The Splintering

I believe we are near the end of cohesive online community within our Church.

I suppose you could argue that things were never really that cohesive: pockets of different subgroups have existed for over a decade, and heaven knows people have been dusting their feet off at BCC for as long (some of you may not remember Jason Wharton). I’ve also been harassing commenters for as long.

I’m basing this all on my gut sense, so it’s entirely possible I am wrong, but I believe things are getting much worse. Facebook and Twitter are either endured in closed groups or by blocking entire swaths of people. Comment threads are typically either echo chamber agreement and acclaim, or vitriolic trolling. The posts themselves seem to be more divisive as well. I believe this divide largely tracks similarly widening gulfs in political viewpoints in the US and elsewhere. I also do not believe that the divide within our society will heal itself. We are all Very Angry Online, and that is the new status quo.

Put more succinctly: you can only post so many ‘truth bombs’, or call people vultures and wolves in sheep’s clothing or heartless nazis for so long, before those seeds of discord begin to take root and blossom. They are blossoming now. Those who disagree with us are no longer entitled to any presumption of good faith, and those who agree with us with less than full-throated enthusiasm are deemed suspicious. Unless we know the other person in real life (and sometimes even then!), we don’t treat others like they’re real people who deserve respect and patience.

Some critiques of what I’ve just said:
You’re largely responsible for this divide in the first place! Perhaps I am. I’m not sure that invalidates my conclusion. If it merely means that I’m not qualified to be part of fixing the situation, so be it.

Online church communities have been really good for me. They’ve been good for me, too, which is part of why I felt like writing this post. When you see the slow withering of something you love, it prompts some reflection.

Things aren’t really that bad, you’re exaggerating. The best scenario here is that I am simply wrong. I would really like to be mistaken.

Things aren’t really that bad in real life, they’re just bad online. I agree with this, but given how much we are online, I think it’s only a matter of time before these fractures filter into our real-world communities. It has already begun, in my experience.

You’re diminishing the necessity of standing up for what’s right. I don’t mean to engage any particular issue or position here. I’m simply saying that we’ve lost the ability to talk to each other.

Things were never cohesive; don’t pretend that there was some harmonic Golden Age. Nostalgia is a powerful distorting force, but I truly believe things used to be better.

You’re not proposing any solutions; this is unhelpful. I don’t have a solution. I don’t think the situation is reparable. I believe that online Mormonism is akin to the situation in 3 Nephi 7:2 – total tribalism. That civilization remained hopelessly fractured until it suffered massive destruction, followed by the visitation of Jesus Christ himself. Will ours require such intervention?

[insert pithy conclusion]

Comments

  1. megelaineconley says:

    Amen.

  2. The cultural nature of social media lends itself to dichotomousness…in just about everything.

  3. That’s one way to explain the decline of the blogosphere but I think there’s a better explanation — the blogosphere was a part of the overall Google Apostasy and provided hope / sanctuary for a large part of the online/questioning/liberal community until it became clear that the middle way road just isn’t feasible.

    Apex of the blogsophere was probably 2012 with the church desperately trying to smooth out the rougher edges and help Romney appear as normal as possible. But after he lost and activists really put pressure on leaders to follow through on what they thought were openings to reform, leaders doubled down on boundary maintenance and it became clear you had to pick sides.

    I picked the side of apostate years ago so my comments are no longer really welcome here but I have to admit to a bit of nostalgia reading this post — years ago I too was optimistic.

  4. I retain hope that splintering is not inevitable. It can be hard to find a balance, a place where our first instinct isn’t to shout “you lie!”, and trying to convince and teach individual commenters to be better is extremely tiring. Our natural selves like the excitement, the conflict where someone could get hurt, so polarizing posts get more traffic, just like WWE smackdown gets more viewers than a debate on which wrestler should win.

    “Splintering into tribes” happens when you decide everyone else is not worth the effort. Not when you no longer have the energy to try, but when anyone in your group no longer even wants to try. We see so much of humanity divested of the physical attributes we used to rely on for judgement that we’re struggling to make new distinctions based on belief.

    At our root, we are still all children of Heavenly Parents, no matter what our beliefs. Every person we interact with is of infinite worth, even when their beliefs are abhorrent to us. Each should be invited to learn and be better people. But heaven knows it is so very tiring.

    At the least, we can maintain hope and pray that we can also improve in seeing others as our Heavenly Parents see them.

  5. I would say “I feel your pain” except that it’s trite and probably not true. I do see the divide and recognize a problem. And accept my share of the blame (my assessment of myself is that I do tend to say things people disagree with, but I usually back away from on-line fights, so I score myself at 1 and 1).

    My own view of trends is a little different. I do not remember a Golden Age. I do think on-line communities are increasingly sorted, so the echo chamber effect is heightened and critical comments look more and more like outsiders trolling. I do see an increase in very thinly veiled ad hominems (and I’m surprised they are not better policed, everywhere), and especially the version that dismisses and discredits by identification with one or another group labels.

    But I also see an increase in people paying attention and worrying about it.

    For what it’s worth, my assessment of BCC in particular is quite high on the scale of “genuine engagement (non troll) representing different points of view.”

  6. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    My take: Things aren’t as bad as you think they are, but still worse than they used to be – and trending in the wrong direction. And while it’s easy to think that’s an artifact of the current social climate, it’s not inevitable.

    I wasn’t around in the very beginning, but I’ve been following BCC for nearly 14 years, as best I can recall. Mostly lurking for the first few years, and still only jumping in sporadically, since. Those early days were a bit of the Wild West, but still fun and manageable, and productive. Today, there’s just more…noise. When a post goes up that asks for tolerance, expresses genuine distress, or shares personal struggle, you can count on a bona fide turd showing up within the first 5 comments. A place many of us come for thoughtful dialogue seems to have become a target for those who simply want tear down anything that threatens their personal perspective on life/the Church/the Gospel/etc. It’s getting harder to wade through the nonsense, and I find that I sometimes tune out. And, I guess, that’s their goal. So, maybe we need to not leave it up to Steve (or the rest of his gang) to manage the noise. Must be tiring. I don’t contribute much, but feel like this is a community where I belong. How can we help?

  7. 14 years! Has it really been that long?

    I appreciate you asking how you can help. I don’t have an answer. I do believe that the medium is in some measure contributing to our shortness of patience, which is why I think things like our Press can potentially help. We can develop empathy and understanding with longer form communication. But I’m not convinced that’s enough.

  8. your food allergy is fake says:

    I think there is a large sampling bias distorting the picture. I suspect there are enormous numbers of lurkers who read and learn without throwing bombs. The bomb throwers are usually the same, small sampling of commenters and posters.

  9. Yesterday I tried to explain that I do not believe that D&C is literally the word of God, but RMN does. That is why his concluding talk in conference makes sense from his orthodox belief system.

    But that’s not the point. Here’s the point: try going into your local neighborhood LDS ward and say “Hey everyone, I really want to participate in a church community, and I mostly identify as LDS/Mormon, but you should know that there are scriptures, doctrines, and policies that I flat-out disagree with.” Now after saying that, prepare yourself to experience the social shunning of a lifetime. You will receive no callings, never be asked to give a talk, never be asked to pray, have no friends, and heck, they refuse to even make eye contact with you.
    Now do you see why people vent online?
    Some comments online might seem vitriolic, or divisive, but at least there is diversity. I will not sit in a church court for my anonymous online comment (I hope not). Now going public, that’s something else (look what they did to Sam Young).
    My advice to you, OP, would be to embrace the diversity of thought found online – in all its forms, for better or for worse – because at least those thoughts have somewhere to go.
    I hope we are never disciplined for that.

  10. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    14 years is a guess (that does seem long). But I do miss the days of Amri, Kaimi, Roasted Tomatoes, and the lot.
    Obviously, as a longtime lurker, I agree with your food allergy is fake (and I’m glad the moniker is back!). I’m reluctant to come out of my proverbial shell, but if my voice helps to sustain productive discussion, I’ll need to get over that.

  11. the Other Brother Jones says:

    I see this fracturing in other places. Particularly in news media. I wonder if the tribes form when people are ejected from a group, or if people self-select and find a tribe that accepts them. I wonder if that is how the 3 degrees are selected.

    In any case, I think the answer is for individuals to make a change in themselves, to not respond negatively to a perceived attack; to not require an eye for an eye.

    My 2 cents

  12. Annon, believe me when I say that I understand your point.

  13. When your blog in the past week includes a post (by a person who is not a member of the church) attacking the church for its teaching that homosexual acts are sin, and another (by one who may still be a member, but I’m not sure) comparing the president of the church to a mafioso, it’s not surprising that people stop thinking that this is a place for church members to gather to discuss issues in a supportive environment.

  14. Jared Livesey says:

    Are solutions being sought for? Would solutions be accepted if offered?

  15. Mark B, see the first critique in the original post.

  16. Rockwell says:

    Hmm. Yes, this is something we see happening in real time.

    I can only say that this splintering of groups into various echo chambers seems to happen in all the online communities I’m familiar with. There are some online forums (I wouldn’t call them communities) that are heavily moderated that manage enforce behaviors contrary to trolling and echo chambers, at the expense of certain freedoms of speech and the feeling of community. See changemyview.reddit.com and neutralpolitics.reddit.com, as examples. It’s interesting to compare the forums, but it doesn’t necessarily provide a solution to save our online community, which is based on very light moderation.

  17. Steve, consider the impact of the online forums within the Church. Yes there are slings and arrows of both conservative and liberal bent that get cast at honest and earnest professions of belief. BUT, they continue to provide an effective outlet for exploring our culture, examining current and historical issues, raising concerns and creating calls for action that have had very real influence over the last decade. The fact that women pray in General Conference (the fact that there is greater awareness of women’s voices), the fact that the Temple endowment has evolved yet again to remove such painful language, the fact that the brethren amended and then rescinded the PoX. The fact that we now look at the seer stone as something that needs to be discussed as part of Joseph’s translation. The fact that we can think expansively about how translation is achieved by a prophet? The fact that we can talk openly about how prophets are fallible.

    These are just a few examples. I know several of the BCC authors personally. But that isn’t what brought me here. I came because the voice is authentic. I do not always agree with it. And there can be a tribal nature to it at times but that doesn’t change the fact that the voice of this site matters. As does the voice of other sites with more Conservative or Liberal perspectives. Social media will always be problematic. List serves and Email Groups were just as problematic. This is a problem that will not go away but we can choose how to counteract it.

    What you are talking about is a reality that forum owners have grappled with forever. Trolls and angry interactions are a natural part of online media. It is a problem that some, who were instrumental in starting what we now recognize as online social media, say can be completely controlled. See Anil Dash’s perspective here: https://anildash.com/2011/07/20/if_your_websites_full_of_assholes_its_your_fault-2/

    I don’t entirely agree with Anil. But I do believe what he calls out are real steps that can be taken to reduce the angry interactions. Facebook disproves the thought that people will always be more civil if they use their real names. But we shouldn’t ignore that the bad comes with the good. We have Lehi to thank for that reality. Opposition will always surface as we try to proclaim truth as we understand it. The best you can do is to take some of the recommendations Anil makes and be vigilant in managing the forums you control. It is how Jesus would operate in the face of an angry mob. We can only provide an example of civil discourse and encourage the same from others while restricting their ability to negatively engage with a community.

    You are doing good work. Please stay the course.

  18. I wish we would see each other more charitably. Too many of us (including me) are too quick to sort people we see online into a predetermined box based on a single comment instead of taking the time to engage. Part of the problem is that there are a good number of trolls that are acting in bad faith, and engaging with them as though they were in good faith often sucks the air out of the discussion and wastes energy.

  19. Not the biggest BCC fan says:

    I largely agree with you. And it is sort of rare we’ve had this agreement. On twitter, you’ve blocked me twice. Maybe those blocks were well deserved. Though in my defense, I never insulted you or called you a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” or some such thing. But I disagreed often and you were probably tired of hearing it… twice.

    But it is a symptom of the times in which we live. Whether it is along a line of political ideology, religious views, hopes for the future, thoughts on the role of women, social media fasts, etc, we increasingly do not share the same premise. And if you don’t share the same premise then everything that follows is likely a waste of time. Online, this is doubly true.

    But I think even if you and I were to meet in person, though we’d be more civil, more kind and walk away shaking hands, we’d still inevitably reach the same impasse. It truly saddens me. And like you, I don’t know what the solution is.

