By Matthew D. Casady
Two speakers discussed how Mormons shape public opinion about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its teachings through web interactions at the Mormon Media Symposium Thursday.
One speaker addressed the impact Mormon feminist women have with their unique voices. The other speaker spoke about online apologetics and dissenters of the LDS church.
Trudy Hanson, chair of the Department of Communication at West Texas A&M University, commented that in an earlier panel they discussed individuals who have become the face of Mormonism since the 1950s, and only three of them were women.
“When the call came out for the ‘Mormon Moment’ first thing that popped into my head was, ‘Well, so where are the women in the Mormon world?’… As I look at the ‘Mormon moment’ I think it’s important for us to look at Mormon women’s voices,” Hanson said.
Hanson specifically used Joanna Brooks, a popular Mormon feminist and author, as an example of someone who gives Mormon women a voice. Hanson gave examples of Brooks advocating for the Church online and in interviews and quoted Brooks in saying how Mormon feminism was saved by blogging.
Rosemary Avance, a Ph.D. candidate at University of Pennsylvania and fellow at the University of Utah, specifically spoke about the intentions and interactions of two Mormon apologetic websites.
Avance explained how both The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research championed by Scott Gordon and the podcast Mormon Stories headed by John Dehlin seek to keep Mormons in the faith by answering historical and doctrinal questions often posed by anti-Mormons.
Avance mentioned there has been some controversy over whether Dehlin is reaching his goal in the right way as some of his podcast interviews leave viewers wondering if the Church is wrong on the issue.
Mormon dissenters, defined as those who simply have opposing views to the Church, were also discussed by Avance, specifically Mormon Think. Although Avance felt the format of their website was similar, in that it answered historical and doctrinal questions of the Mormon church, she acknowledged their overarching antagonistic approach.
Avance concluded with a story from earlier this year of being on a panel with Gordon and Dehlin where neither one acknowledged their similar goal, although sought in different ways, of keeping Mormons in the church.
“Is dialogue even possible … when both sides are already convinced that they are right?” Avance said.