Lessons Learned (aka Thanks, Bloggernacle!)

Shawn LarsenBloggernacle, BYU, christianity, church, inter-faith, Mormon 13 Comments

Unfortunately, a confluence of factors — vacation, increased tasks at work trying to make up for said vacation, shuttling daughters to and from various summer activities — has kept me out of the Mormon Matters community over the past few weeks. This isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened to me. In every long-distance friendship, I’m the one who forgets to make the phone call, who doesn’t return the e-mail, and who eventually drops out of communication altogether, leaving the other party to the friendship wondering, “I wonder what happened to that dude.” Long story, short: don’t take it personally, friends. It’s me, not you πŸ™‚

Predictably, in my absence (which has been both busy and enjoyable), I have found myself missing our on-line conversation. Not so predictably, however. this feeling has led me to think quite a bit about (1) what keeps me coming back to MM and, more generally, to the Bloggernacle, and (2) what have I gained as a result of my participation. The first question is easy to answer — it’s the intellectual, emotional and, yes, spiritual stimulation I receive from the discussion. The second question, however, stuck in craw my quite some time. But, after much consideration, it boils to a simple, one-word answer . . .


That’s right — I said that blogging, especially Mormon blogging, has taught me tolerance. I know that, given the heated exchanges seen here from time to time (can you say “same sex marriage”), that idea may sound funny, but let me explain myself.

I was born into the Church, my family was all active, and growing up in Las Vegas, there were plenty of other Mormon kids in my schools. One negative by-product of this otherwise great upbringing is that my exposure to ways of life and thinking other than my own was limited. Sure, like everyone else, I had friends who were not LDS and who engaged all manner of teenage debauchery. But, while many of them were lapsed something-or-other, none of them espoused any sort of cognizable faith or spiritualism. I was an undergraduate at BYU and well, let’s just say that it’s not necessarily the best place for gaining an appreciation of differing points of view. I went to law school in Ohio, but I had my head crammed so far up my torts book that I had no time for spiritual maturation.

So I think its truthful to say that it wasn’t until a few years ago, when I first discovered the Bloggernacle, that I began to explore what others mean when they say “I am a Mormon” or “I am a [fill in the blank].” I have to say it was an eye-opening experience. For the noob, the web is chock full of troubling facts about the Church, ranging from Adam-God Theology to Zelph. I’d be lying if I said these bits of information didn’t send my head reeling more than once. For many folks, this is a deal-breaker of an experience; I’ve had friends lose their faith based on what they have learned through blogs, and you probably do to (heck, maybe it happened to you).

Funny enough, I have found my involvement in the Bloggernacle to be an overall faith-promoting, rather than a faith-killing, proposition. Over the years, I have heard from jack Mormons, conservative Mormons, liberal Mormons, Iron Rod Mormons, Liahona Mormons, New Order Mormons, Buddhist-Mormons, social Mormons, cultural Mormons, gay Mormons, anti-Mormons, Sunstone Mormons, Ex-Mos, and TBMs. And while I have not always agreed with their points of view, I feel blessed to have been able to get to know them through their words and to learn from their experiences. Looking at my spiritual life now, I like to think that I am more open to differing points of view that I have been, and that I see Mormonism in particular as a much bigger tent than I ever did in the past. In other words, I feel more Christian in my attitudes towards my fellow man. I credit this new perspective chiefly to the Bloggernacle, and especially to MM. Thanks to you all for your (albeit unwitting) role in this transformation. I’m looking forward to jumping back into the waters with both feet.

To that end, here’s my Friday question for you all: what is the most important thing/lesson you have learned from your participation either here at MM, or in the larger world of the Bloggernacle? On the whole, has it been a positive or a negative experience for your spirituality? How has your involvement altered, if it has, your view of Mormonism and other Mormons.

Comments 13

  1. I don’t know it changed my view so much. My experience has been a little different. For me, it makes me feel less alone. I’m not the only whacko out there :-). I mean that in a loving and endearing way. I’m not the only one who can’t stop asking “why,” who won’t just leave things alone, who needs to dig further and further.

