Church Doctrine is Like the Bloggernacle

Bored in VernalBloggernacle, doctrine 13 Comments

Bloggernacle aficionados have been trying to define our little corner of the internet for years now. Everyone has a vague idea of what the term encompasses, and some stand ready to provide a concise definition, but it somehow resists pinning down. In this way, the bloggernacle is quite like Mormon doctrine* itself.

In a serious attempt to provide a working definition of the Bloggernacle, DMIDave wrote:

A Working Definition of “the Bloggernacle”

Blog•ger•nac•le \’blä-gur-na-kul\ noun [shortened from Bloggernacle Choir] (2004) 1:The set of all personal weblogs that host discussions of Mormon-related topics from a relatively faithful perspective.

In this definition Dave excluded, among others, blogs by institutions which seek to further their institutional mission or agenda, and blogs that do not have a “relatively faithful perspective.” This definition, while helpful, leaves plenty of room for argument among Mormon bloggers.

In the past year, we have seen the arrival of many Mormon “Mommy bloggers” on the internet. Some of these blogs are limited to chatty accounts of daily activities and pictures of sunny, smiling children. They are considered outside the pale of the Bloggernacle because they deal with personal subjects which do not apply to all participants. But some of the Mommy blogs include discussion of Mormon topics. And some of the Mommy bloggers have close connections (spouses) to important Bloggernacle personalities. Therefore some people include them as part of their personal Bloggernacle definition, and some do not.

Mormon doctrines which are similar to the Mommy blogs might be teachings such as:

Male Priesthood holders should wear white shirts to Church, and especially when passing the sacrament.

To some this instruction may seem to be simply a practice which is not mandatory or applicable to all situations. But to others, this is a part of their “Bloggernacle.” Both Jeffrey R. Holland and Dallin H. Oaks have equated this to the wearing of white clothing during sacred rites such as baptism or temple ordinances. Since apostolic authorities have taught this practice within the formal purlieu of General Conference, it is included within many members’ body of doctrine.

Other blogs which are often excluded from the Bloggernacle are professional blogs. But there is a great deal of overlap from these blogs, too, making their inclusion in our genre debatable. When Dave’s post was written, he specifically excluded blogs such as Sunstone blog from his personal conception of the Bloggernacle because of its corporate connection. But this calls into question blogs such as Segullah, which is also affiliated with a professional journal, yet is firmly ensconsed within the hearts of many of the Mormon bloggers. Closely related are “commercial” blogs–those which allow advertising on their sites. Should these types of blogs be included in a set of personal weblogs? I think the controversy here lies in how the blogging is implemented. Closely related in terms of Mormon doctrine are issues such as:

How shall tithing, fast offerings, home teaching, temple attendance be executed?

This can greatly differ from ward to ward, individual to individual, but some consider their particular way of doing it the most correct.

There are blogs whose authors do not participate elsewhere in the Bloggernacle. Thus, they are overlooked though their blogs may fit the definition above stated. Conversely, there are blogs which may be included only because their author is a well-known commenter on the big blogs. I will compare this to doctrines which have been taught in the past and have now fallen out of favor, such as:

The planet Kolob is a planet close to the actual location of the residence of God.

or the prohibition against birth control. Or things which are now taught that never were in the past such as not having multiple piercings. These types of things find varying degrees of favor among active Mormons.

There are many doctrinal issues which are nebulous in the LDS Church. They range from the inconsequential, like whether members should use the cross as a religious symbol, to the deeply theological. Does it disturb you that there is great disagreement among members on such issues as the following:

  • The possibility of movement between kingdoms in the hereafter
  • Whether polygamy is practiced in the celestial kingdom
  • Whether sin can be completely forgiven, as it it had never happened, or if it leaves a mark
  • God is living in or out of time
  • How to reconcile teachings of past prophets and present prophets
  • The nature of the Fall
  • The nature of the Atonement
  • Whether ethnic groups such as Polynesians or Native Americans have Lamanite blood

Observing the degree of disagreement and the intense emotional reactions which occurred during our recent Niblet thread makes me wonder what it might take to set off a similar reaction in the Church concerning doctrine. Early Church apostles actually came to blows over differences in doctrinal views.  Exactly how unified are our current set of Church authorities on the above issues? Is it to our benefit or detriment that these doctrines are left undefined and nebulous?

*For the purposes of this post I define “doctrine” as a body of teachings, principles or policies taught or advocated by a religion. Think: the many topics which merit inclusion in Bruce R. McConkie’s “Mormon Doctrine.”

Comments 13

  1. BIV:

    Great thoughts. I hope that the Bloggernacle is merely an empirical testament to the fact that Latter-day Saints embrace diversity of thought and individuality of expression. Traditionally, the LDS as a group have resisted creeds and catechisms. Again, I hope this resistance is because our religious society has degrees of freedom. It seems the LDS are open to learning and to new revelation, and those processes need to take place NOT only at the Church level but at the individual level.

    While I am happy to strive to be like Jesus, I feel NO NEED or desire to be like every other Latter-day Saint, in terms of behavior or belief. The latter would be impossible, in any case.

