Greetings to those who are reading this in the year 2045

December 7, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 1:53 pm   Category: Bloggernacle,Life,Mormon Culture/Practices,Scriptures

An interesting recent comment got me a thinkin’ again (and as you know – that means trouble). The part that got me thinking was that the commenter was questioning the value of our online discussions here at the Thang and in the Bloggernacle in general. He hinted that we would be much better off (and that we could better serve God) by putting down the laptop and spending more face to face time with our needy neighbors. The gist of my response was to question why spending time face to face with neighbors was so much better than spending time in engaging “keyboard to keyboard” religious discussions here on the blog. My theory is that here at the Thang I can add much more value to my distant Web neighbors than I can with the folks I happen to live next to because here we have an opt-in conversation about important topics that we all actually care about. For instance, my next door neighbor has zero interest in discussing the strengths or weaknesses of various parables describing the atonement. But I do, and so do other people in the world. The problem is that the other people who want to talk about these things live hundreds of thousands of miles away from me. By discussing those things here at the Thang, the relatively small group of us becomes virtual neighbors who can teach, uplift, enlighten, and edify each other. It also lets us stretch ourselves by raising the level of the discourse far beyond the often superficial level we encounter in conversations with those we live near or worship with locally.

But the other part of Web discussions that is severely underestimated has to do with permanency of the conversation. Which is doing more good in the world – a personal verbal conversation about the atonement that enlightens two people but is forever lost after the conversation is over, or an blog-based conversation about the atonement that enlightens all participants but also enlightens many of the hundreds of other people who read along in the first week and perhaps many thousands of others in the weeks, months, and years to come? I think it is the latter.

Nephi and Moroni lamented that their live verbal preaching was much more powerful and effective than their written record:

AND now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men. (2 Ne. 33: 1)

23 And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them; 24 And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them. (Ether 12: 23-24)

That may be true, but the unrecorded live sermons these men preached do nothing for me. Those inspired oral sermons are lost forever. It is only their written sermons that help us all today.

So having said that, I want to say: “Hello to those reading my words in the year 2045. I hope you are well. So what has changed? I posted earlier in the year that the Second Coming might happen in the 2040’s… How’s my prediction looking? Oh, hello to my grandchildren as well!

Maybe you think it is ridiculous to think that the Thang will still be on the Web in 2045 or that anyone would be remotely interested in reading this post in 40 years. You may be right about the latter, but I think you are wrong about the former. First, the Web is not going away as long as modern civilization survives. It became the greatest library the world has ever known years ago and it will continue to grow. No doubt it won’t be long before most everything that was ever written or recorded will be available on the Web. Sure, the technology will improve, but that will mostly mean people will have faster, easier, and more ubiquitous access to the information they want. All it takes to keep a site live is to renew the domain name and keep the server fees paid. Look at Noisepie.com for instance. We launched that site 10 years ago and the band has not gigged since 2001 but the site is still up and running and still gets a steady (albeit slow) flow of search engine traffic.

So what does that mean to those of us that post on doctrinal/spiritual/gospel related topics? I think it means that every post is sort of like Sunday lesson with a potential long-term audience of many thousands of people. What should that say about our preparations? I don’t know. But I do know that if I were asked to give a talk or lesson that would be heard by thousands or tens of thousands of people I would do a lot more to prepare spiritually than I do for a post like this.

The difference between our verbal talks and our Bloggernacle posts is that our oral discussions float away into memory while our Bloggernacle posts and discussions can “speak from the dust.” Whether you like it or not, when you post or comment in the ‘Nacle you are suddenly a published author. I’m hoping that is a good thing. And I’m hoping the Bloggernacle is helping “faith increase on the earth“. I believe that so far it is.

18 Comments »

  1. Do you really think that Bloggernacle archives mean anything? Blogs demand new content and so instead of a discussion continuing over decades, what you get is the same discussion done over again every six months or so. Even I’ve forgotten some of my old posts. No one else remembers them, that’s for sure.

