Somewhere I Belong

A Whole New World

I’ve maintained a blog for perhaps four years now, but it’s really always been for me more than it’s been for anyone else. I write about things I’m interested in, or have an opinion about, but I don’t really follow other blogs or comment prolifically. Because of that, I’ve had limited awareness of the Mormon blogosphere as a whole.

That’s changing a bit. I’m coming to find that there’s a whole world out there I never even knew about!

Like, did you know there’s a loosely-defined community of bloggers that constitute the Bloggernacle? (It’s hard to define, though some have tried – from my knothole, it looks like it tends more ‘liberal’.) There’s even a term for when members of that community gang up on you – it’s called being Bloggernacled (from “Bloggernacle dog piled”).

There are a lot of acronyms in this world, too. There’s TBM, for instance (True Believing Mormons, or sometimes True Blue Mormons or Traditional Believing Mormons; see also Morg/Mormon-Borg, Chapel Mormon, or Iron-Rod Mormon). This population is generally decried, occasionally with TSCC (“the so-called church”) itself, but don’t worry – the Bloggernacle isn’t really part of the DAMU (“Disaffected Mormon Underground”). It’s just mostly NOMs (“New Order Mormons;” see also Sunstone Mormons), MFHs (Mormon Feminists Housewives; also the name of a blog/community), and other cool, new-age types.

Whew.

Its been good learning about this world, and recognizing which side of the line different groups fall into (obviously, this helps me avoid more Transformers problems).

Aladdin

Pots and Kettles

I happened upon a fantastic blog called Millennial Star (and, in turn, a number of other blogs – like this and this – and aggregators – like this). One Millennial Star post (which is absolutely worth reading, like the majority of things I’ve had the chance to read so far) spurred a number of colorful comments. One commenter named Tyler, speaking perhaps of personal Bloggernacle dog piling experiences, said:

“Every online forum or FB thread I have ever participated in where mormonism is discussed has gone like this:

  1. Liberal mormon makes offensive statement about my beliefs.
  2. I defend.
  3. Liberals pile on me.
  4. I don’t back down. Instead I take it to them.
  5. They call me mean. Say that I am being offensive (ironic given 1 above) and hurting feelings.
  6. Liberals suggest I have emotional problems.
  7. I’m invited to leave, which I do.
  8. Feelings remain hurt (except mine). I’m seen as a jerk.”

A poster named Mormon Heretic (someone I’d have Transformer worries about, for what it’s worth) responded:

“Tyler, this is what happens when I’m at church.

  1. Conservative mormon makes offensive statement about my beliefs.
  2. I defend.
  3. Conservatives pile on me.
  4. I don’t back down. Instead I take it to them.
  5. They call me mean. Say that I am being offensive (ironic given 1 above) and hurting feelings.
  6. Conservatives suggest I have emotional problems.
  7. I’m invited to leave, so I go out in the hall and read my scriptures or another good theology or Mormon history book.
  8. Feelings remain hurt (except mine). I’m seen as a jerk.”

Oh! I see what you did there…

Do you see his point? Why, when the tables are reversed, and he’s in Sunday School with the other TBMs, he has the same experiences! Except, the TBMs are the meanies!

This whole time, it’s been the pot calling the kettle black.

Racist pot.

Different Purposes

But… it’s not the same, is it?

What’s the purpose of the Bloggernacle? I think it’s fair to say that they would claim they’re about having an open dialogue (this may may or may not actually be the case – you can gather as much from the Millennial Star post above or this fantastic paper discussing Mormon Matters).

Now, what’s the purpose of the Church? You can say it a number of ways, but, again, I think it’s fair to say that most answers would center around “saving souls” or helping “bring people to Christ.”

Understanding this, you quickly realize that whether the purpose of the Bloggernacle is really dialogue, or something more sinister, is irrelevant. Whatever their purpose, it is not the same as the Church’s purpose.

Dan Peterson did a great (and short) commentary on this subject, quoting Stanley Kimball on what Kimball called the three levels of Mormon history. In brief, Level A is the “Sunday School” kind of history, a bit too clean and white-washed. Level B is the “anti-Mormon” kind of history, where the things that (at least) most Mormons do are evil and judgmental and deceitful.

While the claims that are sometimes made in Level B history are legitimate, the Church doesn’t go out of it’s way to discuss them. Does that make the Church disingenuous? Not at all. You see,

“souls can be and are lost on Level B. And, anyway, the church isn’t some sort of floating seminar in historiography. Regrettably, perhaps, most Latter-day Saints… aren’t deeply interested in history, and, more importantly, many other very important priorities demand attention, including training the youth and giving service.”

The church is there to save souls, to bring people to Christ. It’s not there to legitimize each concern people have with the Level A “Sunday School” narrative.

What’s more, for those that are interested, pushing through to Level C (outside of Sunday School, of course), where you can find elements of levels A and B, brings with it a certain harmony. Peterson continues,

“Very importantly, [Kimball] contended (and I agree) that Level C — what I call the “synthesis” — turns out to be essentially, and profoundly, like Level A. The gospel is, in fact, true. Church leaders at all levels have, overwhelmingly, been good and sincere people, doing the best that they can with imperfect human materials (including themselves) under often very difficult circumstances.”

Return to Mormon Heretic’s inferred accusation, that his experiences are basically the same as Tyler’s  experiences. You can’t declare the two to be moral equivalents. The purpose of each group is different. No matter how polite you may be, if you go off the rails at church you’re absolutely going to deter from their primary purpose. It’s looking beyond the mark, and completely inappropriate at Church.

So yes, go into the hall and read your scriptures if you absolutely cannot be expected to stay on point with the correlation-approved discussion. But don’t play the victim.

Somewhere to Belong

We all want to feel like we belong. The feelings of loneliness that come when we’re the odd-man out are uncomfortable, to say the least.

I’ve been there. It sucks.

But don’t let that loneliness keep you from taking advantage of the gospel. I’ve heard the sentiment offered that if people feel uncomfortable, “then maybe they should just find another church.” Of course we don’t want that, really, if we believe the truth claims of the LDS Church. There are conservative Mormon dweebs, and there are liberal Mormon dweebs (I hate the terms ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ by the way), and many dweebs in between, and not one of them should keep us from coming to Christ.

A poem by Eliza Snow, also quoted in Peterson’s article, is a fitting conclusion.

Think not when you gather to Zion,
Your troubles and trials are through,
That nothing but comfort and pleasure
Are waiting in Zion for you:

No, no, ’tis designed as a furnace,
All substance, all textures to try,
To burn all the “wood, hay, and stubble,”
The gold from the dross purify.

Think not when you gather to Zion,
That all will be holy and pure;
That fraud and deception are banished,
And confidence wholly secure:

No, no, for the Lord our Redeemer
Has said that the tares with the wheat
Must grow till the great day of burning
Shall render the harvest complete.

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6 thoughts on “Somewhere I Belong”

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