The Future of Mormons on the Internet

I posted this article as part of the truly amazing series at Patheos, but thought it might generate some discussion here as well. I encourage everyone to check out the other articles in the series.


Recently I read an article predicting a blossoming future for blogging, heralding this method of self-publishing as the future of
content distribution. The article in question was published in 2005. Things have changed in five years. Most recent trending data and polls agree that blogging is on the decline overall, with some demographics showing their interest in blogs cut by half. For lack of a better term, blogging is a dying technology. Blogs were faddish in 2005, but are now dying on the vine. Young people — the trendsetters for internet content production and distribution — have largely eschewed blogs as a medium. There was no Mormon blogging in 2000, and there probably won’t be any in 2020 for that matter.

I am no Jeremiah, come to fortell the doom of the Bloggernacle. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. But if we are to consider the question of the future of the Bloggernacle, I believe we need to engage in two tasks as a prerequisite: first, we must understand why the community of LDS blogs exists, and second, we must understand the evolutionary pathways of new media and gain a sense of which way the river is flowing.

Why does the Bloggernacle exist?

LDS blogs exist for a number of identified reasons, but fundamentally a single reason predominates: community. Humans are social creatures, craving interconnectedness, and Mormons are especially social humans. This is partially attributable to Wasatch Front Western friendliness, I suppose, but I also view our society as a central feature of our faith: we are saved in great chains of family stretching back and forward through the eternities, and Joseph Smith wrote, “that same sociality which exists amongst us here will exist among us there only it will be coupled with eternal glory which glory we do not now enjoy.” The Prophet was not referring to blogs or firesides or ice cream socials. “Sociality,” that eternal characteristic of forming and nurturing communities, is a principle of Mormonism that is not often taught but is nevertheless essential to understanding our meetings, our everyday interactions and, most relevant, our blogging. We explicitly practice what we intuitively feel, namely that the processes of community building and forming bonds of friendship and common faith are basic and timeless.

Previously, these communal tendencies had plenty of real-world outlets in which to run, whether that be in founding and settling actual communities in barren parts of the world, or in forming micro-communities within existing systems. The former of these is no longer an option to most of us, and the latter is passively (at times actively) discouraged without official Church sanction. In generations past, Mormons also sought to engage each other by via public discussion and debate. The public square within Mormonism does not exist the way it has in times past; it is more like the plaza on Main Street in Salt Lake City, where everyone is welcome to engage with each other within certain general boundaries of behavior, some written and some unwritten, as established by our leaders.

Additionally, as others have noted with respect to publishing in the LDS community, it is today virtually impossible to make a living writing for a Mormon audience without going through Deseret Book. We may never again see a mass-market piece of LDS thought written by an author who is not an apostle or a product of the CES. Popular biographies such as those written by Prince or Bushman may prove the exception to this rule, but they are history books, and as such they are presumably neutral (and harmless). Finally, society as a whole has become more distant, more alienating and less connected than ever. We entertain ourselves by streaming movies over the internet into our homes. We work by toiling alone in cubicles in front of computer screens. We harvest our food by placing an order online with convenient at-home delivery. The time we spend with our fellow saints, formerly the hub of our society, is now a mere three hours a week — and we bemoan every minute. Ask a Mormon what she would say to a two-hour block instead and you will see a gleam of joy in her eye. Indeed, the love of men has waxed cold.

So we are modern Latter-day Saints: filled with instinct to reach out and commune with our sisters and brothers, but no real idea how to do it, few unsupervised and obvious avenues available and with the whole of modern society geared against us. Little wonder, then, that the Bloggernacle came into existence; in retrospect, its creation seems almost inevitable. We desperately want a place to talk to each other, argue with each other, cry with each other and lift each other up, but modern life and the institutional activities of the Church do not adequately meet this need. We created the Bloggernacle because without it we were lost. It is no panacea, and (as I have argued previously) it cannot wholly satisfy our eternal craving for community, but it is immediately available and it is amazingly empowering, and as such it has surprising vitality.

Where are these new media going, anyways?

