Mormon-Facebook Rumor Hits Mashable

Look at what just showed up last night on the 10th most popular blog on the internet,

Why the Mormon-Facebook Rumor Made Sense

So it’s kinda funny that this rumor keeps getting rehashed, despite being officially debunked by the Church.  But I guess it makes a good story, right?  I’m surprised he didn’t say anything about Mitt Romney.  Was that deliberate?  Saying that the Church was a for-profit organization kinda misses the mark too (he mentioned nothing about the Church itself being a 501c3 non-profit organization).  Seems like many are trying to focus the media’s attention on the wealth of the Church these days.  Why?

How do you think Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins did in his portrayal of the Church?


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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, and also blogs at 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!

17 thoughts on “Mormon-Facebook Rumor Hits Mashable

  1. I read the entire article, and I still don’t get how buying Facebook helps genealogical research. I actually have a page on Facebook, so I understand what it does, but many people don’t post their real names or profiles. The genealogical effort is voluntary and for the dead, not the living. I simply don’t see how having the Facebook database (if it would even be maintained after being bought by the Church) helps in any way. Perhaps somebody could enlighten me.

  2. And why would the Church offer to buy Facebook when it already owns it—just like the Church owns Coca-Cola, Phillip Morris, GE, and McDonalds?

  3. What geneological advantage is Facebook? How is it an accurate social map? Nothing on Facebook is vetted, and anything on it could be completely false. Even though the church has a great interest in geneology, I don’t see any advantage of purchasing a social networking engine like Facebook, other than getting the software itself. I can’t believe these bloggers stuck their necks out for this one!

  4. And the notion that BYU generates “substantial revenue” is ridiculous. Is there any university in the world that generates “substantial revenue”? Why do they need donors and sponsors and boosters so badly if they are raking in the dough?

    Apparently the incredible building projects the church has going all over the world (which by my last recollection is at least 300 buildings and several temples) missed the radar. That alone is a multi-billion dollar effort to be sure. And we know that the church pays for all these buildings in cash, only using credit where they are forced to.

    Hmmm…why don’t we get a list here of all the things the church gives away for free or subsidizes. I’ll start:

    – Humanitarian aid by the tons for most large natural disasters
    – Greatly reduced tuition for all universities
    – participation in church meetings, activities, socials
    – Magazine subscriptions for $10 per YEAR. Pretty good for such a high quality publication with so much content, including free DVDs and other media materials periodically
    – Just about anything from the distribution centers is rock-bottom priced
    – course manuals (ie Joseph Smith priesthood/relief society manual)
    – temple activities (besides clothing rental and cafeteria)
    – weddings and receptions in either the temple or a meetinghouse
    – gospel library on
    – general conference online, on tv, etc (no commercials in any of these mediums during conference)
    – things from the bishop’s storehouse (for those in need)
    – multiple tours, presentations, movies, etc in downtown SLC

  5. A few minor rebuttals:
    * Because Facebook isn’t profitable doesn’t mean that they don’t generate significant revenue and doesn’t mean it won’t be profitable.
    * I don’t dispute that the church does a lot of free stuff. There is a very large part of the church that is business oriented in nature and is primarily concerned with making more money.
    * Old Media is dying, and a new media business like Facebook is a good hedge.
    * I made a point to stay far away from conspiracy theory like “the church owns everything already.” I stayed with what I could prove.
    * the Temple-building effort isn’t for-profit in the strictest sense of the word. A much more cynical person might classify it as such, but it currently resides under the non-profit arm, which I had no financial data on.
    * of all the social networks in it’s size-class, Facebook has the most amount of user-verification in place to prevent fakes. they have a reputation for judiciously deleting accounts they consider to be suspect of fake.
    * a few minor add-ons using the F8 platform could transform the system into a great genealogical platform.

  6. I thought about tying Mitt Romney into the article, but there didn’t seem to be much evidence there to support it, and it would have been a stretch and diminish the credibility of the piece as a whole too much.

    It seems that the most questionable assertion I made in the whole piece was the bit about BYU. I look at all higher educational institutions as a profit center. They definitely work on a different method than any other business, but no one can deny that education is big business, and there’s a lot of palm-greasing at many levels that take place in universities.

    My assertion was based on a generalization about universities as a whole, rather than BYU specifically. I wasn’t aware of their much lowered tuitions, which seems to be the prevailing response to that assertion of mine.

  7. But what do they have in place to really verify information about anything? I could create a fake persona there and as long as what I did looked legit, possibly noone would ever know.

  8. I am also curious to know how in the world BYU generates “substantial revenue”.

  9. If BYU was generating “substantial revenue” you can be sure there would be a BYU-California, BYU-Nevada, BYU-Colorado, BYU-Wyoming, BYU-Arizona, BYU-Washington, BYU-……

    That’s just far from reality. They try to save money on absolutely everything they do.

  10. Again, almost all universities generate a whole lot of revenue, mostly through sponsorships and ever-increasing tuitions. It’s very difficult to verify this on an organization-by-organization level given most don’t report income and finances if they don’t have to.

    My financial advisor tells me that by the time my youngest son graduates high school, a private university education will cost around half a million. You can’t tell me someone’s making a lot of money somewhere.

