Is it “just blogging”?

Some of my favorite people in our online community are fond of saying “It’s just blogging�. Now when the topic of discussion is something like “What is the best song the English Beat ever recorded?� then I would agree – it is just blogging. But here in the bloggernacle I generally object to this saying. Let me explain why…

First, I confess I think the saying has some value even here. We can get pretty crabby with each other in our little community. When emotions run too high or people get too touchy, busting out a well place “It’s just blogging!� comment can diffuse tense situations (sometimes). The message seems to be “Don’t take all of this so seriously… You’ve never even met that person face to face before… This isn’t even real�.

I’m ok with the sentiment that we should not get our knickers in a twist too easily. But I object to the idea that our community and our relationships here are less real than the communities and relationships we have offline.

Are the friends you make here real friends? Do the kind or consoling words others write to you here really make you feel better? When someone feels humiliated or shunned in our community is it real humiliation? When you feel prompted or inspired to make a specific comment here, is that real revelation from God?

I believe the answer to all of these questions is “yes�.

I sometimes like to say “It’s not just blogging; it’s people�. In ultra-passionate moments I have pointed out that people are the most valuable thing in the Universe – at least that is what God seems to think:

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God (D&C 18: 10)

For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1: 39)

I wonder if there is much more at stake in what we do here in the bloggernacle than we sometimes want to admit. Isn’t it possible or even likely that we are having an effect on souls? Isn’t it likely that we are either helping others develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ or eroding their faith in him?

For us here in the bloggernacle, is it really “just blogging”?

121 comments for “Is it “just blogging”?

  1. Julie M. Smith
    January 10, 2006 at 7:57 pm

    Great post, lots to think about. Thanks.

  2. January 10, 2006 at 8:01 pm

    For me, most of the posts on the big blogs *are* “just blogging.” It’s the individual/smaller blogs that aren’t. That’s where I feel like I’m making friends and having an impact and getting to know people and supporting people and all that stuff–making friends.

    (But then, for me, “What is the best song the English Beat ever recorded?” isn’t “just blogging.” It’s a litmus test!)

  3. January 10, 2006 at 8:03 pm

    I agree. I felt some promptings (in addition to my own desires to be helpful and elucidate experiences and issues of mental health) that resulted in my various (and sometimes too rambly and lengthy) comments on this thread, at A Bird’s Eye View. Read farther down towards the end, and it seems that perhaps I was, indeed, prompted by the Spirit to say things in some ways that I wouldn’t have thought of. I specifically remember attempting to type, to form some thoughts as I typed out what I wanted to express, and at various times, on various aspects of the issues, I remember . . . pausing . . . feeling a . . . restraint isn’t the right word, but feeling restrained, constrained in a way? Not in an unpleasant way, but it resulted in a pause . . . and a searching inside myself, and then just a feeling of peace and an accepting of what came to me, and I even remember feeling some surprise at the words and turns of phrase at times. And delighted, because they expressed things in a different but effective way than I had been going to express.

    Still, I was manic at that time, and wondered if what I was feeling was real. It was, and John’s response further down near the end of the thread, confirmed it with a feeling of the Holy Ghost in my heart, and a peaceful joy of having been a vessel through which some work of good was/may have been accomplished. I say this in earnest and humble sincereity, not in the least in a prideful or boastful way. Further up in the thread I even stated my earnest and sincere desire and more powerful than usual urge to convey things that felt needful.

    Anyway, I am thankful that there was a positive result from what somewhat coherent thoughts I could put together, in addition to the inspirations I received.

    I have had some questioning inside, and with my psychologist, about my blogging. And various boundaries related thereto. I tend to be rather impulsive, to my extreme chagrin and at least somewhat, if not more so, to my detriment, and to the detriment of any possible good opinion(s) people may hold of me. While I do need to be careful, and mindful of my purposes and audience in blogging, and mindful of my emotional and mental state at the time (although in difficult states, my ability to be so mindful, to exercise any sort of restraint, to very much of any kind of degree, is limited to none., I have also gained much of worth through this activity.

    And, recently, my psychologist indicated that he had not thought, before, of my blogging as having created and giving me access to a certain kind of social network. He has been very . . . I’m not sure what the word is, but he thinks that, psychologically (for anyone, not just myself), that blogging is an interesting proposition. Still, he is no expert on the matter. I plan to research this a bit and post at some near-future time.

    My experience at A Bird’s Eye View, has helped confirm in my heart that the Lord is not against me blogging. He isn’t all out for my unrestrained emotional, um, vomiiting that I occasionally let forth upon my family (I deeply regret this, and vow to do my best to prevent such, but the recklessness and irresponsibility that comes along with some aspects of my illnesses, FREQUENTLY manifests itself in serious interpersonal/social revelatory indiscretions.). But I feel that since I seem to have been of positive effect, through my experiences and inspiration through the Holy Spirity, in this type of forum and medium, that blogging, in itself, is not a negative thing, as I have feared, from time to time.

    Rather, it is a tool, like television, that can be used for both good and ill; for the mundane as well as the spiritually, intellectually, politically, etc. deeply felt and meticulously thought out arguments, discussions, debates, essays, etc. It is a neutral thing, that comes to life and direction at the blogger’s keystroke; it is neither profane nor exalted, but a MEANS. And not one of those Machiavellian “the ends justifies the means” sort of things; its effect, intention, and spirit are solely results of the author, and not of the means by which he/she expresses herself.

    I’m sorry! You weren’t looking to discuss whether or not blogging was “good”, “bad”, or “neutral”. It’s just kind of something I’ve been pondering for awhile.

    I’ve used it for everything from a post involving Blue Wookiees, to hopefully enlightening discussions of mental illness and hopefully more often now, autism issues. From expressing my silliness (in some attempt to come to terms with that aspect of myself; to come to ACCEPT it, instead of hating myself for it), to writings of a spiritual and/or uplifting nature, it has and is alot of things to me.

    Although, in the ways you describe the positive aspects of the use of the phrase, “just blogging”, I need to remember that more and take a bit less personally things that perhaps family or others might say about me or my actions.

    Thank you for this post. It has prompted a clarifying on my part of my thoughts and feelings on the subject, a bit, and for that, among other things, I thank you for the inspiration.

  4. January 10, 2006 at 8:08 pm

    dang #%$ typos! Although I must admit, I had a bit of a giggle at the “spirity” one.

  5. January 10, 2006 at 8:18 pm

    Thanks Geoff.

    I sometimes wonder why we are all here. In specific terms there are as many reasons as people. But is it safe to say that most of us here are looking for something that we may not otherwise get any other way? And when you add the eternal religious significance to many of the things we discuss our communication here has a high potential value.

    When I first started reading the blogs here I had an overzealous sister-in-law tell me to be careful. She was talking about my testimony being shaken by taking part here. My experience here overall has been very good. And you have been a big part of that. The Thang was the first blog I came across in my search on the internet. You have always provided meaningful content and done so in a very nice way, even when people disagree with you.

    This experience has helped me feel that I have a small voice, and an outlet. I have said more sincere prayers and had more meaningful scripture study since participating. My testimony is growing and I am excited about the gospel again. For me it is much more than just blogging.

  6. Anon for the BCC Depression Threads
    January 10, 2006 at 8:27 pm

    I have always taken it to heart when someone has encouraged me in the bloggernacle. Even though there have been nights when I have been alone in front of my computer, I have not felt quite so alone in the world.

  7. D. Fletcher
    January 10, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    “Melt With You” ?

  8. john fowles
    January 10, 2006 at 9:09 pm

    Wow. Thanks Sarebear. I am glad that Jordan’s post at ABEV was meaningful to you. I think that it must have been Jordan’s concluding comment that confirmed to you that you had been inspired in what you had written. But I can add my certainty that what you have written has helped people. How do I know? Our sitemeter shows us that many of the visitors to our site come there through google hits to that post by Jordan or to your comments to that post. So, you are right, in the same way that that post and the comments it invited by you and others are surely helping certain people find answers, other posts, perhaps at ABEV but certainly at other bloggernacle blogs are helping others find answers or solace or rant-space, depending on their need. To that extent, it is a salutary place in cyberspace; somewhere that is apparently therapeutic to both the disaffected and the affected alike.

  9. john fowles
    January 10, 2006 at 9:10 pm

    (I mean, it must have been Jordan’s concluding comment, and not a comment by me, since I didn’t leave any insightful comments toward the end of that thread–people get us confused all the time.)

  10. Adam L
    January 10, 2006 at 9:14 pm

    “Mirror in the Bathroom” or maybe “Tears of a Clown” or “Save it for Later,” Fletch. “Melt” was Modern English, not (English) Beat.

    Geoff, are you aware of Bannergate? How did/does that influence your conept of the “reality” of the ‘naccle community?

  11. D. Fletcher
    January 10, 2006 at 9:25 pm

    Of course, you’re right. Modern English.

    But “Tears of a Clown” is a Smokey Robinson song, surely.

  12. meems
    January 10, 2006 at 9:38 pm

    Well, now you’re just going to have to get into “what is real?” question altogether!

  13. January 10, 2006 at 9:51 pm

    D: But “Tears of a Clown� is a Smokey Robinson song, surely.

    But the cover the Beat did is at least as good as the original (better in my opinion). My vote for today would probably be for “Best Friend”… That might change tomorrow though. Too many choices.

