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General Authority Clout and Correct Attribution

This is one of my pet peeves.

Why is it that so many people post quotes on Facebook and Pinterest that are attributed to leaders of the LDS Church when these leaders were actually quoting someone else? If you are reading the Ensign or an address that is published on LDS.org, you will see a footnote right at the end of a quotation.  Page down and you will see the source of the quote.

Okay, I will answer my own question of why people do this:

1.  Laziness/indifference/gullibility/stupidity. Call it what you will, but most of us are too busy to check everything out and we trust our friends, and some of us don’t know what a footnote means.

2. This is more insidious, but yes, there are people who crave attention and receive gratification seeing their stuff shared on the internet.  As a result you will notice that the more clout or authority a person or institution has, the more likely they are to have things falsely attributed to them. That’s all to help insure that the quote will receive more shares.

3. This is even more insidious, and perhaps it is my own evil imagination getting overworked here, but an incorrectly attributed quote makes our Church leaders look like plagiarists. And nobody would want want that to happen, right? (Note: heavy sarcasm)

I think if someone says something particularly clever, they should be given credit for that. I mean, how often do I say anything particularly clever or original? Not giving proper attribution is kind of like stealing, or another term that could apply here is plagiarism.

It’s stealing someone else’s original thoughts or wording.

If General Authorities care enough to give correct attribution, I think we should, too. And I know, we are all busy and we don’t want to check every little thing before we post it. It’s very common for people to feel moved by some quotation and to want to pass it along.

Knowing that our Church leaders are particularly susceptible to being falsely credited and that they have clout, I think we should be especially careful with their quotations. It only takes a few seconds to look these things up with a few words typed into the search box on LDS.org.  Also, a great source of Church material in your social reading are the Church’s official Facebook pages.

I don’t think it serves the Church’s mission to give the impression that we believe our church leaders hold a monopoly on wisdom.

It kind of looks like we (the LDS members) are a little too eager to co-opt credit for all the good things in the world. This is not a healthy thing.

Obviously General Authorities know we don’t hold the monopoly on good or they would not be reading and quoting from non-Church sources.

I just think we should be more honest with ourselves, with each other, and with the people who deserve the credit for the wise and original things that we want to repeat.

True, sometimes we want “the message” to take center stage and not give it more clout or detract from it by giving a prominent attribution.

We could follow the example of Elder Holland1 who recently showed he wanted to credit “a gifted writer” by mentioning the writer in general terms, but then gave the attribution its proper source in the footnote when his address was published. We could also use footnotes and/or hyperlinks or a URL shortener.

As my friend Melissa Burton recently said, “Please don’t miss the beauty of the meaningful quote by being too concerned over who said it first.”

Your comments are welcome below. Click on “Comments” to enter one.

~~Matia Bryson

1. “Lord, I Believe” By Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, April 2013 Conference, quoting Alfred Edersheim when he said, “As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fullness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all.”

 

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