Remember first how blogs first came into existence: usenet forums, BBS, and online diaries, all fused together in the 1990s. Blogging as we know it today represents the evolutionary pairing of various early internet technologies, made popular by informal political diarists and virulent discussion threads. These origins may explain why blogs today are still filled with lengthy comment threads, political rampages and in-jokes, but more importantly remembering the evolutionary path of blogs reminds us of the inevitability of technological change and perhaps gives us an indication of where we might be heading. Steve Rubel established a public ‘mind map’ that charts possibilities for blogs, but I see a few trends worth noting:

1. Multimodality. The best blogs aren’t pure ‘blogs’ – they already incorporate video, audio, images and text. They are highly participatory both in terms of users generating content (comments, posts, etc.) and users disseminating content (pushing articles they find interesting over their own individual networks such as via Facebook, etc.). The next phase is a highly immersive platform for content sharing that incorporates formats of all kinds.

2. Persistence of the long form. Though it may cause some to roll their eyes in disbelief, blogs increasingly represent the long-form essay format in the context of internet discussions. Readers today have attention spans rivalling hummingbirds. Even blog posts of three paragraphs can scarcely retain the interest of the average internet reader, who is relentless in his need to be entertained. That said, there will always be a need to flesh out arguments and give context to thoughts. Somewhere, people will still need to explain themselves in full.

3. Integration of new-form social networks. When you log in to check your Google email, you also log in to Google’s instant message software, their online document creation service, their photo album, their calendar, their Facebook equivalent, etc., etc. Microsoft has a similar system. More and more, people will be able to broadcast their content over multiple channels simultaneously and in ways tailored to their respective audiences. An example: a user at Posterous can email a long-form blog post to a single address, and upon transmittal it will be published on a blog, linked to on Facebook, sent via Twitter, emailed via LinkedIn and pinged on Google Buzz as well. We are only in the nascent phases of this sort of integration, and the end path will be instant content sharing with everyone you know in a custom-tailored format.

Mormons of the Future

So where does this leave us? Some things change, some don’t. It’s clear that our concepts of salvation in communities will continue to push us to reach out to others, to share, to question and to sustain. We will continue to write about our faith, to laugh, to cry, to make snarky remarks and to find moments of pure joy. It’s unlikely — and probably not desirable — that Mormon internet communities persist in operating using the same methods and technology that they use today. If technological developments lead us to new realms of interconnectivity and instant sharing, these tools will play to the core strengths of Mormonism, and we will form a Bloggernacle (or some other Nacle-variant) where we embrace each other and see eye to eye better than ever before. Equally promising are the signs that the Church itself is embracing this new world of connectedness and democratized content-generation; the new site recognizes the power of a message that is modern, uncorrelated and completely genuine. I believe that Mormons will find the future of the internet very much to their liking, as both the Church and its members move towards a time of bonding with each other and sharing experiences

in ways never thought possible.


  1. I might be accused of sordid sycophancy here (an accusation I would deny as there are no favours Steve can bestow on me that I do not already have or cannot already get), but it’s fair to say that Steve Evans *is* the Bloggernacle, at least its 2003-10 iteration.

    So one question might be, what’s the future of Stephen D. Evans, Mormon Blogger?

    Interesting to see you dissemble a bit on the salvific power of this joint.

    What should BCC be doing to “keep up”? Specifics.

    And I heard that one prominent Mormon blogger recently told LDS Media Types that their efforts are hopelessly tardy. Explain!

  2. Ronan, that’s proprietary information, not for public consumption. Suffice it to say that BCC has a bright future.

  3. Beautiful post, Steve! I agree wholeheartedly re: Community, and how the Bloggernacle (and Social Media in general) is changing the way we as members communicate forever. As you mentioned, via mediums such as, the LDS Facebook Page (and others), Mormon Messages on Youtube, and other efforts I think the Church is noticing and embracing new methods to enable members to communicate. I hope this continues and we as members are able to continue this community we have in the Wards and Stakes beyond just the 3 hour block that is Sunday.

  4. I wonder to what extent this will require a blurring of the boundary between the institution and the members.

  5. Strong work frere Evans. And though I know what you were getting at, I disagree that there will be no Mormon blogging in 2020. Of course there will. It will surely look a bit different, but your prophecy of doom sort of reminds me of Google wave being the end of email.

  6. Jesse, there is the a sense, however, that the communities built up outside the three-hour block, and the ideas that circulate within them, are not always welcome within those three hours.