    What is your vote, Susan?

    Adam L: Geoff, are you aware of Bannergate?

    Never heard of it.

    Ok, sounds vaguely familiar…

    Alright… As someone who found out the secret very early on and thus was an accomplice in the whole fiasco (albeit a reluctant one) I think that whole mess solidified my feelings on this subject. The humiliation people felt was real. If nothing else, that experience proved that it’s not just blogging — it’s people.

    Eric – That is great news to me. I’m glad my wild speculative ramblings at the Thang actually led to good things for you.

    Sarebear – The great thing about the ‘nacle is that we get to talk about religion. That leads to opportunities for inspiration/revelation. It is hard to find such conversations in life I think. (No one in real life wants to talk about politics or religion these days… ABEV is a good place to have a good ‘nacle experience)

    Susan – Interesting point about how it is easier to make real blog friends at the more intimate setting of smaller blogs. The problem for folks that perma-blog at big blogs is that when they make real friends at their big blogs everyone gripes about their cliquie-ness!

    Julie – Thanks

  14. D. Fletcher
    January 10, 2006 at 9:58 pm

    Geoff, I will have to admit to never having heard a single cut of a record by English Beat. Additionally, I think the net/blogs are going to destroy the Church, unless the Church somehow prevents their proliferation. How about that for an incendiary statement?

  15. January 10, 2006 at 10:01 pm

    Never heard a single tune by the Beat!!?? That is incendiary.

    As for the second part… it depends on if you are serious or not. I assumed not.

  16. john fowles
    January 10, 2006 at 10:15 pm

    D., I am more partial to all that “no unhallowed hand” business–the source on it is very good.

  17. D. Fletcher
    January 10, 2006 at 10:16 pm

    Well, I wasn’t joking. I think the blogs disseminate information too fast, and they are too divisive, and they won’t easily be controlled by calm Priesthood leaders. The church has survived the centuries because of the control of information, particularly information that might be damaging to fragile testimonies. For instance, everything ever written by the Tanners is at all of our fingertips, every day, for anybody that might be looking. And for those that might not even be looking — members might stumble upon it inadvertently. Is it our responsibility not to say anything, to censor ourselves on the blogs, to censor our opinions to as not to alert others of the problems? Maybe, but I don’t see anybody doing that — on the contrary, everyone seems to take special delight here in saying what they might not say in Church.

    I don’t know how I feel about the Church, precisely, but I do feel some need to defend it against… the huge force of thousands, or perhaps millions, of voices, all talking at once, but not hearing each other.

  18. Julie M. Smith
    January 10, 2006 at 10:26 pm

    D. Fletcher–

    But information cuts the other way, too. I talked about the BoAbraham controversy very briefly in SS this week and noted that anyone who wanted more info should contact me. Today I get an email: “Well, we have this investigator who found this anti stuff on the BoA . . . what do you recommend?” and I sent him to FAIR and Jeff Lindsay.

  19. Francie
    January 10, 2006 at 10:34 pm

    “I Confess…”, but “Tears of a Clown” is next.

    Actually, the only time I enjoy reading blogs is when it is “just blogging” – I get creeped out when people feel comfortable “hav(ing) the tamarity to dogmatize on which the Lord has seen fit to remain silent.” Not because, like D., I’m worried about what misinformation someone else might get out of it, but because I feel icky reading it. That’s my litmus test.

  20. D. Fletcher
    January 10, 2006 at 10:37 pm

    Julie, that’s how it should work, and how it has always worked — somebody is looking for information, and asks advice of people he knows from Church.

    What’s new, here, is the dissemination of information without asking for it. For everybody that talked to you from your Sunday School class, there are going to be… literally hundreds that won’t ever seek your advice.

    I may be alarmist, but it’s just something that occurred to me that I felt the need to put out here. Most people, including myself, don’t realize how public their posts are here. Some commenters will engage me in my opinions and theories, but most likely, most of my readers will be anonymous to me.

    Here’s the best way to put it: there aren’t really “lurkers” in Church, but there sure are on the blogs, and everywhere on the net. The flow of information is unstoppable, and this could have unfortunate ramifications for a Church which depends upon ever more fragile testimonies to survive.

  21. Francie
    January 10, 2006 at 10:46 pm

    D., I agree. I also worry especially when bloggers forget about the lurkers and publicize their children’s names (often first, middle and last) and post photos of them.

  22. Julie M. Smith
    January 10, 2006 at 10:54 pm

    D. Fletcher re #18–

    These are all very good points and I don’t dispute a one of them–certainly there are some who will never become investigators because of what they find on the net, or will quit meeting with the missionaries, or will go inactive. But we also have people who credit the bloggernacle with a role in reactivating them or in keeping them active–because they found a place to discuss troubling issues, or found people who were also troubled by those issues but stay in the trenches, etc. That’s why I disputed your #16–because there you made it sound as if the negative effect was the only one.

    I also object to the sentiment that I got from #16 (“the church has survived the centuries because of the control of information”) and #18 (“The flow of information is unstoppable, and this could have unfortunate ramifications for a Church which depends upon ever more fragile testimonies to survive.”) that implied to me–although perhaps you didn’t intend it–that the Church can only flourish in a world where it controls info because the truth will kill it. Needless to say, I don’t think the church has anything to fear from the truth, although I do think anti stuff on the net means that we need to play offense in SS and Institute sometimes so that people hear about, say, the BoA controversy from a friendly source first.

  23. manaen
    January 10, 2006 at 10:55 pm

    It’s not just blogging for me. Still working on refellowshipment after more than a decade, threads are my interim (I hope) substitute for lengthy gospel discussions with groups of LDS and my postings here are my substitutes for giving talks, bearing testimony, and teaching classes. These and the answers from other bloggers have not exactly strengthened my testimony — the forgiveness at confession and healing since did that — but have given my testimony richer context as I’ve explored its applications with all of you.

  24. Elisabeth
    January 10, 2006 at 11:09 pm

    “Are the friends you make here real friends?”

    This is a good question. I’ve been enriched by interactions that I’ve had with people online, but my definition of a real friendship stretches farther than exchanging insightful emails and witty repartees from behind the safety of my computer. The technical logistics of online friendships make it very difficult to progress to a “realâ€? friendship, because you know only what your online friend is choosing to show to you. Actions speak much louder than words.

    And, speaking of online friendships, I’m not so sure what one should reasonably expect from one’s online friends. Can someone help me out here? Are your blog friends expected to comment favorably on all of your posts (even the lame ones)? To send you Happy Birthday emails and Christmas cards? To indulge your compulsion to quote David Brent or someone from the “The Officeâ€? at every opportunity? To convince you that you really don’t want that cool Spiderman tattoo after all? What’s the etiquette here?

  25. D. Fletcher
    January 10, 2006 at 11:09 pm

    Julie, I see how my words could have been taken — sorry for that, I’m not the best writer there ever was, for sure.

    The Truth of the Gospel, with a capital T, cannot be found in words, in information, in history, even in Joseph Smith’s own history. I don’t believe the truth of the Book of Mormon is in the information found within it, the people, where they lived, what foods they ate, etc., or even how it came to be translated and published. Obviously, I believe its “Truth” is its wisdom, and power of conversion. The leaders of the Church have always known this, and have so cautioned the members to approach it simply as a conduit of faith.

    But with the dissemination of information on both sides, say, the Tanners vs. FARMS, I see both groups, investigators and believing members, reverting to a human tendency to draw conclusions from observation and analysis of the information close at hand. In the past, we haven’t had all the information at hand, and we didn’t really seek it, because we didn’t really need to. But now, the information is really at hand.

    Your investigator may look at Jeff Lindsay’s blog. But then, he’ll return to the Tanners, or whatever, to weigh the evidence or persuasiveness of each, without realizing that neither will direct him to the real source of the truth, the Spirit through prayer.

    Sorry, is this better? I’m just worried that the blogs thrive on debate, which might ultimately do more damage than good to members of the Church. And I’m not for censorship, so that makes me worry even more.

  26. January 10, 2006 at 11:11 pm

    Great post Geoff. No, it’s not just blogging, it’s discussions with friends and strangers about stuff I think about and deal with and struggle with every day of my life. We just happen to be typing it instead of speaking it.

    Of course, because the Snarker will probably jump all over this post I’ll be the first to say that what s/he says IS just blogging :)

  27. January 10, 2006 at 11:15 pm

    Hmmm, I Confess or Tears of a Clown.

  28. Kaimi Wenger
    January 10, 2006 at 11:34 pm

    Nice post, G-man. Word. I definitely need my pills.

    /end inside joke

    Of course, you’re exhibit A in this arena. But there’s a whole lot more going on. People are working out their testimonies here and at LDSLF; people are connecting to friends; people are finding comfort and peace (or irritation, as the case may be) in blogs. It’s as real as many other things. One can’t just write it off as “just blogging.” Comments from Sarebear and annegb and a dozen other people indicate that they’ve found personal strength in the blogs. And why not? We’re expected to draw strength from the scriptures, which are themselves only words. So many of our interactions are based on words, but those words — “you’re hired” or “you’re fired,” “I love you” or “I hate you,” Yes or No or Maybe, take on much more meaning than the mere words that convey them. Unless we’re wrong on the whole ordinance thing, some words — such as baptism, confirmation, sacrament — are required to attain exaltation. Words are mighty, and blogging (as a medium that uses words) can be equally mighty. To borrow a line from Extreme, blogging can become “more than words.”


