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News Story —  1 January 2007

Technology Used by Church From Early Years

From the 1867 installation of a 500-mile telegraph line connecting outlying settlements to the hub of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City to a 1996 entry on the World Wide Web, the Church has historically implemented communications technologies in a timely way. 

Shortly after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, Church traveling Bishop Amos Musser introduced the new communications device across the Utah Territory, expanding the capacity of residents to converse with one another. The 1896 development of the wireless telegraph inspired radio’s debut, which occurred with the first broadcast in Pittsburgh in 1920.

The local Salt Lake City newspaper Deseret News and Church President Heber J. Grant launched radio station KZN in 1922, initiating a long-term relationship between the media and the Mormons. Grant’s wife Augusta noted at the time, “I am glad that I live in this age when every day — almost every hour — brings us some new inventions.”

With improvements in radio technology, the Church began broadcasting sessions of its semiannual general conference as well as other religious programming. The Church became the sole owner of the radio station in 1925, changing the call letters to KSL. By July 1929, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir began its weekly broadcast, a series that now holds the distinction of being the longest continuously running radio broadcast in the world. 

As radio gave way to television in the 1940s, the Church joined in the transition. Closed circuit television broadcasts of conference began in 1948, while the first general broadcast occurred in October 1949. Other uses of television technology broadened the outreach of the Mormons. 

Bonneville Communications, an advertising arm of the Church, developed, in the early 1970s, a series of public service announcements titled “Homefront.”

“The Federal Communications Commission required stations to provide free airtime for messages in the ‘public interest and necessity,’ ” said Stephen B. Allen, currently managing director of the Church’s Missionary Department and previously the supervisor for the series’ development and production. “This requirement opened a door for production of the family-focused series, a series honored with numerous national awards for relevance to family concerns, issues and relationships.”

Nearly 100 different ads were featured in the campaign, widely recognized as the most successful public service series in the history of broadcasting.

Development of digital technology produced compact discs with high-quality sound and longer shelf life than previous disks or tape recordings. Numerous motion pictures, other productions and training materials were readily transferred to this user-friendly methodology, and with the 1996 arrival of the DVD, messages could be distributed in 27 different languages.

Sputnik, the first Earth-orbiting satellite launched by Russia in 1957, inspired the development of satellite networks positioned well above the earth. The first United States broadcast over Telstar 1 in 1962 featured clips from a baseball game in Chicago, a news conference by President John F. Kennedy and a concert from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. 

Satellite communications greatly expanded the abilities of the Church to contact, train and teach members throughout the world. As a demonstration of the newly functioning satellite capacity, President Spencer W. Kimball spoke in a 1980 session of the Church’s general conference from Fayette, a remote town in upstate New York. Noting the 150th anniversary of the organization of the Church and originating at the site of that organization, President Kimball’s message traveled via satellite as a regular conference broadcast.

The following year, a general conference announcement indicated that hundreds of satellite-receiving dishes would be installed in Church buildings throughout the United States. By 2006, President Gordon B. Hinckley noted that Church-owned satellite dishes numbered 6,066 in 83 countries, a capacity that covers most of the membership of the Church worldwide.

The advent of the computer brought enhanced capability to Church communications and operations. 

Initially, in 1954, general-purpose computers and a punch-card system were implemented in Church business functions. Demand for computer applications increased rapidly as the computer business itself developed from the transistor to the microchip capacity. For a number of years, the computer services department of the Church ran a three-shift, 24-hour, six-day-a-week schedule to manage the workload generated by the exciting new technologies.

Rapid development of computer capability, including the Internet, presented additional communication options for Church leaders and members. 

“We are not breathlessly smitten by the Internet, nor are we in any way underestimating its possibilities,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Church leader, in a 1997 speech. “We are just moving steadily, and we think wisely, to use it along with every other way we know to communicate with each other.” 

Elder Holland’s remarks noted the first Church presence on the Internet, a Web site labeled LDS.org, which debuted in 1996. From a simple and straightforward beginning, LDS.org has grown to accommodate numerous and distinct arms of the Church, including humanitarian services, public affairs and Church education.

Some Church organizations operate on sites outside of LDS.org, such as FamilySearch.org, the hugely popular family history research site, or ProvidentLiving.org, the family welfare site. The Newsroom Web site, although it is part of the LDS.org family, is aimed primarily at journalists, academics, other researchers and the non-LDS public.

Customized LDS.org sites have been developed in 61 different countries,  incorporating local language, history and culture with the basic content. 

In addition, and in conjunction with the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, another site, Mormon.org, was launched as a vehicle to explain Church doctrine and teachings to those showing personal interest in the faith. 

Recently redesigned, Mormon.org features interactive components asking a series of “life’s great questions,” then responds to those questions with doctrinal information, testimonials from new members, and opportunities for the user to request materials or ask questions via a chat room. Mormon.org is an integral part of a current Church advertising campaign tagged “Truth Restored.” 

Style Guide Note: When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online style guide.

 
 
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