Today’s priesthood lesson topic: Beware of Blogs

June 5, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 10:49 pm   Category: Bloggernacle,Mormon Culture/Practices

Yep, it’s true. Our priesthood lesson today ended up being a warning to the brethren on the dangers of blogs. In fairness, it was actually a pretty good lesson and the instructor repeated several times that he did not advocate banning blogs any more than he advocated burning books. But it was hard to remember that up front disclaimer with all the other parts on how teenagers these days are all getting into blogging communities and we need to be very careful about that.

I guess in our stake here in AZ there are lots of the teenagers that are getting in to these online communities. I’m not sure these are actually blogs. The three sites mentioned were,, and I glanced at these and it looks like has blogs but I didn’t have patience enough to figure out what the deal with the other two is. (I’m hoping some commenter here will cover for my laziness in that area.)

Anyway, it may be that these gated Web communities have dangers that regular blogging on the the open Web does not have, but the instructor focused on the general topic of Blogging. He said that we ought to be watchful over teenagers because there is all sorts of stuff on these teenage blogs to be concerned about. Then he listed things that sound like all the things that are the staples in any high school in America (angst, bravado, some sexual talk, vulgar language, etc.).

I found the whole thing interesting for several reasons:

First, there was a whole priesthood lesson on blogging! That is odd in itself. I think this is important because blogging is only going to get bigger. If the phenomenon is already big enough to get its own special warning lesson you know it is entering the mainstream.

Second, while there were general disclaimers, the message was to “beware of the wolves at the door”. To me this was not surprising. The tone reminded me of the firesides we used to get in the 80’s trying to freak us out about the evils of modern rock music. (That worked so well on me that I ended up fronting rock bands for the last 15 years…) In other words, the tone was a bit reactionary, though it could have been much, much worse.

Third, the instructor implied that blogs were corrupting our teens. I found the third reason befuddling. Blogs are like journals. Most people blog about what they believe and what they care about. If I want to learn more about what they care about I read the blog, and if I don’t care I don’t read. My point is that unlike other forms of media, no one is trying to persuade me to buy their product in blogs. It is more like reading a lot of editorials. How is that dangerous to teenagers? If the blog content from other teenagers is offensive it is because the contents of those bloggers’ minds are offensive. Blogs contain just what they are thinking. To send a teenager to school every day seems much more spiritually (and physically) dangerous than to let them peruse blogs by other teens. If you can trust a teen to choose real world friends wisely can you not trust them to choose the blogs they read too? At least with blogs they can get away with just a click. It’s a lot harder to get away when the scumbag is across the aisle on the school bus. I fully understand protecting teens against sophisticated marketers of harmful material like porn, etc. I think filters and other protections against online porn are a great idea. But it seems that overreacting to teens blogging is a silly thing to do. Blogs are not going away. When it comes to blogs, I think it is better to learn to choose our content wisely. Joseph taught “…Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves”.

I might add that I brought up the fact that I run an LDS blog and that there is such a thing as the Bloggernacle near the end of the lesson. I think it shocked a few people after the general “beware of the wolves” tone leading up to my comment.

After church one friend asked me for some advice about his teenage daughter’s blog. He wondered if he ought to pull the plug on her. I recommended that he pay attention to the blog, teach her to choose her reading material wisely, but let her do what I am going to do… Blog On.


  1. After church one friend asked me for some advice about his teenage daughter’s blog. He wondered if he ought to pull the plug on her.

    Given that he’s aware his daughter has a blog, I assume, he knows where to go to find it and how to read it. Just letting his daughter know that he’ll be reading it will probably be all she needs to know to keep her in bounds.


    Comment by Mark N. — June 5, 2005 @ 11:01 pm

  2. I, for one, am glad to see that some in the Church have finally exposed blogging for the evil that it truly is! Down with blogs indeed…or is that down with ignorance?!?!?!?! ;-)

    Conversely, I am thankful to a few select members of the Church who also taught me that rock music was of the Devil. Who knew that Alphaville and U2 were actually the seed of Satan? If only I had listened to their wise and loving counsel. I might not be in the grips of the evil U2 iPod that sits on my desk. Be gone Satan! Get thee behind me iPod!

    I’m still waiting for the lesson on the evils of ignorance. In the meantime….BLOG ON!

