The religious diversity of the United States is truly remarkable. Wealth of churches and denominations comprise a diverse religious environment. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) are among the biggest religious organizations of America. Each organization maintains a website that provides information about the group’s activities and organizational structure. Current paper investigates the purpose of the websites of aforementioned organizations, as well as their views of contemporary society, mission, services provided, political preferences, and whether the views of the churches are liberal, moderate, or conservative.
The Analysis of the Website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
The analysis of the website reveals that it has the following purpose. At the first sight, the analyzed website does not come across as overly religious. Its design, headings, and pictures appear dynamic and may appeal to general public or anyone interested in the offered content. The site deals with such issues as happiness, marriage, new technologies, travel, decision making, culture, and charitable projects. However, closer examination of the texts, videos, and interviews shows that although the content is suitable for anyone interested, its primary purpose seems to be to specifically address spiritual needs of the church members and inform them of the church events. There is no direct appeal that would aim to convert new followers on the website. It rather seems that the purpose of the website is to provide interesting content, make the reader interested in what is being offered, and evoke the curiosity for more information.
There are several interesting things that can be learned from the website. Firstly, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a worldwide, well established, and dynamic organization with the vast membership. Secondly, the organization is very active and holds numerous activities and events for its members (seminars, interviews with famous musicians, cultural events). Thirdly, the organization actively employs new technologies and social media to carry out its activities, promote its message, and organize online events. Lastly, the versatile content of the website allows addressing spiritual needs and requests for information of a wide range of audiences, from youth to older people. Notably, the website has a variety of articles that address the needs of different age groups. For example, there are technology-based activities for youth and activities aimed at discovering the family tree for older people.
There is not much commentary about society, politics, world affairs, or current events. However, the organization seems to focus on and bring up current events that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been involved in. For example, one of the top news is the meeting of church leaders in Vatican with participation of the members of the church. Two more current world events mentioned on the site are military conflicts in Iraq and Syria. Apparently, those events were brought up to show the efforts of the church members to distribute humanitarian aid, assist refugee families, and engage in small-scale charitable events (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2014).
Besides holding regular meetings at church centers, the group provides such services as conferences, seminars, and youth lessons. It does not seem that any of the services listed are available online. Perhaps, it is believed that the site offers sufficient amount of online information for those interested in church via social media sites and online media library. However, the site offers a map whereby people can find meetinghouses and temples at their locations where they can visit church services or meet church representatives.
The official website of the church does not have a definition of a mission or a mission statement. Examination of the site content indicates that the church maintains a twofold focus. One focus is on the missionary work, growth, and expansion. The other one is on keeping its members active, engaged, and interested in the church activities.
Analysis of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints website indicates that this religious group is rather moderate in their beliefs and expressions of their convictions. One could notice a tendency towards liberalism in how the church employs modern methods of reaching its audience such as Facebook interviews as well as audio and video resources that can be downloaded. Also, the dress code, hairstyles, and makeup of church members demonstrate that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a democratic group with enough room for self-expression and pursuing educational opportunities, interests, and hobbies outside of the church. Nevertheless, all the seeming liberalism and moderate approach to church beliefs does not negate the fact that the church relies on strong commitment of its members and promotes active participation in the life of the group. Notably, while the fundamental beliefs seem rather conservative, their expression appears moderate to liberal. Therefore, the conclusion can be made that the church leadership did a good job of integrating fundamental values into the framework of contemporary society.
There are no current political topics or posts on the website. However, there are three articles that describe the involvement of the church in events related to policy making and politics. For example, church leaders attended the meeting of the global faith leaders conducted by the Catholic Church to discuss the traditional marriage. Also, two posts describe charitable efforts of the church members in war/refugee zones in Iraq and Syria (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2014).
The Analysis of the Website of the American Baptist Churches USA
The analysis of the official website of the American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) shows that this organization maintains its website primarily for informational purposes. However, the presented information targets two distinctive audiences. The first one is church members who can find information about resources, events, news, financial needs, and ministries of the church. Also, the website offers extensive information about events and initiatives that take place within the organization. For example, there is a wealth of the information about new developments in the life of the church, participation of women in leading roles, and upcoming events that are going to take place during 2015-2016. General public and anybody who would like to find out more about the Baptist Churches comprise the second target audience for whom the website information is intended. For example, there are two major sections called About Us and Who We Are designed to introduce the American Baptist Churches to anybody who takes an interest in this religious group.
The website of the American Baptist Churches claims that the organization is one of the most diverse Christian denominations countrywide. It consists of more than 5,200 local churches with 1.3 million members in the USA alone (American Baptist Churches USA [ABCUSA], 2014). The resource provides information about 10 facts one should know about ABCUSA, its fundamental beliefs, brief history of American Baptists, organizational structure of ABCUSA, press releases, events, resources for churches and leaders, official documents, newsletter, theological schools and colleges, and service opportunities for those who would like to get involved in the group’s activities. Therefore, the website provides a quality representation of the organization, helps to find churches on location, and answers most of the questions one might have about the group.
The ABCUSA website does not make any comments about society or current events. It seems to address only church-related issues, makes no mentions of current economic or social events, and does not have any posts about current political topics.
The group provides host of services. For example, it provides support for missionaries and retired ministers, coordinates activities of missionary societies, publishes Christian literature, focuses on evangelism and healing ministry, and executes projects outside of the United States. Notably, ABCUSA provides financial services for its ministers and missionaries in order to help with housing allowances, offer retirement plans, and provide investment and insurance benefits.
ABCUSA has a mission statement that declares, “American Baptists are a Christ-centered, biblical grounded, ethically diverse people called to radical discipleship in Christ Jesus. Our commitment to Jesus propels us to nurture authentic relationship with one another; build healthy churches, transform our communities, our nations, and our world; engage every member in hands-on ministry; and speak the prophetic words in love”(ABCUSA, 2014). The mission statement means that the group bases its beliefs on the Bible and focuses on strengthening the church and influencing community in an effort to build a better world.
This religious group may be considered mainstream, traditional, and moderate since it does not manifest features that would be overly conservative or liberal. ABCUSA does not seem to have any radical teachings that would make it stand out among other Christian denominations. The history of the organization is closely linked with the history of the United States, the separation of religion and state, establishing religious freedom and freedom of worship across the US, and efforts to eliminate slavery. Therefore, ABCUSA seems to fit harmoniously into the American Society.
This paper analyzed the websites of two religious Organizations, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the American Baptist Churches USA. As much as the websites of the groups allowed, the organizational structure, purpose of the web resources, views of contemporary society, mission, services provided, political preferences, and the degree of liberalism/conservatism of views of the churches were investigated. Analysis showed that both websites represent effective web resources; both religious groups are moderate in their beliefs, commitments, and expressions. Lastly, despite differences in approaches to carrying out their activities, both organizations grow, expand, and operate successfully both within the US and internationally.