Today I rejoined the future.
By which I mean that I upgraded my once-modern three-year-old smartphone and got one that is new, functional, and kind of sexy. And suddenly, phone apps have once again become practical for me.
In my perusal of the millions of apps now available to me, I stumbled across a developer called LDS DUDES. I found his programs to be...amusing.
The first one that caught my eye was a tithing calculator. Yes, a tithing calculator. The app was pretty much a dressed-up version of what anyone who's taken a computer class in the last ten years could have whipped up in Excel.
Even more laughable was the scripture reading alarm app. This little gem allows you to set an alarm to read your scriptures--because it's not like you can do the same thing with your smartphone' s alarm clock or calendar. The kicker, though, was the convenience this app provides its user by letting him enter the chapter and verse he stopped reading. Because sometimes a physical bookmark just doesn't seem to do the trick.
Both of these apps--the free versions--fell into the 5,000-10,000 installs range. While that's not an obscenely high amount, the number of downloads grossly outstrips the applications' usefulness.
As a Mormon, wary of the dangers of the world that were so prominently on display in popular culture, I remember occasionally longing for more entertainment that was more aligned with my conservative Mormon (and sheltered) worldview. And it seemed to me that some of the other members were positively starved for Mormon-friendly products.
This is where substandard LDS pop culture stepped in. Enoch Train, Mobsters and Mormons, The Work and the Glory...et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam. If it's by Mormons and for Mormons then it's worth shelling out for. And if there isn't enough, anything secular by a practicing Mormon is the next best thing. Orson Scott Card is a member of the church? I'll buy six of his books for my kids.
There's this weird culture in the church of members taking advantage of each other. Artists who are often second rate fall back on a small but desperately loyal fan base who lap up their material with ravenous appetite. When I was a kid, I used to think I'd be a successful LDS novelist. I didn't necessarily need to come up with anything good--I'd just market it to church members and BAM! I'd have a cult hit on my hands.
See what I did there? Cult hit?
Anyway, it's still kind of tempting to try and make a quick buck off the by-Mormons-for-Mormons niche. Whether it's making music, coding phone apps, or writing the next Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites, it almost seems worth it.
The market is small but comically lucrative. The field is white already to harvest.