    Comment by Brian Duffin — June 5, 2005 @ 11:16 pm

  3. Interesting, Geoff. There’s still several months before the deadline on my prophecy of a GA mention of blogging expires.

    But’s it’s good to know that the open first Sunday of the month still allows some free-for-all outside the rigid curriculum.

    Comment by Christian Y. Cardall (TSM) — June 6, 2005 @ 4:30 am

  4. Interesting. I have long thought that eventually some member is going to become rattled by something they read on a blog and tell the Bishop they no longer believe, thus prompting warnings about the dangers of blogs.

    On the other hand, most threads in the ‘nacle include a good variety of opinion, such that a leader investigating content is going to find things they agree and disagree with. As such, I don’t think there is any real threat to blogging from the church. Even if it does grow widely, I think it will remain nothing more than something a handful of lay leaders disapprove of.

    Comment by Eric Russell — June 6, 2005 @ 6:49 am

  5. I think it would be a good idea if some of the more educated philosophers that scan these blogs prepared a defense against potential fear over blogging. I know it’s all funny right now to hear some of the ignorant things people say about it, but like Eric said, it only takes a couple people going to the Bishop and complaining that they lost their testimony of the gospel because of a blog for the leadership to come down on it.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — June 6, 2005 @ 6:58 am

  6. I don’t see any warning that could be applied to blogging that could not be applied to any other online forum or activity, and vice versa.

    Comment by Jared — June 6, 2005 @ 7:16 am

  7. Geoff,

    There’s blogging, and then there is blogging. You mentioned that you had never been to “myspace” for any period of time. I actually tried it for a while. Despite a policy to the contrary over at myspace, a lot of the content over there is downright pornographic- just browsing member pictures your eyes are assaulted by all sorts of things I wouldn’t want my kids to see- things which can serve as a gateway into lifelong pornography addiction. You can and will accidentally see things that worthy latter-day saints should not look at if you browse around at myspace for some period of time.

    I think your priesthood quorum instructor was right to warn of the dangers of blogging in an environment such as myspace. I’m sure he did not see anything inherently wrong with blogging as we do it. I think there is no reason that kids shouldn’t be able to blog, but we as parents need to make sure they do so in a safe environment.

    Comment by Jordan — June 6, 2005 @ 7:57 am

  8. I’m surprised that they didn’t mention what is (I think) one of the most popular sites for teens: .

    We get livejournal links at T & S every now and then. Some of the livejournal blogs that link to us are positive, and some are quite vulgar and nasty. (Those ones tend not to give us positive reviews, I should point out).

    I can see that these sites may be somewhat more problematic than run-of-the-mill web browsing. I think that they could be more addictive or enticing for teens, since they offer the added aspect of joining a community of like-minded individuals. In this sense, they’re like message boards, rather than general websites.

    But as a general matter, I think that normal common-sense web-sense — checking on your kids, having discussions with them, having some sort of filtering software, etc — should be sufficient for these sites, just as for the rest of the web.

    Comment by Kaimi — June 6, 2005 @ 8:34 am

  9. Christian,
    Your prediction from a few months ago came to my mind immediately. I think you predicted a mention of blogging by next general conference, right? I thought I gave it until the end of ’06…

    Jordan and Kaimi,
    Thanks for the insights on MySpace and these other Web communities targeted toward teens. It looks like some of those gated communities are much more prone to things like suggestive/explicit pictures and content. I think they are like online nightclubs or something. The problem with this lesson we had yesterday was that the instructor called it all “blogging”. I don’t blame him for that because it is such a new medium that we don’t really have words in the vocabulary yet to describe or label the differences. But it is clear that what happens in those dating-oriented sites bares almost no resemblance to what happens with blogging out here on the open Web. I suspect it is just a matter of educating ourselves and discerning the differences and then agreeing on words to describe them. The danger is that until our understanding and language become more nuanced, we face a risk of having all “blogging” being condemned from the pulpit…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 6, 2005 @ 9:12 am

  10. I tend to agree with Jordan and Kaimi, though I haven’t spent any time at these closed communities. If parents aren’t engaged in the lives of their teens, any aspect/association has the possibility of going negative.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 6, 2005 @ 9:17 am

  11. Geoff, agreed. Hopefully to that end you took a few moments after the quorum meeting to pull your brother aside, tell him you enjoyed the lesson, and then clarified to him the difference between those sites and general blogging on the web (perhaps even referencing your own blog…).