  20. Twice!

  21. Bro. Jones says:

    I agree with DSmith. To paraphrase something (wish I could remember who wrote it), the 2015 POX had this effect (among others): people on the fringe of the LDS faith left, people who were previously moderate to liberal found themselves on the fringe, and the orthodox folks dug themselves in even further. It’s not just the time that has changed: we’ve had a lot of people leave or disengage, and we don’t have many new folks coming in. Those who are seeking online discourse are generally turning to closed groups for the reasons you described.

    There was a moment around 2012 where it seemed like things were opening up a bit. Not even necessarily in terms of “liberal” or “progressive” policies–I laugh to think that some of my more liberal friends seriously thought we were on a path that led to official acceptance of gay marriage, for one–it just seems like things were a little lighter. Like the church had realized it was one global citizen among many, and that not everything had to echo our faith’s 19th century origin culture. Now I feel like the only differences between our current faith and how it was in 1968 is that we eliminated the priesthood/temple ban, church is shorter, and leadership is just slightly more diverse. There’ s much to be hopeful about in an era of retrenchment.

  22. Dave B. says:

    I think the breaking of the Fellowship of the Bloggers happened six or seven years ago, it has just taken a while for most of us to recognize that the Middle Way just isn’t there anymore. The Church decision to get tough on newfangled dissenters like John D and Kate Kelly was one factor. The rise of Facebook and closed groups had something to do with a harsher mode of commenting as well, which is quite different from the all-in-this-together feeling that one got in the Bloggernacle in the early years (say 2005 to 2012). I was a managing editor at BCC for six or eight months in the early years and it was certainly a much friendlier commenting environment back. But it was also a smaller group of posters and commenters. I feel fortunate to have made a dozen or more IRL friends from that early group.

  23. Mary Bliss says:

    The Sunday afternoon talk has caused a lot of grief. Please allow me to offer a different interpretation of what we heard. I do not offer this as an excuse. I do not offer this as a counter to the hurt expressed. I recognize the hurt as real and painful. I simply offer this as a different way of looking at what we heard.

    As a woman who has done temple work for a friend who specifically requested that I do so after her death, and who knows the goodness and the Spirit that accompanied that work, I think that this was not the best talk Russell Nelson has ever given.

    Reviewing the first part of the talk I sense the tender feelings that he has over his daughter’s death (only someone who has lost a child will fully understand) and the respect that he has for the sacrifices she made in order enter the temple and make the covenants she made during her lifetime. And I sense the particular dismay that he feels when he thinks that someone else treats such covenants simply as a ticket that will require no sacrifices on his part.

    An imperfect secular analogy might be how some parents of students who supported their children as those children worked their tails off and sacrificed a lot to be academically qualified to be admitted to USC might feel about parents who simply paid money for their children’s admission when those children had made no sacrifices at all. And how much more difficult it would be for those parents of students who had sacrificed if those parents had just recently suffered the death of that son or daughter while enrolled at that school.

    This is not to excuse Russell Nelson’s talk, but to say that such feelings of dismay and sensitivity to anything that might diminish the value of the life work of a child are common to parents dealing with the death of that child, and he is human.

    The talk has caused great pain. The talk was not well thought out. It was an emotional response. And it will not be generally helpful or applicable. But it does give one insight into how much he values sacrifices made by the daughter he loves, and and how unhappy he feels when he believes that another dismisses the worth of those sacrifices.

    His talk is not doctrine. The doctrine is quite different. However, it offers some insight into the heart of a father who mourns the loss of a beloved child. And as that, it is a lesson.

  24. Dave!!

  25. Mary, your comment is appreciated but this is not the thread for it.

  26. Social media has a way of polarizing people and rewarding extremist, dramatic takes that drive outrage. It’s definitely hit the Progmo-Exmo world. It takes a thick skin to wade through it if you have any friendly feelings towards the church. I’m sure if I configured my feed to only see the conservative, TBM side of things, it would feel equally dramatic and rage inducing on the other side.

  27. MDearest says:

    I remember Jason Wharton, from my tussle with him when I was a newb here. Good times! I came here then because I (finally) saw the subtle, gentle, but unmistakable shunning I received over many years at church, due to my various defects at meeting the criteria. No need to detail the criteria, y’all know it well.

    I have never yet had a faith crisis, but my mental health became an issue, and mostly due to that crisis I don’t blog or attend my ward very much. I feel like they need me there having the conversations, and maybe I need to be there too but I have so many other needs that rank higher. I don’t have the bandwidth to spend on that, it all goes to my immediate and extended family as we navigate the same divisions with the additional pressure of caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s. We have been surprisingly successful thus far and I think it’s due to a combination of factors, but the two I have identified are a dichotomous pair: Speaking our needs clearly (as we can) to each other, but interacting gently with each other when making corrections. And third: apologizing generously. They’re not skills we learned at church or at home, and I think it works as well as it does in our family because we know are in crisis and because our core beliefs are healthy and mostly shared. Everything nonessential and petty is mostly packed away for the duration. The authentic clarity, gentleness, willing apologies, and parking of petty things take intentional work.

    I’ve no more insight or advice for us in our online or real life communities but draw from my experience what you may. The decline saddens me, but I’m still here from time to time and will be as long as you’re posting.

  28. My perspective is that it’s not as bad as Steve says it is, and it never was as good as Steve seems to recall, but the splintering is worse than it used to be. But I do have one concrete and a few less-concrete proposed solutions:

    Comment Sections: Set a clear policy for comments, moderate comments, and provide a way for moderators to communicate privately with community members to give specific feedback on moderation. I recently replied to a very personal post to respond to some ideas expressed therein. Moderators determined that wasn’t the time or the place. That’s a decision I can respect, but it could have been avoided with clearer guidelines. I think it’s ok to say that “we want open and respectful discussions, but posts of a certain nature require a different kind of discussion. Also, I ended up using the comments to have a meta-discussion on the comments, which would have been more appropriate for an offline discussion. I don’t know what the technical hurdles there are to that, but that’s something that all online communities should consider.

    Golden Rule: I am apparently banned by another website for responding in kind to a disrespectful post by a regular blogger. Said blogger used language like “who writes this crap?” about a Church manual, which was the unsigned work of someone in the Church office building that I suspect is someone I know and admire. In addition to the disrespectful tone, the blogger made a lot of assertions that appeared to ignore a large body of Christian scholarship and failed to take seriously the language he was criticizing. My response used similarly disrespectful language about the blogger (I would argue a step below “who writes this crap”, but that’s unimportant), which has apparently resulted in a ban without explanation, and despite the non-ban of commenters who regularly employ far more vitriolic language and personal attacks than I. My point is not to excuse my comment (I would phrase things differently if given the chance), but to point out that we can all expect to be judged with the same judgment that we judge, and that we each set the tone for subsequent discussion. When someone responds forcefully, or even disrespectfully, we should each individually ask if our own words set a disrespectful tone to begin with.

    Toughen up: Notwithstanding the Golden Rule, we can collectively recognize that even passionate disagreement with a deeply held belief is not equal to hate or a personal attack. Someone can disagree with a Church policy or doctrine, and I will still welcome them to worship next to me every Sunday and in the temple. I hope that I can disagree with what someone has written in an online community, and still be welcomed, with the understanding that my disagreement is not a judgment on the value or worth of any person.

  29. Stephen Fleming says:

    It does seem that feeling unhappy with a handful of Pres. Nelson’s statements has caused a rift, since in the church, respect and reverence for the president is a very important norm. I’ve felt the same unhappiness and have really appreciated BCC’s discussion of the issues, but I guess it should be no surprise that many commenters have felt like some of the posts have violated what was considered a shared assumption (how we speak about the prophet). And I don’t mean that as any kind of rebuke. I love BCC. It’s just an observation.

  30. Jessica says:

    I agree with your counter argument that there never was a Golden Age. Privilege blinded many of us for too long. Lyz Lenz published an article today on quick fixes in this era of deep division. She says, “We can solve it if only we get along, as a popular Kenny Chesbey song so glibly puts it. But the lived experience of “getting along” is only simple if you code as belonging: if you are white, if you are middle class, if you are cis-gendered.”

    She concludes by saying, “I no longer believe in bridges. I don’t believe in fixing our divide. Instead, what I believe is that we need to together stare deep into the gaping hole in our country and have an honest discussion about the cracks in our nation. Which, but the way, has always been divided – it’s just that for too many of us, we were blinded to it by our privilege.”

    I don’t know what the answer is in the LDS online community. I only know that “can’t we all just get along” reeks of privilege. The gaping hole is real and must be acknowledged. We can’t ask people to keep quiet to make us feel better.

  31. Bro. Jones – “people on the fringe of the LDS faith left, people who were previously moderate to liberal found themselves on the fringe, and the orthodox folks dug themselves in even further”

    This is precisely the problem, not in the direction people went, but in the decision to place people in certain groups. We are too diverse in beliefs to declare ourselves or others in one group or another based on a single (or multiple) issue. Every time it’s done it’s used as a bludgeon, e.g. “I guess this is no place for TBM” or the generic “You people”

  32. That comment resonates with me, Frank Pellett. I hate the sorting. I hate it even more when we internalize the labels others put on us.

  33. Jessica, that’s something I really want to be open to. I agree that peace and silence are not the same thing.

  34. Steve,

    For whatever it’s worth, this same dynamic and dilemma has been recognized by those on the other side of the splinter divide – expressed right at the 44:00 mark.

    [audio src="https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/01_SP_remix.mp3" /]

  35. Dave B. says:

    Dsc, that was my post at W&T that you commented on, and as far as I know you haven’t been banned. The paragraph in the manual encouraging Mormons to judge their neighbor was and is terrible exegesis, starting with Matthew 7, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” and coming out with “it’s okay to judge if you do it righteously.” As if chronically judgmental Mormons need any more encouragement to judge their neighbor.

    As I responded to you directly in that thread: “Dsc, a wide variety of opinions and even snarky criticism is allowed, but not personal attacks on other commenters or on the poster. Sorry you can’t figure that out after multiple warnings.”

  36. Sorry, better link. @ 44:00

    [audio src="https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/01_SP_remix.mp3" /]

  37. Dave B.,

    I really don’t want to rehash this discussion again, but I would invite you to look at how you just characterized the manual in light of the discussion that took place over at Wheat and Tares and in a similar discussion on BCC and ask yourself honestly if you might see a Golden Rule problem. I don’t know for certain who wrote that, but I suspect it was a former mentor of sorts, and if so, I can guarantee that it was written to address a question that frequently comes up from students reading that very chapter and other chapters (including admonitions to judge righteously found in John) and after carefully considering many sources (even if the JST ended up being the only source cited).

    To bring this back on track, the issue illustrates the problem with ambiguous comment policies and inconsistent enforcement. I have been banned, but no one informed me of that. I know this because I have posted under a different pseudonym (a pseudo-pseudonym?) and have had comments post, but other comments don’t make it through the filter when I use Dsc and my typical email address. I have been personally attacked by people who are evidently not banned. And what constitutes a “personal attack”? As I recall, I questioned the sincerity of the argument you were making. That’s something I would opt to keep to myself in the future, but I don’t think it takes much to conclude from “who writes this crap”? (coupled with a failure to address the issues cited in the manual) that maybe the poster is not interested in calm, respectful discussion.

  38. I’m really grateful for BCC. I comment sometimes (relative to the amount I read: just about everything), and BCC and other places on the Bloggernacle have kept me sane in my identity as a member of the church. They’ve made me feel that I too have a place. I came to the Bloggernacle in 2012, and to me, things seemed plenty rough-and-tumble then.

    If there is a difference now, I would say that it feels to me that fewer people feel welcome/able to participate. I’m curious–do the stats show that the number of people who visit BCC has grown, diminished, or stayed about the same over the past six or seven years? I think a lot of the Latter-day Saint moderate-to-liberal voices feel very shut down and disenfranchised in 2019 for a lot reasons spelled out above. We’ve largely disappeared back to the safety of lurking. Maybe some even checked out altogether.

    The folks who are left are the lions: people who have the courage and investment to say what many of us have been thinking, perhaps in even more forceful or stark terms than some of us might have put it. That has the effect of bringing in their ideological opposite-numbers to rebut and protest. And that is a daunting fray to enter, for lots of reasons.

    The tone has changed. There is less conversation generally, and the more light-hearted posts are all but gone. Maybe that’s good and right for the times we live in. I don’t know. But I miss the laughter. And I miss the sense of more voices participating.

    The conversations that occur here are so essential for so many of us. When world media want to cover issues relevant to the church, they often come here or to people affiliated with BCC. There is a reason for that.

    BCC is still the place many, many of us go to when we need to assure ourselves that we really do belong, that there is plurality among us. Thanks for all you do, Steve, including always being willing to ask how things could be better.