    It goes without saying that any insightful comments at BEV are Jordan’s work. :P

    D.: Yes, blogs have disadvantages and are scary. And I’m sure that they sometimes drive people from the church. And they sometimes drive people to bad decisions. (And no, the two are not always the same). I’ll go further — I’ll all but certain that T&S specifically has harmed at least one person’s testimony.

    I think that the net effect is positive. I sure hope it is. (See also Julie’s and Manean’s comments).


    Are the friendships real? I think they are. Put it this way — I go on my mission, and for a two year period, I only have letter and phone contact with home. Does that make my family bond any less real? I don’t think it does. Touch and physical presence are overrated. I considered Nate Oman a friend long before I ever shook his hand.

    You point out the obvious disadvantages — people can hide things in online interaction. On the other hand, people can equally hide things in offline interaction. Frankly, my blog-friends know many things about me that my ward members and real-life acquaintances (and even friends) don’t know.

    And as for your questions: Yes (but they can be short); maybe; yes, but within reason; and yes –you definitely don’t want that Spiderman tattoo, E., because a Batman would go much better with your new hair color. Also, blog friends regularly send each other cheese. You can see what attracted me to the nacle. :P

  29. D. Fletcher
    January 10, 2006 at 11:40 pm

    I guess, my experience with blogs (and the message boards which preceded the blogs in prominence) is that they self-destruct from negativism, which can’t really be controlled. My board is as fragile as anybody’s, but most of the people who post there are people I know in life, that I have met and feel that I can trust. But there’s something about online communication, mixed with our current society’s tendency to irony in humor, and sarcasm, that is very often misunderstood and comes across as negative. And that inferred negativity, has negative ramifications to lurking readers, which are uncontrolled by the very nature of their… lurkingness. Oy, stop me from trying to be a writer, will you?


  30. john fowles
    January 10, 2006 at 11:57 pm

    KW: too true. . . .

  31. January 11, 2006 at 12:04 am

    Thanks for this post, Geoff. I, too, have a hard time with the “it’s just blogging” attitude, perhaps because I seem to be unable to separate words from the people behind them. I’m always a little bit amazed at how many bloggers/commenters seem to be unaware (or careless) of the fact that there are *people* with feelings and worries and testimonies (in whatever condition) sitting at all those computers thinking and typing and reacting. It’s this sort of dehumanization that creates such opportunity for negativity and distrust, and as D. has pointed out, it’s troubling.

    I’ve also found that I personally don’t find the “distance” of blogging to be very liberating or comforting. I’m the same shy girl online that I am in actuality…hesitant to join discussions with people I don’t know very well, worried about how they’ll perceive me, wondering if they’ll think I’m stupid or pretentious or not edgy enough or too edgy or whatever. For this reason I lurk much more than I comment, even on “home” territory at FMH. However, in the interest of furthering community, and perhaps to be a better representative of those few people out there who might think like me but feel even less comfortable using their voices here, I’m trying to creep a bit further out of the woodwork. Because no, I don’t think blogging is “just” blogging.

  32. January 11, 2006 at 12:23 am

    So where’s my cheese? MMmmmm, speaking of, I just had a delicious goat gouda yesterday…

  33. Elisabeth
    January 11, 2006 at 12:27 am

    Kaimi – your mission example is perfect. Before you left on your mission, you had already spent years and years building that bond with your family, and your bond with your family is not going to disintegrate while you are away from them. I think it would be extraordinarily difficult (if not impossible) to create a similar bond with people whom you never meet. I disagree that physical presence is overrated. But just because I can’t see or talk to my online friends in person, doesn’t mean that I don’t treasure the friends I’ve made here over the past (almost) year. Thanks for the tattoo advice, btw. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    To answer Geoff’s original question – is it “just” blogging?, well, yes, and no. Yes, it is “just” blogging, because you can always turn off the computer and walk away from the blogs. But no, it’s not “just” blogging, in the sense that the interactions here are meaningless.

  34. January 11, 2006 at 12:57 am

    Who moved my cheese? Hrm. It ran away in jealousy of my recent increased desire for chocolate.

    #8. My bad! Thank you for the kind response and information.

    #13. Yes it is. And thank you.

    #15. I’ve never even HEARD of the group before now?

    #28. Thank you Kaimi. John, Jordan, they both start with Jo. Good thing their last names aren’t Smith or I’d be really confused. Teehee!

    #31: Yay Emilys!

  35. Kaimi Wenger
    January 11, 2006 at 1:17 am


    Well, let’s see. My blog friends get cheese . . . you haven’t gotten any . . . do I really need to spell out where this logic is leading?

    Just kidding. Hey, the last time I blegged (at KB, dropping my wishlist) someone actually sent me something! So I was just seeing if I could guilt E. into running over to a Boston cheesemonger and picking up something tasty for me. Worth a try, no?

    Yes, I’m stooping pretty low, but remember that I live in a barren cheese wasteland now, and I’m deperate! :P

  36. January 11, 2006 at 2:03 am

    Blogs are like any other communication feature (forums, message boards, live chat, etc) of the Internet and other amateur electronic networks that preceded it, Usenet, Fidonet, Bulletin Boards, AOL, GEnie, Compuserve, The Source, etc.

    1. Like any technology, the Internet can be put to good or bad use.

    It = Internet.

    2. If you use it to expand your life, and increase your real-life human connections, then it’s a good thing. Many home-bound, or bed-ridden people, or those who live in small towns or remote areas have used the Internet to “get a life” and get involved in places and with people where they couldn’t have otherwise. (Before Bulletin Board Systems and the Internet, people used CB or Ham radio to “reach out”.)

    3. If you shrink _from_ the “real world” into the Internet, and lose your real-life human connections, then it’s a bad thing.

    4. If you join support groups, and find encouragement, or answers to your problems, or treatments and cures to your rare ailment, then it’s a good thing.

    5. If you use it to fuel destructive or obsessive habits, then it’s a bad thing.

    6. If you use it to find people who lift you up and inspire you to improve yourself, then it’s good.

    7. If you use it to find people who affirm your negativity, then it’s bad.

    8. If you use it to find a spouse, then it’s good .

    9. If you use it to cheat on your spouse, then it’s bad.

    I used to participate in a state-wide IRC chat room. We had semi-annual face-to-face (real life) parties that were very big (and smaller parties throughout the year). One regular in the chat room was a heart-attack patient who was home bound for quite a while. The chat room replaced watching TV all the time for him.

    When he got well enough he started to go to the parties to meet his new friends.

    At one party at a local night-club (okay, this was back when I was inactive), he had a massive heart-attack and died. We knew it was bad, but the doctors at the hospital couldn’t tell us the full story since we weren’t family. I had the honor of retrieving his mother, and taking her to the hospital to get the news.

    In a way it was a blessing because he died among friends, having fun, as opposed to being discovered dead at home by his elderly mother.

    And, here’s a cute part, he was sitting next to and talking with a strikingly beautiful 20-something woman, and fell on her when he had the heart attack and died. So you could truthfully say “He died in the arms of a beautiful woman.”

    He was his mother’s only relative in town. And his online chat friends from the party were there for her. Three of us were there in the emergency room bay with her as she grieved over her son’s remains that night.

  37. January 11, 2006 at 2:25 am

    Geoff, I suppose I ought to defend the proposition “it’s just blogging.” People are most likely to get riled up and offensive toward other bloggers (who are real people, whether onymous or not) if they think blogging is really important. People are less likely to respond that way if they can take a step back and say “it’s just blogging.” So I am of the opinion that my little saying actually does reflect the fact that people are more important than blogging, as you too seem to be arguing. B’nacle bloggers actually get very high marks in my book for generally avoiding petty disputes and for apologizing (often offline via email) when things do somehow get a little ugly.

  38. Tatiana
    January 11, 2006 at 5:00 am

    I’ve always thought relationships online are exactly as real as the people make them, the same as in real life. I think people make a mistake if they think online communities or friends (or relationships) are somehow less real than “real life” ones. There are many disadvantages to friendships which are at a physical remove, but there are also many advantages, including the ability to tell true things about oneself that are much more difficult to share in real life.

    The most enormous advantage is the ability to connect with likeminded people, and learn from them, which facet is generating a revolution in human society comparable to the industrial revolution or agricultural revolution. I’m a science and math geek and not a historian, and my understanding of the grand sweep of human history is mostly in terms of technology and its effect on human society. I know it’s not the whole story, but I’ve found it to be a very fruitful way of understanding the structure and evolution of various societies of the past. When agriculture was invented, it created a surplus for the first time in human history, and opened up the possibility that there could be full time professions other than hunter or gatherer :-) including people (teachers, elders) who devoted their full time to acquiring and disseminating knowledge. That change brought about a leap forward in the speed of accumulation of useful cultural practices, inventing, in effect, a new and vastly faster type of evolution than darwinian evolution, that we call “human society”.