    Comment by Jordan — June 6, 2005 @ 9:42 am

  12. Geoff,

    Glad you’re in the “Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves” camp and not w/ the “free agency and how to enforce it ” crowd. I was worried about you. You’re priesthood instructor, on the other hand, is dangerously close to the McConkieite thought control wing of the church and needs some deprogramming big time. On the teenage blog freedom issue, we are raising adults, not perpetual children.

    Comment by Steve (FSF) — June 6, 2005 @ 10:18 am

  13. Actually, the problem was not with the instructor in this case, Steve. He really did go to great lengths to emphasize that blogs are not any more of an inherent evil than movies, books, TV, etc. But because this is such a new medium he didn’t have any other words to describe these issues than “blogs”. I think our language will evolve pretty quickly and we will be better able to distinguish between blogs like those in the ‘Nacle vs. those gated dating communities when we have these types of lessons in the near future though. But in the meantime, we will probably have to deal with some misunderstandings over the next year or so…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 6, 2005 @ 10:30 am

  14. I don’t see this as all that reactionary. Though I regularly post to sites in the bloggernacle, I have real problems finding many other blogs that don’t get really foul at times. I mean, people can’t talk about smurfs, for crying out loud, without more than a small measure of profanity I didn’t know existed and sexual content I wouldn’t want my kids encountering (or myself, for that matter). I think that, as many have pointed out here, it’s not much different than the rest of the web, but I’m not sure that’s all that good. As with a lot of what travels the information superhighway, we need to be careful. That doesn’t mean hiding in a hole, but it does mean a lot of caution. On the other hand, if I remember my statistics, pornography still runs second on the web to genealogical research, so it’s far from all bad.

    Comment by Steve H — June 6, 2005 @ 11:30 am

  15. Yeah, the bloggernacle is generally prudish and safe. T&S kicked me off along time ago. I thought at the time it was for writing that people getting frequent sex are calm and content and my undergrad studies at BYU became much easier after I threw in the towel and became sexually active. I had mentioned in another post I had served an honorable mission before that, so I figured somebody freaked out about it all. But, I later found out it was for allegedly being too graphic in a description of how my wife and I are amused by porn, they way they get right down to business, etc. In any event, the bloggernacle is certainly safe.

    Comment by Steve (FSF) — June 6, 2005 @ 2:41 pm

  16. Yeah, yeah Steve (FSF), we all know… You used to fornicate, you got kicked off of T&S, you are a rebel, you have shocking opinions…

    You don’t need to impress us bro., we’ll discuss the issues with you regardless of your history or quirks…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 6, 2005 @ 5:38 pm

  17. Thanks. But I’m no LDS Howard Stern. I think of my opinions as colorful mainstream, not shocking.

    Comment by Steve (FSF) — June 6, 2005 @ 6:12 pm

  18. Color is a lovely thing.

    (And that fact fits nicely with this post, actually…)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 6, 2005 @ 6:25 pm

  19. Why do GAs insist on spreading fear when one of the most significant tools ever created by Man is in its infancy?

    Do they fear the empowerment of the individual? The free and distributed access to the Internet creates a perfect, frictionless market of information, allowing individuals to arm themselves with knowledge and teaching them to think critically. It also serves to enable networks of people who support each other in their daily lives.

    This development should be encouraged, not treated in a reactionary way. What do they fear?

    Comment by Timothy — June 6, 2005 @ 7:08 pm

  20. MySpace and Xanga and a good chunk of LiveJournal are downright scary. The way that MySpace is structured, in particular, gives rise to some really frankly creepy behavior — stuff I’ve never seen in the bloggernacle and rarely seen in the politically oriented blogs I usually visit. And there’s no really good term for these sites yet. It’s like a combination of services like Friendster (which also got overrun by gross behavior) and Blogger. I’d be very concerned if any of my younger siblings were active on MySpace, and I’ve encouraged both of the older two with their blogs.

