Welcome to the big time, Bloggernacle

December 15, 2007    By: Geoff J @ 11:20 pm   Category: Bloggernacle,Mormon Culture/Practices

As has been mentioned in a couple of other bloggernacle blogs (Julie at T&S, sidebar at BCC, and live on-location reporting from Steve H. at Splendid Sun among others), Elder Ballard just encouraged the graduating class at BYU-Hawaii to start a blog.

No, I’m not kidding.

Here are some excerpts from the talk:

As I look into your young faces, it is an uncomfortable reminder that I am in my 80th year. By some accounts that makes me pretty old. Actually, some folks think some of the Brethren may be too old to know what’s going on in your world. Let me assure you we are very much aware…

This is your world, the world of the future, with inventions undreamed of that will come in your lifetime as they have in mine. How will you use these marvelous inventions? More to the point, how will you use them to further the work of the Lord? …

While you studied here at BYU-Hawaii, you no doubt came to understand the power of words. Words create conversations, and conversations create understanding. There is truth in the old adage that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” In many cases, it is with words that you will accomplish the great things that you will now set out to do. …

Today we have a modern equivalent of the printing press in the Internet and all that it means. The Internet allows everyone to be a publisher, to have their voice heard, and it is revolutionizing society. Before the Internet, there were great barriers to printing. It took money, power, or influence and a great amount of time to publish. But today, because of the emergence of what some call New Media, made possible by the Internet, many of those barriers have been removed. New Media consists of tools on the Internet that make it possible for nearly anyone to publish or broadcast to either a large or a niche audience. I have mentioned some of these tools already, and I know you are familiar with them. The emergence of New Media is facilitating a world-wide conversation on almost every subject including religion, and nearly everyone can participate. This modern equivalent of the printing press is not reserved only for the elite. …

Now some of these tools – like any tool in an unpracticed or undisciplined hand – can be dangerous…

As you know, the New Media has already profoundly impacted the old world of newspapers and other traditional media. Once upon a time, as a church leader I might give a newspaper interview, then wait a day or two for it to appear somewhere deep inside the newspaper. Then that newspaper was thrown away, and whatever impact it might have had dissipated rather quickly…

You can see how important the right words are today. Words recorded on the Internet do not disappear. Any search by Google or Yahoo is going to find one’s words, probably for a very long time…

That word conversation is important. There are conversations going on about the Church constantly. Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches. While some conversations have audiences in the thousands or even millions, most are much, much smaller. But all conversations have an impact on those who participate in them. Perceptions of the Church are established one conversation at a time.

The challenge is that there are too many people participating in conversation about the Church for our Church personnel to converse with and respond to individually. We cannot answer every question, satisfy every inquiry, and respond to every inaccuracy that exists. As I said at General Conference in October, we need to remember that there is a difference between interest and mere curiosity. Sometimes people just want to know what the Church is. And some who seek answers want them to come directly from a member of the Church, like each one of you. They appreciate one-on-one conversations…

Now, to you who are graduating today, along with the other students at this wonderful university, may I ask that you join the conversation by participating on the Internet, particularly the New Media, to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration. Most of you already know that if you have access to the Internet you can start a blog in minutes and begin sharing what you know to be true. …

We are living in a world saturated with all kinds of voices. Perhaps now, more than ever, we have a major responsibility as Latter-day Saints to define ourselves, instead of letting others define us. Far too many people have a poor understanding of the Church because most of the information they hear about us is from news media reports that are often driven by controversies. Too much attention to controversy has a negative impact on peoples’ perceptions of what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really is…

As I said in the beginning, the power of words is incredible. Let your voice be heard in this great cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

First, to all y’all Mormons who are interested in blogging on Mormonism and getting some extra traffic to your new blogs, feel free to shoot us an email over at the Mormon Archipelago (aka ldsblogs.org). We are always happy to add good quality blogs focusing on Mormonism.

Second, what do you seasoned Mormon bloggers think? We have been predicting some acknowledgment of Mormon blogs from SLC for some time. While this is no shout out to the little coalition of blogs we generally call the bloggernacle, it is certainly a green light for us to keep on keepin’ on with our authentic Mormon blogging I think. I for one am pleased that the first comments from an apostle on the subject of Mormons blogging has been an encouragement to press on rather than a discouragement.