    Later when cities were invented, it allowed the congregation of people of the various trades, like brickmaking, blacksmiths, etc. who formed guilds which caused a huge increase in the speed of innovations in all the arts and trades. Now if Mary-the-weaver found a better faster method of weaving, that improvement would spread rapidly to other weavers on Weavers Street, and become established as a base from which further innovations in weaving might be made. The guild (made possible by the fact that people were concentrated in cities, and could connect with others of like skills and interests) also served to excite people’s interest and inventiveness to excel at their arts, and this again sped up the evolutionary rate at which human invention took place and basically brought about the industrial revolution (naturally this is all horribly over-simplified) including the printing press, and eventually widespread literacy. (Try to imagine whom you would be if you had never learned to read.)

    So now the internet has made the whole of the earth one enormous “city”. Wheras before, practitioners of physics hied to their several universities, and connected for cross-fertilization of ideas through their journals and several times a year at conferences, now they’re in touch online daily. The speed with which innovations and interesting new ideas disseminate is quickly approaching the speed of light. We are in the midst of a revolution in human society that’s at least as important as the agricultural or industrial revolutions, and it’s being brought about by the internet.

    Yes, the connections we establish online are important. To me it’s always been true that online friendships are 100% real. I’ve since come to understand that everyone isn’t able to “port” to a text-based format as easily as myself, and others think of online connections as somehow secondary to those mediated through a different set of electromagnetic impulses with higher bandwidth (real life). I suppose reading so many books is responsible for my oddities. :-) I’m a text person. But to me the different media don’t matter. It’s still the same idea, people (spirits) interacting through the intermediating physical reality to connect in ways that are joyful or sad, beneficial or harmful, according to the agency of those concerned. If online friendships are less real, it’s only because some people treat them so.

    As for the much smaller sphere of the bloggernacle and the church, I agree with Julie that the church has nothing to fear from the truth, and much to gain. We *have* the truth. Surely that means that a more vastly improved method of disseminating the truth is a great thing for the spread and evolution of our ideas. Personally, I’ve also felt a great strengthening of my testimony from the bloggernacle. In short, I think it’s a very good thing. :-)

  39. Tatiana
    January 11, 2006 at 5:10 am

    I wish we could edit our posts. :-)

    At the end of the third paragraph, I would make the parenthetical comment read “(Try to imagine whom you would be had you never learned to read.)”

    In the last paragraph I would that the sentence read “Surely that means that a vastly improved method of disseminating the truth is a great thing for the spread and evolution of our ideas.”

  40. annegb
    January 11, 2006 at 9:01 am

    Finding blogging has changed my life. And blessed it. I agree with your post, Geoff, except the questions which are to answered, not agreed with.

    On the other hand, this goes at a lightning pace and my life does not hinge on if somebody is fighting or mad at me or I’ve (for the millionth time) made a fool of myself or put my foot in my mouth. Or if Times and Seasons is in a different box. I just adjust.

    Bottom line, I need you guys–your intellect, your warmth, your feistiness, your courage!
    I enjoy your friendship and all the different personalities here on the blog. I’ve grown and learned so much.

    On the other hand, if you all died tomorrow, I would send flowers, mourn and miss you, then get up (say my prayers–10 damn days in a row now!), and get ready for work, as I am now a working woman. Life would go on. But I would expect a visit from the other side, as all my friends from the spirit world check in with me. As well they should.

  41. Adam Greenwood
    January 11, 2006 at 9:38 am

    Thanks for your views, D. Fletcher. It’s given me a lot to think about.

    I think I’d agree that the internet phenomenon as a whole is fairly negative for the Church, for many of the reasons you describe (the internet is about people to some extent, but less so than flesh-and-blood relationships. In some ways its like a big, rambling, apostate, amped up Journal of Discourses).

    I’d say the Bloggernacle is a much less negative phenomenon. Taken just as itself, i’d say its probably only net slightly negative, with some very positive pockets. Taken in its interactions with the whole, wide internet, I’d say that while it doesn’t counteract the negatives of the internet, it ameliorates them somewhat.

    In today’s circumstances, the Bloggernacle is probably a necessary evil.

  42. Ronan
    January 11, 2006 at 9:45 am

    How’s this for it’s more than “just blogging”?

    A while ago, a gal named Elisabeth cheered me up on a thread where I was getting hammered (“I hate Captain Moroni” — ah, good times). From that time on, Elisabeth and I became fast e-friends, with a shared love for English TV. Then I met her at Steve’s Thanksgiving party and we became fast real friends. I went home and told the missus, Rebecca, that Elisabeth was cool. At the time, the missus was feeling a little fried because of the kids, so Elisabeth invited her to spend New Year’s in Boston with her. Now note: Rebecca and Elisabeth had NEVER met. Obviously, having met Elisabeth myself I could vouch for the fact that she wasn’t a 50-year-old male serial killer. Anyway, by all accounts, they had a great time in Boston and have become good friends. For a few days, the missus’s sanity was preserved. Thank-you, E.

    Moral of the story: these friendships can be real.

  43. Kaimi Wenger
    January 11, 2006 at 10:05 am

    But Ronan, who’s vouching that you’re not a 50-year-old male serial killer yourself?

    Superman: Easy, miss. I’ve got you.
    Lois Lane: You’ve got me? Who’s got you?

    Sometimes I wonder if 80% of nacle participants are just the creation of a bored Bryce Inouye or Dave Landrith. I sort of doubt it, but the thought does remain in the back of my mind. (And perhaps’s that’s E.’s point. I like blogging, and I like my blog friends, but there is an element of caution that wouldn’t exist in a real-world friendship, because of the possibility that they’re all Mirandas and Jenns and Aaron Coxes).

  44. Ronan
    January 11, 2006 at 10:10 am


    How do I know that I’m not the only person alive on the earth and you’re all just computer programs?

    So yeah: treat these friendships with caution to avoid either being horribly offended or worse, cut up into little pieces and eaten with chianti. Something told me Elisabeth was OK, though. :)

  45. smb
    January 11, 2006 at 10:34 am

    I’m inclined to agree with D. Fletcher.
    One aspect is the overwhelming “democracy” of the internet and its extension into blogs. With admitted hyperbole, Every opinion is posted, every eerie idea makes it into print, every angry sociopath has access to every forum. We are overwhelmed with information of highly variable quality and we are losing the mediation of authority which, however anti-authority I can get, actually serves a purpose. As little as we like it, some people are smarter or have better researched a topic, or understand the complexities of a given issue better than someone whose sole qualification is possession of a PC and an account at an ISP. And some issues will not be solved by the myriad-monkey-typewriter approach.

    Imagine if science gave up peer review for publications. While we all pretend to believe Kuhn and hope for the visionary mavericks, the day-to-day progress of science would I think end up hopelessly mired in nonsense and garbage.

    I think the same is true for the church, which is why I’m sympathetic to D. Fletcher’s suggestions. I think it’s because of the tension between individual and community which is of vital importance in our contemporary society. What may feel good for any individual (venting, confessing, believing that a kind soul is somehow connecting with posts, arguing for a particular vision of truth) may end up being disastrous for the community.

    There will of course be a balance, but there remain many things that I will never publicly say, no matter how strongly I believe them. Because I feel an obligation to my community and feel that my desire to have things said may be at odds with my community’s desires. Taken to an extreme this can justify censorship. Ignored to the extreme, we’ve got scientists cloning cold-fusion-ready mouse-humans and finding the vital ether flowing from the mountaintops. And we’ve got the Tanners, those sad little freedom fighters, yapping so loudly it’s hard to clear your head.

    For me the hardest thing is negotiating the difficult balance between my embrace of equality of rights and opportunities for all (which seems to me to be Christian) and my recognition that some informants are more reliable than others, that a certain level of hierarchy or aristocracy (or whatever value-laden term you choose) is better than deciding to have a religious community decided by a perfect “democracy” of all PC-ISPers.

  46. Adam Greenwood
    January 11, 2006 at 10:38 am

    “there remain many things that I will never publicly say, no matter how strongly I believe them. Because I feel an obligation to my community and feel that my desire to have things said may be at odds with my community’s desires.”

    Remarkable. Thanks for that insight and example.

  47. kris
    January 11, 2006 at 10:39 am

    I will vouch that Ronan is not a 50 year old male serial killer — however, he does like mushy peas! :)

  48. kris
    January 11, 2006 at 10:39 am

    And he doesn’t like the Queen Mother.

  49. Ronan
    January 11, 2006 at 10:41 am

    Kris, you only know that I’m not 50….

  50. D. Fletcher
    January 11, 2006 at 10:45 am

    If anybody here is a 50-year-old serial killer, it’s probably me. (48 next month.)


  51. Jim F.
    January 11, 2006 at 10:49 am

    What’s not to like about mushy peas?

  52. kris
    January 11, 2006 at 10:51 am

    ok, re-thinking my position … Ronan is definitely not 50, as for the rest, now I’m not sure!

