yes. The topic of Mormonism makes me angry a lot. But talking about the growth slowing down and possible reasons why, makes me happy.

      • Malachi

        I listen with earbuds because I’m too lazy to cart my headphones around every day. Sudden leaps in volume can be painful haha Also there have been episodes that are so quiet I can’t hear them on the train.
        So know that I really appreciate your efforts, Bob!

  • Turdfurgeson

    I’m leaning towards internet over education as well. My reasoning aligns with a lot of the other points made, but also- when you look at the target audience for the churches missionary efforts, it’s not the well educated and rich (obviously they would love the tithing $, but educated people are harder to persuade) the target audience is people who can sustain themselves financially, but are needing a sense of community, comfort, working class type people. Many are without an education but still have access to the information on the Internet. So both arguments are valid, but I feel like the accessibility of the Internet outweighs the disciplines of education.

  • Daved6

    Growth rate in the Church is as low as it’s been since 194something. But since the mid-90s the percent of members on record per world population continues to grow.
    Since ’97 the number of people from the records who have died, were ex-d or had their names removed (I call DENr) has increased. Now name-removals are more important to those who leave then they were in 97. It’s just how it was. Also to note, 35-40 percent of members were active in the mid-90s and the same is true today, as far as we can determine. If that rate stays the same and the population of Membership compared to world population continues to grow, sadly, your guys’ excitement, or explanations, much like the Church leader’s explanation about the priesthood ban back in the day, are really just premature–not really well-thought out. You are saying things you simply don’t know. Or as McConkie might say, you were working with less light and knowledge.
    This seems to be the kind of stuff that E Cook was thinking about when he suggested the Church has never been stronger. It’s larger (in pure number), it’s reach is greater (it has stakes in more places than it did 20 years ago), it’s influence among the population of the world is more than it’s ever been (a greater percentage of the world’s population is Mormon than it was 20 years ago, and 2 years ago). If in the next 10 years we see declines throughout the world, we may have something more to talk about.
    The number of angry, and petty for that matter, internet LDS folks is growing, it seems. But it’s number is so tiny. It’s weird those who have left the Church keep celebrating that the Church is losing, in some way, to the internet, when the celebraters find themselves waving their victory flags marching aimlessly around emptied parking lots after their team somehow gained themselves a moral victory in a meaningless preseason game. “though we lost, we played pretty good” they chant with pride. BTW that is an adorable sight to see I assure you–an old dude in purple was recently seen doing this very thing long after my kid’s high school game was over and his purple team lost by 30.
    Its the total lack of self-awareness that makes IoT such an adorable show.
    Keep it up, guys and a gal. Still curious if Randy just wants to fight me because I’m a dude whose alive. You still upset, Randy?

  • Tim

    You guys confuse Evangelical Christians and Fundamentalist Christians. Evangelicals are pretty well college educated and not at all proud of the anti-intellectuals that dominate the Christian Fundamentalist world. There are some cross overs between the two spheres so I understand why outsiders might confuse the two.

    • Randy_Snyder

      Good point. Fundies! Meant Fundies!

    • Mark Norris

      Evangelicalism is a theological orientation that focuses on spiritual regeneration through being “born again”, the centrality and final authority of the Bible for doctrine and practice, and sharing the Gospel (evangelism, hence the name). It has nothing to do with college education or being pro or anti-intellectual. There are liberal evangelicals and conservative ones, intellectual and anti-intellectual ones.

      • Heather Craw

        My point about evangelicals was only about the literalism of their Biblical hermeneutics. Although evangelicalism itself isn’t tightly correlated, so there certainly is variation there, the majority evangelical view takes the Bible as the literal word of God which creates falsifiable claims such as a young earth, a global flood, a universal language being confounded, a 969 year old man, etc.

        • Mark Norris

          You’re conflating Evangelicalism with fundamentalism. The majority of Evangelicals are not fundamentalists, and don’t hold to a strict literal interpretation of the Bible.

          Most fundamentalists are Evangelical, but most Evangelicals are not Fundamentalist.

          • Heather Craw

            If I am in error, which I may be, it is probably from conflating biblical inerrancy with biblical literalism. The former is certainly an evangelical tenet.

          • Mark Norris

            Yup. Ask an Evangelical, and you’re going to get all sorts of flavored of what “biblical inerrancy” means.

          • Gabriel von Himmel

            Did you mean to write
            Bibical Inerrancy?
            That make more sense to me

          • Heather Craw

            Did you mean to write Biblical Literalism?