What is your take?

46 Comments »

  1. I don’t consider myself a seasoned blogger but I agree with Elder Ballard that the blogosphere can be used for good or evil; used to strenghten faith or strain it; and that the power of testimonmy and experience can benefit both souls individually and the church collectively. And, it’s a great place to get Mormon humor.

    Comment by mondo cool — December 15, 2007 @ 11:41 pm

  2. I think the most amazing part to me is the realization that Ballard read Bookslinger’s Blog. It makes me wonder who reads my posts. (Sorry for that one about poop!) and it makes me wonder if Ballard laughed like I did if he saw B’slinger’s post on the BOM. Does he look forward to Julie’s children every year like we do? Does he wonder why Trailer Trash loves the VCR repair analogy so much? Is he embarrassed by Banner of Heaven? Does he hope the Wasp will do a series on the JS manual for 2008 and 2009?

    It also makes me think that this yet another indicator that the Church has fully come out of the retrenchment period and is moving more fully into the “go forth and serve” period. In my mind, this period requires great men, like Eyring, Talmage, Roberts, and Widtsoe, to articulate the message. I wonder if we are up for the challenge.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 16, 2007 @ 8:57 am

  3. “Is he embarrassed by Banner of Heaven?”

    Impossible.

    Comment by Steve Evans — December 16, 2007 @ 9:51 am

  4. Hehehe. Your comments still are funny after all these years Steve. Congratulations.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 16, 2007 @ 10:08 am

  5. According to my CS 345 professor at BYU, during the early days of the internet some of the tech savy professors at BYU were trying to get the leadership of the church to buy some of the obvious domains like lds.org and mormon.org but they didn’t want anything to do with it. I don’t know if it was that the internet was viewed as a cesspool meant primarily for the distribution of p0rn, or what. So, one of them at BYU had the good sense to buy those domains (which cost almost nothing of course) and then donated them to the church a few years later when it became obvious to everyone we needed to own them.

    About that time, mormon.com had a bunch of semi-anti-mormon semi-p0rn things on it and my BYU bishop paid a boat load of money to buy up mormon.com and turn it into something positive.

    It is great to see that we are coming around a bit so that the internet is not seen entirely as a force of evil as it was in years past. However, I will really know we are into the benefits of discussing the gospel when lds.org links to one of Geoff’s heretical posts.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 16, 2007 @ 10:19 am

  6. Matt,

    Do you really think this means Elder Ballard reads the blogs? I have my doubts.

    (Elder Ballard, if you’re reading this, reply under the alias Steve Evans and say something snarky.)

    Comment by Jacob J — December 16, 2007 @ 10:29 am

  7. I thought you were the local heretic Jacob…

    (Not that being a heretic is all that bad. Aren’t all Mormons heretics to the rest of Christendom to begin with?)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 16, 2007 @ 10:48 am

  8. Where does Ballard indicate he read bookslinger’s blog?

    Comment by Ben — December 16, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

  9. See here Ben. Here is the excerpt:

    Let me give you a few other examples of how Church members are using the New Media. A Church member living in the Midwest makes a concerted effort to share the gospel everyday, in person. He then writes a blog about his daily endeavors to share the teachings of the Book of Mormon and to give pass-along cards to all he meets. He has written about many of these experiences. For example, one of his entries, titled “Punjab at Gas Station” reads:

    I was on the other side of town visiting friends, and on my way home stopped at a gas station to buy a newspaper. The cashier was from Punjab in India, and spoke Punjabi. He accepted my offer of Punjabi and English copies of Gospel Fundamentals, and Punjabi and English copies of the Joseph Smith Testimony Pamphlet. I had them in the car, so I retrieved them and presented them to him right there.

    His effort to share the gospel so diligently is admirable, and his further effort to write about it no doubt inspires many others to do the same.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 16, 2007 @ 12:36 pm

  10. Ah, thanks. I was looking for it in your excerpt.

    Comment by Ben — December 16, 2007 @ 1:13 pm

  11. I don’t think the older Apostles, or other old-school high-powered CEO type people actually get on the Internet and browse or do email in terms of sitting at a keyboard and actually “driving” the computer. They probably have people do it for them, and observe when needed. Exceptions might be the younger or more academic apostles, who were “on the net” prior to be being called to the Quorom of the 12.