  53. D. Fletcher
    January 11, 2006 at 10:56 am

    I’m not sure this came across in my posts. I don’t think blogging is much of a problem for all of us (that actually participate). It’s a community of individuals who have a common interest, in this case, the Church and its teachings. We may have differences, but the common interest exists. The Bloggernacle itself is getting larger and larger, and yet I still see the same names everywhere, so I might conclude that blogging appeals only to a certain kind of person, someone with ideas (who can type pretty well). But I think blogging may be dangerous to the thousands, perhaps millions of people who *aren’t* participating, other than reading the blogs, which they hit upon perhaps inadvertently. The missionaries used to go door-to-door, basically consecutive preaching. But now…

  54. Ronan
    January 11, 2006 at 11:00 am


    I agree, somewhat, which is why I hope the Church continues to improve its online presence. Whilst pretty, the Joseph Smith website, for example, would only look disingenous to those who find out about Joseph’s polygamy from a myriad of online sources, but find nary a whisper of it at the Church’s online site. The cat’s out the bag; you cannot just ignore it. Google “Joseph Smith” to see what I mean.

  55. Mark IV
    January 11, 2006 at 11:15 am

    Mushy peas aren’t TOO bad, but I draw the line at brussel sprouts and potatoes boiled together until they are nothing but a soggy mess.

    But speaking of mushy peas, queen mothers, and Ronan, I need to call you on something, Geoff. My eyes nearly popped out of my head on your third paragraph: …get out knickers in a twist… HUH!?!? Shouldn’t a southern Californian say …get our panties in a wad…? At least you still know how to say bathroom instead of loo, as in “Dude, the bathroom is right there!”

    I take this as conclusive proof of the subversive nature of blogging, and of Ronan’s megalomania. The next thing you know, we’ll all be driving down the wrong side of the road. :-)

    I understand “It’s just blogging” to mean that we need to be patient with our co-bloggers. People are just dashing off their thoughts in between meetings or diapers or phone calls, and we shouldn’t expect the same level of sophistication that we can from published work. Fully developed thoughts don’t appear by magic immediately. This is a place where we can write a “first draft” and get peer review.

  56. January 11, 2006 at 11:19 am

    Well I see that comments pile up quickly around here… So much for trying to acknowledge everyone’s comments…

    It appears there are a couple of interesting sub-themes developing. I want to first address this theme that D. Fletcher brought up and that has been further developed by others (Adam, smb, Julie, etc.)

    I think Bookslinger has it right. The Internet as a communication medium is very powerful, but that power is neither inherently bad or good, it is just power. Sort of like nuclear energy – it can and has been put to highly constructive and highly destructive uses. So based on that I agree with Julie that the sword cuts both ways. It is true that the flow of information is now beyond the control of Church leaders. It is true that now the church cannot as effectively “control of information, particularly information that might be damaging to fragile testimonies.” But here is why that doesn’t really concern me: The Church really is the only true and living church on the face of earth. God really does live and really does communicate with people today. Jesus really is the Christ. Joseph really was the prophet of the restoration. In the long run, this unleashing of all information works in favor of the truth in my opinion. The truth is fully in favor of the Church (despite occasional uncomfortable factoids that might pop up).

    Therefore, I don’t think the free-flowing information that the Internet brings is negative for the church. Sure, this time of transition is uncomfortable for some. But the truth will win out. I also think the bloggernacle is in fact a good thing — but mostly because those of us with some influence are trying to keep our temple covenants and build up Zion here. T&S tries to do that. You’ll notice we don’t let anti-Mormon sites into the MA portal feeds, etc.

    smb: Every opinion is posted, every eerie idea makes it into print, every angry sociopath has access to every forum.

    That may have been true with other forums, but blogs allow for pretty tight controls. That is especially true for smaller blogs like the Thang. That blog is my space and I have absolutely no qualms with editing or banning trolls or quacks. I do so liberally and I have discovered word must get out because they seem to have given up trying these days. It is harder for group blogs to control the trolls, but in the bloggernacle they all do pretty well too.

    As a result bloggernacle discussions can become extremely interesting all-week gospel doctrine discussions — something I never had access to before. I wonder if we are almost a shadow of the theological discussions they had in the school of the prophets at times. Even though that may be too generous, there is no doubt in my mind that the bloggernacle can be effectively used to help us keep the covenants we have made to “always remember” Jesus Christ. I think it does that for me.

  57. January 11, 2006 at 11:26 am

    Mark IV — You are totally justified in blaming Ronan for that “knickers” comment, dude… err… mate… err… (You see what he does to us?)

  58. January 11, 2006 at 11:28 am

    But I can assure you’ll never see me using “Cheers” as a sign off. What on earth does that mean?

    – Later

  59. D. Fletcher
    January 11, 2006 at 11:29 am

    I’m a little less paranoid than I was last night (I’ve taken the proper drugs).


    But I do think it’s important to remember, when blogging, you’re presenting your ideas to a lot more people than you might realize. It’s a public forum, and the audience is, the entire world. There’s not one private thing about it.

  60. Kaimi Wenger
    January 11, 2006 at 11:46 am

    Brussels sprouts, yuck. Mushy peas, yuck. ~50% of English food, yuck.

    But they make up for it with a few things that work very well. Shepherd’s pie, for one, which is one of my absolute, all-time favorite dishes (just ask my wife). Salt-and-vinegar chips, for two. Stilton, and real cheddar, for three. And some of the other staples — roast beef, fish and chips, trifle — are nothing to sneeze at.

    I still haven’t figured out what the big deal is about Yorkshire pudding. . .

  61. Adam Greenwood
    January 11, 2006 at 12:00 pm

    Yorkshire pudding is great with gravy. Beef Wellington stinks. Shepherd’s pie is unexceptional. Fish and chips is fast food genius.

  62. January 11, 2006 at 12:19 pm

    Traditional English breakfast? Thumbs down. Lucky Charms? Yum.

  63. Adam Greenwood
    January 11, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    What’s the traditional English breakfast, prithee? Is it the same as a farmer’s breakfast (eggs, toast, bacon or sausage) except with kippers, or am I not reading my Wodehouse right?

    Because if I am reading Wodehouse right, you are barking mad. Probably are anyway.

  64. Ronan
    January 11, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    Benefits of UK EU membership: cheap, easy holidays on the Continent; exposure to Euro-cooking; no more soggy potatoes.
    Benefits of the British Empire: influx of Indian-sub-continent immigrants; curry.

    British food is so much better now that it once was. Get with the times!

  65. Seth Rogers
    January 11, 2006 at 1:01 pm

    Of course it’s not just blogging.

    It’s possibly a chance to define the dialogue about Mormonism in what is now merely an emergent format, but will likely be a pretty important part of world religious discourse in about 10 years.

    Those who enter now, at the ground level, might possibly be shaping the course of all future public discourse on the subject.

    The world is changing very rapidly and forums like this may be a lot more historically important than many here realize.

  66. January 11, 2006 at 1:20 pm

    I completely agree Seth.

  67. January 11, 2006 at 1:50 pm

    Since this isn’t just blogging, perhaps we need to create a Bloggernacle Warning?

    How about this:

    You have the right to remain silent and refuse to comment on any blog. Do you understand?
    Anything you do write may be used against you by the Snarker. Do you understand?
    You have the right to consult appropriate blogging materials (i.e.- scriptures) before commenting on a blog and to have these materials present during commenting now or in the future. Do you understand?
    If you cannot afford these materials, you may wish to borrow them from the Church library, free of charge, if you wish. Do you understand?
    If you decide to comment now without these materials present you will still have the right to stop commenting at any time until you consult these materials. Do you understand?
    Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to comment on this blog without your blogging materials present?

  68. January 11, 2006 at 2:50 pm

    RE #64: Some random facts about British food: Some of the best cooking in Europe today happens in Britain. Curry is pretty much a British invention–it’s British food rather than Indian food. (Just as gyros are pretty much an American–New York–invention that made their way back home.) Jamie Oliver has created a revolution in English school lunches that American kids should envy. Excellent seafood, well-prepared, including but not limited to fish and chips, is available at virtually every spot in Britain. I think English bread and pastries are not yet up to snuff, but I’m willing to give them some time to get there. They’re certainly no worse than American bread and pastries. It’s tough to find an open-air market in Britain that doesn’t have an exceptional selection of vegetables, meat products, cheeses, etc. Great pickings as well as very good street food to be had there. (If you get the chance and can go to only one, go to London’s Borough Market on Friday or Saturday.)

  69. Nate Oman
    January 11, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    “Shepherd’s pie is unexceptional.”

    Shepherd’s pie is a foul concoction originally created to extract information from prisoners held in the Tower of London on suspicion of leaving the final e off of words like “program.” It is evil and should be banned by international law as well as the domestic regulations of all civilized countries.

  70. Julie M. Smith
    January 11, 2006 at 3:21 pm

    Funny you should mention that: I just finished making a shepherd’s pie for dinner tonight.

  71. Julie M. Smith
    January 11, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    “Jamie Oliver has created a revolution in English school lunches that American kids should envy.”

    Tell us more.

  72. Julie M. Smith
    January 11, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    P.S.– D. Fletcher, I plan on getting back to you, but I need a little more time.

  73. Elisabeth
    January 11, 2006 at 3:56 pm

    Thanks, Ronan! It has been a joy getting to know and then meeting you and Rebecca in person. I must say that everyone I’ve met in person whom I first met here on the blogs has been just as engaging and interesting in real life as they are online. :)

    One huge bummer about friendships that exist exclusively online is that after a particularly bruising online dustup, you can’t go out to dinner together and make amends over dessert (or cheese).

  74. Nate Oman
    January 11, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    “Funny you should mention that: I just finished making a shepherd’s pie for dinner tonight.”

