An Apology, A Clarification, and a Possible Solution to the “Bloggernacle” Problem

John Dehlin Mormon, Mormon Stories

The Apology

I’ve felt badly ever since I responded to DMI’s post by writing this and this.

Two of the secrets I have learned in life are: 1) never take yourself too seriously, and 2) never consider yourself as “too important” or as “irreplaceable.” I think I violated both these rules over the weekend, and I regret it. Dave (and all the rest of the ‘nacleites who suffered during my drive-by posting)–I’m really sorry for over-reacting. I know you’re all swell chaps. Please forgive.

The Clarification

The conversation has caused me to really ponder what Mormon Stories is all about (without violating the secrets I mentioned above, of course). One of the realizations I came up with is that 2 of my goals (open and respectful) are in some ways directly in conflict. How can I claim to fully support open dialogue, and still ensure that respectful conversation takes place? Open and respectful are often mutually exclusive (in practice). If I remove posts or block posters, I can’t claim to be truly open. If don’t block the posters that I feel are disrespectful, then how can I claim to be about respect? So clearly, I have to figure out a new tagline. For those of you who have sounded the BS meter for my inconsistencies….I acknowledge your arguments. Guilty as charged.

So…..in the spirit of clarifying what I aspire to be about on Mormon Stories….let me try to list 3 things.

  • My motives. I, in no way, am trying to be a “trojan hourse” to lead those happy w/ their LDS faith out into the “borderlands.” I fully support (and even admire) those who either don’t struggle w/ LDS history and culture, or who think they have it all figured out. I do NOT think the world or the church would be a better place if all Mormons were like me–nor do I aspire for this to be the case. Perhaps this is one of the things I struggle most with–how can I “control” who comes to my site, or listens to my podcasts? A year or two ago a teenage friend of the family read Krakauer’s “Under the Banner of Heaven”, and began searching for more answers on the Internet, eventually stumbling onto my podcasts this year. Between Krakauer, all the anti-Mormon stuff on the web, and my podcasts–apparently he is revisiting his decision/desire to go on a mission. This, of course, makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t feel responsible for starting him down this road, but I clearly have become part of his journey…for better or for worse (though he claims for better). Of course, my advice to him is to go on his mission….but it has been a tad bit painful for my family in the process. Anyway–what I’m saying is…I have ZERO desire to “lure” people into the work I do, and I fully respect (and even envy) people who are not where I am within Mormonism. If I had to summarize why I do this, it is to: 1) record my own exploration into Mormon issues, and 2) to provide a place for others like me to find solace, and company in the journey–to know that they’re not alone, and to also know that there are role models for people who arrive where I’m at (Bennion, Lyon, England, Poll, etc.)…who decide that staying in the church is still possible/preferable. That’s what I’m trying to do in a nutshell.
  • Open?. In the spirit of openness, I have let pretty much everyone (other than spammers) comment on my posts–including rabid anti’s and flaming apologists. I can see that this has not been a good thing (overall). From now on, I will work hard to not entertain zealots from either side of the idealogical spectrum–if they are not willing to be respectful/sensitive to other people’s views. Those who are on a journey to understand things better, or to support people in their journies in a loving way are welcome. Those who want to preach and criticize and trample on the views of others….I’ll try to weed out.
  • Building a Bridge Between the Disaffected and the Faithful. One thing that I will never change is the feeling of mission I have to reach out to the disaffected within Mormonism. I love these people dearly, count myself among them (though I remain fully active), and feel that Christ himself would support direct outreach/support to them. I am not a big fan of excommuniating or ostracizing those who struggle–and believe that it is our duty (the active) to reach out to those who have fallen away, or who are struggling. This is something that will never change in my blog/podcast (as long as it lives, anyway).

A Possible Solution to the “Bloggernacle” Problem: Currently LDSblogs.org is working hard to figure out its place within the LDS internet. They want to have a specific identity/purpose, and feel the need to manage it. This is all goodness, from my perspective. Faithful LDS members need some type of label or logo or ratings system that allows them to know where they can safely trod without having their faith challenged in ways they are not prepared to handle. Just like the MPAA ratings system, I believe that this will be hard, but totally worthwhile.

It does remind me of a speech that I heard from Jan Shipps once, where she discussed the desires of the church to control who gets to call themselves LDS, and who doesn’t. Her prediction (as I remember it) was that the church will be able to control who can call themselves “LDS”, but the term “Mormon” is much more broad, and encompasses culture, ethnicity, and heritage in a way that will never be fully controllable by the church.

This got me thinking. A long time ago, before I even started my blog/podcast, I grabbed the URL “http://www.mormonblogs.org“. I’ve done virtually nothing with it, but I wonder how the “powers that be” in the bloggernacle, along with the rest of you, would feel about a broader distinction/community within the Mormon blog world. “http://www.ldsblogs.org” is looking to define itself as the approved, correlated (I say that loosely…sort of tongue in cheek, and with must respect/affection) directory for LDS-themed blogs, and perhaps “mormonblogs.org” could be more of an umbrella, for anyone who chooses to associate with Mormonism, from all sides of the spectrum. I don’t offer this as “competition”, but instead as a way to clarify, and provide more “consumer information.”

Whaddya think? Anyone interested in creating a more broad community/directory, to help keep these very important distinctions clear?