    Here’s the entry that was quoted.

    Later that month, I noticed church-owned IP’s browsing my blog.

    Of course, it could have been from a public terminal at the Family History Library, too.

    I’m not sure how to respond to this attention. I have an ego, and pride has often gotten me into trouble before. Cowering in fear and wonder seems appropriate.

    Comment by Bookslinger — December 16, 2007 @ 1:32 pm

  12. I thought you were the local heretic Jacob…

    Ha. I’ll let Elder Ballard be the judge of that.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 16, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

  13. Indeed, Jacob. Indeed.

    Comment by Steve Evans — December 16, 2007 @ 2:27 pm

  14. Bookslinger,

    At stake conference a few years ago Elder Scott busted out a Thinkpad, hooked it up to a projector himself, and then started making slides for his talk, while giving the talk. I see presentations all the time by people that know technology and this was one of the most impressive uses of tech that I’ve ever seen.

    Comment by a random John — December 16, 2007 @ 3:20 pm

  15. The power of the internet is expanding. My hats off to those who have laid the foundation for the bloggernacle—thank you. The bloggernacle has many groups that make it up.

    [Edited. Mostly because this same comment was posted at 3-4 other blogs that I know of which probably qualifies it as spam...]

    Comment by Jared — December 16, 2007 @ 3:40 pm

  16. Now I feel guilty about not having had time to blog much the last six months…

    Comment by Clark — December 16, 2007 @ 3:41 pm

  17. By the way, did you notice that this talk about blogging is featured very prominently at the top of the lds.org page? (I actually noticed it when nabbing the HT lesson and before I’d checked out any blogs)

    Comment by Clark — December 16, 2007 @ 3:42 pm

  18. It seems to me that it has been too long coming. The Church was a Johnny come lately to the possibilities and impact of the internet. That is also why I suggest that y’all establish a web page that saves your particular blogs and makes available materials that are accurate and may be of benefit to the kingdom.

    I’m still reluctant to do a lot of discussion on the net because it seems to play into the sound-bite culture that so trivialized everything that if it can’t be dealt with in 3 paragraphs forget about it.

    Comment by Blake — December 16, 2007 @ 4:52 pm

  19. What is the criteria for being aggregated at Mormon Archipelago? Some of them do not strike me as particularly Mormon.

    Elder Ballard’s charge was, “…to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration.”

    He didn’t say to promote far-right Republican ideology or chat about BYU football or Battlestar Gallactica.

    Comment by Naismith — December 16, 2007 @ 5:04 pm

  20. Naismith: Some of them do not strike me as particularly Mormon.

    Which do you mean? With the exception of the “Diversions” category I’m pretty sure all the other blogs do indeed focus on Mormon life, culture, history, or doctrines is some way.

    Also, do you have a beef with BYU Football or Battlestar Galactica? (If so you are missing some awesomely awesome awesomeness in life…)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 16, 2007 @ 5:12 pm

  21. Naismith,

    That is ridiculously unfair. First, you are applying ex post facto criteria to policies that have existed for years. Second, you are implying that the only legitimate objective of an LDS web aggregator is to serve the public relations needs of the LDS Church. Third, the most casual perusal of the LDS blogosphere will demonstrate that left wing policies and preferences are at least equally predominant on secular issues, and on religious issues, overwhelmingly so.

    Comment by Mark D. — December 16, 2007 @ 5:29 pm

  22. Second, you are implying that the only legitimate objective of an LDS web aggregator is to serve the public relations needs of the LDS Church.

    No, I’m not. I’m just saying that the bloggernacle AS IT EXISTS does not seem to be what Elder Ballard was describing and asking for.

    There is some overlap, certainly. But I don’t think we can feel we are living up to his charge if we are mostly writing about Cougar football or Republican politics. I do think a lot of what passes for “Mormon culture” has little to do with the church, especially the church outside Utah (which is actually most of the church).