  39. Enforcement is always going to be inconsistent and subjective. I don’t begrudge moderators for being human.

    What I think is perhaps unfair is the notion that a post can punch at a target, but comments cannot punch back. We can do better than that.

  40. Publius says:

    Steve,
    I am part of DezNat (which I imagine is the other side of the divide, if you will) and I have been a reader of the blog on and off for about 4 years. I think that there is a way to bridge the divide and break out of the echo chambers online that I think have been created online. I think that allowing more perspectives from members of the Church who aren’t part of the more progressive side of the internet and allow for some more balance. Trying to remain as apolitical as you can, I think, would be very helpful too. There have been some really great blog posts in the past that have helped me, but I think that when any website or blog starts to cater to only one side of the discussion, it creates a polarization in the community. I also think that, as was mentioned before above, having moderators and more balanced content would be helpful.
    Again, I have no hard feeling towards you or anyone else here at By Common Consent, but I do think that if we can reach understanding, we can at least heal the divide. We are all members of the Church and while we might have a difference of opinions, I believe that the core doctrines that unite us can hopefully help us all out.

  41. Pffft. Fourteen years is nothing. I’m old enough to remember the glory days of MORMON-L. When Boyd K. Packer was called a fascist there, someone at BYU took it upon himself to troll the list off of BYU’s servers. He succeeded.

    Here’s the thing, though. The brother who denounced BKP did so for a reason. His son was struggling with his sexual identity, and the local ward was struggling to deal with the situation. Not very well. (From the description of the son’s behavior, I’d be hard-pressed to imagine *any* ward in the Church would know what to do.) The father was feeling enormous amounts of pain and lashed out. At least, that’s how I read the situation at the time. He needed bread, and we were all given a stone.

    The best solution to the online fragmentation is to refuse to be part of it. To listen to everybody, especially to the bits that they’re not saying. To love everybody no matter how rude and intolerant they are, or seem to be. That ain’t easy. It may not even be possible. It’s just the “impossible dream” that Christ is dreaming for us.

    My oldest daughter left the Church over the POX. She was already disaffected but that was what pushed her over the edge. I don’t know why she was disaffected; she’s never felt comfortable opening up about that. The whole situation is heart-breaking to me, because I feel like I failed her. She was in pain. I never even noticed, although in retrospect the signs were there. I didn’t heal her wounds. I didn’t comfort her when she needed comfort. I wasn’t *there* for her, when she needed it, the way she needed it.

    And so I pray for her; but mostly, I pray for myself. I have my own issues that limit my ability to minister to others, but I pray that I may be there when I can, how I can. That I won’t be part of someone else’s pain. That I may be part of someone’s healing instead.

  42. Bob Powelson says:

    I will judge others in a good number of situations, I would be a fool not to.

    For example a few years back there was a big push to invest in silver, the Church News saw fit to comment on it. One line in the article said: “If they ask you to pray about it, keep your hand on your wallet while your eyes a closed.

    There are other similar situations I have run into. For many years as a lawyer and an active member of the church, I did a lot of criminal defense work. Countless times I was asked; “How can you defend someone who is guilty?” My response was always: “If the very worst can’t get a good lawyer and a fair trial, the very best of us are in trouble.”

    Again it was necessary to judge. I have helped the guilty go free on murder. Why, because the prosecution got so wound up in “punishing this evil deed” that the screwed up their case, the jury jumped on them, and the guilty went free.

    When our children are young we need to judge their companions, and even their teachers.

    To comment on the conference talks. I am uncomfortable with some of the changes, nut as I listened to Pres. Nelson call fro repentance I contemplated my reaction and I am now a lot more content with the comments.

  43. This is tough. I think LDS culture is kind of in a bind. I think more progressive thinking members are correct that the Church hasn’t provided enough latitude within our congregations for struggling/doubting/unorthodox members to thrive spiritually (and, especially, feel as though they are valued and heard), but I also think more conservative minded members are correct that “online church” has eroded some arguably necessary boundaries, shifted goalposts, and generated some divisions that might not otherwise be there (or at least would be less prominent). It seems like social media (and the internet in general) didn’t quite give us what were promised and the flower of that false advertising is really starting to bloom.

  44. Dane Laverty says:

    Thank you Jessica. I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment that, “I only know that ‘can’t we all just get along’ reeks of privilege.” I think John Jenkins’s anecdote in the comment above mine here illustrates that. A father watching his son suffer due to ecclesiastical condemnation isn’t going to be able to “just get along” with the folks who represent the party line. People who are suffering need a space for their suffering, a space apart from the people who are causing their suffering. I don’t think that fragmentation is necessarily a problem — I’d even say that fragmentation can be an important (and healthy) coping strategy for powerless and marginalized people to find support, love, and breathing room away from an environment that might feel otherwise constricting or intolerable.

  45. Not a physicist says:

    I’m sure there’s an argument for entropy in here somewhere. It’s happening because it’s less energy than it not happening?
    The meanness, I mean. Because I don’t think tribalism is the problem. I don’t think there has ever been a time, even in the apex of 4th Nephi, where humans didn’t assort by tribal groups. Like mixes with like, even in nature. The difference then was that the groups co-existed peacefully and productively, not that they were homogenous. I think that kind of coexistence requires nuance and complex thought and emotional intelligence that is all way more work than stereotype and heuristic.

  46. This depresses me.

  47. John, I think bringing up the Mormon-L debacle along with several other early mailing lists is apt. However what basically happened is most orthodox members simply abandoned Mormon-L. I also think there was much, much more going on there than just that event. I was quite young and naive at the time but there was a feeling like to be orthodox was to be attacked. Which didn’t justify some of the backlash (and to which I probably should apologize a bit for my behavior in my early 20s).

    I think something similar is happening. Of course blogs peaked before Facebook. While Facebook is a vastly inferior experience, people prefer it. I also don’t sense many people trying to think through all these issues which honestly seemed pretty much what was characteristic of blogs in their heyday. I also think there’s been a gradual degradation in comments. I used to love comments as my favorite part of blogs. I rarely read them now. They’ve become like Twitter or maybe worse yet YouTube.

    What I notice has changed the most is that instead of trying to figure things out, most people are just harping from a place of their beliefs. Rather than inquiry, it’s berating others. What’s the point? If you’re just preaching to the choir about your gripes, are you really doing much?

  48. C. Keen says:

    Steve, it’s not “online Mormonism” fragmenting. It’s BCC and similar sites increasingly distancing themselves from the rest of the church.

    I made a comment yesterday on Michael’s post. It was a pointed comment, and the point was that shouting down the prophet on the same day he speaks is not compatible with being a faithful member of the church. Result: the comment was deleted. So BCC is now a site where you can compare the prophet to a mob boss, and it’s not allowed to disagree with that comparison.

    Okay, I got it. But why would I or other faithful members of the church want to participate on a site like this? BCC regularly features posts from people who reject the prophet and loathe the church. There’s just not much common ground for discussion. It’s why I don’t comment here under my own name.

    What was different a decade or more ago is that the people participating tended more to share some basic principles: the church was true, Joseph Smith was a prophet, all that. Someone who rejected those ideas was treated like an outsider, not a hero. Do you remember the excitement over Ed Enochs?

    It’s been clear that BCC has been moving toward rejecting basic beliefs for years now. I don’t think it will stop anytime soon. At some point it won’t be a progressive Mormon site. It will be indistinguishable from an ex- and anti-Mormon site. How far down that road are you going to go with it? All the way?

  49. I can imagine that you bear the full weight of the split, in a way most of us do not. If there is a way for us to bear your burden, I’d like to know how.

    As for me, a mostly lurker, I find a lot of love here. As I do in most online communities, I scroll faster through comments that exhaust me, and look instead for insight. I do not spend much of my time online, and I don’t find my opinions all that interesting, which is why I don’t spend much time commenting or posting. I do find that over time I have been influenced by thoughtful people I have never met. I have become better, more nuanced, more compassionate. For me that is time well spent.

  50. C. Keen, though I agree that the post you mention was in poor taste, and it was exacerbated by some inconsiderate timing, I don’t think claiming that the poster isn’t a faithful member of the church does much to advance the dialogue either. In fact, that seems to be a big part of the problem. Blogs are fun and productive when people are engaging with ideas and arguments, not attacking each other.

  51. Jared Livesey says:

    We have the answer to the problem of societal fracturing in the Sermon on the Mount, which, if executed as written, resolves all conflict.

    Why not try the virtue of Jesus’s word? Granted, the Sermon does not give license to enforcement – meaning it is logically inconsistent with the Sermon to enforce its standards upon anyone other than oneself – but if we’re serious about becoming peacemakers, that’s the one and only way.

  52. James Stone says:

    A few months back BCC on Twitter blocked a whole slew of people because they followed a BCC parody account. Few, if any, had actually interacted with BCC on twitter. Any plans to unblock them? Because, splintering.

  53. Mary Bliss says:

    Steve,
    If the comment is truly not appropriate, please remove it.
    Thanks.

  54. James, no plans to unblock. If anyone truly feels like they should be unblocked, they’re free to reach out to our admin email address and make a request.

    Mary, you’re fine. Just trying to keep the conversation focused.

  55. It’s not just the bloggernacle. I had the privilege of hearing Judge Thomas Griffith speak a couple of weeks ago. He’s a prominent federal judge and a former stake president. He stated that he was more worried about the current state of things in the U.S. than he has ever been, and he pointed specifically to tribalism as the problem. He then pretty much called everyone in the room to repentance–told us to break out of our bubbles, to get to know and become friends with people who have different ideas and politics than we do. Most the listeners were LDS and on the far right of the political spectrum, but his message was for all of us.

    I’m not sure how that helps the issue with the bloggernacle. I’m certainly thankful for the moderators, who keep this space from devolving into, say, a space as nasty as the comments section of the Deseret News. I wonder if the situation could be helped by creating some kind of bloggernacle meet-ups in various locations, so that people here could more easily meet each other in real life. It’s harder to tell someone to go to hell because you didn’t like their comment if you’ve previously sat down and had dinner together.

  56. Dsc (off topic but…) –

    You might not be blocked at W&T. I have a terrible time posting there (and occasionally here, but W&T is worse) and am working with Akismet to figure it out. The blockage is happening with them.

  57. I think the median opinion at BCC is just so far from the median opinion of the US church (which is still mostly white, conservative, Republican, etc.) that it is just hard to talk to them when they wander by, and the temptation to silence and ban is overwhelming. For example, I challenge even one of the BCC permas to read through the following list without breaking something. :)

    STATEMENTS MOST MORMONS BELIEVE THAT WOULD GET ONE BANNED FROM BCC

    1. Youth are generally safer and more respected when they dress modestly.
    2. It is usually nobler to support the church as it is than to agitate for change.
    3. Worthiness interviews are valuable and on the whole do much more good than harm.
    4. The historicity of the Book of Mormon is a non-negotiable component of our faith.
    5. Progressives overdo “calling out privilege” as a way to silence critics.
    6. We don’t really know what fraction of sexual assault accusations are true.
    7. The male only priesthood is a little weird, but it has some important benefits.
    8. Even controversial decisions (like PoX) are inspired for reasons we don’t understand.
    9. The negativity at sites like BCC tends to do more harm than good.
    10. It is just as hard to be a man in the church as it is to be a woman in the church.
    11. Sexist temple language was a weird historical artifact, but not really that big of a deal.
    12. It is better to focus on enjoying the church than on nitpicking every little imperfection.
    13. Trump has his flaws but is doing a pretty good job on the whole.
    14. It is important not to criticize the decisions of the prophet.
    15. Motherhood should take priority over career.

    Did anyone make it to the end? :)

  58. Playing off C. Keen’s line: “share some basic principles: the church was true, Joseph Smith was a prophet” . . .
    There is some sort of loosely defined “rule” about who gets to participate here, and that’s not it. Usually I see the boundaries described in terms of type and manner of comments, but I experience them as type and manner of person. (I’m not reading minds here; I’m describing how it feels, how I experience BCC.) It’s pretty clear to me that holding such beliefs (“true”, “prophet”) is not part of the rule. But some sort of respect for such beliefs probably is part of the unwritten order of things.

    I’m reminded of a time when I organized a real-life group that I wanted to spend time in discussion with. I strongly opposed anything like a belief or behavioral standard (there were suggestions of using the temple recommend or interview). But we ultimately settled on a knowledge and respect standard, as in “know enough about the Mormon temple experience that side references will make sense and not be surprising, and respect the experience so it never becomes a joke or a slam.”

    Regarding Michael Austin’s most recent post, I love Michael and I like that particular post in the “wish I’d written it myself” way, but it does push pretty hard at what I perceive as the unwritten boundaries of participation here. It is not a new insight to say President Nelson is polarizing. It might be worthwhile to think about the particular rather than always the general. Like my experience with how we talk about the temple, how we talk about the current President of the Church is likely to be a flash point for all time.