    So far efforts by the Church to utilise this media have usually viewed the membership as transmitters of the message. They are expected to share links and posts which are assumed to reflect their thoughts and/or ideas. However, part of what makes these communities dynamic and desirable is the ability to generate content, to respond to each other and to make new connections.

    In addition, if these communities are to expand or if the message is to be shared widely (this seems the intent with Mormon Messages for example) then I think this raises questions concerning the boundaries of these social media communities and how we want or expect people to engage with our message.

    I suspect that if Sunstone and Dialogue can continue as long as they have, then I imagine that in the future there will still be a bloggernacle. It may eventually die out, but it will still be here in 2020 with many of the old guard hanging around referring the newbies to past posts and other excellent content.

  7. “I wonder to what extent this will require a blurring of the boundary between the institution and the members.”

    I think we’re beginning to see that already. I don’t know to what extent it will occur, but check out – the majority of the mobile applications released by the Church have been developed by members, not employees, and there are other tech efforts being handled by member volunteers. Also see the efforts at for matching Church needs with member volunteers. Awhile back I started an organization called LDSOSS for similar purposes. I think as members want to help more and truly show that, the Lord will provide more ways for them to help.

    Personally, I think this is requisite for Zion to occur. Members will have to take on more responsibility. Those are just my thoughts though.

  8. Peter LLC says:

    An example: a user at Posterous can email a long-form blog post to a single address, and upon transmittal it will be published on a blog, linked to on Facebook, sent via Twitter, emailed via LinkedIn and pinged on Google Buzz as well.

    I first saw this on your FB.

  9. Jesse, the link for did not work but the work on seems really very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Aaron, those are great points.

    I shared some examples of ways members can contribute, from a tech standpoint in my earlier comments, but at the moment even that is still driven by the Church (which is fine). I think in a worldwide audience it’s still important to remain some form of unity as a Church. At the same time I agree with your points.

    In my personal opinion, I think it’s the potential of helping members recognize the Spirit that is the end goal of all that the Church does as an institution. My hope is that as members, we can be enabled to speak, when prompted by the Spirit (within our capacity to do so), and not just in Church.

  11. Aaron, oops! I meant (I am thinking about sharing at the moment)

  12. I should add the hashtag, #IANAA (I am not an Apostle) just as a disclaimer before anything I say is taken at Face Value though ;-)

  13. Very interesting article. The most surprising thing to me, however, was the short bio at the end. Are you no longer practicing law?

  14. Thank you for this article. It is great to see the history of things, especially as I’ve only really been here for the past couple of years. I agree that something like the Bloggernacle is always going to be around and serves a very important purpose.

    There is an essential need for the “Bloggernacle”. As the Church is celebrating diversity amongst its membership with its recent forays into the internet, etc., it’s practical application has gone in the opposite direction. Even more than the length of the 3 hour block is the CONTENT of the 3 hour block. Our meetings have become sanitized, correlated, follow-the-manual-don’t-use-outside-sources, homogenized blocks of time where everyone is expected to look the same with regards to “unofficial” dress and grooming standards.

    The reality is that people are different. The LDS Church means different things to different people. We all have different backgrounds. We all look to religion to fulfill different needs. Some of us are more emotional and some of us are more logical. Some like conformity and some like individuality. Some like lists of rules and others like finding what works best in their own personal lives. Some look at the Church as a facet in their personal relationship with God and some look at the Church as their conduit to God.

    There is NO room in the Church to express ideas and thoughts that might not toe the “party line”. Granted, certain people in specific wards and circumstances might be able to get away with a few comments here and there, but realistically, there is no room for exploring issues, for give and take, for investigating history and all of the fascinating things that have brought us to where we are.

    And since there is no room within the Church to do any of this any more, voila, the Bloggernacle. The beauty of the internet is that it allows all of this. It allows people who think alike to find others who think alike. It allows people whose circumstances require some anonymity as they explore different thoughts to have that. It serves a vital purpose.

    Thank you to all of the pioneers who have spent hundreds and thousands of hours over the past years to set up places and sites like this. You have helped me and, I am sure, thousands and thousands of other people in ways you will every know.

    Thank you.

