Can blogging be spiritual?

April 26, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 10:03 pm   Category: Bloggernacle,Widtsoe Reading

In 1937, John A. Widtsoe presented the following test as a measure of spirituality. I really like what he says:

Spirituality in man or woman may be recognized by simple tests, of which the three following are of major importance:

The spiritual person renders intelligent obedience to the requirements of the Gospel. There is no quibbling about this principle or resistance to that practice. Whatever has been revealed to and accepted by the Church becomes binding upon the person. The spiritually-minded person chooses to render obedience because he understands the principle or practice involved. True obedience is never blind. Such obedience is a direct approach to the Lord’s favor.

Spirituality rests upon a surrender to the divine purpose. Therefore, another test, closely akin to the first, is the willingness to sacrifice for the cause of the Lord. Does a man when called upon to do so give of his time, strength, talents and means, for the advancement of the Gospel cause? Readiness to render such service, unpaid and unrewarded in material ways, is a fine test of spirituality.

There is yet another test, the greatest one. Spirituality begets love. The spiritual man loves the latter-day cause of the Lord; he loves the Gospel; he loves the Church, which is the conservator of the Gospel; he loves those who are called into any office to serve the cause; he loves his fellow men. His love is expressed in the good words he speaks of the cause and men, in his steady support of them, in service for them. True love does not dwell on externals, on faults; it looks into the heart of the loved one, and sees goodness and virtue there. He who loves, is not and can not be a faultfinder. Spirituality leads to love and loving words.

(John A. Widtsoe, Program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1937], 64 – 65.)

So, given these criteria, can blogging be spiritual?

Is blogging currently spiritual for you?

What can we do to make blogging more spiritual?


  1. [my own answears: Yes, blogging can be spiritual. Blogging is only occasional spiritual for me. AS for what can be done, I think we need to recognize some subtext in the three tests.

    Test 1: “True Obedience is never blind “ and “understands the principle or practice involved”. I think it is fair to say we all do not come to the table with the same level of understanding of every single issue. I think we often need to recognize we see through a glass darkly on certain topics and respect that those who do not agree with us, based on their understanding, are not being truly disobedient to god, no matter how strong our convictions may be. This isn’t to say we can’t attempt reasonable respectful dialogue, or even heated impassioned debate. It just means we shouldn’t believe that just because someone likes Dick Cheney, or worries about sexism, or is anti-evolution they are bound for perdition.

    Test 2: “the willingness to sacrifice for the cause of the Lord” I definitely don’t think this means we need to spend more time blogging. I do think however that we need to be willing to say, “good point, your right, I was wrong.” Is there a greater sacrifice to be made than the sacrifice of the ego? And I don’t mean the lame old discount either. We can’t get away with “You’re right, but…” That’s called discounting, because you just discounted everything you said before the word but. Next time try “You’re right, and…”

    Test 3: Love. I don’t think I need to add any midrash to Widtsoe on this one..]

    Comment by Matt W. — April 26, 2007 @ 10:03 pm

  2. obedience to the requirements of the Gospel.

    Defining the actual “requirements of the Gospel” versus superfluous stuff is the tricky part…

    Comment by Geoff J — April 26, 2007 @ 11:15 pm

  3. Maybe we, like the Sons of Provo, should actually be aiming to make the our blogging more “Spiritchal”…

    Comment by Geoff J — April 26, 2007 @ 11:23 pm

  4. Geoff J: I think even if we wanted to be really aggressive and demanding as to the requirements of the Gospel, the farthest we could go would be demanding adherence to those items set forth as requirements for baptism within the Church. (I say baptism, because there are currently more requirements for baptism than for a temple recommend, judging by preach my Gospel.)

    Comment by Matt W. — April 27, 2007 @ 5:28 am

  5. I really like the Widtsoe take on this. I think we sometimes think spritual means having mysterious events in our lives. I believe the spirit to be more practical than that.

    Blogging can be no more spiritual than the people involved. I also wonder if there is a ‘lowest common denominator’ involved with the spirit. Might that be the case? The spiritual level might not rise above the spirituality of the least spiritual person involved. if anyone has unkind feelings… Just a thought.

    But yes, a gentle, humble, kindness is a great evidence as Widtsoe general suggests.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — April 27, 2007 @ 5:41 am

  6. Yes.

    Comment by Susan M — April 27, 2007 @ 6:51 am

  7. Eric:

    That’s an interesting concept, regarding the LCD. I guess I believe a very spiritual person can raise the spiritual level of those around him or her. After all, love begets love. Also, I think two people can be having a discussion where one is feeling the spirit strongly and the other is oblivious to it. I think this has to do with the level of fluency one has in spiritual understanding as well as the level of attention one is giving to the spirit.

