For a long time, I naively believed that moderation was unethical and undesirable within the bloggernacle. Recently, I’ve had to tweak my approach. Recently I’ve noticed that mean-spiritedness on either side of the debate becomes a true obstacle to those who are sincerely seeking to have genuine dialogue.

So, for the first time, I’ve placed three people into the Mormon Stories Penalty Box. I’ve asked each of these folks to contact me directly so that we can discuss the issues in person. I’ve spoken w/ 1 of these 3 directly–and am still hoping to speak with the other 2.

Please let me clarify what my approach/policy is, and then ask for your help:

  • Offensive language (including mean-spirited insults and crude, senseless swearing) will not be tolerated
  • Personal attacks and the questioning of people’s faith (or lack thereof) will not be tolerated.
  • Long, unrelated diatribes to a thread, will also be filtered.
  • Even if we do not share certain faith or beliefs with others, we MUST be respectful of their belief (or disbelief, as the case may be).

Here’s where I need your help. I do not have the time to closely follow every conversation in detail. In many cases, I’m not even knowledgeable or interested in some of the discussions. I sort of view my role in the bloggernacle as hosting a site that seeks to build bridges and understanding between the disaffected, and the faithful. Consequently, I need your help in informing me if at any time someone steps outside the bounds of propriety on this blog. Please email me directly at , and have the subject heading read “Offensive Post”. As soon as I verify the comment, I will immediately remove it and place the offender in the penalty box.

This is the dilemma of rising traffic–both a blessing and a curse. I’m grateful for the increased participation, and I request your patience as we work through the growing pains. I deeply value the contributions of both TBMs and Anti’s on this site–when they come from the spirit of sincerity, and truth-seeking. May we continue to defy the odds, and demonstrate that we can disagree, and even come to understand each other better, without being disagreeable.


  1. Tom Grover August 4, 2006 at 9:57 am

    Moderation is quite a beast, and it is unfortunate that it can become necessary. The internet is a strange and wonderful forum- connecting people and ideas, but also removing social accountability and stigmas for inappropriate behavior because of anonymity. 99% of people can handle it, but the 1% can destroy the dialogue.

    Moderation in the name of protecting the dialouge can be taken too far, to the point of stifling free thought and pluralism. I don’t see this being a problem here, however, it has been a problem elsewhere in the Bloggernacle. I don’t post often at T&S (because of this very issue), but I have had several posts removed temporarily because I expressed an unpopular or unorthodox opinion. I have never been crude, aggressive, personal in nature or disrespectful, and yet my posts have been removed. Some have been reposted after I complained. Ultimately, the stifling of unpopular opinions is unethical and wrong. I feel really strongly about this (if you can’t tell).

    That’s why I really love Mormon Stories and this blog and why it’s too bad that a small minority people can’t be respectful like John asks.

    Our society, and the community of saints, SUFFERS when we can’t listen to each other respectfully. I wish more people could understand that excercising patience and empathy with divergent opinions doesn’t mean you agree with them.

    Anyway, I could go on all day. Everybody play nice so that this doesn’t become a bigger problem. If you want to flame and troll, please go somewhere else.

  2. Equality August 4, 2006 at 10:40 am

    I agree with everything you and Tom say here, John. If any of my posts here have crossed the line into “disrespect” territory, please accept my apologies offered to you and whoever I may have “dissed.” I fully support what you are trying to accomplish here and would like to be a part of making it work. I do think there are people across the spectrum of Mormon belief who appreciate respectful dialogue and an exchange of thoughts and opinions. I like to think I am one of them. If I descend into snark on occasion, I pray that the FSM will reach out and slap me with his noodly appendage and set me aright.

  3. Frank McIntyre August 4, 2006 at 10:41 am


    “I don’t post often at T&S (because of this very issue), but I have had several posts removed temporarily because I expressed an unpopular or unorthodox opinion.”

    I would guess that what is actually happenning is that your posts are getting put in the moderation cue (which is activated on any person who hasn’t commented before or who changes their ID info– its a spam thing). Then your comment shows up a while later because somebody at T&S finally looked at the cue and cleared it (in one case, me). As you comment more, this should stop because your comments getting approved gets you whitelisted so you don’t end up in moderation anymore.

    For example, looking over comments I see only one under the name “Tom Grover”, which you posted on the 300 west thread. Since the software had never seen that ID before it put you in moderation until somebody saw it, which was me in that case. I immediately released it onto the thread, but I think it had already been a day or two. That is unusally bad for us but not unheard of when nobody is hovering over the admin function. Sorry for the clunkiness, but it turns out that we are less censorious than you imagined, though we are slow and at times incompetent.

  4. Tom Grover August 4, 2006 at 12:00 pm


    I also have a handle, which I sometimes use when discussing matters of faith. I am gradually moving towards using my real name in such forums.

    The 300 West post I wrote was originally up, then down, then up, then down again and now it’s back. I have had other posts taken down hours and days after they were seen online. I am sure this is not your doing.

