FollowTheProphet.net website launches!

My brother and I are pleased to announce the launch of a new website, FollowTheProphet.net!

This website aims to help members of the Church more closely follow the activities of our living prophet.  Between General Conferences we often don’t seem to know what the prophet is doing, or what he is teaching.  Yet, he is very busy, attending temple dedications, giving talks, and visiting the Saints around the world.  This new website aims to fill that gap of knowledge by aggregating all public information about what the activities of the prophet are, and posting them in a central location.  Links to his talks, speeches, devotionals, conferences, temple dedications, visits with the Saints, etc., will all be posted.

See the new site and let us know what you think!  We hope this new service will help members feel closer to God’s living prophet, and stay more connected with his teachings and counsel.

This entry was posted in General by Bryce Haymond. Bookmark the permalink.

About Bryce Haymond

Bryce grew up in Sandy, Utah, where he attended Jordan High School. He served a mission to the El Salvador San Salvador East mission, including eight months as mission financial secretary. Bryce graduated from Brigham Young University in 2007 in Industrial Design and a minor in Ballroom Dance. He loves all things Nibley and the temple, and is the founder of TempleStudy.com, and also blogs at BlackpoolCreative.com. Recently Bryce joined the Executive Board of The Interpreter Foundation, where he serves as a designer and technologist. Bryce has served in numerous Church callings including ward sunday school president, first counselor in the bishopric, and currently as temple and family history instructor. He is a Product Manager and Design Director at HandStands in Salt Lake City, and lives in Pleasant Grove, Utah, with his beautiful wife, three children, and another on the way!

24 thoughts on “FollowTheProphet.net website launches!

  1. Don’t you think the prophet deserves a little privacy? Press releases are one thing, but google maps and tweets? While I get that Bryce has the utmost respect for the prophet, could the information provided by this site be used by someone who doesn’t?

  2. All of the information posted is public information, and could be found by anyone who was looking. It is also posted some time after the prophet has been someplace.

  3. I went and looked at the new website. While I’m sure you are well-intentioned, Bryce, the new website gives me pause.

    To me, tracking the President of the Church gives the impression that President Monson is a celebrity and we’re all the paparazzi. In the Church, as I understand it, we don’t adulate the person of the President of the Church as a celebrity — rather, we sustain him because of the office he holds. It’s a subtle distinction, but one the website seems to miss. I’m a little embarrassed that this type of website will give creedence to those who claim Mormons aren’t really Christians because we’re so exclusively focused on the prophet as opposed to Jesus Christ.

    Second, I believe this website gives a false impression about the true role of a prophet. There is a difference between when the President of the Church speaks his personal opinion, as opposed to when he is speaking in his role as prophet. So, too, there’s a difference between when he’s acting in the role of prophet and when he’s acting a just a husband, or a grandpa, etc. Certainly, we shouldn’t presume to box-in the general authorities as to every utterance or every movement of their day as having some sort of doctrinal significant. Likewise, while President Monson is certainly capable of receiving revelation to guide the Church at any hour of any day, he is certainly not always acting officially in that role every second of every day. He still has the right to speak his personal opinion on matters, and when he does so, he is not speaking *as* the prophet. Or for a more basic example, when President Monson asks his wife to “please pass the salt,” is that a prophetic utterance? Is he speaking for the Church? Of course not. So, I disagree with the unstated assumption of this website that it’s useful or even a good idea to be paying attention to the everyday activities of President Monson.

    Finally, I don’t think this website is a good idea because I think it’s somewhat an invasion of his privacy. If I were President Monson, I wouldn’t want everyone knowing if and when I went to Dee’s Family Restaurant, or to the bathroom to blow my nose. Give the leaders of the Church a break. Don’t make their walk to the mailbox something that they have to worry about. They have enough to worry about without this added scrutiny.

    Your website does have an very nice “look” to it, at least.

    Thanks for letting me share my thoughts. I appreciate it.