    Comment by Adam Greenwood — December 7, 2005 @ 2:58 pm

  2. Ah, but the portals to the Internet do remember them. Check your search engine referrals and you will probably see that T&S gets hundreds and hundreds of daily search referrals directly to those archived posts that you think are dead and forgotten. It is new and fresh content to the person that finds the archived post via Google.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 7, 2005 @ 3:05 pm

  3. BTW — You are right that the discussion on old threads usually dies for good. That doesn’t mean that no one is reading though. I have read plenty of dead threads — especially when I first discovered the bloggernacle. Further, it is common for bloggers to link to old posts to support current arguments.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 7, 2005 @ 3:12 pm

  4. I post on these blogs because of the very reason you suggested, because I can’t find anyone locally to have these kinds of discussions with.

    I can find a blog with just about any discussion I want to have.

    One of the great things about the net is that it is so easy to get your information out there for many people to see.

    This easiness of “publishing” is also a drawback, because in 2045 there will be so much information published online by then, that only a small amount of that data will be seen. While sites like the ‘Nacle will probably be still up and running and archived etc, things like my blog, even if it were still in existence in 2045 will no doubt have been forgotten.

    But I think that as we progress into the future (barring a total breakdown) the net will be (and already is) a wonderful resourse to look into the past.

    Comment by Ian M. Cook — December 7, 2005 @ 4:38 pm

  5. What’s that sound I hear? Sounds like me getting sucked into the bloggernacle vortex. My wife is gone for a couple of weeks, so I’m clearly in a weakened state and I didn’t realize my comment would create the basis for your next post. I suspect you did that to lure me back in.

    Before I respond, I need to clarify two things: 1. I define storm chasing as the process of knowing God through deep doctrinal digging. I believe this was a point in your previous post. 2. For me, storm chasing may or may not have anything to do with the bloggernacle or keyboard to keyboard communication, which in and of themselves may be good ways to communicate and study gospel doctrine.

    Now, as I started to respond to this post, I remembered that I really should be writing Elder Sabin in Mexico and Sister Pasi in Brazil. That said, let me take a shot at sharing my past experience with “storm- chasing,” in a somewhat general way.

    Some years ago, I went to the Salt Lake Airport with my wife to pick up her niece. Her flight came in late at night. As we left the airport to head to Logan, it was dark and snowing. They had been doing a lot of construction around the airport and suddenly I wasn’t totally sure I exited the airport properly, to head north on the 15. For a moment, I wasn’t sure if I should press forward or turnaround. Well, I really do have a great sense of direction (my wife and children will back me on that point), so it seemed reasonable to press forward. As we drove through the dark, it started snowing harder. Gradually in the distance, I started to see the lights of the freeway. Based on my past experience and my “special gift” of direction, I was confident that I was on the right track. Eventually, I found myself heading north on a frontage road alongside the interstate. The road hadn’t been plowed, so it was slow going, but I was heading north (toward my final destination) and the interstate was only a few feet away, on the other side of a fence. I was confident that sooner or later we would find an “on ramp” to the freeway. After about 30 minutes at 10 miles per hour, I saw a refrigerator on the side of the road, then a washer and dryer, a freezer, some mattresses and another refrigerator. All of a sudden the road just ended. My first thought was, “I can’t believe this.” Somehow my “Lewis and Clark” sense of direction had failed me. Nothing left to do now, but put my tail between my legs, turn around and start over again.

