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We’ve all received e-mails from well-intentioned people who pass along the latest faith-promoting story, only later to find out (after you’ve forwarded it to everyone in your address book) that it was only a faith-promoting rumor.

Have you heard that the LDS Church was planning to buy Facebook? How about the seminar by a cardiologist appointed by the First Presidency as head of the “church’s pandemic committee?” Heard that missionaries were spared in the World Trade Center attacks? Or that Alice Cooper and Snoop Dogg are Mormons? How about the Church is a major stockholder in Coca Cola?

All are either rumors or gross exaggerations.

My advice is to always check out the validity of a story before passing it along. But how can you do so without spending hours of research? Below are a few hints that may speed up your fact-checking.

  • Is there a link in the e-mail citing the source? If so, click on the link and read it yourself. Is it from a reputable source? If the source is a blog that quoted another blog, just delete the e-mail you received and your work is done. If it is from a seemingly legitimate source, then you may still want to see if other sources are reporting the same basic facts. I tend not to trust even “credible” news sources any more, unless multiple major sources are reporting the same facts. Also, beware that there are many satirical, sites out there that pose as credible news sites, such as “The Onion-America’s Finest News Source.”
  • Google a few keywords from the story and see what you find.
  • If the e-mail urges you to immediately send this to all of your friends, you can be pretty sure it’s false.
  • If the e-mail’s credibility is verfied by the fact that  “someone’s brother-in-law’s sister is married to a guy who…,” then you know it’s false.
  • Check the facts on a fact-checking site. The following are the big four:  Snopes.com is the grand-daddy of all fact-checking sites. Some of the worst chain spams even quote Snopes with an embedded link to give their e-mail an added level of authenticity. TruthOrFiction.com is an excellent site from Rich Buhler. About Urban Legends is an about.com subsite that has been hosted for ten years by David Emery, who is passionate about finding and debunking rumors, myths, pranks, and odd stories. Break The Chain has been around since 1999 and is an authoritative source on stupid chain mails.
  • There are even some sites dedicated to Mormon rumors, such as LDS Hoaxes and Myths.

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