  4. David,

    I think the web site shows the human side of President Monson and has not invaded his privacy in the least. Mind you, if his site were dedicated to real-time tracking and posting his every move, I would say your concerns were valid.

    What would you do if you saw President Monson at a restaurant? Would you not Tweet or post about your experience on Facebook? I see nothing wrong with noting an experience like that.

    In an age of ever-present social media, I think we have to be careful of respecting boundaries and mindful privacy rights for everyone. That said, I am confident that Bryce and Brad will ensure that the proper boundaries are maintained and privacy is guarded.

  5. Bryce,
    Even with a delay, I am somewhat concerned that showing where Pres. Monson likes to hang out will disrupt his life. As David noted, how many people are going to hang out at Dee’s just hoping for a glimpse? The more maliciously minded might note patterns.

    As I said, press releases are their own thing. They are intended to be read and distributed. It’s tracking the tweets and such that worries me. Not because I think people shouldn’t tweet their experiences running into the prophet and not because I think tweets shouldn’t be public. The issue is that most tweets go to friends and family (I assume). So if I run into Pres. Monson on the street somewhere and tweet about it, I’m really only telling a few people. But using an aggregator to collect his movements (even time delayed) from everyone’s tweets gets the information to a much wider audience (presuming that users of your site won’t be limited to just your friends and family).

    It’s not the existence of the data that’s disturbing (although it does give one pause when you consider how easy it is to track a stranger (albeit a relatively famous one)), but rather it is all the uses to which the collected data could be put that frightens me. Of course, it’s your show and I respect your right to maintain it. I also trust that you will make every effort to protect the prophet. I just worry about the law of unintended consequences.

  6. David,

    Comparing the site to the paparazzi is a bit silly, don’t you think? It’s not as if we are hotly following the prophet in a pursuit car with flashing cameras. All of the information that will posted is public information, that has already been published elsewhere, and most of it by the news media. We are collecting it into one location for members of the Church.

    I think we honor the prophet in more ways than just sustaining him because he holds the office of a prophet. We look to him as an example of Christ-like love, humility, charity, compassion, gentleness, meekness, etc., all qualities that we should be developing in ourselves. Looking to him to see these qualities in his daily life I don’t believe is anywhere near tracking him like a celebrity.

    Contrary to the beliefs of many of our fellow Christians, we do have a living prophet on the earth, and I won’t apologize for it. While here, the prophet stands as a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. He acts in His stead. As such, we look to the prophet in order to look to the Savior, Jesus Christ. Yes, we should be focused on the prophet, for that very reason. If we don’t focus on the prophet, the one the Savior has called to act in His name and in His place on the earth, then it is difficult to follow the Savior at all. This is a point that we should be emphasizing with our Christian brethren, not downplaying.

    I also disagree that we should only see the prophet as such when he speaks in the “role of a prophet.” He always has the keys. When he is in public, he is always setting an example of God’s representative on earth, and he knows that, and it’s an example that we should pay attention to. We can’t emulate the prophet solely by listening to him when he speaks at the pulpit. It is in his daily interactions with people and members that we begin to see the true character of the prophet, as well as his human side. Of course his day-to-day utterances are not all revelation, doctrinally significant, or prophetic commandments for the Church, and we are not putting them forth as such, but they are still worthy of our consideration and pondering.

    You might have noticed that there were only a few postings every month over the past few months, that’s because that is all that there was to report. 3-5 postings a month about the activities of the prophet who heads a 13 million member church I do not think is an invasion of privacy. Again, the information comes from public sources, usually days delayed from when it happened. When he goes to the bathroom, blows his nose, passes the salt, or walks to the mailbox, these are not public events that people report about, nor that we would post about. As one commenter above noted, her children thought envisioning the prophet at Dee’s Family Restaurant was a fun prospect, perhaps one that allowed them to see the prophet as someone more than the person they always see behind the pulpit.

    Thanks for the compliment on the design of the site.

  7. Bryce, I think you explain the purpose of the site pretty well. I had some security concerns when I first visited, but you confirmed that the information is released after the prophet has visited different places. It is pretty cool to see all of the places he has visited.

