Many faith groups are using electronic media to reach the largest possible audience. The websites are numerous, and the use of social media is increasing as more churches develop their own sites and add links to their Facebook accounts.
There is also a wealth of information on the Internet for those seeking more knowledge about a certain religion or religions in general.
This is the first of occasional articles on some of the sites that are out there and what they offer.
* www.lds.org -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has put a lot of resources into its site. It works for nonmembers wanting to learn about the church. It is also a complete resource for members preparing lessons for their church classes, with easy to access scriptures, General Authority talks and other information. It has links to many recently completed videos for personal use or to augment lessons.
There are links to expanded church history information, which now includes catalogs of journal entries and photos from the time of Joseph Smith to the present day, and even offers tips on preserving your own family documents. Administrators in the church, from bishops on up, can find a handbook of guidelines.
The church also hopes to use electronic platforms as a missionary tool, and provides a section on the site about using the interactive
Mormon.org, social media and blogs to share the gospel.
* www.vatican.va -- The official site of the Vatican has a lot of interesting information on the world's smallest independent state. Most of us know the current pope is Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, of Germany, but the site has information on the popes from now back through the previous century. Ever wonder who Benedict XV was? He was the pope from 1914 to 1922. He had to deal with Catholic issues relating to World War I and its aftermath.
The site also has information on the operations of Vatican City, and links to information on its museums and news service. There is also a section on the Swiss Guard, which has been protecting the pope and the Vatican since 1506. Most of the site is available in English, with some information in Italian or Latin.
* www.whyislam.org -- This site has a wealth of information on Islam. For example, you can learn about the five pillars of the religion.
The site quotes: "These are the foundation of Muslim life and Muslims are required to observe them with utmost devotion. Just like a building lacks stability without strong pillars, a believer's relationship with God lacks focus without observance of the five pillars. These pillars form the foundation and starting point for all other good deeds and acts of worship to God.
"1. Faith or belief in the Oneness of God (Allah) and the finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him); 2. Establishment of the 5 daily prayers; 3. Concern for and almsgiving to the needy; 4. Self-purification through fasting in the month of Ramadan. 5. The pilgrimage to Mecca for those who are able."
You can also learn more about the Quran and why it is so important to Muslims.
This informative site looks at Islam around the world, addresses key issues and answers a lot of questions.
* www.ldschurchtemples.com -- This is operated by an LDS Church member in Idaho. He prefers to stay away from the limelight and calls the site "a labor of love." It has additional temple information not found at lds.org.
There are photos of the ongoing construction of the Ogden Temple. Recently, 85 construction photos showed the steeple area and the exterior of the bottom floor taking shape. You can also look at construction photos of the Payson Temple and go to Europe to look at the progress of the Rome Temple. Looks like the three could be finished about the same time in 2014.
All of the LDS temples are here, including those in the preconstruction phase. The site of the announced Paris Temple is currently a parking lot with soon-to-be-razed buildings. The website has historic information on temples, addresses and schedules.
* www.jewfaq.org/index.htm -- The banner on the home page refers to the site as Judaism 101. Its lead paragraph says it "is an online encyclopedia of Judaism, covering Jewish beliefs, people, places, things, language, scripture, holidays, practices and customs. (The) goal is to make freely available a wide variety of basic, general information about Judaism, written from a traditional perspective in plain English. This website has grown continually for more than 10 years and continues to be updated periodically."
There is a page on the Hebrew alphabet, the kosher diet and bar mitzvahs.
The basic beliefs of Judaism are outlined as follows, with the spelling of God left as the site has it: "The closest that anyone has ever come to creating a widely-accepted list of Jewish beliefs is Rambam's thirteen principles of faith. These principles, which Rambam thought were the minimum requirements of Jewish belief, are:
G-d exists; G-d is one and unique; G-d is incorporeal; G-d is eternal; Prayer is to be directed to G-d alone and to no other; The words of the prophets are true; Moses' prophecies are true, and Moses was the greatest of the prophets; The Written Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) and Oral Torah (teachings now contained in the Talmud and other writings) were given to Moses; There will be no other Torah;
G-d knows the thoughts and deeds of men; G-d will reward the good and punish the wicked; the Messiah will come; the dead will be resurrected."