Local units of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in North America can post Web sites again — within specific limitations — after almost a two-year hiatus.

"Stakes and wards can now work with (church) headquarters to post a Web site within certain guidelines," church spokesman Dale Bills said.

The church had called for all stakes and wards to unplug their independent sites back in March 2001 until it developed policies to govern them.

After individual stake presidents in the United States or Canada request participation in the Web site program, each ward or branch within the stake can have its own Web site created and maintained at church headquarters under a sub category of www.lds.org.

Currently, only stakes in the United States and Canada (except Quebec) are authorized to participate. The church is studying the feasibility of eventually expanding stake and ward Web sites to a larger status.

Salt Lake City has 21 stakes listed on the Web site as well as two wards. Provo has seven stakes and nine wards, while Orem has eight stakes and 18 wards. Layton has five stakes and 12 wards included; Bountiful five stakes and 21 wards; and Ogden has three stakes and 13 wards posted.

Most stake/ward sites are still "under construction," because the sites are so new.

According to Richard W. Ebert Jr., managing director of the member and statistical records department for the LDS Church, there are some 500 stakes online with the new system. More are coming on every day and a maximum of 1,300 stakes could be involved with its current geographical restrictions.

"It's a purely voluntary program," he said.

He expects at least 750 stakes to participate.

The new Web program was pilot-tested by 21 stakes for a year and opened up to general use in late January.

Anyone can access and view a stake or Ward web site main home page. Go to the general church Web site and click on "Stake and ward Web sites," the fifth-item down on the left-hand directory. However, only members with a registered user name and password can access and use a Web site beyond the home page. Even then, members can view in-depth information for only their own stake.

For church members to register for in-depth access, they need to get a copy of their "Individual Ordinance Summary" from their ward clerk and go online to www.lds.org/units to register. Individual membership numbers and exact month-day-year confirmation dates are needed to register for the detailed Web access.

Members who have already registered for the Perpetual Education Fund Web site or the Provident Living Web site can use their same user name and password for their local unit Web site access.

Users agree not to use the information for anything beyond church purposes. Commercial or business use is prohibited. Members also decide if they want their names included in directories.

The sites include general church, stake and ward calendars; plus leadership and member directories; meeting times and other resources.

J. Darrell Donalson, director of member and leadership services for local units, said some wards wouldn't need to still publish a ward directory, or at least as many, if enough members had online access. The membership directory online is updated continually. He also said one stake back east recently found the system valuable as part of a tornado emergency warning process.

Scheduling building use in a more coordinated fashion is also a feature of the new system.

Ebert said it's simply an additional resource for stakes and wards, though it is not an e-mail service.

Donalson admits one limitation is that not everyone has or wants to have online access.

Church leaders had imposed the hiatus on Web use about two years ago because of concerns about privacy, accuracy and other issues.

"As the church grows, it is very important that information presented to the world be accurate and dignified and that it represent a single, unified church voice. In addition, it is imperative that the rights of third parties be protected and respected through strict compliance with applicable laws," stated the March 15, 2001, letter from the presiding bishop that called for local units to halt their Web sites,.


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