    Again, though, my assumption was based (perhaps erroneously) on the business of higher education as a whole, rather than BYU particularly, since their financial statements aren’t published.

  11. Mark, you have failed to answer the most basic question of all: how does owning Facebook help genealogical research, which is the main premise of your story? Do you know anything about how genealogical research takes place? I fail to see any way that owning Facebook would help with genealogical research, which is done by alive people for dead people and is completely voluntary. Facebook may be profitable someday, but it doesn’t take a financial genius to see that the whole nature of the enterprise would change if it were known as “Mormon Facebook.” Is there any doubt that some non-Mormon competitor would announce a “non-Mormon Facebook” and that many of the clients would leave?

    Your whole story is extremely flimsy and does not pass the “this sounds fishy” test.

  12. @Geoff I would have hoped that point would be glaringly obvious.

    Social networks have a wonderful way of making folks voluntarily provide information about themselves that would otherwise be deemed private and “none of your business.”

    Take a look at the Blue Ribbon campaign 10 years ago, and show me what sorts of things were being lobbied as “must be kept private on the Internet.” Compare that to the information in your average social network profile.

  13. Mark,

    Your statement, “Social networks have a wonderful way of making folks voluntarily provide information about themselves that would otherwise be deemed private and ‘none of your business.'” again fails to answer the fundamental issue at hand.

    The question is this: what is the connection between (1) the unreliable (and the information on Facebook IS unreliable, regardless of whether or not most of it is true), self reported information of millions of living people that is contained on Facebook, and (2) the legitimate, official information (gov’t records, birth/marriage certificates, etc.) of dead people that the Mormon Church uses to actually accomplish it’s genealogical mission.

    Here’s the point that you’re missing: all the social networks in the world are of no value to the church unless the people using the networks actually do real genealogy.

    People don’t publish their grandparents’ birthplaces and death dates on Facebook; people don’t keep digitized records on Facebook; most importantly, most people on Facebook are not interested in or committed to the LDS Church’s genealogical mission. If the people who are actually using Facebook don’t want to do genealogy, then what exactly does the Church get for its $5 Billion? And for those people on Facebook who do want to do genealogy for the church… here’s a news flash: they can do it using the immense resources and infrastructure that the Church has already invested in.

    Geoff said it best: the story never passed the smell test.

  14. Actually, I just answered it and so it’s clear, I don’t use my nose to find stories. “The smell-test” is a phrase that’s been altogether overused over the last couple days.

    If you can’t read between the lines, then you’re being willfully ignorant on how social networks in general work, and how Facebook works in particular.

    People currently don’t publish that information, but if it was asked of them or if it was made part of a game or some other entertaining pasttime, they would. You know it. I know it. The world knows it.

    If you detect irritation in my tone, you’re right – it’s because when you’ve run ways to question the facts of the case, you start to question my abilities as a blogger – it’s a pattern that took place all over the blogosphere where this story was covered.

    Moreover, if you’re not questioning my abilities as a blogger, you’re ascribing an anti-Mormon agenda to my coverage. What’s far more irritating than some faceless name on the Internet armchair critiquing my work is when someone tries to assign malevolent intent to me.

    I won’t be coming back here to continue this conversation because of it.

  15. Mark, I hope you come back, but the problem you have remains the same: you have reported something that simply is not sustainable. Many moons ago I was a young, wild-eyed journalist and I used to go to my wisened green eye-shade-wearing editor and tell him I had a great story about some conspiracy or another. He would look at me with a smile on his face and then he would ask questions just like I’m asking here: what is the motive of the conspiracy? Why would anybody do this? What do they want to accomplish? And if they move forward and do what you are claiming you are saying they are doing, what will happen next? And is there a cheaper/easier way of achieving the conspiracy?

    So, my blogger friend, let’s look at this story. Supposedly the LDS church is interested in a social network for genealogical reasons. They would have to spend $5 billion. What would they get in return? Does the current data in Facebook help genealogical work? No, it does not. Could it help in the future once “Mormon Facebook” is set up? Probably not because people don’t want to belong to “Mormon Facebook” (except for maybe some Mormons). Convincing them to give their “private” genealogical information once it became known as “Mormon Facebook” would be impossible for the vast majority of people.

    So, let’s say the Church wants to get a lot of names of people. There are literally dozens of other ways of getting names and personal information — dozens of companies sell this data for a lot less than $5 billion.

    Mark, again, I’m not impugning your intentions. I’m saying that my green eye-shade-wearing editor would have spiked your story right from the beginning because it doesn’t make any sense. I hope you can see that now.

  16. Mark clearly has never done anything genealogical, ever, in any form, if he thinks Facebook has any genealogical value. Genealogy isn’t the amassing of vast amounts of personal information on an individual; it’s linking that individual to preceding generations of his family. So unless your Civil War ancestor has his own Facebook account AND links to your account in a way that establishes the genealogical relationship, it’s useless.

    Or maybe I suddenly get it. The church is supposed to maintain Facebook as it now is, for the next 8 or 10 generations, expecting that your grandchildren will link to your profile, and then suddenly we’ll know all we need to know about your family! Aha!

    Mark, there are far easier ways to compile genealogical databases, should we have the slightest interest in doing so for living people. Which we don’t.

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