    I am calling child protective services even as I type this….

  75. January 11, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    I just checked back into this thread. My, how topics can change. Some notes:

    Nate–you’re wrong; Kaimi is right: a proper shepherd’s pie is a delight.

    Jim–are you a Jamie Oliver watcher too? We used to catch his show regularly back when we could afford cable. Alton Brown and Rachael Ray, also.

    Adam–my father came home from his English mission insisting on big, cooked, traditional breakfasts: sausage, poached or over-easy eggs, bacon, toast, hash browns, etc. He passed that taste on to most of his children.

  76. Nate Oman
    January 11, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    Russell: I believe that the the Bush administration has taken precisely the same position with regard to other forms of torture…

  77. D. Fletcher
    January 11, 2006 at 4:14 pm

    Shepherd’s pie — isn’t it just lamb pot pie? (lamb, mashed potatoes, and carrots)

    I’d need ketchup, probably.

  78. January 11, 2006 at 4:28 pm

    This reminds me of the part in You’ve Got Mail where Meg Ryan’s character is told “it’s not personal, it’s business.” She responds “‘It’s not personal’? What does that mean? All it means is, ‘it’s not personal *to you.* But it is personal to me.”

    Maybe we should take this post to mean that we should all tread a little more softly because it might be personal to someone else.

  79. D. Fletcher
    January 11, 2006 at 4:28 pm

    From Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd,” a lyric from “A Little Priest,” about making humans into meat pies:

    ON TOP.


  80. jane doe
    January 11, 2006 at 4:42 pm

    Well, I’ve been lurking pretty compulsively for almost two years now, and once or twice have made a couple of inane comments. You guys don’t know me (most of you), but I feel that I know you all pretty well. I follow most of the discussions here, at BCC, FMH, and a few of the littler blogs. I’ve followed links to Sunstone, Dialogue, FARMS, FAIR, and other sites on the web. I’ve sought out books I might never have heard of otherwise (In Sacred Loneliness, By the Hand of Mormon, etc.). I have devoted many, many hours every week to reading these blogs and other church-related material.

    Three years ago, I would have described myself as a very devoted LDS woman, in love with the church, the doctrines, and even most of the aspects of the culture. I had a few questions, but also had some powerful spiritual experiences that were enough to smooth things over.

    Since coming here, my world has been completely rocked. I don’t think I can overstate the magnitude of the crisis. I wonder if I can stay a member in light of all my newfound questions. And without the church, I suddenly have lost my sense of place in the world, in the universe, my sense of purpose and meaning, my identity, the foundation of my marriage, everything. Without a solid testimony undergirding my church experience, all the joy has gone out of it for me. It used to make me so happy; now it feels so empty. Everything, my whole life, is at a crossroads, and I can’t see where either path takes me. I am sinking into a deep despair.

    (To clarify, the bloggernacle did not expose me to a lot of new “problem areas” of church history, doctrine, etc. I had already heard of almost all of these issues. The difference was, I hadn’t spent very much time looking closely at them, and had been placated by the superficial apologetics that were doled out at church or by well-meaning friends. And when those answers still seemed insufficient, I was able to say more blithely to myself, “Well, someday we’ll know all the answers.” The bloggernacle just forced me to look more closely at the problematic areas, and to question the reasoning and the evidence behind the apologetic answers. The closer I look, the more the evidence seems to stack up against the truthfulness of the church, or at least my traditional understanding of it.)

    I’d like to just leave with a cheery wave good-bye, but I still struggle to make sense of the several very powerful and real (to me) spiritual experiences I’ve had. They’re enough to make me think that maybe there’s something here that is real, something that does connect me to the divine. But I think I can only survive as a member if I completely rethink every assumption I’ve ever held. It’s as though my beautiful house was destroyed in a natural disaster; now I’m at the state where I need to rebuild from the ground up, and the house is never going to look the same.

    If I could erase this crisis and go back to the way things were, I would not do it. I do not wish to hold false beliefs. I do not wish to be a complacent part of accepting and transmitting those ideas to my children and the people around me. I think there is a chance that I may come through this process a little bit wiser, and perhaps even ultimately grow closer to God. Maybe I can eventually come to a more complex but more accurate understanding of his gospel. I think this has been an important part of my personal growth, but it has been agonizing.

    It does help me to know there are intelligent members of the church out there who have struggled with these questions, and have managed to stay. Reading the ways they’ve thought about these issues is helpful, and gives me hope that I might be able to stay and continue to grow in my intellectual and spiritual understanding of the gospel.

    I don’t really know how this story will turn out. But my point is, no, it’s not “just blogging.”

  81. Rosalynde Welch
    January 11, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    Yeeps, D., that brings an entirely new meaning to recipes in my file like “Mama’s White Bread” and “Grandma’s Apple Pie.”

  82. Sideshow
    January 11, 2006 at 4:59 pm

    Many readers, few participants — for me, the sheer volume of comments discourages me from commenting. I’d rather not try to shout in such a noisy room and the numerous “lurkers” like me probably feel similarly. I do, however, have something which seems like it would be helpful to readers to say.

    To D. Fletcher and other “information control” types: much better access to information does change the nature of how we deal with information, the emphasis lying more on evaluation and less on gathering now. However, attempting to revert to making the gathering harder again would not solve the problem. I think educating people in how to evaluate information is a much better alternative. One way to do this is by constantly referring to the evaluation of information in blogs and comments. If someone mentions a study in their post or comments, get references. Discuss what it really means and really does not. People who run across bloggers spending time evaluating information will catch on quickly that they should do the same, and you’ll be helping grow solid testimonies, not protecting fragile ones. And when did the church depend on fragile testimonies for its survival? That’s the beauty of a real testimony — it’s not fragile. No matter what I’ve encountered on the Net, God has told me that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true.

    And you’d think a church which claims to have the whole truth should welcome the massive spread of its availability, not fear it. I feel information can be harmful, but more when it’s limited than when it’s not. Ronan’s comment about the Joseph Smith site leaving polygamy out illustrates this. I’ve definitely chosen the “experience over innocence” path in my own life and I don’t doubt some should not, but in general I think most people would benefit from complete exposure to accurate information. We cannot ensure the accuracy of all information on the Net, but because there will always be those who spread lies, our responsibility towards others is not to shield them but to help them overcome it when they encounter it. People who want protection from information will not be the ones roaming the Internet.

    However, as D. Fletcher notes, it is important to consider the ramifications of what you write, especially online. I hope others take time to develop their comments and make meaningful and clear statements. After all, even indiscriminate references to gouda may be used against you years from now.

  83. January 11, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    Interesting post and comments. I fall on the side of those who think blogging matters. I’ve been watching some of the Alito hearings and Alito is getting grilled over the inclusion of a conservative group in his application for a job. I try to imagine how a blogger would survive under that kind of scrutiny … and I think of the many foolish things i’ve said in blog comments over the past three years.

    I’ve sometimes thought of writing a piece on what I’ve learned from blogging. I’ve learned some positive lessons … maybe many positive lessons.

  84. January 11, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    Continuing the food threadjack (or perhaps it is just a side thread): Julie (#71), Jamie Oliver saw the abysmal food that children ate in school lunchrooms–high in carbs and fat, low in nutrition–and he went on a crusade, using his television shows and public position to crusade for better school lunches. The result was that Parliament gave more money to the school lunch program, and even more significantly, new standards were set for the nutritional expectations of school lunch. Oliver spent some time cooking school lunches for real schools to show that it could be done.

    Russell (#75): Yes, I’m a Food TV junkie. Janice watches Court TV. I watch Food TV, a couple of news programs, and the occasional PBS special (especially if it has to do with food). Sorry to confess that, at least in this regard, I’m a complete yuppie: watch Food TV, buy kitchen gadgets, talk about food, read food history, teach food history, look for unusual foods to try, look for good restaurants.

  85. D. Fletcher
    January 11, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    I dunno Dan; most of your foolish comments seem unredeemable to me.


  86. smb
    January 11, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    I have to agree with Noman this time.
    Shepherd’s Pie is a) gross to eat, and b) sad to think about the poor people reduced to eating it historically. Of course, the church authorities have not clearly specified how we should feel about Shepherd’s Pie, and so I think we should debate what that silence means.

  87. Laura W
    January 11, 2006 at 6:03 pm

    I was leaning towards arguing for “just blogging” along the lines of Elisabeth’s logic in #24 an #33. For me blogging is something I turn on and off, I see it as a fun way to pass a few hours. That was until I read the comparison of blogging and the internet to using a Ham Radio in #36.

    My grandfather, who was blind by the time I was born, was a Ham Radio operator. It was his only way to “go out into the world” without assistance since he was unable to drive, or even walk to an unfamiliar location. When my grandmother passed away and he moved to an assisted living facility, the one thing he insisted upon was being able to set up his radio equipment.

    Despite the fact that he never met most of these people in person, when he passed away we were inundated with cards, flowers and memories from his friends from the airwaves. It was clear that they considered my grandfather a good friend and that they brought him companionship and comfort when he needed them most.

    Just for that, I have to agree that blogging can be a lot more than “just blogging”.

