Note: although this is posted in my name, in fact it is a collective statement by Steve Evans, Ronan, Ed Snow, Davis Bell, Kaimipono Wenger, Karen Hall, Kris Wright, J. Stapley, Aaron Brown, Elisabeth Calvert Smith, John Hatch, and me.
Just before a mass baptism of the people that he led, Alma explained the baptismal covenant. The ordinance is for those who
are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death (Mosiah 18:8-9).
If these requirements are binding on us “at all times and in all things, and in all places,” then surely they apply to our interactions within the world of the Mormon internet. We have all, at times, failed in our obligation to comfort and bear the burdens of others within our community, and we recommit here to do better.
Accordingly, we pledge:
1) We will always remember that the people we’re talking with are at least as important as the ideas that we’re discussing. Because of the detached interaction typical of online communication, we sometimes find ourselves forgetting that our conversational partners are real people discussing things that are sacred to them. Consequently, we open ourselves to the greater sins of hurtfulness and aggression–behaviors that contradict our commitments as followers of Christ. We now pledge to do our best to avoid these errors in our posts and our comments.
2) We remind ourselves that there is no such thing as victory or defeat in a discussion of gospel themes. Religious discussions may legitimately be described as enlightening or uninteresting, edifying or frustrating, but they can never fruitfully be treated as debates or contests. As Christ has taught us,
there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been (3 Nephi 11:28).
We pledge to replace the attitude of contention and debate with postures of exploration, inquiry, and fellowship.
3) We sometimes define the beliefs and positions of our friends within the Mormon internet for them. This error allows us the illusion of certainty about other people, but it also reinforces unhealthy pride. Exploration of other people’s spiritual perspectives can often be valuable for all involved, but criticism of such intimate ideas is often more damaging than enlightening. We promise that we will strive always to allow others to define their own beliefs and opinions, and also to respect such self-definition.
4) On occasion, we find posts and comments that seem to contain serious errors of fact or of doctrine. In these circumstances, we sometimes respond with belittling public statements of reproof or correction. Such statements can correct error, but they are often hurtful to the people whose errors are corrected. We hereby pledge that, if we must make public statements of correction or rebuke on major issues, we will correct perceived mistakes gracefully and charitably.
5) In the past, our attempts to be funny have sometimes contained more anger and aggression than humor. We value humor as an essential part of any healthy community, but we must not allow humor to excuse unkind behavior. We pledge that we will avoid jokes that hurt more than they entertain. At the same time, we will remember that our online interactions are a hobby and are therefore supposed to be fun. Therefore, we will avoid taking ourselves and our arguments so seriously that we become offended by well-intentioned humor.
By keeping this pledge, we hope to become more civil, more charitable, and more Christ-like in our online interactions. We invite any others who feel inclined to join us in making this pledge to “sign on” to it in the comment section below.