  15. Good post. Dare I give credit to John Dehlin heret? Well, what the heck! I think John has made excellent progress in this sort of area. The podcasts, the videos, the media content, to me, seem to be usurping the blogging aspects for John. I think it could be argued that John’s intent is different than the regular bloggers in the ‘nacle as he desires to help those who struggle, but his use of technology really overshadows what most of us do in the b’nacle IMHO. Perhaps this is the bloggernacle 2.0, I dunno.

    I am appreciative of community for the very reasons Steve outlines. One part, however, that is disconcerting to me is why we need to do this? Why isn’t the 3 hour block on Sunday sufficient? Is it supposed to be? Do our leaders think so and are we all being renegades because instead of reading our scriptures, and spending more time with our family, we’re talking about the church with a bunch of strangers? 3 hours of Mormonism is certainly enough for me, so I’m left wondering about the content. Perhaps the content at the 3 hour block isn’t quite satisfactory, so I seek elsewhere to converse with like-minded individuals. In part I feel that I go to church to physically act out my Mormon-ness, but I come to the b’nacle to mentally think through and grow in my Mormon-ness.

  16. And Dang Mike S. there was serious mind-bending telepathy between us here! I had not read your comment when I posted mine. It’s surely a sign!

  17. jmb275, it should not be surprising that engaging with our faith in different venues and settings impacts upon our lives in various ways. I don’t think the 3-hour block is about content, imo, it is about building redemptive forms of community. My commitment to Mormonism would wane very quickly if it were limited solely to participation in the bloggernacle because my ward gives me the space to live out the ideas discussed here. In addition, other avenues (such as books) serve a different purpose as well. In addition, I think it is irrelevant whether the Church sanctions these types of activity because I don’t think they also claim to provide all things for all people. They choose to use the resources they have in very specific ways.

  18. Aaron R.,

    I think you are right (by my interpretation of what you said, anyway). I am less bothered by the sanitized/correlated nature of Church meetings because I don’t use Church meetings for education. I use my study time outside of the meetings. For me, Church meetings are about 1) the Sacrament, 2) fellowship with fellow saints, and 3) information about opportunities for service. That’s it.

  19. Then again, I also don’t use the Bloggernacle the way many others seem to. I like the community, but that is not because of variance in thoughts and beliefs; in fact, I usually get annoyed at those very things. I use the Bloggernacle for entertainment. As long as I find it entertaining, I’ll stick around.

  20. Community? Yes, I’d agree the bloggernacle is a community, but it can also be a brutal place. Seems risky coming her for love.

    I come here for amusement, like Scott, but I also come here for education (“Readers today have attention spans rivalling hummingbirds” — I resemble that remark)

  21. Cynthia L. says:

    #19–A tad reductive, but still very true for me as well. The community I find here is full of the kind of people I like–who share the same sense of humor, who àre interested in similar topics and pursuits. It isn’t about “wah, nobody else at church holds heterodox belief xyz like I do,” it’s more like, “nobody else thinks lolcat ‘I can has sista wife?’ is the funniest thing ever.”

  22. Cynthia and Scott, the fun is very important for me; but that is not all, because I know fun people already. There is a very real sense in which I find community among people who are willing to tolerate heterodoxy (even though I’m fairly orthodox, I think) and who will ask questions which stretch me. Both of those things have been important factors in keeping me in the Bloggernacle.

    Perhaps this is a source for some of the future fragmentation which might occur in the online communities. It is possible that our different needs in this regard might lead us in different directions.

  23. Aaron,
    Sure–I don’t mean to suggest that entertainment is the _only_ thing that I get here, or that it needs to be the primary thing for anyone else, even if it is for me. I think that a project’s ability to contain all of these elements is part of ensuring a future–entertainment, devotion, education, etc…i.e., something for everyone.

  24. I hope so but I wonder if this is part of the dissatisfaction that some people feel with their local wards. Perhaps in trying to accommodate for a variety of needs (though not all needs as I noted earlier) it dilutes the success it has in meeting any of them.

    I difference in our online communities is the degree to which we are not constrained by geography. Hence successful blogs will depend upon their ability to ‘recruit’ people who can respond to those diverse elements.

  25. I wouldn’t characterize things in terms of dissatisfaction per se. I don’t feel dissatisfied with my ward — I think it does pretty much what it sets out to do. I just don’t feel that it is setting out to do everything that I personally need.

  26. I use the Bloggernacle for entertainment. As long as I find it entertaining, I’ll stick around.

    For entertainment . . . and to unleash your sick brand of sadistic torture on unsuspecting fools.

