Before I get started into this post I want tell everyone to visit Rock’s post on his blog. http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2010/12/judging-unrighteously.html
His step grandson was murdered and help is needed to pay for the funeral expenses. I invite all of you who are wiliing, to contribute at least one or two dollars to the Jesse Jones Memorial Fund.
The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness
For any of you missionary bloggers please read all the way to the end of this post before leaving.
I have known for a while about some LDS missionaries being allowed to blog. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago I actually decided to look for them. I just wanted to see what these blogs are like. The first thing I discovered about Missionary blogs is that they are really hard to find. There is one type of missionary blog that is much easier to find. But this type of blog is for parents to share emails from their missionaries. On those blogs you have no real communication with the missionary, you just read letters their parents have posted.
Then there are blogs that are written and maintained by the missionaries themselves. And these are the kind blogs I want to focus on in the article. Aside from being hard to find most of these blogs are what you would expect. They are recitation and regurgitation of official positions of the church. Occasionally you will find a rare gem, but for the most part if, “you’ve read one you’ve read them all.” Now don’t think I’m talking down about their efforts, in fact I applaud their efforts. But I will discuss that later.
I can certainly understand the church wanting missionaries to have blogs in this age of the internet. And I come from the time of one email per P-day and no other internet use is allowed. So I don’t have any idea how running a blog would fit into a missionary’s schedule. I was blown away when I went to mormon.org and chatted with a missionary. I thought missionary chats would be an MTC program like the call center. But no, it was part of this guy’s mission. It was one of those “does not compute” moments for me.
After finding some of these missionary blogs I noticed something. Something that no blogger should ever have to suffer. This something is a lack of comments on these blogs.
On internet forums I’ve noticed it usually takes about 50 views to get one comment. I imagine blogs may have a higher ratio of comments per view. So what this tells me, is that these missionary blogs are hardly ever viewed. I think the majority of viewers would be family, friends, and people from the areas where the missionaries are serving. I’ve read some missionaries have cards that they give out, with links to their blog. Since these blogs are internet based, I would think their main target audience is non-members who are online.
However I think this target audience is being missed. And the two factors above are what is causing the audience to be missed.
Hard to Find
When searching for these blogs it was fairly easy to find one or two blogs(Maybe I’m just searching disabled). From there you could find links to other blogs. But there is not one place I could find ALL the blogs. I had to search through tons of pages before I found some sort of index. But even then it only listed a few areas. Although, maybe only missionaries in certain areas are allowed to blog. I don’t know. The biggest indexes I could found, were for the missionary letter blogs.
It would be much more effective to have an official missionary blog homepage. From there you could find blogs by missionaries from around the world. For example I could click on Laoag Philippines Mission and find blogs by missionaries from there. Instead you have to click through the myriad of blogrolls and hope to find what you are looking for. While also hoping that what you are looking for exists.
I could see the church being concerned with blogs being a means to communicate with family and friends back home. Maybe that explains them being hard to find. But then again many missionaries post links on their facebook pages(since when are missionaries allowed to use facebook?).
So message to the Church: Make a single place for all these blogs. That way a person can easily find a blog they want.
You’ve Read One, You’ve Read Them All
This is the second factor. While each blog may have different elements based on the experience of the missionary, for the most part they are all the same. They all are about the typical new.mormon views and official church policies. Sure, they may have some funny stories from their missions. But these are probably more like inside jokes to the outsider.
So why should a reader read another Missionaries blog when they have already read the same thing, albeit with different wording, on another blog. Temple Marriage, Restoration of the Church, Families Together Forever, blah, de blah, de blah. These are GREAT topics, but when it’s the same interpretation of that topic over and over again it’s time to click away.
My suggestion here is to encourage missionaries to think about and analyze these topics. Break out from the comfort zone of mormon.org as a research source. Get into the more “deep” aspects of the Gospel. The reason for this is that instead of being one monotonous wall of text, people will actually develop opinions. And that is the key. That is what makes things interesting. And when things are interesting people will read. You don’t always have to agree with what was said during general conference.
A great example of this is in the blogs I frequent. They may discuss the same topics. But almost every time different conclusions are reached. Alan on PureMormonism doesn’t believe Joseph Smith practiced plural Marriage. LDSA on the other hand does. But guess what, they can get along. And each offers a unique viewpoint on the subject. We all have different areas we are interested in and views that affect our blogs. You can read about tithing on three different blogs and not only have a different view, but different conclusions.
One of the things this has taught me is to no automatically accept whatever view I am reading. At one point, when I started reading the blogs, I found myself agreeing with whatever blog I was reading. It was then I realized I need to commune with God and form my own views. I couldn’t base my views on the words of bloggers but only on the Word of God.
