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:
- 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?
- 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?
- 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)?
- 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.