    I learn very little by listening to people who agree with me and think the same. I want to be surrounded by people who will challenge my ideas and stretch my limits.

  2. 1) What is the most important thing/lesson you have learned from your participation either here at MM, or in the larger world of the Bloggernacle?

    That my wicked sense of humor doesn’t translate very well sometimes in print. Seriously, I almost blew it when I first started blogging in the ‘Nacle. I jumped into some banter going on over at BCC among people who knew each other from years of blogging and started to throw my own humorous barbs into the mix. Problem was, nobody knew me – so I ended up offending a few people who couldn’t see my smile. I also didn’t realize how some of my comments came across, and I am grateful to Steve Evans for pointing it out to me. It changed the way that I express my humor – and helped me begin to eliminate sarcasm from much of my non-blogging communications, as well.

    2) On the whole, has it been a positive or a negative experience for your spirituality?

    I’m not sure it has had a direct impact on me spiritually, but it certainly has brought friendships that I cherish. It also has brought fascinating insights from multiple perspectives, and I also cherish that. It has not hurt me spiritually; that’s for sure.

    3) How has your involvement altered, if it has, your view of Mormonism and other Mormons.

    It hasn’t altered my view, but it has broadened my understanding – and that’s a wonderful thing to me.

    Obviously, given how much I comment around the Bloggernacle, I must enjoy it. I am going to have to cut back a bit on the overall commenting soon, for a number of reasons, and I am fine with that (as I’m sure others will be, as well), but I do it because I love doing it.

  3. Here is specifically what I have learned;

    1. There are many more POVs regarding the church and doctrine than I thought when I joined. What attracted me to the church was the idea of “one right answer.” I spent most of time believing that differing viewpoints were within the “one great whole.” Now I know that is not the case. Not necessarily bad, just different.

    2. There are many people within the church that are just hanging on by their fingernails for various reasons. I thought I understood most of the reason folks drift away from activity or into a state of unbelief, but again, I was nave about that too.

    3. I didn’t really realize outside of committed anti-mormon types, just how much anger there is toward the church. Now maybe, that is a small number of people as opposed to the entire population, but it saddens me to see that. The Church is on the earth to help people to find joy and just the opposite has happened to these folks. Again, for many reasons. That, in some cases, their anger against the institution has been superseded the joy the gospel brings.

    4. Much like politics, the those at opposite ends of the spectrum are almost always intolerant of one another. For those who are more conservative, there is little to no room to discuss thoughts or other ideas regarding church leadership, policies, doctrines, etc. For more liberal types, there cannot be any criticism of their more world view of things or questioning of their motivation or lack of loyalty to the church and its teachings. those to the middle on both sides, tend to enjoy a more fruitful and productive dialogue. Such is life and human nature, I guess.

    I question the value and utility of participating, but in the end, as long as i grow and learn from the experiences of others and their ideas, I continue. When that ceases, I guess I stop.

  4. I think “tolerance” sums up a lot of what I’ve gained as well.

    There’s also a lot of value in seeing how other people deal with the “tough” questions. “I just put that on my shelf” only works for so long for me – maybe my shelf is tiny. I’ve discovered lately that, with one blessed exception, my spirituality is tied more closely to my intellect than everyone I know in meatspace. I just can’t find peace in separating the two. On the Bloggernacle that’s not true: there are plenty of people I’ve learned to look up to in my short time here, because of not only how they reconcile their reason with their religion, but also how they use the two in concert to make both better than they could be alone. I learn a lot by watching them do that.

  5. I really enjoyed your post, Shawn, and I’m glad you’re back!

    1 – what is the most important thing/lesson you have learned from your participation either here at MM, or in the larger world of the Bloggernacle? That the same topics frequently seem to come up, and there seem to be trends in the b’nacle – you think you’re going to discuss something unique and suddenly there are 5 sites with the same idea out there!
    2 – On the whole, has it been a positive or a negative experience for your spirituality? Positive. It’s made me want to search the scriptures more as a topic has interested me.
    3 – How has your involvement altered, if it has, your view of Mormonism and other Mormons? I’m surprised at how polarizing some things are while other things are not. I’ve also been interested that some things received very open acceptance that I thought would be more controversial. I’m constantly surprised by these little things.