            In any case, Biblical inerrancy is itself a falsifiable claim, so the original point still stands.

          • Gabriel von Himmel

            “Bibical Inerrancy” is almost the same as
            Biblical inerrancy but with fewer “L’s”.

            When it comes to inerrant scripture it’s all “Bibical” to me.
            Oh so bibical.

  • You’re all right.

    My mom, who was a believing-but-mostly-inactive Mormon, went back to school at the University of Utah in her early forties when my brother and I were in junior high. It took about two years of history and philosophy classes to make a complete non-believer out of her. This was in the late ’60s, early ’70s–way, way pre-internet. Her “faith” was definitely a casualty of higher education.

    Living in Salt Lake in an extended family with hand cart pioneer roots, I felt like I knew what Mormonism was all about. When evangelical colleagues and acquaintances told me about weird stuff that Mormons believed and about the bizarre crap that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young had said, I told them they were full of shit because I’d grown up in a hot bed of Mormonism and I’d never heard any of that stuff. When Mitt was nominated and I got curious enough to get on the interwebs and see what the world knew about Mormonism, I was blown away! MOST of what the evangelicals had said was true, WAS true–or certainly appeared to be. Mostly I just laughed because, by then, I had nothing invested in the “truth” claims of the Church. The point is that, even as a nearly total non-believer, I was still living in the bubble I’d grown up in. The durability of these bubbles of perception is fascinating, if a bit disturbing. If I didn’t know that, what else don’t I know?

  • John Spencer

    I hate to be pedantic, but I’m a bit of an asshole when it comes to the first 10 seasons of the Simpsons.
    “The leader is good
    The leader is great
    We surrender our will
    As of this date”.
    Nananananananananananana LEADER!

    • Glenn

      Maybe we should just (officially) do an episode on the fallability of Randy’s memory.

    • Randy_Snyder

      I got halfway through that chant and realized I didn’t know the second half so I made it up. Wasn’t too far off. 😉

      • John Spencer

        The entire episode I was thinking of the leader, so I was tickled when you brought it up. 🙂

        • Randy_Snyder

          Great episode. The Movementarians. LMAO!

  • Natasha Smith

    Although I’m probably outing myself as one of the few PoC that listen (possibly the only black person?), there have been a lot of race comments lately, so I thought I’d chime in on at least one.

    You all may have missed this ridiculous recently republished/reblogged article. Here is at least one black stake prez. This article is old, so the guy is no longer a SP. I believe he is a Mission President now. So, there’s one for the history books.


    • Thomas Moore

      Well shoot; we have that white African apostle, and a white Lamanite Zelph…Now you’re telling me there really is a PoC Stake President who hasn’t been on the cover of the Ensign???

  • Karen

    bravo to Heather for the Maoist China reference. I recently read the massive book Three Swans and kept drawing parallels between JS and Mao and the church and China. It amazed me that they just expected everyone to go along with whatever preposterous things they said or claimed. JS definitely made his mark on US history and affected millions of lives, but he’s got nothing on Mao.

    • Heather Craw

      Yes! “Wild Swans” is what I had in mind. Further uncanny resemblance to JS in Asian literature: “Dragon: The Old Potter’s Tale” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Short, funny, and insightful.

      • Karen

        I’ll check it out. Thanks. It sounds more mythological? I was just floored by how completely a massive nation changed in three generations. What could JS have done if he was elected president/king? How grandiose could his ideas have become….

        • Heather Craw

          Yes, it’s just a fictional short story. But I think you’re right that history is shaped by the individual personalities of the power players more than we would care to admit.

  • Coriantumr

    So the Community of Christ is swelling up the ranks with Millennials packing powerful 8 core phones and broadband connections……….. what a disingenuous ass-ertion ….. XD

