An Explosion of Electronic Apocrypha
--an update on the LDS presence on the Internet
About two years ago, Sunstone could offer comprehensive coverage of the entire LDS presence on the Internet in a rather short article. Now, just a simple listing summary of all the LDS related material would swallow all of the pages in several issues. Explosion is no mere figure of speech.
The LDS presence on the Internet has three forms. The three are newsgroups, mailing lists and web pages.
Newsgroups are a cross between a public discussion group and a bulletin board. With an Internet connection, one can look to see what other people have written down and posted on the newsgroup and then add your own notes and comments to what has gone before. The electronic nature of the process makes the exchange faster, unedited and often quite senseless (speed kills sometimes).
The most used newsgroup is "alt.religion.mormon." There are twelve other newsgroups of interest to most LDS, and probably thirty or forty that FARMS or Sunstone subscribers would find interesting. Of course, with a total selection of about 30,000 newsgroups, you may find more.
Mailing lists are a step up from Newsgroups. A mailing list takes every item of correspondence (e-mail) submitted to it and sends it to every person on the list. A list may be just two or three friends or it may have six hundred or more people reading the letters and forty to sixty people who regularly comment on the list topics. Much larger and the list has so much volume and the list might as well be a newsgroup.
Some lists are "moderated" which means there is a person who functions as an editor and who keeps things on track and nuisances, bad manners and redundancy out. Some are not. Better, you do not need to have an Internet connection to be on a list -- a modem and a free e-mail account (e.g. Juno, Bigfoot, Four11) will let you participate even if you are borrowing an IBM 286 compatible running Windows 3.0.
Of probably twenty or thirty known mailing lists AML-L (The Association for Mormon Letters Roundtable) is th eone to start with. It can be subscribed to with e-mail to AML-REQUEST@CC.Weber.edu. It is considered one of the best as is the reborn MORMON-HIST (email@example.com).
Web Pages are the final area of the Internet explosion. Every LDS member on Prodigy has a few megabytes of space as a part of being on Prodigy. Every LDS member on AOL has a few megabytes more. Every CompuServe account and every EarthLink account (as long as either service lasts), and almost every other ISP (Internet Service Provider) brings with it free space for a web page.
Further, most services offer software that automates the process of creating a web page.
Most pages are the electronic equivalent of a cross between a billboard by the side of the highway and a Christmas letter. Literally thousands of these letters have some LDS content, from mission notes to ward directories.
Some have more, and were created for every possible reason, from business to hobby to pure whimsy. Orson Scott Card is trying to create an LDS Community at http://www.nauvoo.com. http://www.teleport.com/~arden/ is considered the one of the best of the personal pages and a great place to start. Finally http://www.new-jerusalem.com/ is an excellent example of a commercial page (a travel agency's page) that uses solid LDS content to draw attention and traffic. It also links to Pearl -- the index of award winning LDS sites.
There are many, many, many pages. I have not listed my personal favorites, but have provided some good starting places. In addition, the largest collection of LDS Web Pages is connected by the LDS Web Ring. You can enter the ring at any point. For more on web rings see http://webring.org/
Caveats and warnings. Keep in mind that anyone can put LDS material on the Internet. My nine-year-old daughter can walk into the MSU computer lab, sit down at any open computer, and use the available software to create an LDS page, write a letter to a Newsgroup and sign it "Bruce R. McConkie" or start her own mailing list. Services exist that host web pages and mailing lists for free (the sites are financed by advertising) and Newsgroups are open to everyone.
"There are many things contained therein that are true ... [t]here are many things contained therein that are not true ...."
See D&C 91:1-6.
Bibliography/Sources/Etc. in addition to the official site.
For a comprehensive listing of current LDS material on the Internet check out ftp://ftp.wnetc.com/lds/lds-resource.faq or http://www.netwizards.net/~bthelps/mormon/lds1.htm.
For a well ordered and organized historical start, try http://www.indirect.com/www/crockett/history.html.
Remembering that there are over thirty very, very good sites, for one of my favorites, try http://www.jersey.net/~inkwell/mormonj.htm.
Finally, no list is complete without the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research and the FARMS sites.
--Stephen R. Marsh
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