    In general, I just like hearing everyone’s perspective on stuff. You have interesting thoughts to share.

  6. mmmmmmmmmm

    Good question.
    Funny to think about it because it has been a positive experience for me as well. And I think it is funny because I have not been reading only church approved blogs or sites.
    Even when I was having a hard time and questionning the things I have been taught I found out that “anti” sites were definitely not the answer.
    Now that I am coming back the negative aspect of what I can find on the net has helped me strengthen my testimony because they often reflect feelings that I have had and that I have come from to the point I am at now.
    The positive (uplifting, intelectually chalenging, funny etc…) ones have just helped me remember things that I knew and that I realized I had disregarded and even forgot a few years ago. And things seems to click in a way that makes it all new to me although it was old news before.

    I have alos found out that I am far to be the only one strugling and having a real desire to make it right. I have found people I look up to who are beyond my physical reach (thanks internet to make them reachable). I have found people I could relate to, I have found my words on others’ pages and it makes me feel I am part of something, and maybe after all, the people I see at church every sunday and to who I don’t really feel connected have more in common with me than I think….

  7. No one single lesson, but several:

    1. I’m not alone. Others are asking the same questions, pondering the same things, struggling with the same issues, thinking sometimes the same thoughts, feeling the same frustrations, and finding the same joys in life and faith that I do. This is very comforting in a church whose organizational externals and pop culture tend to impose a rigid outward conformity.

    2. Humility. I don’t have all the answers, and the older I get, the more I realize how little I know. And it doesn’t bother me. Others have wisdom and insight I never would have thought of, and I’m happy to learn from them.

    3. Gratitude. The world is so vast and full of wonderful things to be learned and explored, and the Church certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on truth. The Bloggernacle and the Internet in general have made me more and more grateful for this life and the small measure of abilities I have to explore it, learn new things, and meet new people.

    4. Tolerance. My way is not the only way. Others can be just as faithful, have just as strong a testimony, and differ vastly in their perspectives. I have a duty to be charitable regardless.

    5. Big Picture Perspective. Only parenthood has been more effective in teaching me how God our Father must look at all of His children in their infinite variety of talents, knowledge, perspectives, experiences and cultures. “I stand all amazed” at His patience and love for each of us. The ‘Nacle and the Internet have been a window into this perspective that is really quite miraculous, when you think about it.

    Lastly, Shawn, a word of advice. With the Internet there is no longer any excuse, so do whatever you need to in order not to lose touch with good friends who may be far away. When things are good, you will rejoice in their association. When disaster strikes as it inevitably will, you’ll thank God they are there to rally round and steady you and that you haven’t let the mundane details of daily life slowly starve those relationships. It doesn’t take much time to stay in touch. You never know when one of them may come to your rescue in some way, or when you may be blessed to do the same for them. Your life and theirs will be immeasurably richer for it, and you will be serving God by caring for His children.

  8. RE: “It’s made me want to search the scriptures more as a topic has interested me.”

    Ditto that. I was also drawn to this blog in part due to John Hamer’s posts that provided a connection to other restorationist denominations, and I miss that dialogue.

  9. “Lastly, Shawn, a word of advice. With the Internet there is no longer any excuse, so do whatever you need to in order not to lose touch with good friends who may be far away.”

    You have directly channeled my guilty conscience πŸ™‚ I’m trying to be better, I swear.

  10. I’d say it just reinforces that you can see things differently, not go with the Mormon flow, and still be strong spiritually and a worthy member of the church. My mom, an author on Mormon Matters, and my dad brought us up with a pretty open view to Mormonism, i.e. I’m not from Utah. Thanks so much for telling us and me your story, it was great for me to hear. Glad to hear that the “bloggernacle” has been positive for you. I like specifically the analysis of Mormon culture-and the recognition that it exists and is separate from Mormon doctrine.

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