  59. Brian Fabbi says:

    I’ve been lurking and commenting on here for at least 10 years. I do understand the splintering that seems to be happening, not just here, but everywhere. I studied civil society in my Masters, and I am a strong proponent of civil society organizations and voluntary institutions in the development and maintenance of a strong democracy, and republic.
    I think part of the problem is we do not look at others and think of them as like ourselves, people who are trying the best they can. We are so often like the blind men describing the elephant. The internet is so anonymous, that it’s easy to think of what people say as just electrons on the screen. I’m going to put my full name, usually I post as Brian F., I’ve got an unique name. I want us to treat each other as people of good will.
    I’ve felt at home many times on this blog, and at other times I have been driven away because of things that were said or posted. I don’t want anyone to be driven away because they disagree with a post. And that’s been me, I’ve felt unwelcome because I disagreed on a post. I have an ASD, and I don’t always do social interaction well. I’m definitely on the more orthodox/faithful end of the continuum, but I’m pretty moderate and liberal on somethings.
    Maybe I am blinded by privilege, I have a hard time understanding it, and seeing it. My very “woke” sister tells me Aspergers negates some of that privilege because I don’t process things like others.
    I really do believe that if we try and be respectful, and see each other as Jesus sees us, we can overcome any divisions.

  60. I have been a great fan of BCC in the past several years, but rarely comment – partially because of the fear I have of making a comment and being pigeonholed as a certain “type” of Mormon. Why am I afraid of being pigeonholed? Because I don’t think I (nor most people) fit neatly in those pigeonholes. For example, I might just as easily be (mis)classified as an ultra-right Mormon, brainless-little-girl-voice Mormon, liberal whack Mormon, or [fill in the blank] type Mormon depending on the topic. And none of those classifications would be accurate. For what it’s worth, I think….
    1) The OPs are generally GREAT because they are thought provoking, and often address a topic about which I am relatively uninformed. This blog has enriched my spiritual and intellectual life.
    2) Reading lively conversations in the comments section has been a pleasure and also given me much to think about. When the comments conversation goes on a LONG time, it is usually because it has devolved into a battle (often quite snarky) between a couple of individuals lobbing bombs at each other.
    3) My eyes have been opened to others who think differently from me. I especially appreciate those who have sincerely shared their struggles and pain regarding various policies, doctrines, and culture. Generally their struggles are different than mine, but they have opened my eyes to our common bonds. They have touched my heart and helped me become a less judgmental, more compassionate person in real life. I truly love you regular bloggers and commenters, though I’ve never met you in real life. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences.
    4) If people would just avoid the all-too-easy-to-use labels that divide, we could have more real conversations. It was obvious to me that if I confessed I voted for Trump, I would be discounted as a right wing militia member (which I am not). There are a hundred hot-button classifiers that are dropped in OPs as well as comments that signal readers from across the political/social/any-kind-of spectrum that “they probably don’t like people like me.” Why do we, with so much in common, send such signals? I love it when the conversations get past those surface designations and show a sincere, respectful desire to understand each other’s joys and pains without judgment.
    Thanks for the post. Although participation may ebb and flow, BCC may be part of the solution to the problems you identified.

  61. Al, I read your list in its entirety. A few reactions:

    1. What tends to get people banned are not opinions, but deliberate trolling.
    2. You’re trying to get a rise out of people to prove that BCC is an intolerant place.
    3. You are illustrating the problem I describe in my post.
    4. Your list is banal.

  62. Michael Austin says:

    All,

    I am happy to take responsibility for my recent post and for the anger that some people feel about it. We all have to take responsibility for our words and ideas–this is how free expression works. However, I do want to ask those of you saying that I “compared the prophet to a mob boss” to re-read the post, because I did no such thing. I compared the construction of God that was appealed to in a the prophet’s talk to a mob boss. The difference is not inconsiderable. Had I been a little bit more discrete, I might have used a term like “Vending Machine God.” It would not follow that I was comparing the prophet to a vending machine.

  63. Banned anon says:

    I’ve come to view this place as interested in only narrow viewpoints, with the same kind of posts repeated over and over. With an almost universal American-liberal political bent underlying much of the religious speech. Where the most appropriate desired response of the authors is affirmation, not conversation. I think of this site as hardly less dogmatic than a more “conservative” LDS site. There is not an increase in splintering. It’s just Steve et al becoming more frustrated and more siloed themselves. And frankly after all this time, have mostly run out of ideas. Such that the posts with the most traffic are some kind of “hot take” on a current event, all from approximately the same viewpoint. And yes, I have banned from the comments section (by Steve I assume). This site jumped the shark when Trump was elected. It’s been downhill ever since.

  64. Steve,
    I appreciate what you are doing but I don’t trust the Publius’s or Al’s of the earth to avoid trolling. Conservative voices well articulated have always been accepted here, but trolling and accusations of secret sin seem to be the status quo there. Opening ourselves up to that seems counterproductive. It would be nice if we could all strive to be like Jesus, but an awful lot of us want to be Michael, leader of the Host of Heaven, instead. General Conference has inspired me to stop engaging the haters on twitter; they’ve already made up their minds. I’ve just gotta work out my own salvation with fear and trembling, ya know.

  65. I recently contacted Steve directly about the benefit, and yes, blessing BCC is to me. I’ve used it as an aid for our home-based study, a resource for sacrament meeting talks, and Mormon humor, among other things. It is for the most part what I wish our Sunday School classes were about. It is a tool in my toolbox to return to activity in the church.

    I believe a straight line can be drawn from today’s extreme rancor back about three years ago in the U.S. I can’t quantify that so I could be wrong.

    I find a lot of caring here too. At church, we are false-front facades, where we show all is well. I think It has always been that way. The anonymity of the internet allows some to share doubts, questions, and concerns. With some of the changes to the church (not gospel) in recent years, I think someone in the COB is reading BCC.

    My preference is not for BCC to close up. Perhaps moderation would help, but self-moderation before commenting would be better.

  66. Steve, you may be right on 1, 3, and 4 but not on 2. I don’t want to get a rise. I am trying to illustrate the problem. There are just so many opinions that are widely held in some circles and seriously unwelcome in others, and this is by no means unique to BCC. Maybe I am wrong with my list (maybe these beliefs are not as widely held as I assume, or not as unwelcome at BCC as I assume…) But you could probably modify the list and come up with a few you would agree with.

    And I should have said “unwelcome” not “banned.” (I don’t know who gets banned.)

    I have read a lot of BCC over the years though I almost never comment. But lately I have had the same feeling that you describe in the OP. It seems it is harder for the people who come by to talk to each other. Lately I find myself feeling very depressed after reading Mormon blogs. Everyone seems so angry and unhappy. I plan to take a break from reading them. That said, I appreciate that you are all doing your best and I do not intend to add to the negativity.

  67. Brian Fabbi says:

    @Michael Austin I think your choice of descriptors in your post is what’s causing this visceral reaction from people. I’d classify your argument as more about the nature of God and the interplay of justice and mercy. I don’t think of Him as a “vending machine God”, but I do believe blessings are predicated on obedience. The talk on that subject was great.
    @Banned What you say may be true, but even if it were, shouldn’t we all be more civil in our discourse?

  68. Al, more illustrations of the problem are unnecessary.

  69. The one thing, ironically, that might help is a schism. We wouldn’t be at each other’s throats if we weren’t fighting over the same institution. It’s totally infeasible for the US to break up along ideological lines but that’s not the case for the church. I’d argue committed progressives should consider joining CoC or building their own church. The usual reply here is that you’re helping people (doubters, gay people, etc.) by staying. But if you had an actual church to bring people into you’d have a lot more to offer.

    Steve, thoughts?

  70. TS, I vehemently disagree. Schism is the opposite of what we need.

  71. As a lurker, I worry about the divide that grows, too. Why can’t I just obediently do as I’m told in the church as prescribed, maybe it would be much better for me mentally. And that’s largely the message I receive at church and offered to others in the past myself.

    I’m not good with confrontation, and I don’t want any part of it. But I feel more accepting of many different opinions thanks to BCC. I feel grateful to have had the space here to identify with many perspectives, and it’s been invaluable to me. I’ve changed my mind on several ideas, that’sreally commendable.

    FWIW, many online groups are encouraging strict civil dialogue and respectful discussion, allowing diverse pinions to be posted. It fills me with hope that we can be better to each other as we sort through the mess.

    Today, in a phone call with my missionary son we exchanged failures (me in ministering, he in daily interactions) and he passively commented, “Becky Craven said it best- ‘People who fall away were just too casual in their gospel living,’” It’s definitely his opinion and right to think that,, but it’s one I hope he ponders carefully. It wasn’t so long ago I held that exact same view.

    We sort through complex conflicting messages, but having a place to see another point of view has meant the world to me. I sincerely thank you for the beauty in that, despite the mess.

  72. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    My two cents as a dozen-year participant:

    We are following the trend of mainstream society where it is easier to find fault in someone’s character than in their intellectual position. If some convenient lines of us/them can be drawn, then it really isn’t necessary to engage honestly with opposing views. We can simply diagnose and apply the appropriate label (feminist, Republican, apostate, environmentalist, intellectual, TBM, socialist, academic, Utah Mormon, social justice warrior, ect.) and then skip right to feeling content. Because even more gratifying than being right when someone else is wrong, is the added benefit of being a little bit more righteous (and correct), while someone else is a little more evil (in addition to being wrong).

    Here are three former BCC posts that I reflect on years later:
    https://bycommonconsent.com/2014/03/03/he-will-find-his-way-home/

    https://bycommonconsent.com/2012/12/14/all-eternity-shakes-mormonisms-weeping-god/

    https://bycommonconsent.com/2008/08/22/financing-a-mission-1849-style/

    The first two are profound narratives on our place with God, framed by our understanding of doctrines. The third is just a fun historical narrative. They are all at least five years old.

    If you were to read them though, I think you’d feel a different tone than has been the case in the past few years. To my view, it is because I did not perceive an agenda on the part of either the blogger or commenters. Nobody was trying to score points, even on some controversial subject matter. I’m not suggesting that we’ve swapped out Walter Cronkite for Buzzfeed, but it is worth considering if there is an edge that we put into our online participation, and whether that need to cut into (or correct) another’s point of view is part of the problem, or part of what we feel compelled to do as we produce our thoughts.

    Or, maybe the Police Beat just kept things lighthearted for a while, and we’ve run out of material.

  73. I wouldn’t dispute that this sort of thing is happening, just that it’s always been happening. So I’d probably echo your pre-emptive critiques 1, 2, and 6.

    I remember numerous articles (some even from you, Steve) lamenting blogging as a medium precisely because the lack of face-to-face communication can make it easier to be callous. But those articles are *years* old, so it’s not a new phenomenon. (I remember related critiques about blogging as not being as “serious” a medium as, say, writing Dialogue articles. But, even back then, you had people writing hit pieces for the Interpreter or whatever. So even more scholarly media are not immune. There’s always been anxiety over whether writing for or presenting for Sunstone or Dialogue could affect real-world job opportunities.)

    I remember the back-and-forth debates we would have between W&T and Millennial Star about whether it’s possible to have one blog to fit all. (Obviously, my interlocutor Bruce switched over to M* because he thought it wasn’t sustainable.) We obviously know that the Bloggernacle has never been the sum total of online Mormon internet community, what with splits between Bloggernacle/Mormon Archipelago and Nothing Wavering. I remember back in the days of the Nibblet Awards, there was lots of disagreement over the idea of Mormon Mommy Bloggers being able to get anything.

    Obviously, there has been split between the disaffected Mormons and liberal/progressive Mormons. I remember a time when you said something to the effect of “I can assure you that in the Bloggernacle there are no awards to be handed out to Chanson or Chino Blanco.” I wrote about that in 2011. I remember that John Dehlin had his own aggregator because he was persona non grata with the Archipelago.

    I get the boundary maintenance. For the bloggernacle to be called the murmurnacle probably doesn’t feel great. So more boundary maintenance was required to separate from less faithful (or more strident efforts, or however it was done). (That is why I laugh extremely loudly at DezNat’s equation of BCC with John Dehlin.)

    I remember being the guy back then who thought that maybe we could all be friends if we just tried hard enough. (After all, I was arguing against Bruce’s position that everyone needs to be silo’d.) And yet, now, i have come closer to Bruce’s position and Steve’s position that we really can’t reach across the aisle, that maybe walled gardens is the only way to have an enjoyable experience.