  27. I just don’t feel that it is setting out to do everything that I personally need.

    Right–I find that to be one of the very frustrating things about the Bloggernacle to me: the prevalence of the idea that the Church is not meeting this or that need, when I’m not convinced that it was ever trying to meet this or that need, or even if it should try.

    Of course, I cite such prevalence without referring to specific examples…

  28. Professor Christos says:

    ‘Cassandra’ predicts the death of LDS blogging, perhaps by 2010. That is a bold prediction, but one has to wonder upon what foundation it rests.

    My Mormon [LDS] informants tell me, “We have not yet begun to blog!” They said this with such conviction that I am inclined to believe that Mormon passion for blogging has not yet risen to anything like its potential.

    History shows time and time again why no one should ever underestimate Mormon will and achievements.

  29. Scott, totally agree – though my article clearly argues that the Church clearly did at some point meet the need of community-building, and that it currently does not. I believe it should. But this does not mean exclusivity.

  30. Steve,
    When you say that you think the Church should meet the needs, and that it formerly did, what do you mean by “Church” specifically? Do you refer to the actual Church itself, or to the natural associations we obtain from the geographic organization of the Church?

  31. Scott, a hundred years ago those two notions were synonymous.

  32. Right–but my question was more about your “should” statement–which part of “the Church” should meet the needs–the actual institution, or the natural associations? In other words, are you saying that the Church itself needs to re-think its programs, and scope, or that Latter-day Saints need to re-think how we interact and build in our communities, regardless of what the Church itself is doing?

  33. I’m not being difficult intentionally–I promise.

  34. Re: 7

    Jesse, that site is awesome. Due to health issues, there is very little local service that I can render, but proofreading text? Tagging videos? Right up my alley! Thank you so much for sharing that link!

    As for the Bloggernacle, it serves a very real function in my life. On weeks when I cannot make it to church, it gives me a connection to the LDS community. It is a place where topics of interest can be discussed without the time constraints of formal meetings. It is a place where the topics of interest are often very interesting to me, but not to anyone else nearby in real life.

    I think that the idea of the bloggernacle will be around for a good long time to come – a public forum for us to gather and discuss things without being limited by geography. The form of it may change pretty radically in twenty years, but I think the desires that created it will not, and thus the idea will continue.

  35. Steve Evans says:

    Scott, the latter, although my argument is that community-building is doctrinal and ultimately instinctual. The Church IS rethinking its programs, but this is what the Church has always done will continue to do as it tries to be a more effective institution. I guess I am working more descriptively than prescriptively here, not really talking about what the Church should be doing, etc., so much as just pointing out what the Church actually is doing and where members seem to be headed with or without the institution.

  36. It only began in 2002? That was a short run.

    Of course before that there were mailing lists. (A few of which are still fairly active)

    It seems like there is a desire for discussion. If blogs don’t provide it what is? (Please don’t say twitter)

  37. Steve Evans says:

    Clark, discussion will always take place. Twitter is one possibility, but in my view the most likely result is hybridization between various forms of currently available social media channels.

  38. In the sense that the term “blog” will cease to be used, I agree with you. I think that blog is a horrible term, and deserves to die.
    In the sense that the conversation will continue, I absolutely agree. It has ever since Socrates, and long before that.
    In the sense that the format we use in 2020 will be vastly different than what we see today? I don’t know that I agree (and I realize you’re not making this claim anyway) when it comes to this type of discussion. I don’t think that a blog is all that different than what Rousseau, or his fellow “men of letters” throughout modern history have used to express their ideas. I think there will be an ebb and flow, and the recent popularity of blogs in general has been due to a fascination in the ability to self-publish for free, and this will wane till there is consolidation and only those with true interest in writing and reporting will again be prevalent. But I don’t think that the format will substantially change. I think that there is a long-term place for something like a blog, and there really aren’t many other formats (conceived or not) that could improve on the short essay – discussion format.

  39. B.Russ,

    I think I agree with you. I think that blogging is on the decline to the extent that people are finding easier ways to self-advertise — Twitter and Facebook. What we will return to are the core of people who like blogs because of the >140 character content and conversation. Can’t see that ever going away or turning completely into some 3D-holographic form of communication. People like the written word.

