March 3, 2016

Mormon missionary work now includes writing Amazon reviews


The Book of Mormon: not just a musical. Image via Wikipedia.


In the ongoing game to turn Amazon product reviews into subreddits about everything from mass shootings to Sandy Hook trutherism, there’s a new player: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It’s recently come to light that a Mormon chapter in Provo, UT, has been directing their members to leave five-star reviews on the product page of Joseph Smith’s one-hit-wonder, The Book Of Mormon.

Daryl Lindsay for reports:

Amazon users are responding after leaders at a Brigham Young University ward reportedly asked students to post five-star reviews on The Book of Mormon’s Amazon page.

Amid 5-star reviews that have appeared on the page, some users say it was unethical for church leaders to solicit reviews from members.

In the Provo Young Single Adults 9th Ward’s Facebook group, according to posts published on Imgur and in a Reddit thread, the stake presidency and the bishopric requested all members of the ward publish positive reviews of the book on Amazon.

“Hello wardies!” wrote one member in the Facebook post, which was not publicly available Monday afternoon. “Many people against the Church have, sadly, written negative comments about the Book… [Writing a review] is a great opportunity to share your testimony to the world and do online missionary work.”

The post goes on to detail how one can create an Amazon profile and leave a positive review on the book’s page.

But along with being literally the least that an eager Mormon can do, mission-wise, is this ethical? Well, that’s a tough question, because as we’ve previously reported, “ethics” don’t really enter into Amazon’s editorial standards, at least when it comes to product reviews.

It’s not against Amazon’s terms of service, either; since you’re free to review a product for whatever reason you want, unless you’re the product’s manufacturer, anyone who doesn’t work for these publishers can participate in a 5-star love fest.

At worst, it’s well-intentioned but clumsy engagement with retail’s new normal. Still, I can understand the impulse. To a believer, Amazon reviews for the Book of Mormon are brutal at first glance; they’re mostly the impassioned vituperation of ousted/former church members, interspersed with Tuscan Milk-appropriate irony trolls, including these gems:

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 5.17.21 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-02 at 5.16.54 PM

So it’s expected that an overwhelming show of positive force would be the logical response. But earnestly positive Amazon reviews aren’t what gets readers and what nets the Church 300K new members a year, even if they seem like the digital equivalent to door-knocking.

Because what gets the Book of Mormon to new readers is still good, old-fashioned handselling, something Amazon only dreams it could do on the same scale as the Mormons. Don’t fix what ain’t broke!



Liam O’Brien is the Senior Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.