    Why is that? Because sometimes, we don’t want to do hard things. We want to be understood with likeminded tribes, and the . We want a comfortable place to discuss things with like-minded people, and others who don’t adopt the same founding assumptions threaten that. The internet has historically been very good at that. Splintering is a feature, not a bug.

    I think that’s what critique 2 is getting at. “Online church communities have been really good for me” because you had one that worked well for you. But the people who were excluded may not feel the same way.

    The difference is that whereas it was easier in the past to create the garden walls, now there’s more spillover and crossover. DezNat will slip into your mentions, if not your DMs, and there’s not a whole lot you can do without getting extremely savvy with block lists. It is incredibly easy to accidentally brigade between subreddits on reddit, much less to intentionally do so.

    Should we be siloing ourselves off? maybe not. maybe we should be striving to reach across the aisle. But I’d say that this is hard to do. We don’t even like to do it that much offline. We have church participation where you will get judged for not being sufficiently faithful or worthy or even just presenting the right way. Diversity is not appreciated for diversity’s sake — only as a sign that everyone can become Christ-like (which looks a certain way.)

  74. Andrew, I deeply appreciate your perspective.

  75. Coming to this post fresh from having blocked a few dozen #deznat profiles on Twitter — not because I’ve ever run into most of these guys, but because I never do want to run into them — I suppose could be an illustration of the splintering problem.

    I don’t know where I’d go if our overall online community splintered as badly as this post foresees. I mean, really, where do I fit? I’ve had differences with BCC, stayed away for months at a time, unfriended most BCC permas because I felt so unwelcome here (and friended many of them again, much later), and told Mike Austin to keep his BCC-stained hands off my Keepa posts when he politely inquired about publishing some of them in a BCC Press book. On the other hand, deep in the BCC bowels there’s a comment from years and years ago where I say that I just couldn’t accept the idea that God would allow so many people to be driven away from the gospel because of the racial priesthood restriction if it were not right. It’s conversations like that one, here, and in other places with people I met here, that caused me to examine assumptions and then examine history and arrive at a more realistic and still — or more — faithful understanding of what really happened and why.

    Permas and commenters have jumped all over me for being too liberal, and being too conservative, religiously, which I take as a sign that my views are often more rational, in that I have had to examine them and work through them rather than defaulting to one extreme or another. I wouldn’t know where to find companionable discussions if we really did splinter irreparably.

    There are numerous constants in my online religious associations, though, and one of them is that I never respond favorably to anyone inviting me to leave the Church, as TS just did and as been done multiple times by people of all religious stripes. This reverse-missionary effort is, to my mind, understandable from an ex-Mo or anti-Mo, but not from anyone who claims to be a supporter of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  76. Heck Ardis, I like you.

    As for a BCC Press book, the offer still stands, and we would be honored…

  77. Support Keepa, Steve. You haven’t commented there a dozen times in all these years.

  78. I don’t comment anywhere much these days, even here. Keepa is worth supporting.

  79. I was wrong. You’ve commented a whole 31 times in 7,797 posts and nearly 11 years.

  80. I’ll try to make it 40 before summertime.

  81. Melba Kooyman says:

    The woman at the well says: Four years ago a friend referred me to BCC. For the most part I have found the content sincere, engaging, and relevant to current issues. Spotting the ad hominem posts is fairly easy, and they can be skipped. Although I am an earnest and serious follower, this is my first post. The scholarly and clever entries are very appealing to me. Thank you Steve Evans, Kevin Barney, Ardis, Carolyn, Sam Brunson, and several other regulars. My heart sank to read about the seriousness of the splintering. I value the patience and commitment of the editors, and want you to know that I value BCC. I am confident that there are many more of us who are regular, appreciative readers. We need the “living water.”

  82. It’s possible that I may have spent too much time in the Bloggernacle over the past decade or so, but that’s hard to say. At first it was a lifeline as I was stranded at home with a medically fragile child in a new community with a small overstretched ward. Parts of the Bloggernacle eventually became a replacement community and led to friendships and opportunities to publish and speak on a topic I never would have imagined being my line of work, but which I consider a sacred responsibility.

    I hadn’t thought of SCTaysom’s tender story “He Will Find His Way Home” for some time until Larry mentioned it earlier, but I hope it’s okay to tell a bit more about that here. The day after he published that I thought about the story as I made dinner. I remember standing on the rug in front of my kitchen sink and hearing a clear instruction to go to the computer immediately and write a comment as follows, [text of the comment pretty much as it stands]. I went and wrote it out and then clicked over to a suicide prevention website to make sure nothing in it violated recommended practices. It didn’t seem to, so I posted it. I was concerned afterward that the time it took to check the website violated the “immediately,” but I can only hope it reached anyone it needed to reach.

    I’ve been less and less comfortable commenting over the last few years and often don’t have the time to read things, but as immense an effort it’s been for some people, the community has been valuable and appreciated.

  83. Sad but true. The LDS community is becoming too divided to have civil disagreement.

  84. I’ve been around the Bloggernacle for a long time. I used to comment quite a bit–I even did a guest post here back in the day (a pretty good one, if I do say so myself). I have hardly commented at all in the past 10 years or so, though. There are a lot of reasons why I pulled back, but a lot of it was that the effort of arguing on the internet often doesn’t have a good return on investment. I still read quite a bit. I do feel like there is a greater barrier to engagement than there used to be. I wouldn’t comment much either way, but just within the past couple of weeks I refrained from contributing what I thought would be a valuable, respectful perspective, but was turned off by how engagement was being policed. The response to the first comment on the post called the comment “stupid” and threatened to delete any posts in the same vein. I didn’t fully agree with the comment, but it was not disrespectful or insulting, and, as I recall, was pretty firmly within the mainstream of Church culture. In the old days, I think the comment would have been at least engaged with with some measure of effort to persuade. The response might not have been a model of civil discourse–snark and insults have always been a part of the deal here–but the policing of boundaries by the BCC perma was swift and forceful. That doesn’t exactly encourage sharing of different perspectives, which is OK if you don’t want a diverse community–not every site needs to be a forum for every LDS perspective.

    I agree that the shift in BCC and the Bloggernacle in general reflect shifts in Internet culture. Internet culture has become heavily oriented toward thought policing and placing certain perspectives beyond the pale. Pluralism is not valued; conformity is. I don’t think BCC has been immune to that. I also suspect that some old timers here are tired of seeing the same perspectives and just don’t have the patience to engage them anymore.

  85. You guys know there are people that need help in your city right? The homeless, battered women and children, disabled adults with few resources and chronic underemployment, lonely and depressed seniors, suicide rates skyrocketing….etc. I feel like most of the arguments we have with “the other side” start with our tremendous lack of perspective. Our own biases have become so strong we are seeing everything through distorted lenses. Maybe we’re due for a mass disaster to wake us all up. . . seems to work in the scriptures. yikes . .

  86. MikeInWeHo says:

    Thanks for this, Steve. I share your observation that the division has deepened since I found my way here over a decade ago. It seldom feels fun anymore.

    That said, I’m much more worried that we are nearing the end of being a cohesive society. On both sides there is constant talk of “enemies” and “war.” It’s as if we’re already in the midst of a cold civil war. How much further can we go before violence erupts?

  87. Just want to add my voice and say that BCC has been important for me. I know that doesn’t really change the reality of a splintering. But it really has been a lifeline, a way to stay connected to the church as my parents and siblings all left the over the last few years.

    I don’t see this place as an echo chamber either. The OPs range from historical/scholarly to doctrine dives to generally liberal cultural discussions. The comments span a wide range from conservative to liberal – mostly liberal – and different viewpoints are generally treated reasonably well in comment threads (as long as no one is exhorted to leave the church). There’s room for improvement, obviously. Plenty of room for me to improve too. I’ll work on it, but in the meantime – please don’t go away.

  88. Pssssh… I’ve never heard of you before. You’re not leading to polarization :D

    No, as usual, the corporation drives the culture — the adherents follow where they are driven regardless of outcome, the independently minded then decide whether their line has been crossed yet,

  89. Mike, some might argue that there have already been victims.

    Miss hanging out with you.

  90. Interesting post and comments. Allow me to make two observations and a comment:

    * First, anyone who actually knows Michael Austin would not question his commitment to the gospel. You may not agree with his perspective on specific issues, appreciate the way he frames certain questions, or get all of his literary references, but he has always (at least since I met him in graduate school) been thoughtful in his approach to his faith and his Christianity.

    * Second, as a university professor, some of the problems I see with my students have parallels with the concerns Steve Evans expressed in the original post. The inability to read critically and engage with ideas and perspectives beyond one’s own–combined with the Twitterization of arguments and attention spans–leads to the kind of intellectual myopia that lends itself to the tribal/siloed behavior described here.

    I find BCC to be a place with thoughtful and thought-provoking essays, useful commentaries that are useful with lesson preparation, and–for the most part–people who genuinely try to engage with the ideas presented here on their merits. The fact that not everyone agrees is, to me, actually a good thing–that is what promotes intellectual and spiritual growth and development. How boring would it be if everyone conformed to one set of ideas?

    Keep up the good work. And for those on the fringes, to quote Sergeant Hulka, “lighten up, Francis.”

  91. MikeInWeHo says:

    Right back at you, Steve! Those were fun times for sure.

    Agreed, there has already been violence. I meant to ask, how much further can we go before widespread violence erupts?

  92. … Violence? When and where?

  93. Tom, that’s a topic for another time.

  94. I agree that the splintering seems to be online as well as live. More conservative\traditional minded people tend to be shamed\ostracized online, and more progressive\”doubting” people are similarly treated in-person in our congregations. I have been honest enough times about my relative lack of certainty about a number of cherished beliefs\doctrines that I have become that ignored person who isn’t trustworthy enough to hold a calling or even give a prayer (last time I prayed to “The God of Truth”, which IMO was entirely compatible with Mormon beliefs, but simply wasn’t uniform enough). I am a millennial, and my population (and especially Generation Z) is not going to be attracted and retained with fear-based, “Because so and so said so about God and Truth.” Here is an excerpt from a school paper I wrote on the declining interest in organized religion across the board and modified comments I made on social media earlier today:
    “Millennials and adolescents are increasingly unresponsive to authoritarian methods of teaching that communicate, ‘This is how it is because I or ______ said so.’ Declarations of truth made in the Bible or stated by religious leaders or parents simply are not sufficiently compelling to the vast majority of the younger population (Horan, 2017): 72% of millennials do not consider religious beliefs to be a significant part of their identity (Barna Group, 2015; Büssing, Föller-Mancini, Gidley, & Heusser, 2010, in Horan, 2017, p. 59), are 5 to 6 times more likely to leave religious activity, distrust religion and authority at higher rates than any other generation, and tend to perceive churches as hypocritical, rigid, judgmental, and overly formal (p. 60). Horan (2017) echoes the assertions of the participants in her study that adults who hope to have a healthy and effective influence on the spiritual development of the younger population are going to have to learn new ways of discussing and supporting spirituality.”

    These next generations don’t care about authority claims like the past older generations do–some because they’ve simply embraced post-modern thinking, some because they’ve done their homework and know that church leadership has done and said some crazy things from the beginning. When millennials hear, “So and so said _________”, they essentially internally reply, “And?” or, “Yeah, Joseph Smith did say that–he also approached at least one underage girl and told her an angel had held a sword over his head and threatened to kill him if she refused to become his plural wife–that he would lose his salvation if she didn’t comply.”

    When I listen to General Conference, a major theme I hear is, “You should be LDS because our leaders are super inspired and you and your family will be lost forever if you don’t listen to them.” Fear tactics like these only work in the short term…if they work at all. If we want to keep these younger populations we’re going to have to do a much better job of communicating\demonstrating what is GOOD about being Mormon, instead of harping about how bad every alternative is. I hope to get involved in helping different generations of LDS members understand\value each others’ spiritual languages well enough to converse with and support each other in meaningful ways. I stay, but not for conventional reasons. For me there is always truth in learning\building in a group setting, no matter how well or poorly the group comprehends and\or reflects truth. I will always love Mormons for the same reasons I will always love my family…one of which is not that I agree with them all the time.

  95. Apologies, Steve. It’s a confusing assertion and claimed to be directly related to the topic as an outcome of Splintering. Unless MikeInWeHo is referencing the attack on NZ Muslims I’m not sure I follow the claim of violence.

    Shifting topics: I disagree BCC is driving a splintering. Middle-way is a tenuous balance. Even the supposed John the Revelator writes in their allegory about lukewarm folks. There is one large gorilla in the room who keeps pushing the angle of repose higher (or digging the whole deeper, depending on which side of the fence one ultimately lands on).