    Comment by Naismith — December 16, 2007 @ 7:38 pm

  23. Naismith: But I don’t think we can feel we are living up to his charge if we are mostly writing about Cougar football or Republican politics.

    Which “we” are you making accusations about here? Please name specific blogs that are “are mostly writing about Cougar football or Republican politics”. (And as an aside — why are you only complaining about “Republican politics”?)

    The MA does not currently aggregate blogs that specialize in politics and have turned away a ton of applicants that are politics-themed. There are some blogs in the aggregator that talk politics on occasion to be sure (especially lately) but none of them launched as politics-themed blogs and most of them tend to be group blogs.

    Are you griping about any specific blogs here or just generally whining and casting aspersions?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 16, 2007 @ 8:03 pm

  24. Naismith,

    How does one pronounce the word Gallactica? Gayacktica?

    Comment by a random John — December 16, 2007 @ 8:39 pm

  25. On the topic of BSG, I’ll say that the original series is the most Mormon but it is seriously cheesy.

    As for the new series here we go:

    Miniseries: 3 fraks
    1st season: 5 holy fraks
    2nd season: 3 fraks
    3rd season: 0 fraks (I stopped watching)
    Razor: haven’t seen it either

    Comment by a random John — December 16, 2007 @ 8:43 pm

  26. This is a big day for the bloggernacle. Congratulations to Bookslinger, I have often admired your missionary zeal, and am not surprised that your blog was used as a good example.

    So, I guess we are licensed to blog now (as I commented at Waters of Mormon)

    Comment by Eric Nielson — December 17, 2007 @ 6:53 am

  27. So, I guess we are licensed to blog now

    No, actually you’ve been “counselled” to, which will be invariably transformed into a near-commandment by a few zealots, and placed right behind home teaching in the “list of things to feel guilty for not doing enough of.” ;-)

    Comment by Nick Literski — December 17, 2007 @ 7:28 am

  28. Your ability to find a something to criticize Mormonism about in everything, no matter how otherwise positive the news might be, is truly impressive Nick.

    Of course the emoticons are so whimsical we don’t even notice that you’re at it again! :-) ;-) :-p (See what I mean?)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 17, 2007 @ 8:28 am

  29. Geoff, it was a joke, and the emoticon was only there for the benefit of those very few individuals who would otherwise choose to read a joke as a scathing attack on their faith. You know the type. They’re the same few who seem to think not voting for Romney is an attack on the LDS church.

    Comment by Nick Literski — December 17, 2007 @ 8:36 am

  30. Mine was a joke too Nick.

    (What? You took my harmless little joke as a criticism of you or something? Didn’t you see the three cute and whimsical emoticons I included?)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 17, 2007 @ 8:40 am

  31. Grumpy in the morning, Geoff? You can feel free to think the very worst of anything I post. If you like, you can even pretend that this post contains a coded message of aid and comfort to Osama Bin Laden. I’ve corrected your mistake once, and you choose to persist in thinking evil of others. If that’s what brings you peace and joy, have at it. Just please don’t try to impose it on everyone else.

    Comment by Nick Literski — December 17, 2007 @ 9:08 am

  32. Grumpy in the morning, Geoff? You can feel free to think the very worst of anything I post. If you like, you can even pretend that this post contains a coded message of aid and comfort to Osama Bin Laden. I’ve corrected your mistake once, and you choose to persist in thinking evil of others. If that’s what brings you peace and joy, have at it. Just please don’t try to impose it on everyone else.

    We’re on to you… Terrorist…

    Comment by Matt W. — December 17, 2007 @ 9:46 am

  33. ROTFLOL, Matt!! Nicely done!

    Comment by Nick Literski — December 17, 2007 @ 9:51 am

  34. Wow — you seem extra sensitive this morning Nick. Is everything ok? I was only making a joke bro… (Didn’t you see the super-cute emoticons??) If you like, you can even pretend that my responses to you were inspired by Satan himself. Why are you insisting on thinking so poorly of me for it? If thinking the worst of me makes you feel good you are free to do so just please try not to be a sourpuss for the sake of everyone else.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 17, 2007 @ 10:01 am

  35. Geoff: “I know you are, but what am I?”

    Sheesh…..