    There was a time in my life when I spent a significant amount of time digging, storm chasing, studying the scriptures, reading all the doctrinal books I could get my hands on or whatever else you would like to call it. I really thought I was on to something. I really felt like I was moving in the right direction. I started talking to others about my doctrinal diggings. People listened. The more they listened the deeper I dug. I was on a mission of sorts. I felt confident in my findings, so I kept searching. In the midst of this zeal, I asked myself, why the search? I thought about that and concluded over some time, that I had invested a lot of time and money in the search, but must not be finding what I’m looking for, since I was still searching. I felt like I was chasing my tail or that the means had become the end. In my situation, this called for a course correction. I literally went back to the basics. I left the high priests quorum and sunday school and volunteered in the nursery. While I was learning again the primary songs, and listening to the kids sing the songs of Jesus, I started to catch a glimpse of Christ in those kids. They weren’t interested in what I knew, they only wanted to know I cared. My view got better, as I observed the nursery leader, the song leader and others, truly demonstrate a most Christlike love. As I began to work, associate and sing quietly with the kids, I started to feel something I hadn’t felt for some time. It’s the same thing I feel when I listen and pray for my neighbor (much different than a chat), mow the widows lawn, build a winter shelter for the homeless, surf with my son, do the dishes or laundry for my wife or visit my friends on the Altiplano. I gradually began to stop digging and searching, mostly because my free time was disappearing. But more importantly, I found what I was looking for. My vision got a little better. I started seeing Christ a little more in my wife, children, friends, strangers and even people I really didn’t like.

    Well, these days my vision comes and goes. There’s so many distractions. I’m not even sure if writing this is a distraction or not. I understand that there are many ways to skin a cat and there may be many ways to see Christ in others. The Savior told the unbelieving Jews, “search the scriptures, in them ye think ye have Eternal Life…” He is standing right in front of them and they are still searching their scriptures for Him. When we see Him in others, He is right in front of us. Why would I continue to search the scriptures to find Him?

    I’m not sure what I have shared is a better way or not. It worked better for me, but that’s just me. I do know this; I will feel different when I’m writing Elder Sabin and Sister Pasi, than I do writing this entry.

    OK, thinking of the missionaries, I must get on with it and end this. A great teacher once said, “preachers ere by trying to talk [or write] people into belief; better they reveal the radiance of their own discovery.” Anyone who would like to go with me on a humanitarian aid trip to the Altiplano and make the discovery, just let me know. In the mean time, there is always the nursery. They always need our help.

    This has taken longer than I thought and now Wheel of Fortune is about to begin. Oh well, those missionaries will have to wait.

    Side Note 1: Geoff-I agree with most of your reasons to use the keyboard. Nibley would also. However, there are some down sides. I have found that it is more difficult to communicate feelings via the keyboard, hence people try to read between the lines and discover what they think are “hints” to significant hidden messages which were not intended to be significant at all. This practice has lead to seemingly endless interpretations of the same scriptural verse. Even among Mormons, we can disagree on the meaning of a certain B of M verse. How I wish I had actually heard King Benjamin’s address when I discussed it with my father some years ago. I know this; I feel different when I attend general conference than when I read it in the Ensign. I don’t particularly remember the words, but I will never forget the feelings.

    Side Note 2: “My neighbor has zero interest…[in what I have to say]” Seeing Christ in others is not about what we have to say. I think that when we begin to see Christ in that neighbor, our interest will be more about what he has say.

    Side Note 3: I’m betting on video archiving in 2045. Video captures a little bit of the feeling that writing just can’t do.

    Comment by Dean — December 8, 2005 @ 1:01 am

  6. Some Comments:

    We are supposed to feast on the words of Christ also. Is this not a form of doing that? That being said I do not feel we should be one dimensional in our probation here – it may be the only probation we have :).

    I always get way more out of reading conference talks than listening to them. I will admit that I sometimes will not view the actual conference session, but can’t wait to read it.

    I think that the value of this is somewhere in-between just passing time and of eternal significance. I just started my own blog (small and simple) and tried doing some searches to see if my posts would show up. Man, oh man there is a lot of stuff out there. I’m afraid the vast majority will be lost in a sea of mostly unsearchable information.

    Comment by Eric — December 8, 2005 @ 6:52 am

  7. I think blogging is a kind of outreach. I post at a lot of different blogs… some of which are dominated by people who are not very Christian-friendly. Coincidentally, before coming here today, I had just decided to hiatus myself from another blog where the hostility was just getting too much to bear. I think those blogs are an opportunity to be an example, but also to strengthen one’s own face, like fire tempering steel.