  88. January 11, 2006 at 6:49 pm

    I’d have to go with “I Confess.” The lyrics never fail to crack me up. “Yes, I confess, I’ve ruined three lives/Did not care until I found out that one of them was mine…”

  89. January 11, 2006 at 7:37 pm

    Man, the thread has gone wild here..!

    As a convert with no other members in my extended family, my faith was challenged and went through a crisis- especially when people I loved started throwing the yuckier things from church history at me, and I felt duped. HOWEVER, after checking out of the “nacle for a while to take a break, when I came back, I found most of these sites helped me find my faith again. (Especially Jeff Linday’s Mormanity- wish I could hug him) It helped me to see what seem to be reasonably intelligent people wrestling with and discussing the battle with their own spirituality and doubts.

    We need to be able to get answers to our questions. We need to have someone to ask when we feel we cannot ask someone we know. This forum provides that place. Yes, there is a danger of crossing the line at times, however, isn’t that all part of the mortal experience anyway?

    I, for one, am very glad for this and other forums like it. Thanks everyone.

  90. annegb
    January 11, 2006 at 7:39 pm

    Ronan#44–I worry about this same thing! A little differently, I think we are all hooked up to computers having a virtual experience and it’s different for everyone. Like my annoying neighbor is nice and I am the annoying neighbor. And then an angel will come in at the time of “death” and say, “time’s up, hon. Check for your scores on Friday.”

  91. Jack
    January 11, 2006 at 7:50 pm

    tracy m,

    I like that fact that even when the answers canNOT be found, there are still a lot of really smart folks around here who keep on believing.

  92. Kaimi Wenger
    January 11, 2006 at 8:31 pm


    Well if you had to meet a Brit, I hope that at least you didn’t let him try to pawn off any mushy peas on you.


    One of the great benefits of becoming a law professor has been greatly expanded time for breakfast with the children. Nowadays, our Sunday breakfast most weeks is pancakes, fried eggs, hash browns, and bacon and/or ham and/or sausage. I have no complaints, and neither do the kids. :)


    You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity.


    Thanks for quoting the show tunes. One can never have too many show tunes quotes on blog.

  93. S P Bailey
    January 11, 2006 at 8:32 pm

    Coming to this very late. To me, it is “just blogging.” I have been educated in the bloggernacle. And I have been exposed to some undeniably impressive people here. But the community and grand importance claims don’t ring true to me.

    Regarding content: generally blog content is superficial and repetitive, while the ultimate product is rather ephemeral.

    Regarding community: it strikes me as very cold. Good comments frequently go completely unacknowleged and the desire to be heard seems to dramatically overwhelm the willingness to listen and hear others. The community claims may be much stronger when it comes to in-person parties between bloggers and personal emails between bloggernacle insiders. But the bloggernacle is stratified in an unsatisfying way: looking at the bloggernacle from something like Rawls’ Original Position (if you could choose any community not knowing what your position in that community would be, which would you choose?), it is far from ideal.

    Regarding priorities and a rough cost-benefit analysis: generally everything else in my life wins out: family, actual church (as opposed to endless talk about church), work, etc. Compared to these activities, the return on time invested in blogging can’t compete. And when I want to learn or express myself, reading or writing something more carefully and thoughtfully composed–something less empheral–will always pay more in the end.

    I value blogging and the bloggernacle for what it is. But “what it is” is very limited in my view.

  94. Kaimi Wenger
    January 11, 2006 at 8:33 pm


    Wow. Thank you for sharing. I’m sorry that the blogs have had that effect on you. The effect that they’ve had don me has been more varied. At times, it’s been testimony-shaking. At times, testimony-reinforcing. At times, a little of both.

    I wish that my blog could lead to only good things for everyone, but that’s not going to happen. I know this, but I still feel responsible. I’m sorry if I contributed at all to a world-shaking series of events for you. I hope that you can regain your footing and find a worldview that works for you.

    I find some comfort myself in what you note (see also Jack and Tracy, 89 and 91) about smart people being aboard. But that’s a pretty thin reed. I hope that you find a way through this, to whatever destination is best for you and your family.

    If there’s anything I can do for you, let me know.

  95. jane doe
    January 11, 2006 at 9:46 pm

    Dear Kaimi –

    Thank you for your kind and empathetic response. I’m sorry if I made you feel guilty for my personal struggles. I don’t see anyone else as being responsible for this. It’s an intensely personal thing – interpreting my own spiritual experiences in light of troubling facts, trying to decide what to make of the conflict. Like I said, I wouldn’t go back and undo this. I feel like it’s an important part of my growing up. Painful, but necessary. Ignorance might be bliss, but it’s not the path to wisdom. I think that’s one message I took from the Adam and Eve story. (Not that I’m claiming any current wisdom – just hoping to find some). Anyway, thanks for responding. It does make me feel better to know someone is listening and cares.

  96. annegb
    January 11, 2006 at 9:58 pm

    Jane Doe, your post scares me to death. Because I sit here, typing into my monitor, I do not see faces and individuals. The ones I have become attached to and feel friends with, I feel safe posting without regard to the response. I can go with my gut.

    But the thought that there are people out there who read, seldom or never comment, and possibly take something I say to heart is overwhelming. If I ever had a reason to quit blogging, it would be that fear that I might injure someone unintentionally. I still don’t understand the magnitude.

    Sometimes I will get an e-mail from someone I have never heard of, thanking me for my posts.

    Hmmm…..I wonder why no one has told me where to go. Probably just waiting to happen.

    I digress.

    Jane, my e-mail is [email protected] I would like to be your friend. I can’t fix what you are struggling with, but I would do whatever I could to be moral support.

    Although, I must say, my e-mail correspondences don’t last very long. I warn you, I always answer e-mails. I can be a menace. If I can help, though, I want to.

    Blessings on you, plagarized by Amy Grant, but isn’t it a great goodbye?

  97. January 11, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    jane doe, it seems that we use similar metaphores. You might like the recent post I wrote for LDSLF.

  98. jane doe
    January 11, 2006 at 10:45 pm

    AnneGB – Your fear is exactly why I rarely comment. I’m terrified of the ramifications of putting my thoughts out there into the vast void of cyberspace. (Well, that, and the fear of looking stupid, the desire to maintain my privacy, and the general distaste for contention.) I’m not sure why I’m braving it today – maybe I feel like I’ve reached rock bottom, and feel like I can’t make things much worse at this point. If it makes you feel better, you are one of the commenters who always brings a smile to my face, and has never said anything to fuel my angst. :-)

    J. Stapley – I had to laugh. If there’s a resemblance in our metaphors, it’s due to subconscious plagiarism on my part, since I’ve already read your excellent and beautiful essay. It did resonate, and gave me hope that I might come through this and find a way to stay here in the church, which has always been my home. I would really like that.

  99. Rosalynde Welch
    January 11, 2006 at 11:31 pm

    Jane—and all other silent but very real readers who identify with your experiences—

    The anxious mother in me wants to sit you right down in front of a steaming bowl of rich, nourishing spiritual stew—maybe a curry, in fact—and then top you off with a big piece of shepherd’s… er, strawberry pie. Of course I can’t do that, but I wish it for you. I haven’t plumbed the spiritual depths you have, I don’t think, but I can’t say for sure why I haven’t or that I won’t. I have, however, tasted the richness and sweetness of the gospel, and, like I said, I wish that for you. The Shepherd’s pie might not satisfy, but his bread and water will.

    Like anne said Amy Grant said, blessings on you.

  100. January 11, 2006 at 11:31 pm

    I agree with Sarebear and AnneGB that what we say here is more than “just blogging”. But I would suppose that like most things, you get out of it what you put into it.

    I have been blogging for a little over a year now. My original intent was to try to keep in touch with my widely dispersed family.

    Blogging has also provided me an outlet for sharing my thoughts, impressions, and feelings as well. I have always enjoyed writing, and blogging has given me the opportunity to not only write, but to share my thoughts with others as well.

    Along the way, I have become “acquainted” with some fellow bloggers with whom I share many common values and interests. It has been fun to “meet” these people, and share comments back and forth on our blogs. It has been an enriching experience, and I value the on-line friendships that have developed.

    Often times I have seen fellow bloggers gathering around someone who is suffering and struggling, with words of encouragement, hope, and faith. I have seen such communications coming with a true spirit of charity and love, with a desire to uplift and build one another.

    There have been those who have helped and strengthened me, and I have received feedback from others who have been helped by some of my words.

    I was disturbed by the whole “Banner of Heaven” fiasco. Fortunately I never really got involved with it in any way. My experience has been that blogging under false pretences has been the exception, rather than the rule — at least with the blogs that I frequent.

    The same rules of personal responsibility and accountability for our interactions with others apply just as much to what we do and say on the blogosphere as any other facet of our “real” lives. Our conduct should be with the same amount of respect, integrity, and civility as you would expect in any other kind of human interaction.

    When we publish something on our blogs, or in commenting upon others’ blogs, we cannot help but have an impact, for good or ill. We cannot just flippantly dismiss our actions as “just blogging”. We are accountable for what we publish.

    Should we find those who do not live up to those standards, then its time to use our own good judgment, and find others with which to associate who will hold to the same high standards we expect. If we maintain our own high standards, and associate with others of equally high standards, then we will find our blogosphere experience a positive one, from which many good things can happen.

