Four years ago, I sat in a cramped Manhattan apartment and set up my first blog, “Mormon Rhetoric.” I started this blog in a moment of frustration. I had recently married in the temple. But what should have been a key spiritual moment instead led to a spiritual crisis. Unable to reconcile how I perceived the temple’s message about women with my personal beliefs, I wanted my questions to be heard. The blog was short-lived.
I was soon invited to join By Common Consent. I had never heard of the Bloggernaccle, and I initially didn’t understand the social nature of the blog. I didn’t realize that community, not ideas, was what made the Bloggernaccle thrive. But I learned. Now, four years later, I’m retiring from the ranks of BCC permablogger so that new voices can be heard. Before I go, I want to reflect on the key thing I’ve learned through the people here: I can’t make intellectual peace with Mormonism, but I can make emotional peace with Mormons.
I became an adult over the course of my time at BCC. In my personal life, I got married, gave up a career path I cared about when my spouse got an incompatible job, and, finally, started up a new career. Each step in this steep learning curve was directly or indirectly reflected on the blog in posts where we supported and argued with each other over the issues these decisions raise about what it means to be Mormon in a twenty-first century world.
In the end, I’ve learned that if being Mormon means believing in a coherent set of doctrine that both explains and prescribes our existence, then I can’t do it. The diversity of our experiences cuts against any attempt to comprehend God’s plan for our lives in simple maxims. The questions that motivated me to start blogging still have no satisfying answers. The temple still leaves me dissatisfied; the hierarchal organization of the Church still strikes me as less than perfect. Mormonism as an organized, doctrinal entity is perhaps something I can never fully embrace.
And, yet, I’m leaving BCC with a renewed interest in the Church. As we’ve witnessed members of our blogging community grapple with personal crisis and also successes, it is impossible not to see how those experiences have profoundly shaped our sometimes divergent views. The most important thing I’ve learned through blogging is that I need to understand what motivates people who disagree with me. For me, Mormonism at its best means something as simple and practical as that God wants us to care for each other. The doctrinal questions only matter to the extent that they help or inhibit us in fulfilling this core goal.
In sum, I moved away from an interest in Mormonism as a cultural/doctrinal/intellectual organization towards a view of religion as primarily a place to help each other. While I haven’t found the intellectual answers I seek, through blogging I’ve come to value church for being the space that pushes me most to love those who have little in common with me.
Wards can be hard places to learn about others in. BCC gave me a my first place to have honest discussions with people about the issues most important to them. It also gave me my first meaningful chance to have male Mormon friends. I hope these aspects of the Bloggernaccle will penetrate into the more scripted confines of our individual wards as we come and go from the Bloggernaccle. These conversations are a necessary step in the project of learning to live with and trust each other.
My commitment to the church as primarily a practical place for fellowship leaves me with questions: What makes religion unique from mere service if we question some of its doctrinal messages? What church issues are worth taking a stand about rather than putting on the shelf? How is a service-oriented church best organized? But I look forward to reading the musings of current and new bloggers here.
Thanks for four years,