  96. Well said CJ!

  97. Ann Porter says:

    1. During a time when I was deeply depressed and going to church made me suicidal, a former perma here said, “Ann, I think I speak for all of us that we would rather you be alive than go to church.” And it seems so obvious now, but at the time it was like the sun came out and a choir started singing. Y’all saved my life. I will never, ever be able to express how grateful I am.
    2. BCC reflects the splintering, it doesn’t drive it. Maybe a messy public place that reflects society can be a workshop for reassembly. #Pollyanna

  98. OftenPerplexed says:

    I turned to the Bloggernacle and BCC a few ago shortly after I was called to be the gospel doctrine teacher. I was trying to find a way to relate to very dogmatic, orthodox and correlated students when I, the teacher, had gone through a major faith transition. It was a transition that had left me feeling frustrated with the majority of my ward but at peace with my Heavenly Father. At the time I was extended the call, I was told that I had been called to teach the adults because I was a faith transition “success” story. My bishop said that sitting quietly in the room were more than a dozen people struggling to stay, and he asked me to find a way to make the class a place for both the certain and the uncertain. He wanted them to stay even if it meant making some of the more orthodox members a little uncomfortable. It was a tall order. I have used thoughts and questions shared here to help guide my class. I read the comments so I can see how people from different perspectives reason through the issues. This site has actually helped me feel less frustrated. I discovered Ardis here and I have found Keepa to be a precious resource. Recently I had pushback in my class from some students who wanted to go back to the old comfortable manuals and the old way of teaching. They wanted lessons that had been “blessed” by correlation, not wide-ranging class discussions. The new lessons make some feel like we are breaking the rules by sharing such a diversity of thoughts and experiences and these same students often get antsy when people bring in history or outside commentary/information they discovered while studying. It is such a needle to thread and I pray often for love and patience. What is funny is that I rarely used the lesson manual outlines, but I did follow my own outlines incorporating some of the manual’s thoughts or questions with some new information or perspective. When I started getting pushback to Come Follow Me I found a great series of posts here about the history of correlation. I think they were dialogues between Daymon and Brad. Reading those posts, the associated dissertation and the comments on the posts really helped me dislike correlation less. I started to empathize with the discomfort some of my class was experiencing at what feels like a loss of correlation and I began to understand why it made some of these old-timers so uncomfortable. Reading the largely respectful comments on BCC has given me hope that there is a way for all of us to be fellow saints, so I guess I have rose-colored glasses. On a personal note, BCC has been a source of support because it has given me a place to share some of my lived experiences without fear of being misunderstood and shunned. I kept some of those experiences bottled up for years and the bravery of some of your posters has been inspiring. BCC has been a lifeline for me.

  99. Been lurking with the occasional comment for about 10 years. I’ve seen LDS blogs come and go, wax and wane, and self segregate. Of all the blogs, BCC has probably been the most consistently balanced and even handed with maybe a slightly left of center lean. It is the blog I come to most often, since many others have largely become either partisan echo chambers, or unwitting self parodies. Please keep up the good work of balancing faith and thought.

  100. Thank you, OftenPerplexed. So many Sunday School classes need someone like you, whether they realize it or not.

  101. GEOFF -AUS says:

    I watched a tv programme on how China polices overseas students, and others of chinese origin when overseas, particularly in Aus. A view that does not support the party is not welcome, and will be dealt with if possible. I kept thinking how like the church.
    You may not have had much coverage of the shooting in New Zealand, and the way Jacinda Ardern used it to bring the country together. Uniting the country against the shooter, rather than dividing against part of the society.
    Most of our politics seems to divide, and that seems to be the culture we are in.
    I wondered whether an apostle seeing that might try to unite the members of the church by emphasising love and common beliefs.
    The place where I find people who are willing to engage with how I understand the gospel are on the few church blogs I visit. Thankyou for your example and support.

  102. This might seem sound naive, but I find that music — particularly sacred music (not just hymns) — is one of the best ways to foster feelings of unity, peace, and goodwill among men and women. Would talking more about music help us, rather than focusing on topics that almost inevitably bring contention, strong disagreement, and even “hate” (I use this strong word on purpose because I’ve seen instances of it, but I put it within quotes to qualify it in a non-absolute sense) among us?

    After all, music is a major part of the Restoration and of our Gospel experience almost as much as doctrines, principles, covenants, ordinances, and policies. It is a great unifying force. If we want to heal our splinters and wounds, we might look at healing “tools”, practices, and resources.

  103. Sorry for the grammar mistake: “This might sound naive” is the final draft.

  104. For what it’s worth (not likely more than what you paid for it):
    I am deeply appreciative of the bloggernacle and specifically BCC for a variety of reasons well expressed by others. It has helped in dealing with frustration, seeing a variety of views, sometimes modifying or clarifying my own views, and in finding assistance in making the gospel doctrine class I taught an interesting and welcoming place for people of widely varying political and religious views.
    My bloggernacle experience is all too recent for me to have any comment on historical changes in it. In both lurking and commenting, I have sometimes been inspired, challenged, amused, surprised, discouraged, or offended (my bad). I’ve also made mistakes in efforts to learn how to participate productively. On the whole, however, and despite “splintering” concerns, BCC has been extremely helpful to me and I suspect to many more who do not comment. I hope the permas will keep up the good work.

  105. I am very grateful for BCC. Thank you to all who maintain it.

  106. MrShorty says:

    For reasons I won’t go into here, I have seen the parable of the wheat and tares a little differently this year. I was recently struck by the intensity or urgency of the master’s command to “Let them grow together.” As I have observed this kind of splintering in our religious community (even when I consider broader Christianity as part of our religious community), I seem to see this kind of splintering. In some circles, this splintering is met with satisfaction that the tares are finally separating themselves from the wheat. To our ears, the command to “LET them grow together” [emphasis mine] implies a certain passivity — say if the wheat and tares choose to “splinter” on their own. I have begun to wonder if the command to “Let them grow together” might include doing more to prevent the wheat and tares from self-segregating.

    I will say that I don’t know how to slow the splintering that you describe, but it does sadden me.

  107. APRIL 1988 |
    “For I Will Lead You Along”
    Neal A. Maxwell
    Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

    “Our time already reflects yet another prophecy: “Distress of nations, with perplexity” (Luke 21:25). Before modern times, global perplexity simply was not possible. Now, there is a quick transmission of some crises and problems from one nation to others—the consequences of debt-ridden economies, the spreading of diseases, the abuse of narcotics, and, perhaps most of all, a shared sense of near-helplessness in the face of such perplexities. Today, the assembled agonies of the world pass in reminding review on the nightly news.

    In the last days, happily, the Church will grow extensively, with its membership being “scattered upon all the face of the earth” (1 Ne. 14:14). Nevertheless, its dominions will still be comparatively “small” because of “wickedness,” which will close the ears of many to the gospel message (see 1 Ne. 14:12).

    There will also be “a great division among the people” (2 Ne. 30:10; see also D&C 63:54). This stressful polarization will, ironically, help in the final shaking of that strange confederacy, the “kingdom of the devil,” in order that the honest in heart, even therein, may receive the truth (2 Ne. 28:19).

    This “great division” is what President Brigham Young also saw, saying: “It was revealed to me in the commencement of this Church, that the Church would spread, prosper, grow and extend, and that in proportion to the spread of the Gospel among the nations of the earth, so would the power of Satan rise” (in Journal of Discourses, 13:280).”

  108. Good to see so many supportive posts, and fewer of the “it’s the Churchs’ fault”/”it’s you librles’ fault” mixed with a few “kids these days don’t know how good it used to be”.

    Very glad for the apparent introspection of most everyone. We’d all do better to ask “is it I?” than accusing others of not doing it right.

  109. There was a place for the deeply devout to post online: it was the “I’m a Mormon” profiles. They were heartfelt testimonies and the collective lived experiences of the members.

    Then……The Church……deleleted them all.

    That’s why we need BCC.

  110. anonymous says:

    I’ve been lurking at BCC since probably 2007 or 2008 – I was at BYU, feeling like everyone “got” things that I didn’t get, and not really sure where I could get information/discussion on LDS issues that wasn’t “anti-Mormon” or just a repeat of general conference talks…and then I stumbled on BCC. I wouldn’t say I’ve read every single post in the past 12 years, but I’ve ready a lot, and a lot of the comments, and honestly it doesn’t feel like anything has changed – perhaps the big issues have, but not how things go down in the comments section.

    If anyone is responsible for a splintering, it’s leaders of a church (whether local or in SLC) who have created a foundation that sometimes just cracks into a thousand pieces for those of us who struggle with certain issues and leaves us to either ignore the cracks or move on, instead of helping us fix the cracks. We’re expected to be all in, 100%, on everything, or else we’re “inactive” or “apostate.” I love the church community, and want to stay, but not if it means I have to believe EVERYTHING…because I can’t. BCC is the first place I ever saw people taking a different approach – for example, posts on how April 6th isn’t Jesus’s birthday. I know that seems fairly basic and obvious, but the first time I read something like that on BCC (I swear there was a post like this ages ago, not just Jared Cook’s post from last week) it was incredible – a moment of “Oh, there are people who approach things like I do! And they’re ok with saying that someone got something wrong, and they’re still involved!” There have been many pivotal posts like that for me – relating to the racist priesthood ban, feminism, church history, etc.

    Anyway, this is ramble-y and definitely the type of comment I would skip over reading if I was just lurking today. But thanks, BCC. Sometimes a little tribalism can help keep us a part of the larger nation.

  111. I do not have the smart vocabulary of most of you here but I say this. I have taught Gospel Indoctrination for seven years now. Without BCC I would not be doing it. And without Michaelˋs post yesterday I still would be having a major anxiety coma over RMNs words. So yeah. I will keep making cookies and please keep up BCC. 🍪👑

  112. Owen Witesman says:

    My personal view is that the problems you observe are inherent to the medium. Immediacy, impersonality, and anonymity are not conducive to respectful, constructive, or uplifting dialog. If it was ever better online in the past, that was just because of selection bias in who was online. Now that everyone is, we’re screwed. The solution is to live more IRL. I get along fine with my borderline senile Trump-supporting magic-juice selling high priest brethren when we’re face to face.

  113. First, BCC isn’t for everyone. Not everyone loves nuance or disagreement, particularly when it comes to religion. So I’m rarely surprised when someone comes in for the first time, decides everyone here needs to be called to repentance, does so, and leaves. I imagine that they go to bed that night feeling like they made the world a better place. This isn’t a site for them, and I don’t envy anyone who has to be on the front lines with that day after day.

    Second–and I know the OP gave a hat tip to this already–but as it relates to civility, BCC is often its own worst enemy. I’m sure I miss many of the moderated comments, but of the ones that stick, the worst offenders to my mind are often your permas. There are permas on this very thread calling for more civility who I won’t engage with anymore because they go really low really quickly. (You had Brad Kramer as a perma for heaven’s sake.) Eventually the “[c]onservative voices well articulated [which] have always been accepted here” get tired of being shouted down and stop commenting, and you’re left with an echo chamber, which itself invites more trolls.

  114. pamelaweste says:

    Anonymous, I feel the same way. BCC is invaluable. It helps me work through the problems I see in the church in a faith-based way, and I’ve also learned a lot. I’m very thankful for you, BCC, and I hope you’re around for many years to come.

  115. BCC has helped me immensely in my current church calling, and expanded my views of church history, gospel practice, and others’ viewpoints. I appreciate the work that goes into most of these posts (and comments!) and the high-intellectual value found here.

    For my part, whether real or perceived (probably mostly perceived, but bear with me), over the last year, BCC has provided more posts that have felt pretty antagonistic to the “sitting prophet.” In years gone by, we had Pres. Packer or Elder Clayton that we could point to and “blame” for much of our disgust with policies or practices, but Pres. Hinckley or Monson felt off-limits.

    With President Nelson now, thinks have felt very different (on this blog at least). For me, this is a line in the sand…we can discuss policies, practices, chide over-protective YM/YW leaders, even share our concern about POX and gay marriage, but when the posts start to become more focused on insulting the sitting prophet, the way forward becomes much more difficult.

    Its obvious who is to blame for this….Trump! But let’s not allow it to break our bonds of church affection. Cheers everyone!

  116. jimbob, are you talking about me? I’m a perma asking this this thread for more civility. I know we’ve disagreed, but I don’t believe I’ve “go[ne] really low really quickly” with you. I won’t ask for examples, because I don’t want to derail the comments here, but feel free to DM me. If I’ve hurt you I’m sorry. If I’ve made you feel unwelcome to respectfully disagree I’m sorry.

