In the age of the Internet, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has found a way to dominate what is arguably today’s most important information source: the search engine.

It’s all about Mormons controlling their own image, church officials say. They’ve been doing that for a century or more. And now, with two of their own vying for the Republican nomination in the 2012 presidential race, and a Broadway hit and reality television generating huge interest in the denomination, much is at stake.

“We’re jumping into the conversation because there is a big one going on about Mormons, and we want to be a part of it,” said Stephen Allen, head of the church’s missionary department. “When someone goes into Google, if the first 10 sites are people who hate us, we lose in terms of our message.”

Their doctrine requires Mormons to proselytize, and it would be foolish not to strategize at a time of heightened interest, church officials and supporters say.

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