  • Gail_F_Bartholomew

    Once again a great episode.
    John I believe why you get push back when you devalue the role of the internet in Mormon disaffection is because for most of us here the internet likely was or is a very large emotional part of our disaffection. Which for me at least the internet is the biggest part of my emotional story of my disaffection.
    That said to your point I think the link to educations goes far beyond the growth in the proportion of our society that is college educated. Steven Pinker in “Better Angles of Our Nature” talks about other educational factors that improve the ability of our society as a whole for critical thinking. One being that the curriculum in both our primary and secondary schools have been changing from wrote memorization and moving to critical thinking.
    I thought special education for ten years and I would say when I was in education I saw this trend first hand. Also I know as a parent I see it not only how my second grader is thought math far differently than I was, but what is in my sophomores daughters geometry class involves far more problem solving than I had in my geometry class in high school or college, and is far more difficult than anything I faced in my math courses in high school or college.
    Steven Pinker also talks about how we see the evidence of more ability for critical thinking in the renorming of our IQ tests. High school students today are an average of 20 points smarter then those 100 years ago, when IQ tests were first came into use. Therefore all IQ tests have slowly changed the noming so that the bell curve average can still remain 100. You might think this is do to our educators “teaching to the test”, but the portions of the test that test for wrote knowledge are not the portions of the test that we see the improvement in. We see improvements in the critical thinking or problem solving portions of IQ tests. We are actually measuring each year a marked improvement in critical thinking ability among individuals that have not yet even had the opportunity to go to college.
    This may be a little all over the place, but I really do not think comparing the falsifiable information that evangelicals teach to the falsifiable information taught in by Mormons is in my mind a massive faults equivalence. To compartmentalize and take as metaphorical the stories taught in Genesis and still believe in an old earth in not equivalent at to seeing facsimiles are mistranslated in Mormon scriptures when the Church teaches Joseph translated then by the gift and power of God, and so many other examples. It is a very different thing to google the age of the earth or evolution or to google polyandry or Mountain Meadows. Not a good comparison guys.

  • Gail_F_Bartholomew

    My apologies I mistakenly wrote I thought special education not I taught special education as well as Joseph translated then not them. This is because I am not just a special education teach I am a special ed student as well. It is true I road the short bus.

  • Thomas Moore

    The main thing about what Mormons have found is the omissions from what they were taught. They were never given access to either anti-Mormon literature or to “Real” history or doctrines and policies. Some truths which happened just a few decades or years ago are totally denied within a few weeks (i.e. temple changes, preachings /teachings on Blacks, women not allowed to pray in General Conference, etc…)
    So when we can see the actual newspaper clippings, read the actual journals, see pictures of the seer stone… It really creates a whirlwind of thoughts and a return and re-reading of old scriptures, talks, discourses.
    Now as far as the retrenchment goes…Well, I have to agree with Attorney James Ord per his discussion on Mormonstories w/John Hamer, that it is a legal move to protect the corporation. Just as the “Proclamation on the Family” was drawn up by lawyers to add to the amicus briefs in the fight against Hawaii’s 1996 same sex marriage cases. The church had to create something because the only thing in their creed or philosophy or canonized scripture was D&C 132.

  • ward

    Hamer’s comment that the Jesus Myth is preposterous pissed me off Must be that way since John is sooooo smart. Make sure only get his opinion since he is religious and believes in Jebus. The myth movement is growing. A lot of those “scholars” that doubt are like Hamer in that they are religious. Not a good source. You had Robert Price on as a guest. Have him back to discuss this. There are lots of sources. I have studied it out and the idea that he did exist is to me preposterous.

    • ART

      Check out “An atheist’s defense of the historicity of Jesus”: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2014/09/04/an-atheists-defense-of-the-historicity-of-jesus/

    • Glenn

      “You had Robert Price on as a guest.”

      Clearly, you are an incredible researcher, Ward.

      • ward

        my mistake. It was another mormon podcast. irreligiiosophy oct 2009 http://www.irreligiosophy.com/?p=951
        I have several books of Robert M Price including a good one on the Book of Mormon which my believing brother will not look at even though he goes on Archaeology vacations. The list of Jesus myth scholars is large and growing. A lot of “scholars” who believe have their jobs based on it or are affiliated with a religious institution. To say the myth is preposterous is itself preposterous. so get Robert M Price (the bible geek) on or: Earl Doherty, or David Fitzgerald, or Richard Carrier etc. I am not saying it is 100% but to say preposterous is nonsense I expect from Hamer who is religous and a religious leader at that and all on this group think he is the final answer. Well there are other scholars so let’s hear from them. NO Hamer has spoken and the Jesus he believes in is there for him and to say otherwise is preposterous. I had given up on Infants for this and other reasons… I come back to give it one more go and run into this crap again.

  • Amazed byLove

    Do you guys believe that the numbers provided by the church are mostly (or not at all) accurate?

  • Natalie Glaus

    When I lived in Atlanta 2009-2013 I had a black Stake President who was promoted to Area 70. Elder Tony Parker.