  117. I’ve been here since almost the beginning. In the earlier years I had some run ins with Steve and others, mostly because whether it’s BCC or M* my contrarianism is hard wired. I do have to say that more than any other LDS blog BCC seems to have a permapack mentality. Push back against an OP and suddenly you have a half dozen BCC permas ganging up on you to defend their faith in the unassailable rightness that presides here. It’s as if they feel that you’ve attacked the family honor which must be defended.

  118. I’m preparing a priesthood lesson on Zion, so the definition in scripture has been on my mind. Apparently, it has been on Elder Christofferson’s too. So, what does it mean to be of one heart and one mind? With today’s political division that is getting worse, I see it affecting the Church negatively. But how do you reason with someone who has been watching Fox News and listening to conservative fear-mongering radio? They are simply angry about everything and hate our government. They are not interested in talking about issues and coming up with solutions. And when solutions such as the Green New Deal are proposed, because the crisis really is a serious matter, these people resort to science denial and silly charades in Congress (Mike Lee). How do you reason with a person who sees no problem in taking health insurance away from millions of Americans and is okay with reducing regulations on polluters? How do you reason with someone who thinks tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy are okay and scaling back Medicaid is a good idea? How do you reason with someone who has “come around” to supporting an incredibly corrupt president simply because he is not a Democrat? How do you reason with someone who has drunk the propaganda Kool-Aid and thinks people seeking asylum here are rapists and murderers? Just wondering.

  119. On a side note, why does the title of the OP make me think it should be the title of a second rate M. Night Shyamalan movie?

  120. OftenPerplexed says:

    One other reason I LOVE BCC–the women! At church I rarely get to hear from my sisters as leaders. I am an attorney and serve as a director on several boards. For close to twenty five years I worked in a professional environment full of men who wanted to hear my voice and who largely respected my voice. I negotiated and closed multi-billion dollar deals. I lunched with men. I traveled with men. I led men. I taught and mentored younger and older men. And while there weren’t many of us, I worked with so many brilliant, smart and capable female attorneys and business leaders. I lived and worked in countries where women are treated as true equals in every way. My husband and I are expected and encouraged to share the load.

    Church can be a hard place when you have worked and lived as I have. I don’t work in the same environment anymore. I am winding down my practice. Now with more free time I notice that the more time I spend in the church, the more cognitive dissonance I suffer.

    So, I buy books written by my sisters because I discovered them here. I absolutely loved A House Full of Females and How the Light Gets In. I discovered Claudia Bushman on BCC. I love the work of Ardis as a historian and find it meaningful. I have dear friends who are Muslim so I adore Carolyn. She actually inspired me to volunteer for RAICES as my time has freed up. The discussions about modesty and clothing police at church have been invaluable to me as I have recently struggled through reliving a past sexual assault, an assault that the male leaders I grew up with tried to tie to my clothing and tried to make somehow my responsibility. I now reject my old feelings of shame and the thought that I bore some responsibility for actions he chose to take because he couldn’t control his sexual feelings. That healing happened because of the women here at BCC (and the men who validated what these women were saying). Keep on posting you fabulous women.

    As I continue to struggle with the inequities in the church, especially as the mother of very capable, confident and spiritual daughters, BCC has given me a place to explore and wrestle with the cognitive dissonance of a person like me (with the family I have) belonging to a very patriarchal church. God bless the women of BCC!

  121. Brian Fabbi says:

    @Ralph Those same people would wonder the same thing about how to reason with you. You make assumptions about them and that hardens your heart and clouds your mind from seeing the good in these people. I have to work on that myself everyday with people who are die hard Trump supporters. I believe that we should not allow our areas of disagreement overtake or overwhelm our areas of commonality.
    I really wish we could divorce our politics or social issues from our religious beliefs and the brotherhood of all. Why should someone’s political beliefs be a prerequisite to my caring about them, listening to them, and serving them? I have my political ideology, but I am not so far down the rabbit hole that I believe in the Absolute Rightness of my positions. I’m willing to have my mind changed because of facts and a good argument.
    This is part of the problem, we stop viewing others as human beings, people of infinite worth, and we become increasingly tribal, and only those who look, think, believe, etc. like us, are “fully human”
    We can do better, it starts with each of us.

  122. Truckers Atlas says:

    The term “navel-gazing” comes to mind here. BCC, you so sensitive.

  123. You know of course that nothing will fit everybody. Having been in and out of very tight knit, very wide open, highly controlled, free wheeling, by name, by alias, as pure spectator and as moderator, online groups and in-person groups for decades, I know what I like and what I don’t like. More often than not BCC hits my sweet spot, which is the only reason I venture one last comment. Thank you.

    Two things do consistently tick me off:

    1. Someone telling me what to think or where to go (figuratively or literally). I get a lot out of first person posts and comments, and history, and story, and exegesis. I am turned off by every sort of preaching from every direction.

    2. Someone telling a group, blog, site, conversation, to be something it’s not. Once in awhile there are really privileged existential-level conversations in the back rooms about “what should we be” and “what do we want to be.” I’ve been in a few. It is somewhat extraordinary, in my opinion, that Steve would open up even a corner of that conversation. And it’s none of my business.

    That’s my cue to shut up.

  124. I feel like the decline of blogs for more profitable Facebook and Twitter discussion can’t help. More sound bites and outrage and less discussion and depth.

  125. Angela C says:

    I’m not sure online splintering is a new thing. Different media have different profiles, and we are noting the trends with echo chambers (both sides) and trolls that like to provoke and blow things up (uber-conservatives). It’s important that we see both of these things for what they are, but too often it’s easier to take the trolls seriously and imagine they are bigger or that there are more of them than there are, and it’s easy to imagine that the air punching hallelujahs we are hearing are because we are right and our cause is just, not just because we are in a self-selected bubble of sameness of thought.

    About 10 or 12 years ago, I did one of those things on Facebook that evaluates the political divide of your friends. I had a nearly perfect 50/50 split back then. The funny thing is, I almost never see the ultra-conservative stuff anymore. I think part of that is because I don’t want to see it, and FB serves me more of what I like and less of what I don’t. Part of it is because my conservative friends are a little older and not as active on social media. Part of it is that some who were conservative before 2016 are distancing themselves from their party, or at least from their full-throated support of whatever the party is up to in the wake of that election. Part of it is that Facebook itself is a less political medium than it used to be as people are trying to keep it more diplomatic and family friendly and saving their vitriol for Twitter and other anonymous forums.

    As for the church, that is certainly the source of most of my conservative friends, but I’m seeing the same trends there. Most of the conservatives I know are either more diplomatic and nuanced (or just too old to engage on it) than the majority of social media I consume, or they are a bit on the downlow due to Trump.

  126. Yes, for a little more that 14 years (!) I’ve been a BCC reader. I agree that the general tone has changed, and things are not as copacetic as they once were, but maybe I’m a little jaded now and weary with age, and I don’t see the world through my rose colored glasses as much any more. I agree the Bloggernacle is more splintered, but so is everything else — everything. Contention is running rampant here and in the world, and while I, as a fairly-liberal-still-believer, bristle at some of the more angry, self-justifying, and self-righteous commenters and posters, I still cling to the discourse and perspectives that are offered here in the spirit of generosity. Thank you, BCC. I hope this splintering doesn’t make you wither and die, because I am one grateful reader.

  127. The underground man says:

    As someone who does not fit into either camp in mormondom very well ( I am conservative in some areas liberal in others) I appreciate this blog even if some posts drive me up the wall sometimes and cause me to make an idiot of myself in the comments good vibes from the east coast

  128. Don’t go. I need you.

  129. wreddyornot says:

    I am old and a back-row kind of guy, if I can be. Here, at church, or at the Writ & Vision, when the BCC authors speak. I like my perspective sitting in the back seat and watching, listening or reading. I rarely comment, here or otherwise, but sometimes I do. I sit in the back-row, religiously. I do at church, too.

    I remember something about my first comment on BCC (even if I don’t remember when, what the topic was, or who had posted it). I used the word “disingenuous” in reference to a GA’s position, as I recall. Steven Evans took me to task by noting its inappropriateness and by giving me a warning. I knew that I didn’t want to be banned. I enjoyed so much the various postings, many of the positions taken or expressed, and the tolerance and love and knowledge and experience I usually have seen through all my years reading BCC.

    It seems to me that those who’ve been what I considered harsh in their comments, but who’ve stuck to the interchanges without being banned, grow here and learn. I hope by being here, I do and have. I hope that continues.

    Whatever happens, thank you all. Those who were here who have left and I miss and those who have stuck to it and those who are newbies. Thank you.

  130. Billy Possum says:

    Two observations:

    1) I feel better about the splintering after reading the OP and all the comments than I did before. In my experience, that’s rare, and a good sign. Thanks, Steve Evans.

    2) On a cursory count, it looks like only a plurality of permas have commented. Given the volume of comments, that surprises me (though maybe less profoundly after christiankimball’s wink-nod).

  131. I know I have often turned away from BCC after experiencing what I considered to be rude treatment from other commenters. I do not believe most of the people here want to interact with people who have more conservative viewpoints. Perhaps they feel silenced at Church and this is their safe space which they feel is being invaded by people whose opinions they cannot fathom anyone having. I do not know. I do know I have been personally labeled and verbally attacked by commenters who no moderator banned.
    For many years I lived in wards in Berkeley and Oakland in California.They are both politically and spiritually ultra-liberal. If you want to experience the flip side of feeling shut down at Church if you are conservative, try expressing a positive thought about any Republican president in a meeting there. People are publicly dismissive of anyone who voted for Trump and actually told a friend she might try to become friends with another conservative ward member as if she was not welcome in any other ward friendships. Facebook posts openly mock the statements of church leaders. One of my friends had to unfriend one of her ward members on Facebook after the woman viciously attacked a comment I made. She literally would not let it go, accusing me of all the evils she decided Trump supporters were trying to foist upon the world. The fact I have been a member of the Never Trump movement from the beginning seemed to go right over her head.
    Many years ago now Orson Scott Card wrote an essay published at the end of one of his novels. In it he wrote about the attacks he was experiencing from those who were trying to shut down even his career for publishing opinions on homosexuality that were deemed beyond the pale to the LGBTQ lobby. He said he felt we were actually coming close to a real civil war in America. One must believe everything the Democratic Party stalwarts decided was True if one wanted to be considered a Democrat, which he was. He compared it to what had happened in Yugoslavia when civil war ripped the country apart, forcing people to take up weapons against neighbors and friends. I had visited the countries that came out of the breakup of that country a few years earlier and met a number of individuals in those countries. I felt what I was experiencing in the Bay Area and what the people I met in Yugoslavia told me supported his ideas.
    Perhaps we could refrain from pouncing on any talk a General Authority makes the day after he gives it. Perhaps we could assume good instead of evil motives of others. Perhaps we could stop assuming the posting of a conservative opinion implies support for Trump, or the belief that gay marriage is wrong disqualifies one from caring about gay people, or any number of other beliefs that are assumed anytime someone says something we disagree with. Perhaps we could develop a sense of our own ignorance and the ability to see that everything does not have to be so earth shattering, both required to have a sense of humor. People are allowed to make mistakes in word and deed and still be good people.
    May I presume to include a personal issue here. For years I have had a strong interest in mental illness, particularly borderline personality disorder, and finding better ways to treat it. One of its possible symptoms is confusion about gender identity. Whether these people end up actually being gay or bisexual or straight is immaterial to me. What does matter is that they can be extremely destructive to their partners and other family members. And because of the gender identity confusion, they frequently end up in the LGBTQ communities, wrecking havoc in the lives they touch, with violence, substance abuse and severe manipulations and lies. As we become more polarized in the opinions allowed to be expressed, it is the gay community that suffers most, but we cannot discuss it because acknowledging the truth that a huge number of people with this disorder identify as gay is not a politically acceptable position to state. So the very people some ultra-liberals feel they are defending when they shut down discussion, end up being hurt when research is not funded to find out what really is happening. The same thing is true about the research needed to determine why 50% of young gay men say they suffer from anxiety, depression, and sometimes paranoia. And this real life cost to our contention being born by already marginalized people upsets me.

  132. Diane, be careful not to confuse LGBT identity with the societal dark corner these folks were forced in to. Being the 2010s, we should be careful to stop repeating the mistakes of the past.

    “Gender identity confusion” is not the appropriate term [see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_dysphoria%5D.

  133. Steve, I deeply appreciate what you and all of the other perma and guest writers have done here. It’s not only been a refuge for me but a place that challenges me to think harder. Like @Melba, I read here regularly even if I don’t always have the time to thoughtfully (or at least that’s what I try to do) contribute in the comments section.