    For what it’s worth, I think it’s easy to look around at all the LDS sites, all the serious blogs, all the official websites out there, and take a very positive view of the internet away from it. And I think that you can spend about thirty seconds on many fanfiction sites, on LiveJournal, or just hitting that “next blog” link on any Blogger site, and see the internet as evil. It’s exactly like a busy street in New York; you can spend all your time in the public library on that street, but that doesn’t change the fact that the library’s neighbors are probably unsavory or even dangerous. And not all of those neighbors are easy to judge right away. I don’t see anything wrong with warning people about what’s out there, though it’d be nice if we could get some clear terminology (and if the brother in this case had done some more research in terms of blogs vs. these community sites.)

    Comment by Sarah — June 6, 2005 @ 7:54 pm

  21. the church doesn’t like the internet, PERIOD. Ot’s a source of discussion & information OUTSIDE the (self-imposed) conditions-restrictions of ‘correlation’, controlled lessons & talks.

    (hoping not to offend any) Im no genius, not Einstein, or anything like that…BUT ever try to have a significant conversation with a TBM? Many just don’t allow those, because they’re ‘outside’ the ‘force field’ of their defenses.

    Here’s a clue: the reason the church doesn’t teach (you, me, anybody) about the mountain meadows massacre is b/c of what the lesson is: (Just like the holocaust) sometime to do the right, you MUST go against the grain of the current authorities who are otherwise the ‘only source of truth and right’

    Comment by anders tronsen — June 6, 2005 @ 8:39 pm

  22. Timothy,
    What are you talking about? There is no mention of any GAs spreading fear of the Internet in my post. Do you have any evidence to support this rather odd claim of yours?

    Likewise, I am interested in what evidence you have to support the idea that “the church doesn’t like the internet, PERIOD.” Have you been to lately? The site is getting better and more useful all the time. I personally sold Internet services to the Church years ago.

    What is a TBM? (Tall Blonde Milkman? Terribly Bloated Muskrat? Totally Bouncy Muchacho?) I don’t know if I’ve ever had a conversation with one or not.

    Also, I just bought a copy of Juanita Brooks’ Mountain Meadows Massacre at my local Deseret Book. Is shopping at Deseret Book now the equivalent of going against the grain?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 6, 2005 @ 9:21 pm

  23. Great comment Sarah (though our fellow Saints in NYC may not agree with all of it :-) )

    I appreciate your further insights into these community sites that are becoming popular with a lot of teens. It sounds more and more like they are very different and a lot more precarious then open blogs like the ones we promote at I also don’t think it is reactionary to give warnings about the more unsavory places on the Web. That’s what the Good Shepherd does and that’s what he wants his undershepherds to do as well. I will just feel more comfortable when we come up with better ways to differentiate those sites from blogs like those here in the Bloggernacle.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 6, 2005 @ 9:30 pm

  24. Geoff, sounds like you’ve been visited by people from the Exmo board (whether they are or not, what they’re spouting sounds a lot like it.)

    TBM is a derogratory term they use for “TRue Blue Mormons” ie. those of us who are brainwashed ignorant cognitive-dissonance-suffering robotic sheep:) (If you ever peruse that board, you’ll see that I’m not exagerating terribly.)

    Comment by Ben S. — June 7, 2005 @ 5:58 am

  25. I thought TBM was True Believer Mormon. But Ben is right that it’s usually used pejoratively.

    Comment by Mark B. — June 7, 2005 @ 6:55 am

  26. Steve (FSF) : the Mormon Howard Stern!!!
    Its cool that the Mormon’s finally have one.
    Don’t back away from the title Steve; it could help propel your career. You could be a Utah Shock Jock. : D

    By the way what does FSF stand for?

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 7, 2005 @ 7:00 am

  27. Interesting comments and post by all. I know I’m probably going to spark some debate here and since Geoff is my husband I’m sure we’ll have some “lively” discussions about my comment later today. You see, I like to check up on him and make sure he’s not associating with “unsavory” characters in the bloggernacle.

