The Latter-day Saint Survey Project

So I had an ulterior motive in publishing my CES Letter Reply here at My goal is to use it as the catalyst to launch the Latter-day Saint Survey Project, which I believe has the pave the way for a new way to gauge public opinion and, ultimately, change the world.

A tall order, yes? Well, allow me to elaborate.

In 2016, author Jana Riess conducted The Next Mormons Survey, which constitutes the most comprehensive review of Latter-day Saint opinion to date. I am eagerly awaiting her book based on the results, titled “The Next Mormons.” It is scheduled to ship in February of next year, and I intend to read it the moment it becomes available.

As impressive as Riess’s work is, it suffers from the same problem that afflicts all traditional surveys – it’s a┬ásnapshot in time, frozen in amber. Whatever “The Next Mormons” believed in 2016 may not be what they believe in 2018, and while the results may provide some perspective about what the future holds, they don’t provide the kind of dynamic results that allow people to view real-time information about what the current consensus is.

That’s what Canonizer is designed to do – it uses a patented open-ended survey technology that quantifiably measures the consensus of the moment, allowing users to get up-to-the-minute information about where everyone stands.

Canonizer began in 2006 when my partner Brent Allsop launched the Consciousness Survey Project.

Brent describes himself as a “Mormon Transhumanist Atheist,” and he is obsessed with theories of human consciousness. His eclectic background allowed him to approach the subject from both a scientific and religious perspective, and he discovered that the conflict between religionists and scientists involved people talking past each other more often than not. More importantly, he came to realize that there was much more consensus on controversial issues than either side realized. He believed that the debate would become more productive if both sides realized how often they were standing on common ground.

So he created an online tool that he describes as “Wikipedia with camps.”

Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, which isn’t a problem when the subject isn’t controversial. But I learned firsthand just how difficult it can be to make even the smallest change in an article on a subject that is hotly contested. (For my trouble, I got banned from Wikipedia for 24 hours! What can I say? I’m a rebel.) Canonizer avoids all the pointless edit wars by allowing people who don’t agree with the main article to write one of their own. The article becomes a “camp statement,” and users are then invited to support the camps with which they agree. If no camp accurately reflects your point of view, you are free to create a new camp.

The results ended up looking like the tree at the bottom of this post.

Yes, we recognize that this is a user interface that only an engineer could love. We’re still very much in development, and the interface isn’t nearly as user-friendly as it needs to be. Still, even with the clunky GUI, those who share Brent’s passion for theories of consciousness were able to dive in and create a workable consensus that crosses traditional boundaries that had previously shaped the consciousness discussion.

At the top of the tree is the “Super Camp,” one with which everyone agrees. In this case, the Super Camp simply announces that this is where theories of human consciousness are going to be discussed. The camp directly below that is the “Approachable via Science” camp, which simply states that everyone in the camp states that they “believe consciousness to be approachable via the scientific method.” As the camps proliferate below, different theories get more specificity and fewer supporters. Rather than different supporters going to head-to-head and screaming at each other, every voice gets a chance to be heard, and dispassionate observers get a clear view of how much consensus there really is.

I’m hoping to replicate and expand on this process with the Latter-day Saint Survey Project. I intend to post a serialized version of my PDF reply, complete with camps supporting the various issues raised. I’ll also be walking you through the process of creating and joining different camps, which will also allow us to recognize and fix problems with the clunky interface and make Canonizer the tool that will radically transform how opinion is measured and quantified.

Stay tuned.