Recently I published a powerful, super-vulnerable interview with Instagram influencers Chelsea and Nick Homer.  At the beginning of the interview, Chelsea and Nick retold the story of how (after a year into their temple marriage) Nick began to lose his Mormon faith, which resulted in Chelsea deciding to make a beautifully vulnerable, public Instagram post, opening up about their mixed-faith marriage (in support of Nick).

Chelsea then recounted how the Mormon Church Public Relations department, to her surprise, asked for permission to re-post her Instagram post to the LDS Church’s Instagram account.  Chelsea also recounted how later, the Mormon Church Public Relations department asked her to write an article about being in a Mormon mixed-faith marriage, entitled “Who do I Choose – God or My Husband?”, which eventually appeared on the LDS.org web site.

When I posted the Homer’s story 5 days ago (where they also reveal their eventual decision to leave the church), my “spidey sense” told me that the Mormon church would likely delete both Chelsea’s Instagram post and her blog post in response to the interview — likely without any explanation to the Homers or to the general church membership about the decision — and so I took screen shots of both posts beforehand.

Well, it turns out that my “spidey sense” was right.  Over the past 24 hours the Mormon church deleted both Chelsea’s re-shared Instagram post, and her blog post – and they did so without contacting Chelsea or Nick to inform/explain, AND without notifying the LDS Church membership about the change.

While I understand that this situation is complicated, and fully acknowledge that the Mormon Church has every right to delete posts from its social media accounts, I do believe that this situation raises some important ethical questions.  Here are my questions for you, and for the Mormon church:

  1. Why were Chelsea’s posts deleted from the church accounts?  Aren’t her “testimonies” regarding the importance of loving/supporting a non-believing spouse as a believing Mormon still much needed and relevant?  Especially since they were sincere at the time she wrote them?
  2. Is it kind/professional/cool/ethical of the Mormon Church to “use” Chelsea and Nick for their influence when it suits the church’s interests (without any compensation that I’m aware of), but NOT to have the courtesy to reach out to Chelsea and Nick to let them that they are taking down the posts, nor to explain why they are doing so, once they make different lifestyle choices?  Does the LDS Church owe some sort of notification and/or explanation to Chelsea and Nick – even as a common courtesy?
  3. Is it ethical for the Mormon church to exploit social media influencers to influence church membership when the influencers’ lifestyle status aligns with church priorities, but then to feel no responsibility to let the membership know when said influencers decide to leave the church, and/or abandon often untenable lifestyles they once promoted on behalf of the church?  Do some standards of self-disclosure and informed consent exist in this scenario – especially given the church’s requirement of “absolute honesty” from its members?  Asked in a different way, does the Mormon church have some sort of obligation to update church members when such a change happens…especially if members were directly influenced into the often untenable lifestyles supported by the Mormon Church’s social media campaign(s)?
  4. Is it ethical for the Mormon church to continually parade (exploit?) the latest crop of young social influencers to promote “lifestyles” that meet the church’s agenda (e.g., general church faithfulness, gay/lesbian celibacy, mixed-orientation marriage of gay/lesbian Mormons, mixed-faith marriages), without EVER updating the membership as to the risks and/or sustainability of such potentially unhealthy lifestyle choices?  I’m thinking specifically here of all the gay and lesbian Mormon “spokespeople” over the past several decades who openly encouraged certain generally unhealthy life choices (e.g., church activity as an LGBTQ person, LGB celibacy, mixed-orientation marriage, conversion therapy), only to leave the church later once they found the church-recommended lifestyles to be unhealthy or unstainable.  Instead the church just continues to recruit new crops of gay and lesbian influencers and spokespeople to advocate for the same frequently harmful lifestyles – rinse and repeat….with no updates to the membership who are clearly being influenced by the influencers.

What are the Mormon Church’s responsibilities to the social media influencers it exploits, and to the members that are sometimes unduly influenced by the influencers?

Just some questions.  Would love your feedback here.

5 Comments

  1. Garth March 9, 2021 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    I’ll just respond with 3 of my favorite quotes on honesty:

    Quote #1
    There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by gesture, or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.
    Gospel Principles/Chapter 31: Honesty

    Quote #2
    When an honest man discovers he is mistaken, he will either cease to be mistaken or cease to be honest.
    Author Unknown

    Quote #3
    We know they are lying,
    They know they are lying,
    They know we know they are lying,
    We know they know we know they’re lying,
    But they are still lying.
    Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn

  2. Not surprised March 10, 2021 at 5:35 am - Reply

    By removing the posts shows clearly how LDS operates. Coldbloodidly which has nothing to do with grace, love or any Jeesuslike behavior.

    Thank you John again for revealing the dirty side of the ‘Glory’.

  3. Shawn G. March 10, 2021 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Unfortunately John, the answer to both of your questions at the conclusion of this submission is that obviously the Church has/feels no responsibility whatsoever toward its influencers or church membership or anyone else who might frequent its social media accounts.

    I think we all have to be aware that social media platforms and the Internet in general, both still lean heavily in the direction of the ‘wild west’; not quite ‘anything goes’, but still, unethical actors can operate without consequence or challenge for the most part.

    The church has an agenda. It is only interested in promoting that agenda on its terms as it sees fit. If you understand this going into any negotiation or collaboration with the church, then you won’t be surprised or disappointed when they pull a stunt like they have with Chelsea and Nick.

    It’s sad frankly. I assume from having listened to the entire interview with Nick and Chelsea that they won’t let this bother them for more than about the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee.

    Good for them-I really enjoyed their interview. Thank you for your work John.

  4. Steve In Millcreek March 11, 2021 at 12:28 am - Reply

    I suspect that the decision, first, to include, then later, to remove Chelsea’s LDS blog post was done by a mid-rank staffer and not the First Presidency or Q12. Staffers seek to include “faith-promoting material” and skip the rest. Chelsea’s leaving tipped the scale. The staffer concluded that Chelsea’s writings were no longer faith-promoting; yet I feel that the staffer missed a wonderful opportunity to follow up with Chelsea as she had entered another space that the Church should value equally: how to love and respect a (former) Mormon after a change in belief. And similarly, how to respect a believing Mormon who disassociates to preserve in-home harmony with a disbelieving spouse. Those spaces should not be ignored.

  5. Kelcie Olsen March 11, 2021 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    It is unsurprising, yet still very upsetting, that these decisions were made by the church in response to such a beautiful and inspiring interview. Personally, I listened intently to the entire interview, only pausing briefly to go and join Chelsea’s Facebook group when it was mentioned, which in itself has been extremely rewarding experience. The interview resonated with me so deeply, even bringing me to tears with the raw vulnerability of what was shared.

    All I can say in the face of this is, the content that was removed was amazing, and had already been able to reach almost incomprehensible numbers of people. However, by doing this interview they were able to reach into the lives of even more people, who needed them every bit as much. By doing so, they’ve been able to expand the people they’ve helped many times over.

    Chelsea and Homer, you are amazing people. I am so grateful for you and the impact you have made on my own life by telling your story. The work you are doing, and have done, is so important. Don’t let this outside decision let you doubt that! <3

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