    Comment by V the K — December 8, 2005 @ 8:41 am

  8. Erg, faith not face.

    Comment by V the K — December 8, 2005 @ 8:41 am

  9. I would, however, make backups of your websites. Especially if you want to keep some of your posts. You’d be surprised at what gets lost. Images are the worst. I had a quasi-blog about my adventures out in the desert climbing, biking and so forth and lost a lot of it back in the mid 90’s.

    Comment by Clark — December 8, 2005 @ 10:01 am

  10. Dean,

    Your comments make a lot of sense. I think that the basics are where we truly find Christ. That is all we truly need in our lives. Yes, the deeper understanding is great, but why do you think we hear the basics over and over at church meetings? I think that too many people are actually drawn away from the church through their deep studies when not coupled with a continual study of the basics at the same time.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Comment by Ian M. Cook — December 8, 2005 @ 10:52 am

  11. Ian – Welcome to the ‘Nacle. I’ve recommended your blog for inclusion at ldblogs.org so that ought to bump your traffic somewhat. You are right about the likelihood of most content being forever buried. I think it is likely that only some of the content from today will get the necessary attention from search engines to be seen in the future.

    Dean – Thanks for the excellent comments again. The bloggernacle vortex is excellent at sucking. A couple of responses:

    I define storm chasing as the process of knowing God through deep doctrinal digging. I believe this was a point in your previous post.

    Just be clear, my point in that post was not to extol the virtues of “storm chasing” but rather remind the storm chasers among us that the goal is to know God, not just know about him. I suggested that requires personal revelation. I think that personal revelation comes in different ways to all of us depending on our circumstances, expectations, and learning style. I happen to like the method of knowing God that you mention — that is discerning the Father through truly seeing his children as they are. Still I think this gift you describe is a form of revelation from God too:

    …for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really care… (Jacob 4: 13)

    So I really do appreciate your additional comment because it drives home the point that I apparently didn’t make well enough earlier — that knowing God is better than knowing about God.

    Now having said that, I think that there is value in studying out the revelations and truly understanding what God has revealed to the earth (and I’m sure you agree here too). There are way too many false assumptions and interpretations of the revelations even in the church today but we are doomed to believe “the traditions of the fathers” unless we learn for ourselves. As you know, real faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is “a hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”

    I do know this; I will feel different when I’m writing Elder Sabin and Sister Pasi, than I do writing this entry.

    Well say hello to Elder Sabin for me too. My brother Ian just back from his mission a month ago and is readjusting swimmingly.

    But why is sharing uplifting words of wisdom with two people you know so much more commendable than sharing uplifting words of wisdom with one person you know (me) and lots of others you don’t know here at the Thang?

    Regarding written communications vs. verbal: I agree with you — verbal communication definitely has advantages over written as well. I think the problem is that there is an assumption that all of our time must be spent on one or the other. It seems to me that is not the case and that we can use our time with some of both. I certainly have as much time as ever face to face with people. I just have shifted some of my other free time to blogging in an attempt to wisely use my time here on earth.

    Regarding video: I guess that will be available too. But the archives will only include that which has been recorded. I think there will never come a day when written communication like this will go out of style.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 8, 2005 @ 4:14 pm

  12. Clark,

    Good point about backups. The problem with blogs is that losing a server could mean losing all of the witings of years in one crash. Published books have lots of backups.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 8, 2005 @ 4:16 pm

  13. An other thing to consider Geoff, is that if you think you made a particularly erudite set of comments, turn them into a post at your blog (which you then backup). Otherwise the blog may disappear…

    Comment by Clark — December 8, 2005 @ 4:31 pm

  14. Good point again Clark. All the more reason to do more blogs responding to blogs as you often suggest, right?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 8, 2005 @ 4:49 pm

  15. Geoff,
    I agree that what we’re doing here makes as much difference, or more, than a conversation. I don’t think that this post will be around in 2045 unless you make sure it is when 2045 rols around. Technology will change greatly, and unless you translate this into whatever version of HTML or other language is being used at the time, it probably won’t be readable. You are right that people end up reading old posts, but most of them are to some extent time sensitive. People won’t care about most of them in 2045.
    Also, small point–the internet might be the largest library of all time, but I think that may be the only way in which it is the “greatest.” There are so many distractors on the web that it’s really hard to find anything useful at times unless you already know where to look, making it more of a community with some degree of permanence than a library. Libraries are always concerned with quality to some degree, even if just in the fact that publishers review the material before it becomes something a library might acquire.