  40. Scott, to your question, and I don’t know that its really prescriptive either, I don’t have a clue what the church *should* do most of the time; thats a calling I kinda hope to never have.
    But from my experience, it seems that the church puts 90% of its fellowshipping emphasis on a) investigators/new converts and b) the youth. and about 8% of the remaining emphasis goes to reactivation. This leaves about 2% for community within the church. I know this can vary from ward to ward, but it doesn’t seem like there is very much internal fellowshipping on an institutional level. It more seems like that callings are given, and service is asked for, and an assumption is made that community will develop organically – and for many personalities it does. But for many others, it never does, and church begins to feel like a burden that is borne in order to reap the benefits of the gospel, instead of a blessing within itself.
    I don’t presume that the church has a responsibility to fellowship those who are already active members, especially on an institutional level, but I do acknowledge that it COULD be a responsibility, especially with the stated goal of “perfecting the saints”.
    I also realize that in order for more adult activities to take place, more sacrifice is required in the form of more callings, less time focusing on other responsibilities, etc. So as said before, I’m glad its not my calling to decide.

  41. Of course, you could say that ignores Home Teaching as an institution . . . but I don’t know that Home Teaching, as it is practiced, is a very social event. It always feels awkward to me – both giving and recieving.

    Maybe we could do away with Home Teaching (and visiting teaching) as practiced, and do some sort of Spousal Visiting, where couples visit families as couples. Single members could be paired up arbitrarily (probably still male male; female female . . .).

  42. B.Russ, I would argue that the Church’s programmes actually assumes it is not organic for exactly the reasons you cite. The focus upon youth and new members is an attempt to integrate those people who are new and the (smaller?) emphasis on less-active people is the focus upon those who have not managed to maintain ties with the community. Those who are active and bound to the community have already been integrated by one of the previous three mechanisms.

  43. 42 – Yes, but if I ever move from the ward I grew up in as a youth (very likely) or I was converted into (likely, depending on life stage) then when I move to a new ward, I start with zero sense of community, and any community does have to grow organically.

  44. “2. Persistence of the long form.”
    Case in point: that was the only paragraph of your post that I actually read.

  45. Excelsior, Sean.

  46. Persistent Lurker says:

    I visit the bloggernacle to reflect on how glad I am that bloggers aren’t running the church.

  47. Thanks for that, P.L. Please visit us again soon.

  48. But aren’t we?


  49. Elder Cook is now a blogger. Yes, bloggers are running the Church.

  50. Sigh. I am always so behind. What do you mean blogging is on the decline? I just started! I finally got an IPOD, too, so I can listen to BCC podcasts. Are those on the decline, too?

  51. Mark Brown says:

    I finally got an IPOD, too, so I can listen to BCC podcasts

    Well done, thou good and faithful Stephanie!

    Look for more outstanding podcasts in the near future.

  52. Steve Evans says:

    General Rule: everything is on the decline.

  53. General Rule: On the decine = just getting good.

  54. Mark Brown says:

    Steve Evans, the archetypal Edmund Burke conservative.

  55. Just a note for those of us who are bewildered by the apparent death of long form exposition and attention spans…. most hours spent on Facebook (and to some extent Twitter) are cannibalized from TV watching. Clay Shirky cleverly compared TV watching in the 20th century to the popularity of Gin carts in late-19th century Great Britain — that is, the lowest common denominator for unstructured leisure time. Personally, as I get deeper into my 30′s, I read more and watch TV less. I also use Facebook much less than I did 3 yrs ago. My participation in blogs like this has grown, in step with the increased reading.

    I think discussion-oriented blogs like this (not “mommy blogs”, which are just Facebook profiles on steroids and don’t count despite their prevalence), are more inclined to those seeking edification and therefore attract a different segment of people. Gaining the attention of bored youth who are looking for an easy way to give order to their mental entropy will always be a rapidly-evolving game. Blogs may have filled a greater percentage of “passive” leisure time 5 yrs ago, but there are now more engaging tools to this end. I’d like to think that while the quantity of blogs is on the decline, the percentage of blogs that transcend the mundane is on the rise. All that said, rich dialogue and an exchange of thoughtful ideas has never been a popular or mainstream practice — most prefer to talk about themselves and other people vs. their own and others’ ideas.