  101. Julie M. Smith
    January 11, 2006 at 11:46 pm

    jane doe–

    Consider yourself group-hugged by all of the permabores. Thanks for letting us see a slice of your life, and we hope you’ll stick around and keep commenting.

    While we have a very strict policy against unsolicited guest posts, if there is a topic that you need to discuss (or watch others discuss), send one of us an email and we just might happen to write a post about it.

  102. January 11, 2006 at 11:59 pm

    Ohh! I was just thinking about this same thing Geoff, I’m so glad you wrote this. I agree, when people are involved, relationships are involved, especially when spirituality is involved, then it’s not “just” anything.

  103. January 12, 2006 at 12:22 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I totally relate to your experience. I had to start from scratch myself. Only I discovered blogging during the rebuild stage rather than the destruction phase. It’s been vitally important to me.

    Also, Like Anne, please feel free to email me if there’s anything I can do to help. And I’d also love feedback from you about how fMh has played into this process, for good and for bad. I like to think we’re doing a good thing, it’s been good for me personally, but I’d like to know what the larger impact is.

  104. January 12, 2006 at 12:57 am

    My work is centered in the nexus that forms around the concepts of “narrative identity,” “narrative intelligence,” and “narrative environment.”

    I’m quite sure that how and what we communicate with one another is never a trivial matter. Our scriptures are full of guidelines to help us understand this.

    I like this site because it seems so sophisticated–in comparison to many other blogs I read–in understanding that a community to a large extent is its communication. What is done here matters.

  105. January 12, 2006 at 2:16 am

    Sideshow: Many readers, few participants — for me, the sheer volume of comments discourages me from commenting. I’d rather not try to shout in such a noisy room and the numerous “lurkers� like me probably feel similarly.

    Big blogs in our community have that effect on some folks. If you are interested in conversationsin a more intimate setting, try some of the smaller ‘nacle blogs here. They don’t all match the tone and quality of T&S, but there is some good stuff there too.

    I appreciate and agree with the ideas you presented in #82

    Jane Doe — What a great example of the point I was trying to make. We posters and commenters ought to consider the souls that our comments and posts might effect positively or negatively. If it helps, I have often harped on personal revelation as the only reliable solution and rock to deal with the spiritual winds and storns you refer to (I’ll post on that later). As much as I like our littIe community, I recommend you spend a lot of time with God himself on these things…

    S P Bailey — I think that it is true of any community; that only after we get deeply involved with the other people do we really feel connected. There is nothing magical about blogging that makes people care — just like one could feel totally disconnected from a ward or neighborhood. My point is that for those of us that invest ourselves here, there are real friendships, real soul-moving experiences, and there is real community — just as real as offline communities.

  106. January 12, 2006 at 8:40 am

    GeoffJ, you have been Snarked:

    Brian, anything silly you do write will be used against you by the Snarker. Whether you understand, or not.

    Julie M. Smith, we are just so flattered to have you as a reader. Tickled pink, really. I mean, not all of the permabloggers at T&S are permabores, just the boring ones.

    Kaimi, tommorrow I\’ll use an IP address from Germany, so if you want to spread this one around, hurry up and post it to A*…I mean…errrrm…M*.

  107. Adam Greenwood
    January 12, 2006 at 8:44 am

    SP Bailey,
    right on.

  108. January 12, 2006 at 9:10 am

    Is it just blogging? No; it’s not even that.

    What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. Isaiah 40:6-8

  109. Nate Oman
    January 12, 2006 at 9:40 am

    jane doe: I hope that you can find peace and a world view that not only works for you, but also keeps you as an active participant in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It needs you. I seriously doubt that I have anything of value to say to you, but I find that it is worth remembering that my direct spiritual experiences of the divine are at least as real (and much more so in my opionion) than struggles with any historical or doctrinal issue. In looking for a new world view, it is also worth remembering that that Church doesn’t have to be perfectly inspired, only inspired enough to fufill God’s purposes. Please email ([email protected]) me if there is anything that I can do for you.

  110. jane doe
    January 12, 2006 at 3:56 pm

    Thank you everyone for your kindness.

    This is my last comment for awhile. I just wanted to share one scripture that struck terror in my heart the first time I thought about blogging. “But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37)

    I feel like the possible ramifications of blogging to a potentially very large and unknown audience make this caution even more vital.

  111. Kaimi Wenger
    January 12, 2006 at 4:53 pm

    Thank you for coming by, Jane. I’m sorry to hear that you won’t be commenting for a little while — I hope that you continue to lurk, and perhaps even comment sometimes if and when you can. I’m impressed with the level of thought that you give to your comments, and I’m glad that you’ve commented on this thread. Feel free to drop a line to me or to any of the group (hah – there I go volunteering my co-bloggers) if you’d like.

  112. Adam Greenwood
    January 12, 2006 at 5:08 pm

    Thanks for the reminder, Jane Doe.

  113. anon
    January 13, 2006 at 5:07 pm

    Jane: there’s some great language in James’s Varieties of Religious Experience about the horror at the abyss of atheism as a person recants belief in God. No matter how you dress it up, it’s pretty painful. You might be surprised how many people stay in the church and find great pleasure in it even while finding the apologetic literature inaccurate. How many people you bump into at church or in these blogs. Some of them find the satisfaction they treasured in their old vision of the Church in a culturally Mormon theism that is heavily informed by the relationships they have with God and the people they love. Some of them find the experiences you mention sufficient to keep them around. You will not necessarily see these people running the church, but I suspect you will find them around you in heaven, which may yet turn out to be a surprisingly big place.

    I remember a college experience like yours, that devastating sense of loss so much like bereavement. I ended up staying, however complexly, and feel great about it. Best of luck finding your path, whatever direction it takes. I found that reconnecting with the core of my prior spiritual experiences was most helpful for me (family, service, nature, good poetry).

  114. annegb
    January 13, 2006 at 9:33 pm

    You know, Jane, and everybody, when I start feeling that hopeless feeling, I ask myself, “if one of my children was having a problem like this, how would I feel about them?” And the answer is I would love them entirely and only want their happiness and safety and I would do anything to help them get there. I wouldn’t say, “For heaven’s sake, can’t you get it together?”

    If I, who am the most flawed person I know, can be nice, HELLO, God is nicer. I don’t think we should take one scripture to heart. I don’t think God gives a hoot if we have doubts, I think He celebrates the inner struggle and He’s there for us, cheering us on all the way.

    I can hear Him saying, “uh, no that’s not it, just try again, dear, you’ll get it. I love you. Want a hug?” And He stays around.

  115. Elisabeth Calvert Smith
    January 13, 2006 at 11:48 pm

    Wow, annegb. Your comment is wonderful. Thank you very much for sharing that with me. I needed to hear that tonight.

  116. Seth Rogers
    January 15, 2006 at 4:02 pm

    RE: SP Bailey (#93)

    Little cold huh?

    Funny, your description of the bloggernacle actually resembles my experience of middle school pretty well. So no, I don’t see that interactions here are any more superficial than our real life interactions.

    As far as fear of putting thoughts in cyberspace … the problem is that even if I wanted to shut up, I can’t. I have a lot of pent up desire to put my thoughts in writing and it’s gotta find expression somewhere.

    I’ve enjoyed the short year I’ve been participating here quite a bit. But yes, I’m pretty sure I’ve ruined any chance I ever had of running for political office.

  117. annegb
    January 15, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    I’d vote for you, Seth.

    I thought you were an old-timer. I always read your posts. We are the same age, blogically speaking!

    This is not a superficial experience for me at all. No offense to anybody for whom it is.

    And yes, middle school sucks. It’s a wonder that so many boys make it through middle school alive.

  118. D. Fletcher
    January 16, 2006 at 5:14 pm

    Julie! You promised you would respond to my thoughts here, but you never did.

  119. Joseph Stanford
    January 18, 2006 at 1:49 am

    I am relatively new to the bloggernacle, if I have that term right, and I honestly don’t know how long I will last. At times I am elated and edified, when I see a thoughtful discussion on an important point or consider an important perspective that I would not have otherwise done; at times I am a little annoyed, when I have to wade through tangential extended chit chat in trying to follow a thread; at times I am frustrated and angry, when I find I have just spent several hours that have impinged painfully on something else that is more worthwhile in my “real” life (time with family, exercising, reading, talking to someone in the flesh, serving, working, sleeping). I do see the merit in being able to connect to people to whom you could not otherwise connect. I value even more highly open, honest, respectful discussion among people who hold different opinions. I see a fair amount of that on T&S, so I like that a lot. But I am still not sure what I think of the public nature of what sometimes may be better conducted as a private conversation. Most of all, I just can’t get my head around the sheer volume of what’s out there (on T&S and the rest of the bloggernacle) already. Where do you all get the time for this?

  120. annegb
    January 18, 2006 at 9:13 am

    Good question, Joseph. I used to wonder that, also. I personally had time to burn, but now I’m working, I have to get up early :).

  121. January 18, 2006 at 10:39 am

    Where do you all get the time for this?

    Good point Joseph. Having or making time is a prerequisite for steady bloggernacle participation — but I think that is true for any community we involve ourselves in. For me, I backed off on other hobbies (sports watching, tv watching, and sports column reading for example) and replaced it with this participation in this community. Not everyone can or should do the same of course. The ‘nacle ain’t for everyone (though we welcome all who come).

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