  8. Bryce –

    Thanks for considering my comments. And for giving a reasoned and thoughtful response to them. I really, really appreciate it. It’s probably a very hard thing to do all the work to set up a website, put your idea out to the public, and then have to deal with such contrary opinions as mine. I admire your ability to keep the tone of the conversation civil and respectful. Thanks.

    In the end, I think I fairly articulated my concerns with the website, and frankly, you simply disagree with those concerns because you hold a drastically different opinion than me concerning the prophet and his role. So, we have a strong difference of opinion on those issues. I can respect that.

    I wish you well with your future activities. And thank you again for letting me air my concerns.

  9. Bryce, I agree that in many aspects we can look to the President of the Church for an example of Christ-like living but we need to be very careful in the degree to which we think we can or should put the President of the Church forward as such a role model on such minute details. From what I understand, for example, because he is hypoglycemic, President Monson has been known to be . . . short with subordinates (there is a good chance this is not true at all as I am only reporting second hand but the point made in the following sentence still stands). My concern is that Mormons who only have this perspective of the President of the Church as an ideal role model of Christlike actions will have their testimonies seriously shaken if they personally witness or hear second hand of experiences of that nature because they will have been under the impression that the President of the Church is so far elevated above normal human beings that things come crashing down when they learn what everyone ought to know in the first place — that a General Authority, including the President of the Church, is still a man subject to all of the downsides of living in mortality. We can be grateful that they do in fact set such a great example of Christlike living but we must be mindful that they still have their own personalities and even foibles and so putting them too high on a pedestal might be counter-productive sometimes.

    I was glad I learned this lesson early on as a missionary when, to my surprise, President Hinckley more or less shouted at an interpreter who was having difficulty rendering his talk contemporaneously. I was surprised but should not have been. A man in his 80s was just coming off an international flight after a grueling tour of missions; he was probably hungry and certainly extremely tired. My surprise stemmed from not having adequately thought about the role of the President of the Church and his identity as an individual and unique human being, not a machine or robot without emotion. I admit to being a little crestfallen at the experience — how could the President of the Church who I look to as an ideal role model of Christlike behavior have lost his temper at a volunteer interpreter who, although not a professional, was doing his best at contemporaneously interpreting a talk from English into German?

    I feel blessed and lucky that I came away from that experience with a stronger testimony of the General Authorities, realizing that they have been called to serve and have been trusted with their responsibilities and also with the duty to set an extraordinary example of Christlike behavior despite being human themselves and all that entails. Unfortunately, I also know others who have not come away from such experiences with a stronger testimony of the person of our General Authorities and President of the Church.

  10. While I agree with john f. that prophets of God are still men, weaknesses and all, and that we ought to understand this as members of the Church, I’m not sure that this point has much to do with Bryce’s website. If I understand it correctly (and, as Bryce’s wife, I think I have a fairly good idea of his goals), Bryce will be posting about the prophet’s various activities–talks, devotionals, visits with people, and some fun little anecdotes from people who have seen or spoken with the prophet. I don’t believe Bryce’s intention is to record every movement of the prophet or every interaction and I am confident that he will not be posting negative experiences simply to show President Monson’s human weaknesses. I believe the purpose of the site is to uplift the saints and to give them glimpses into the prophet’s travels and activities, to ultimately help them feel more connected to him. I envision it as fun especially for children who want to see what President Monson has been up to recently.

    Since the scope of the recording on the website is relatively small–only a handful of posts a month–and since Bryce hopes to uplift the Saints, I don’t think we need to worry that the site will somehow tarnish the testimonies of its readers. And as someone who grew up outside of the United States, I know that I would have loved a site like this when I was living in areas where satellite broadcasts were the closest we ever got to meeting the prophet. Bryce has only the best of intentions and I am confident that his intelligence, careful consideration of each post, and personal testimony will result in a site that is fun, uplifting, and that does not cross lines of privacy.