    I enjoy most of the content at T&S. I have had conversations with others who have had their posts removed later (coworkers, students at USU, friends and acquaintances).

    Maybe it’s not T&S policy and only a rogue moderater. You sound like you are sincere in your commitment to an open forum. Like I said, I like most of the T&S content.

    All the best,


  5. Tom Grover August 4, 2006 at 12:08 pm

    One more thing on this topic in general. I enjoy posting in a few sports forums for the Aggies and the Jazz, and this type of activity seems to especially be a problem there.

    If someone posts something that is clearly outrageous, personal in nature or inflammatory, trust the intelligence of those that read MS on a regular basis. It doesn’t necessarily need to be acknowledged and refuted.

    Ignore the insincere and the trolls and they will go elsewhere for attention. It’s tough to do when someone takes a jab at you or what you’ve said, but ultimately, they will leave to be fed elsewhere.

    And Equality, you are nothing but a gentleman in my book. I have participated in other LDS forums with you (under my psuedonym) and have always enjoyed your posts.

  6. wkempton August 4, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    If I have ever offended anyone I sincerely apologize. I’m a Post Mormon who tries very hard to balance being open, honest, and at the same time being respectful of other’s belief (or disbelief, as the case may be). I have a huge respect for the New Order/Sunstone Mormon community and John Dehlin especially.

    For future reference everyone, I will try to be less aggressive in my posts. I’m not anti even though I sometimes hold strong opinions, see these links to my webpage:

    Why I’m not anti-Mormon:
    The Positive side of the LDS church:

    I’m going to try extra hard to focus on the goal(s) of this website. Just wanted everyone to know that I want what you guys want: open, honest, and respectful or free speech, truthfulness, and mutual respect. If I ever feel like going on a tangent, going off topic, or being aggressive I will just create a thread over at And if someone wants to learn more they can just link over there rather than me cloud up the thread with my two cents.

  7. Frank McIntyre August 4, 2006 at 12:57 pm


    I have to admit that I am rather doubtful that your comment was pulled by a person. We actually have a well understood policy at T&S where deleted comments are reported to the group. This happens reasonably frequently And it doesn’t involve dumping it in moderation. Did you post it twice? I guess in that case it could have been deleted the first time, but I really doubt a person did it.

    “coworkers, students at USU, friends and acquaintances”

    Wo. I find this very interesting. You know far more people who post at T&S in real life than I do and that many people claim to have had comments disappear? We don’t delete anything like that many comments by hand.

    On the other hand, comments do get moderated automatically, which, as you’ve shown, does get confused for deletion. Perhaps the moderation software is flaking out. In which case, let me know the next time a comment of yours disappears and I will look into it.

  8. Clark Goble August 4, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    Lot’s of luck John. But I suspect you’ll find that you are going to end up with a situation much like the FAIR forums where people who are willing to discuss issues with those who disagree are simply driven away by meanspiritedness. The biggest problem is a lack of focus. i.e. the posts become scattergun approaches to everything individuals find distasteful of others. Even if it doesn’t, as it often does, descend into ad homen, it becomes ideas that bother people without there being an ability to discuss them. Ultimately what is in play is not ideas but emotions.

  9. Frank McIntyre August 4, 2006 at 1:07 pm

    OK, Tom, I just did a test. And I see the problem.

    It turns out that the WP software is placing a cookie on the browser so that a person is seeing their moderated comment but no one else does (and, after the cookie gets flushed it disappears for the commenter too). Hence, all those reports about “being deleted” at T&S and then having their comment restored are (in the vast majority of cases) simply due to this glitch.

    Thanks for pointing it out, we’ll look into getting it fixed.

  10. Tom Grover August 4, 2006 at 1:52 pm


    That sounds plausible. I’m not looking to pick a fight or impune anyone.

    All the best,


  11. McKay Curtis August 4, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    I’m actually surprised that three people are already in the “Penalty Box.” I’ve been following several threads lately (incl. the Bachman/Peterson/Midgley thread), and I haven’t seen anything that I would consider bad enough to warrant action being taken (in my opinion).

    But maybe I’m just callous.

  12. annegb August 10, 2006 at 10:34 am

    I think it’s a mistake to try to make everybody be nice. I think it’s much better, as T&S pretty much does, to just let people get the argument out of their system and beat that horse to death.

    When a moderater comes in and stops the argument in the middle, saying “be nice,” nothing is really accomplished. I say let the kids work it out on the playground amongst themselves. That said, I would censor cussing.

    I remember when Kaimi on T& S changed my cussword to “agitate strongly” one time. No big deal.

  13. Equality August 10, 2006 at 1:38 pm

    “I think it’s a mistake to try to make everybody be nice.” Nice, not necessarily. Respectful, I think is a noble aspiration and one worth pursuing. I see nothing wrong with a moderator stepping in occasionally to gently remind those who are playing in his sandbox to not throw sand in one another’s eyes. That said, I oppose censoring or deleting all but the most outrageously offensive posts (and spam, of course–no one should have to tolerate that on their blog).

Comments are closed.