    Comment by Steve H — December 9, 2005 @ 9:46 am

  16. Steve,

    Good point about effort being required to keep these writings available. I could remove everything that has been said here at the Thang from the Web quite easily (though there will probably be some archives and backups somewhere anyway). Or if I ever lose interest and let my URL or server fees lapse the archives would be unavailable. I suspect that those who blog on free services like Blogger are in much more danger of eventually losing all they have written than I am too.

    But I think you are wrong about HTML being a problem. Any new technologies or languages will be backwards compatible or easily upgradable (there is too much out there to start fresh). I also think your complaint about the “greatness” of the Internet as a library is mostly a complaint about the search weaknesses that still exist. But Web search technologies are getting better and better by the month and the search engines really do serve as the “card catalog” to this enormous library we call the Web.

    PS — I believe the Web has become more of a hub and spokes than a Web anyway. The search engines are the hubs and the content sites are the spokes.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 9, 2005 @ 10:48 am

  17. I think these blogs will be around for searching just like any obscure tome in a forgotten wing of a vast library. (I’ve sometimes thought about hiding a little note, or even cash, inside a university library book that appears to hardly ever get any readers -just as a dramatic little surprise for some future student.)

    Spreading the good word far and wide for long periods of time, however, takes promos, PR, advertising, and reasons for continuous re-reading. It takes recommendations from friends. “The Life of Our Lord” by Charles Dickens gets a recommendation by President Hinckley, and next thing you know, newly hardbound copies are available at Deseret Book. Guttenberg’s Bible made its contents available for the masses, but it was Christianity’s promotion of the Bible that made people want to read it.

    Here’s an alternate universe for you: What if there were only one copy of the Bible? With the proper promotion, (and proper crowd control) Christianity could still guarantee that it would be read by millions for centuries to come. Readers could go on pilgrimage to read the only copy of the gospel, and then buy stuff from the gift shop at the exit.

    Anyway, that’s one thing that costly publishing (like books) has over virtually-free publishing (like the web): The publishers’ drive to make back their money leads to marketing campaigns. And these campaigns aim to make sure hundreds of thousands of people are aware of / motivated to read the latest book. If the campaigns are successful, then out of that hundred thousand, perhaps a hundred will love the book so much that it becomes a family favorite for generations. Will bloggernacle loyalty be easily transfered from generation to generation? And at what rate of growth? The answers to those questions would help us see if there will be folks in 2045 reading this thread (which, I know, isn’t really the main question you were asking, Geoff).

    How ya’ll doing on reading the Book of Mormon by the end of the year, by the way? I’m in 3 Nephi. Gotta spend more time readin’ and less time writin’.

    Comment by britain — December 10, 2005 @ 12:40 am

  18. Interesting points about promotion, Britain. In the short run we have the search engines and they send a lot of visitors here already (more than 50 per day currently). Of course there is no telling what will change over time. But the pattern with search in the past seems to be that the older content seems to do as well or better in teh searches than a lot of new content from newer sites. In addition, there is no telling what will become of this new community we call “the bloggernacle”. Perhaps it will Peter out in a decade or less or perhaps the constant turnover and influx of new blood will allow it to thrive for many decades. The notion that good posts and discussions might still be interesting in 4 decades is not a stretch though. There are regular references to Dialogue articles and whatnot from 3-4 decades ago all the time around the bloggernacle. Further, since “Mormon Studies” is still such virgin territiry it is less like that the quality content we write will disappear quickly I think (the low quality content will though…)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 12, 2005 @ 12:15 pm

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