I imagine one concern coming from missionary bloggers is that, posting things that don’t agree with church positions would be detrimental to investigators. They would be mislead by people’s opinions. But I think this idea shows a problem with our own views. We tend to look upon investigators and people outside the church as babies in the Gospel. We have to feed them the right milk at the right times and then they can grow to be good members. We can’t risk them losing interest in the Church because some fool missionary blogged about the Adam-God doctrine, or the restoration of Animal Sacrifice.
However, I think we are better served by not drawing the intellectual dividing line with membership in the Church. Rather we should look upon everyone as on a spiritual journey. We are all at different places in that journey. And having many different positions and views presented before a person, has a great result. Like what happened to me, a person realizes they can’t rely on the words of men. A person must go to God to find the answers. Isn’t that what we want them to do in the first place? It doesn’t matter what you or I say. The only thing that matters is what the Holy Spirit tells them. A person searching online is bound to find much more anti-mormon writings than pro-mormon writings.
To you missionaries, do you want your potential investigators believing everything they read(mainly anti-mormon stuff)? Or would you rather have them gather a variety of opinions and ask God?
The first view(Babies in the Gospel) is more concerned with getting as many people to join the Church™ as possible. We can’t lose one. The second view(Spiritual Journey) is more concerning with getting as many people as possible, to join with Christ. Sure it’s nice to increase the membership of an organization you belong to. But when it comes to the judgement day it wont matter what corporation you belonged to, rather it will matter if you have a personal relationship with Christ.
Also it’s okay to challenge what a Church leader said in conference. In fact we should be doing this in order to make sure that what we are being taught is correct. Leaders of the church are imperfect people and many times will speak imperfect things. It is our duty as members of the church to make sure what they teach is in line with the Gospel.
Additionally it’s ok to be wrong in your views and then later corrected. I expect many of the views I hold now will be different by next year. I’m more afraid of becoming stagnant in my progression than changing my views with additional information.
So in order to fix the problem of “you’ve read one you’ve read them all” missionaries should not be afraid to post about things that don’t come from the manual. Go out on a limb, or dive in deep water, and post about Joseph Smith marrying women who already had husbands, or the different versions of the First Vision. You won’t be harming the spiritual progression of non-members. In fact you will help them by telling them not to accept your words, but to seek answers from the source of all truth, God. You must help people by stripping them of their reliance on the words of men.
But, I’m not sure what kind of time these missionaries have to dedicate to research. So to you missionary bloggers, if you need any help researching I offer my services. I know it’s tempting to use the easily available information on mormon.org but you must resist. Mormon.org presents only a simplified, whitened version. This whitened versions of history and topics cannot stand up to the basic google search function. There is much more fulfillment in going out there and researching topics, warts and all.
Why I Admire Missionary Bloggers
Because of the usually low traffic to missionary blogs, they suffer from a horrible condition. That condition is a lack of comments. This is the one thing that saps my strength and will to write, when nobody replies to my entries. But here these missionaries are, writing, pages full of posts, and only a handful of comments. I don’t know how they can do it. How can you keep the strength to post week after week and not have any comments. I would probably stop blogging if nobody ever replied to my posts.
So to you missionaries who keep blogging out there in the Wilderness of Digital Silence, my hat goes off to you. Keep up the good work. You are better men and women than I am(well of course they are better women since I’m not one).
What to Do
I would like to invite whoever reads this post to join me in a project. After reading some of these blogs I thought it would be interesting to reply to some posts. On some blogs my comments were deleted(I posted about apostasy in the Church). But on others I got some good replies. I don’t post to convince anyone my view is correct. I post to make people ask questions. I don’t have the answers but God does.
So I invite you all to join me in visiting these missionary blogs. Let’s create some traffic on their sites. It may make them feel better by having more comments to their posts. It will encourage them to keep writing. Also we can challenge their conclusions. We challenge them in an argumentative way. But present additional information that they might not be aware of. Let’s encourage them to go out on a limb and learn more than what the Manuals teach. We can share what the Spirit has taught us and they can share to us what the Spirit has taught them. I’m sure they have some views and ideas that may help us.
I hope any of you who read this will find the time to go to some of these blogs. Some missionaries may not like some of our comments. Some comments may get deleted, but who knows what effect this may have in our lives and in the lives of those who read our comments.
To end this post I would like to include a list of some missionary blogs. Some of them I have commented on some I have not. Also some of these may have not been updated recently. I have no idea on the policy of missionaries continuing their blogs after their missions.
Here is a hub of some missionary blogs: http://mormonmissionworld.blogspot.com/
Here’s another sort of hub: Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord
Let’s not have these amazing brothers’ and sisters’ time and writing skills go to waste!