    Comment by Nick Literski — December 17, 2007 @ 10:15 am

  36. Hehehehe. Good times. Good times…

    Comment by Geoff J — December 17, 2007 @ 10:36 am

  37. Are you griping about any specific blogs here or just generally whining and casting aspersions?

    I am not griping, whining, or casting anything. I’m asking a question and making an observation.

    I’m not suggesting that anything about the bloggernacle should change.

    I am merely questioning whether the bloggernacle as it exists is exactly what Elder Ballard had in mind, and whether the self-congratulatory nature of many online responses is warranted based on his comments?

    I’m actually grateful for the info about Cougar football, since my husband is a fan. But is it what Elder Ballard was talking about? I dunno.

    And I think that the new BSG is something I don’t feel comfortable having in my home, due to the prevalent sexuality. I don’t consider it particularly LDS.

    Comment by Naismith — December 17, 2007 @ 2:30 pm

  38. Naismith,

    I assume Elder Ballard would like authentic LDS voices on the web joining in the the world wide conversation (rather than allowing our critics do all the talking). Giving air time to the voices of real people is what blogs do best and the bloggernacle is no exception. We talk about things that matter to us and to other Mormons; we ask questions about the church and its’ culture and history; we defend the church against unfair and inaccurate attacks; we even occasionally discuss things like politics and sports and Sci Fi that have Mormon connections. Are you of the opinion that Elder Ballard is opposed to Mormons (like me) writing occasional posts on things like BYU football? Do you think that he is saying he wants blogs that are pure and undefiled by such things or something? I don’t understand what you are angling for here.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 17, 2007 @ 2:43 pm

  39. With all of this talk around the Bloggernacle about these comments from Elder Ballard, I have decided to start my own blog. However, I am pretty busy with school, so it won’t get as many posts as I would like. But I hope that what I can get to will be of use and interest. I enjoy this blogsite, so I think I may link here. Best wishes.

    Comment by The Yellow Dart — December 17, 2007 @ 8:33 pm

  40. I am interested to see how things will change. Will this talk go virtually unnoticed, or will LDS themed blogs be overrun with new readers? If everybody runs home, googles “mormon blog” and starts reading this blog, how will it be different? Will new readers force out old readers? Will the general ‘feel’ or tone of the blog change with an expanded audience?

    Comment by rrc — December 17, 2007 @ 9:21 pm

  41. rrc:

    I believe that this talk will disappear quickly. Most members will never hear about it (unless it happens to make it into GC). I also do not think that this will lead to a quick or significant amount of traffic.

    My guess is that the biggest change will be that people currently blogging Mormonism will feel better about doing so. And also might be a touch more careful about what they say and how they say it.

    I don’t predict the rank and file members taking up the bloggin hobby in large numbers.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — December 18, 2007 @ 10:13 am

  42. Eric, you don’t see it significant it’s the prominent talk on LDS.org? I think you underestimate how many people use the Church’s web site.

    Comment by Clark — December 18, 2007 @ 10:50 am

  43. Clark, I actually agree with Eric on this. Even on the Church website, it is couched in language like “Urges Students” and “New Media” which limits the audience somewhat, so many will say “this is not addressed to me” and tune out.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 18, 2007 @ 10:59 am

  44. Clark,

    I’m with Eric on this. I don’t think it will make any noticable difference by itself. (If they make it a theme then I would reconsider.) To those of us who blog, this seems like a big deal, but if I was not a bloggernacle regular, I would likely see this much like the standard counsel to be a good example, be a missionary, share my testimony, etc. I would liken it to some leader telling me to keep a journal. Lots of people write in thier journals that night, but I don’t know if the first instance of that counsel started a huge journal writing movement. However, imagine how exited the “journal club” is to hear that.

    Blake,

    That is also why I suggest that y’all establish a web page that saves your particular blogs and makes available materials that are accurate and may be of benefit to the kingdom.

    What does that mean? You lost me.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 18, 2007 @ 11:01 am

  45. Jacob: click on my name and you’ll see what I mean.

    Comment by Blake — December 18, 2007 @ 11:25 am

  46. Blake: If you click on my name will I also see what you mean?

    Comment by Jacob J — December 18, 2007 @ 11:30 am

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