    Thanks for letting me share my thoughts. I know that Bryce is pretty busy at work today, so I thought I would try to address some of the concerns raised. And thank you, M* for providing a space for these kinds of interactions to take place!

  11. Personally I’m not bothered by the website. I think it’s a cool attempt to bring the larger membership of the church more in touch with the prophet as a person. One problem I believe we can all agree with is the distance between the prophet and most members of the church–largely due to the sheer size of the church. http://FTP.net, IMO, mitigates some of that. Keep it up.

    On another note, I’m interested to hear how you might respond to a post that might not paint the prophet in the best light. For instance, one friend I knew saw Pres. Monson at a restaurant in SLC on a Sunday evening (this was while he was in the First Pres). If someone was to take a picture and document such an event would you post it?

  12. John C.,

    Anyone who uses Twitter should understand that their status updates are very public, especially now with Google and Microsoft licensing the rights to index Twitter’s public timeline. Nothing on Twitter is private, and should not be viewed as such by its users. Increasingly it is being used as a tool for current searching of events and news. Anyone can search Twitter for “President Monson” and see people who tweet about him. So aggregating that information is not new, and I suspect that we will see more of that kind of thing in the future.

    There should be no security concern. We are not going to post events in real-time when they happen. The prophet will be long gone from a location when we post about his activities, if and when we become aware of them, which is only occasionally so far, and only if we feel that they might be interesting or uplifting to readers of the site.

  13. john f.,

    You mention an interesting point, John. Many in the Church do have a vision of infallibility of what the prophet is, and set him up on a pedestal of perfection that he shouldn’t be on. This likely comes for the very reason that many of us do not know him, as was possible not too many years ago when the Church was small. One of the main purposes, I believe, of Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling was so that we could better know the Prophet Joseph Smith on a more personal level, and that we might remove any misconceptions we had of him. I know I learned much more about the prophet by reading that book, which strengthened my testimony.

    One of the purposes of this site is to help us know President Monson better, and show that he is a person, real, personable, human, and not “too high on a pedestal.” Obviously we aren’t going to post about any incidents that may occur because of his hypoglycemia. That would be totally inappropriate to share. We aren’t going to air his dirty laundry. But hopefully some occasional anecdotes of his activities, as well as all of the official activities he does, and links to the talks he gives, will help engage in members the fact that the prophet is a real individual with feelings, passions, loves, hobbies, etc., as well as giving them easy access to his teachings. Generally, I believe the prophet sets a great example for us all to emulate, beyond standing behind a pulpit. If anything, this site should help members have a better understanding of the prophet, who the prophet is, the role of a prophet, and help dissolve any misconceptions they may have in mind of those things.

    For instance, I was pleased to find out that he canceled his trip to the Hawaii Regional Conference this last weekend because Frances had an injury earlier in the week, and he decided that he had to stay home to take care of her. He stated that his first responsibility was to his wife and family, and that he needed to attend to them. In other words, even for the prophet of God, family responsibilities take precedence over Church callings. Isn’t that a great example for each of us? Such experiences and examples are helpful for members to better understand the prophet, the Church, and the gospel.

  14. Understood.

    For my part, what I am doing to give members as much “face time” with the brethren as possible, particularly the new converts in my ward, is to actually show the whole conference talk that is assigned for the Teachings for our Time lesson once a month in Elder’s Quorum. Instead of bringing a print-out of the talk and discussing that, we watch the entire talk and then discuss salient points in the 10 or 15 minutes remaining. It’s been working very well and it has, I believe, helped members of my Elder’s Quorum here in this part of the vineyard to become more acquainted with the identities and teachings of the individual leaders of the church.

  15. Hmmmmm. How about a website called “Follow the Savior” instead? Much as I like him personally and give big thumbs-up to the direction he’s taken the Church in the last two years, at the end of the day he really is just another tool in God’s hands to help us out…like the scriptures, the Holy Ghost, etc.; Seems to me we should cut to the chase and just try to be like Jesus instead of somebody else.

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