    On the other hand, the LCD idea seems to have scriptural backing in Joshue 7 when they lose at the city of Ai, for example.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 27, 2007 @ 7:18 am

  8. Matt:

    Love may beget love, but anger tends to beget anger, etc., etc.

    I think there may be a certain level of independence in feeling the spirit. One person may be ‘moved’ by something while the person next to them may not be. I’m sure this happens all the time.

    But are you not talking more of a community spirit? Or a shared spirit of some kind? Both are edified and rejoice together as the saying goes.

    I’m pretty sure that the ‘mileage’ one gets from a given measure of the spirit varies as well.

    These are some interesting thoughts to me – something to try and sort out someday.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — April 27, 2007 @ 11:34 am

  9. Pearls before swine…

    Can it be? Yes, I think so.

    Can I think of a less efficient way to improve spirituality? No, I don’t think so.

    Comment by MAC — April 27, 2007 @ 1:18 pm

  10. MAC,

    You can’t think of anything less efficient in improving spirituality than discussing our scriptures and theology with (predominately) fellow believers? Perhaps you are not thinking hard enough.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 28, 2007 @ 10:59 am

  11. MAC, I checked out your blog. All I can say is “That’s no beam, it’s a space station.”

    Comment by Matt W. — April 28, 2007 @ 12:53 pm

  12. Matt,

    In response to your post, I don’t think that blogging can be spiritual by the Widtsoe standard you quote. Your comment #1 seems like a bit of a stretch to fit anything like blogging into the categories of obedience to the gospel and sacrifice for the cause of the Lord.

    I do think blogging can be worthwhile and I certainly think it can play a supporting role in a spiritual life. I think my answer to the title of the post would be “yes” if it were not for Widtsoe’s very restrictive definition.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 28, 2007 @ 6:31 pm

  13. Jacob,
    Widtsoe only requires obedience, willingness to sacrifice and love. I do not think it is impossible to be obedient or loving in the blog environment, and I like to think that sacrificing my time and “talents” to help others in this environment is not without merit.

    Personally, I like Widtsoe’s definition, but then again. It’s simple, clearly defined, easy to understand, and reasonable.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 28, 2007 @ 8:11 pm

  14. Yea, I am not saying it is impossible to be obedient and loving in the blogging environment. Your title asks whether blogging can be spiritual. If all that is required is that one can be obedient and loving while doing it then I suppose nearly anything can be spiritual. Perhaps that is what you are getting at. Either way, love is good, no argument from me on that.

    I was interested that you said you consider your blogging as a sacrifice of time and talent to help others. I don’t think of my blogging that way at all. I blog because I enjoy it. I don’t think of myself as doing anything particularly important, and I have never thought of it as doing something for someone else.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 28, 2007 @ 10:15 pm

  15. I don’t always think of it that way, I have to admit. I do sometimes though. Two of my sometimes reasons for blogging are to learn more and help others, both things I enjoy. (And I believe the more I learn, the more I can be helpful.)

    Other times it’s the less noble time filler and intellectual candy.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 29, 2007 @ 7:55 pm

  16. Jacob,

    Lots and lots and lots of random people doing Google searches come across our discussions. If we can help bolster their faith in Christ in any way we are in fact doing service for others I think. If that weren’t the case I probably would not invest as much time into this hobby as I do. The intellectual stimulation is cool and all but the numerous so-called lurkers make this hobby something more as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 29, 2007 @ 8:14 pm

  17. A hearty amen to Geoff’s #16.

    Comment by Téa — April 29, 2007 @ 11:08 pm

  18. I suppose that anything could become a spiritual experience if a person feels moved by the spirit, but who can really get a firm read on when/how that will happen?

    I remember an unfortunate experience my freshman year at BYU where I told a “this really happened to me” spooky evil-spirit campfire story that I knew to be lie (yes, dishonest, unethical, duplicitous, I must admit it).

    Afterwards a guy came up to me with tears in his eyes because my story had touched him and he felt the Spirit tell him that he needed to change his life and go on a mission. He was so sincere and so thankful, and I was absolutely floored (and quite filled with guilt). How could my lie become such a spiritual experience for him? I thought the Spirit only confirmed Truth. But clearly there was more going on than I had ever stopped to consider before, and to this day I do not really understand it.

    So, if a lie can become a spiritual experience, then I suppose a blog can as well. Or maybe folklore, or satire, or any other number of things. But I wouldn’t necessarily say that my purpose in “Mormon blogging” has anything to do with furthering my spirituality — it is more a reflective exercise in self-definition and ego promulgation, not necessarily in that order. But maybe that’s just me.

    Comment by Glenn — April 29, 2007 @ 11:18 pm