    I think that one of the scariest things that you find on the internet and blogging is this mask of anonymity. For instance, Geoff talks about how he’s been in rock bands for years and may give the impression that he is one cool cat, but how do you know? Maybe he wouldn’t know a saxophone if it bit him on the butt! Or maybe he’s some 95 year old computer genius that likes to get you young whippersnappers whipped up into a frenzy when ever possible and he sits back and laughs his wheezy old laugh when you do. Or, what if he is some tiny, mousey, man who types away furtively into the night so his large and domineering wife will know nothing of this alter-ego of his! Your kids may think they are blogging with some “like-minded” teeny bopper, but how do they and you know that they aren’t becoming best buds with a very sophisticated predator, just grooming your child to the point where they can convince your child to run away from those horrible, nasty parents and into the arms of the only person that ever truly understood them?

    Hopefully parents are supervising their children enough to waylay any situations like this. It’s the technically overwhelmed parent or worse, the lazy parent you worry about in these situations.

    Hhmm, maybe Geoff is the one who needs to do the blogging supervision around here (this is what happens when you always make your wife get up with the crabby children at night, they run amuck on your blog!)

    Comment by Kristen J — June 7, 2005 @ 7:40 am

  28. Speaking up,

    I’m afraid even I have no interest in matching Stern’s depravity. I’m presently on the east coast and have a career as a physical scientist / middle manager. I doubt I’d shock anyone in Utah anyway; as the U is probably the most pagan school I’ve ever visited. I’ve actually been a student at BYU, Michigan and Princeton, so I have a wide repertoire of schools to compare to. Moreover, if I ever went public with even my mildly unorthodox views, I’d probably loose my church membership, and that’s not a direction I wish to go either. Think of me as kind of an apprentice cynic, as a true cynic believes in nothing, and that certainly doesn’t describe me.

    FSF stands for former serial fornicator. It’s a scarlet letter I gave myself when T&S kicked me off (Comment #15).

    Comment by Steve (FSF) — June 7, 2005 @ 8:31 am

  29. Ha! Thanks for your input, Kristen. Keep Geoff’s online persona humble…

    (and keep a look out for my sister, who is moving out to Queen Creek with her two kids later this year…)

    Comment by Jordan — June 7, 2005 @ 4:51 pm

  30. This is a great topic. I wonder if the church leaders will say something about not visiting and participating in blogs, just as they say don’t form your own study groups, etc. I find the LDS blogs to be a great substitute for independent study groups, but I do agree with Kristen J. – you need to be careful to make sure you don’t believe everything you read…

    P.S. I really hope the church doesn’t ban blogs, because then the only blogs out there will be anti-Mormon.

    Comment by Elisabeth — June 7, 2005 @ 4:53 pm

  31. Kristen: Geoff… may give the impression that he is one cool cat, but how do you know?

    Uh-oh, the jig is up!

    Jordan: my sister, who is moving out to Queen Creek with her two kids later this year…

    Niiice! She’ll love it here. And that means a visit from her blogging brothers will be right around the corner too, right?

    I really hope the church doesn’t ban blogs, because then the only blogs out there will be anti-Mormon.

    That’s alright. Apparently those guys are obsessed with Terribly Bloated Muskrats anyway…

    you need to be careful to make sure you don’t believe everything you read…

    Especially at this blog!

    Comment by Geoff J — June 7, 2005 @ 5:28 pm

  32. I think it would be a shame to ban the blogs. It’s hard to find opportunities for sincere, unstructured discussions about the Church. The anti-LDS blogs and websites out there are filled with frustrated people who know a lot of facts about the church that many TBMs :) don’t know about. is a great resource, but it doesn’t address all the negatives that are out there about the Church other than to repeat the standard lines. I’ve enjoyed reading the discussions on the blogs – and hope the Church leaders see and appreciate their value in learning about the gospel and Mormon practices.

    Comment by Elisabeth — June 8, 2005 @ 7:03 am

  33. I agree Elisabeth, it would be a shame. I highly doubt we will get any sweeping bans on blogs though. That would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. A sweeping blog ban seems no more likely than a sweeping Web, or TV, or rock music ban — and those ain’t gonna happen.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2005 @ 12:53 pm

  34. I have an account at I haven’t noticed anything too pornographic there, but I rarely log in anymore. I mainly added a bunch of bands to my friends list so when they post notices about tour dates I’ll see them. It’s becoming well-known as a place for bands to have pages because you can easily post songs for people to listen to.

    Comment by Susan M — June 9, 2005 @ 6:36 pm