I dearly hope we can yet step back from the brink, but assuming Kate Kelly and John Dehlin are excommunicated, I predict it will have no effect on Internet Mormonism. There will be anguish, bickering, and loads of clicks, but the world of Internet Mormonism will go on unchanged. The Bloggernacle vs “Nothing Wavering” vs anti-Mormon lines were etched in stone long ago; we’ve long since self-sorted into a stable system, and that system isn’t going anywhere. Neither will there be much of a chilling effect, because there is simply no way the church can discipline every blogger, and it’s not going to happen. But don’t call me a Pollyanna. My prediction is that the outcome will be much, much worse than the loss we would suffer if Internet Mormonism were damaged in some way.
Instead, the outcome will be great damage to bricks-and-mortar Mormonism. What kills me is the thought of the thousands upon thousands of microaggressions this will unleash in chapels, foyers, family reunions, carpeted cultural halls, and RS Park Day moms’ groups. It is emboldening those who would divide our wards and wreak havoc on Zion in our in-person, flesh-and-blood religious lives. As Rosalynde perfectly stated, “Our worst fears about each other seem to be confirmed — ‘See, they really are dangerous apostates!’ ‘See, the church really is out to squash independent thought!’” This will infect our meetinghouses with distrust.
I’m not concerned about being targeted as a blogger. I’ll still be here, writing about how I think women should have equal representation in General Conference and leadership, gays should enjoy equality under the law including marriage, editing photos to make them modest is an abomination, and BCC makes better memes than FMH (the Bloggernacle always has been a strange mix of high and low content). I’m certain this will go on. I’m far less certain that my weekly ward experience will be the same after this. I’m far less certain that when I wear my nice work suit to church I will be viewed as a slightly quirky but still solid Saint that anyone would be happy to have teaching their son or daughter. I’m far less certain that when someone hears how I vote they will still want to be my friend and invite me to their General Conference-watching gathering or their pre-ward temple night dinner & carpool. I’m far less certain I’ll be able to keep on convincing my wavering loved ones–family members, visiting teachees, and friends–that they are welcome and should stay or come back. It may take decades to recover, and that’s the optimistic take that doesn’t assume massive permanent attrition of the very kinds of people we would need around to leaven the bread and heal the wound again.
Let’s not do this. Please. Please let’s not do this. It’s not too late.