    Latter-day Saints are not sheep and are not homogenized. We are a world Church that embraces a wide variety of cultures and ideas. Yes, there are foundational ideas, but they carry with them a lot of latitude.

    Am I off base?

  2. “Am I off base?”

    Quite the contrary, S. Faux. You’re right on. Reminds me of Elder Wirthlin’s talk “Concern for the One”. He addressed “the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.”

  3. Good idea, reese. Or maybe we can just elect a president of the Bloggernacle, and she or he can decide who’s in and who’s out. Now let’s see . . . who should we distribute ballots to? Never mind; I guess that would require a firm definition of the Bloggernacle.

    I like your thoughts, BiV. I’ve been thinking about this issue too, and you’ve spurred me to come up with another comparison. (Sorry for the tangent.) How about the Bloggernacle is like Christianity? Different Christians have different ideas about who does and doesn’t qualify, and of course this raises the question of who appointed them to be the guardians of the term. But of course there’s also merit to the argument that if it’s defined too broadly–is Hinduism Christianity?–then it loses meaning.

    Similarly, we Bloggernacle participants each have our own definition of what’s part of the Bloggernacle and what’s not, and while there’s likely a lot of overlap between our ideas, there are also sure to be idiosyncratic parts as well. And the same question can be raised: who appointed us (or anyone) to be guardians of the term? How are we so sure that anyone defining the term qualifies as in or out in the first place?

    I understand one of the arguments against Mormonism being defined as Christian is historical: it’s outside the historical chain of Catholicism and Protestantism. I wonder if you could do a similar thing with the Bloggernacle, that is, use a historical criterion to decide who’s in and who’s out. Perhaps it could be defined as the set of all blogs that traces their roots to some small set of “original” Mormon blogs (T&S, FMH, etc.). I know ZD, for example, was inspired largely by FMH, as well as by T&S and BCC. (I’ve borrowed this idea from Ardis, who suggested representing the Bloggernacle graphically to show which blogs were inspired by or offshoots of which others).

    Of course, there are problems with this approach, as blogs can start without being inspired by existing Bloggernacle blogs, and then be integrated later.

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  5. I also have to thank Sister Beck for my lurking and participating in the bloggernacle as well. It seems like I read an article in a newspaper about the number of responses in a site known as Feminist Mormon Housewives to a well known conference address that involved a story about ironing a child’s dress.

    I looked it up out of sheer curiosity. I was unsure whether or not I was welcome to contribute comments, so I just lurked. Then I started hitting the links and somehow found my way here.

    I agree with #1. I know there was joking about a decision making body for the bloggernacle, but there is an authority held by some to delete comments and to decide who can post and perhaps remove somebody from posting. Removing somebody from posting could be viewed as making “final decisions on these types of conflicts”.

  6. >>”Exactly how unified are our current set of Church authorities on the above issues?”

    I have it on good authority that certain unnamed members of the 12 once cornered Elder Bednar and gave him an atomic wedgie because of his dissenting view on the location of Kolob.

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  8. “There is an unwritten order of things in the bloggernacle . . .

    Hilarious. And as with all things unwritten, only about half the folks involved are ever going to agree the unwritten order actually exists; the other half is going to think it’s all bollocks.

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    S. Faux, I wanted to address your comment when I had time to actually think about it. It may sound very nice for us to say that “Latter-day Saints embrace diversity of thought and individuality of expression.” But is that really desirable when we are talking about doctrine? I think of some of the conversations that go on at New Cool Thang about atonement and eternal progression and time–and I wonder how it is that our Church has been unable to come to any consensus on these things. If we do indeed have any theologians working on Latter-day Saint answers to these questions, they are far removed from our GAs and their ponderings have no vehicle to get to the general membership of the Church. Is a Church which claims to have direct channels of revelation through modern Prophets and Apostles supposed to be so ambiguous and unclear on these subjects?

  10. I think it’s clear from the Niblets voting post that the bloggernacle is whatever Steve Evans says it is — nothing more, nothing less.

  11. BIV:

    I am of the opinion that there are many “ambiguous and unclear” gospel topics, and I think it is a good thing for us (that is, the LDS) to struggle with them. There are also “fundamental” doctrines that should unify Latter-day Saints, but I don’t think those doctrines are a long list. Think about the questions asked during a temple recommend interview. They are pretty minimalist. We LDS can’t and don’t agree with each other on everything. We do need Apostles and Prophets to establish boundaries, but I think one of their primary jobs is to get us reading the scriptures and thinking for ourselves. The Holy Ghost can guide us, and ultimately we will be brought to a unity of the truth. But, we are far from that point currently. The Bloggernacle is a living testament of the broad range of thinking among loyal Latter-day Saints.

    Some degrees of freedom are important. For example, I am glad I have the freedom to study and teach evolution. I realize this topic drives some of the LDS nuts, but there are also a LOT of LDS scientists (like SteveP) who take the topic completely seriously, and who do NOT see much disharmony in the topic. Again, I see this diversity of thought as good.

    I am just stating an opinion, and I am glad I have the freedom to do so.

    By the way, I love YOUR diversity of thought. You have a distinct voice, and I am glad you express it.

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