    I walk the middle way, and for years taught quorum meetings using what I can best describe as a middle-way pedagogy. My aim was not to negatively impact anyone’s faith. In fact, I prepped about 6-8 hours for each lesson so ideas could be introduced honestly, cogently and with the intent of sparking thought, self-reflection, and open discussion that challenged conventional wisdom–if it needed challenging–with the goal of deepening faith. Most weeks I received texts from roughly 30-50% of the quorum thanking me and asking questions, usually starting with “I wasn’t sure if I should ask this openly in class…” I felt like I was making a difference because I felt the approach was necessary to confront the challenges we face as a church and people looking out. I was delighted by how engaged the quorum was if nothing else. Sadly (for me), new, ultra-orthodox quorum leadership was called and I was pulled out of the rotation immediately without explanation. Thus ended eight wonderful years of leading discussions in that body. I miss it.

    Two points to justify the story I share above: One, I drew from this blog more than others for ideas, arguments, style of communication and inspiration during that time. I don’t think this forum contributes directly to splintering, despite the splintering that exists. Based on my own experience, some see change–and it always starts with thinking and arguments that challenge present conditions–as being threatening and instead of presenting counter arguments, serve up a full heaping of passive aggressive or ad hominen attacks. My second point: I think the church, in terms of viewpoints and how they are expressed, looks more like a normally distributed curve instead of a bimodal one. We may not be as divided or splintered as those in the margins who are most vocal may make us seem. Perhaps I’m wrong. I hope not. In my mind, I was tossed from teaching not because the quorum was bimodal, but because leadership called from out on the tail didn’t value my approach, or maybe even viewed it as dangerous. A few were given power and instead of engaging me directly, just gagged me (I was never talked to or released, just removed from the schedule).

    Just this past week one of BCC’s posts sat me back in my chair, in such a great way, and I have been churning the OP’s essay over in my head daily (Heresy and Prophesy). This is my rambling way of saying thanks, again, and a plea that I hope this continues and I’ll do my part to contribute more thoughtfully and earnestly.

    @DJ, I value your thoughts. Sargent Hulka? (I laughed out loud!) Brilliant reference and a well made point!

  134. BigSky:

    Thanks; much appreciated.

    And it is nice that someone actually got the reference. It gets a little depressing when I drop comments in my lectures and none of my students has any clue what I am talking about….and not just the good ones (“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”). I quoted Seinfeld in class today and I might as well have been speaking in Sanskrit.

  135. Ralph and Brian–
    There will always be people everywhere who believe even unhealthy contrived conspiracy theories. Just the everyday normal differences are enough to encourage people to stretch their thinking to consider how another thinks. How do you interact with someone who doesn’t believe the same “truth” because they have their truer sources? That’s what Ralph is asking. Yes, just love them anyway but know you can’t be close the way people are who think alike? What upsets us is that people in our religion don’t think alike and we’re supposed to be “one” –and is there anyone like me? I think we’ve been very disappointed in one another since 2016.

    Some people have brains that react more to fear and negativity than others. They connect the dots differently. Q-anon, George Soros, etc. fringe thinking is now in mainstream society
    and that’s troubling. How to talk with someone who thinks so differently can be a challenge. We can offer them another perspective but it isn’t likely to change how they or we see things. Since these are usually people who respect and listen to our GA’s, I wish they’d be explicitly clear regarding them instead of assuming teaching us correct principles and letting us govern ourselves is enough.
    Yes, if one is Christlike enough they should be able to discern and know for themselves. Obviously we’re not able yet because we’re hardly a Zion people. Good people think differently. Good people can be mistaken. Is anyone able to take a correction from anyone who actually knows a truth about something?? Who will the Zion people be? The peacemakers regardless of ideology?
    Steve–if this isn’t the post for this thread, I’m sorry but where else could I say this?

  136. p.s. I for one wish the GA’s would give us more direction explicitly calling out the truth about specific conspiracy theories so that at least the friends who are devout in the Church can be on the same page. There are unnecessary divisions the Church could unite us on –but doesn’t.

  137. Lurker since 2006, commenter the past few years .

    People were complaining about overmoderation on recent post, I suggested they accept what BCC is and go to WnT or MoDialog if they wanted to engage in debate and ended with a positive comment on the OP.

    I was kinda shocked that Cynthia whom I respect, edited my comment. I’d prefer it had been deleted TBH . I think that kind of thing is polarizing.

  138. I used to come and lurk a lot. Haven’t come hardly at all in the last two years except to peek every once in while. It has felt more divisive and dark to me and yes it has felt like it has drifted farther from the church. I tend to have a more liberal mindset then my fellow members so I liked to come here to see that, but I don’t like where many seem to be heading.

    It’s not just here, there is another website unrelated to the church I used to frequent and the divisiveness just seems so strong everywhere I go. It’s as if people are losing their minds with hate for the “other” side.

  139. torn, gender identity confusion is the correct term when one is speaking of borderline personality disorder. This refers not to LGBTQ people but to the symptom of a very serious mental illness where one keeps changing their sexual orientation. One week you are straight, next month you are gay or lesbian and six months from now you announce you are bisexual, only to tell people next year that you are heterosexual after all. Lindsay Lohan is probably the most well known person to do this. Alone this symptom does not indicate borderline, but when you couple it with the addictions, public suicide gestures and constantly changing personality and moods, that is borderline. And people like you who refuse to educate yourself and instead try to “protect” LGBTQ people from being pushed into dark corners are the reason we cannot get help for the people with Borderline who are preying on the LGBTQ community. Go on the website bpdfamily.com and spend some time reading the posts from LGBTQ partners of people with Borderline to see what I am talking about. The violence, threats, gaslighting, financial ruin, children conceived so someone cannot leave, sexually transmitted diseases, suicide gestures, lies, and complete chaos these people bring into someone’s life are destroying the lives of everyone involved, which for male borderlines with substance abuse problems where half identify as gay, means ruining the lives of gay men. Most people who spend any time married to a person with Borderline spend years or decades being treated for PTSD. I am concerned about the real concerns people are facing not stigmatizing someone with politically incorrect terminology. Good grief! These are the people who murder their children so their new partner will not leave them. Somehow I don’t think those families care about the label used to identify the symptom.
    Sorry to interrupt the thread.

  140. Diane, this threadjack is most unwelcome.

  141. Steve Evans:
    Diana’s comments may be a threadjack but at least we learned something. The problem I experience when I interact on BCC is that so many writers and commenters seem to want to spout uninformed propaganda. Of course the online communities are splintering. No one is willing to open their minds to the fact they might just not know the truth about something. How can we have a civil discourse when people already possess the right answer or at least believe people who disagree with their answer are stupid or ill-informed. Progressives may experience this in conservative church settings. Conservatives experience it at BCC.

  142. Steve, the commentary here has been both a demonstration of the trend you worry about and some cause for hope. The wedding of political and religious community seems to be particularly noxious, but very hard to rigorously differentiate. Perhaps this splintering is inevitable. Even if this is a kind of swan song, I’ll always be grateful for BCC. It has been a source of comfort and challenge. It has been, at times, a midwife to moments of grace born into my life. It has made me ask myself hard things and weigh carefully the answers. May it long continue.

  143. Steve
    As a mainly TBM, I cannot say I have found a welcoming place to share my opinions here. I have noticed the only comments that are criticized are those that disagree with the OP. I have always felt you thought the election was over once an approved post was published and just allowed comments so the lower classes could believe their votes were actually counted.
    And thank you Diane. Good go see someone who understands the progressive stance on LGBTQ issues violates much of the current research on mental health.

  144. I am afraid I am finding BCC drifting so far left I feel there is no engagement to make with many of the posts. The post with the picture of the Godfather movie may not have directly compared President Nelson with the mafia, but the picture surely implied it. If you feel we are splintering, maybe it is because many are finding nothing here anymore that they can stand behind. Also, how many posts can there be attacking the Nov 5 policy? Where is the post supporting it? Where is anything supportive of stances of our Church leaders? I am happy people trying to find a way to resolve doubts or disagreements have a place to express them but all I ever read is emotionally supportive statements. I have found so much more when I did my research then went to the Lord for answers. Why is that answer always attacked when someone mentions it?

  145. I remember disagreeing wholeheartedly in a comment here once. When several other comments appeared supporting my position, someone came online to complain the post had been hijacked by the alt-right.
    When commenters feel free to label and denigrate opinions that disagree with the OP, why would anyone stay?

  146. In the past, the calling of the first African American general authority would have been seen as worthy of a post and celebratory comments. Now only criticism of Pres. Nelson’s words. Where is the space here to celebrate our forward progress? Why bother to engage?

  147. Sometimes, the comments really depress me.

  148. The leaders of the church have tried very hard to heal the breach between the church and the LGBTQ community. John C is trying to find the good in the talks given by the brethren in this past conference. These two are great examples of trying to come together and find unity wherever possible. Let’s follow both of these examples. Thanks to both sides here.

  149. Randi, there’s plenty to criticize about BCC, but “left” is not the right term for what you want to criticize. And, I’ll be honest, using it leaves the impression that you’re just sorting BCC into an ideological culture war box instead of engaging the posts on their own terms. I don’t know you, so I won’t accuse you of that. But that’s the thing, from all sides of an issue, much more than an ideological bias (which I don’t deny exists) that makes respectful disagreement harder.

    FWIW, I have no idea what you mean by “emotionally supportive statements,” but I agree with you that going to the Lord in prayer, combined with educating myself, is the best way to find peace, and my experience has never been that that is attacked here at BCC.

  150. Jonathan Cavender says:

    So I went fishing last year for sturgeon, and after we caught one we would drop a buoy to mark our anchor and start an extended fight with the nearly ten-foot long fish. When we finally had the first one in the boat, pictures taken, and then released we looked and saw the buoy over a football field away. I remarked that the buoy had floated away, but the more experienced fisherman pointed out to me that the buoy was connected to an anchor — it could float only a very short distance. It was us in the boat that had moved.

    Fourteen years ago, the entire democratic national leadership was opposed to gay marriage. Abortion was to be safe, legal, and rare. Transgender male-to-females were not considered female for the purposes of Olympic, professional, or high-school sports. You name it, but the modern left in this country has gone ridiculously far left comparison to a decade ago. Progressives may look at the Church and wonder why it had moved so much (like I looked at the anchor), but the irrefutable truth is that they are the ones who have moved and the Church has stood still. It wasn’t that the Church culled those at the edges and the moderate liberals are now at the fringe — it is that those at the edges flew right over the cliff and the moderates now hold positions formerly reserved only for the fringe.

    That is part of the problem, from my point of view, online. It is not enough to express compassion or love for all our brothers and sisters. There must be acceptance, and you will be made to care, for whatever position is the latest fad of the last decade as though it were an eternal truth (often in direct contravention of eternal truth). If not — if you do not accept that — you are deemed hateful and bigoted. I dare say ten years ago I would be saying the same things online that I am now, but whereas they were acceptable ten years ago now there are those calling me Hitler. I, like you, see it getting worse.

    The only partial solution I see is going to everyone positing under their actual name so that anonymity doesn’t mask poor behavior. You might not like my posts, and you might not like me in real life, but I strive to be the same person in both environments. Online integrity, however, should remove the worst of the trolling and deliberately provocative behavior which would at least provide a chance for conversations to not be derailed.

  151. I’m reading Arthur Brooks’ “Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt” and think the concepts are highly relevant to how we might save much of our faith community from contempt. I think the distinction he makes about liberal and conservative morality is useful: “Belief in compassion and fairness is encoded into the moral compass of almost all people. Those on the left and the right express those shared moral values differently, with emphasis on different aspects . . . nearly all of those who disagree with us are not, as we so often think, immoral; they simply express this morality in different ways . . . the three other moral traits Haidt identified [besides compassion and fairness]–respect for authority, loyalty to group or tribe, and purity or sanctity–are where conservatives and liberals diverge radically” (pp. 94-95). In my experience, differing positions on the importance of authority\loyalty are precisely what most disagreements end up focused on. That’s the point at which something needs to be reconciled, but I have no idea how to do it–more traditional members are appalled or at least disinterested in arguments made by less traditional members that fail to give a nod to authority, and the less traditional members tend to stop listening as soon as they hear any version of, “We know it’s true because the prophet said so–end of discussion.” If we don’t start from the same premise, how can we discuss anything coherently?
    Oh, and a quick update: I explained in my last comment that I have been calling-less due to discomfort with my non-traditional belief, but last night I was asked to teach Gospel Doctrine. I’m excited.

  152. Jonathan, the church has not stood still, but I agree with you that the democratic party has also not stood still. But more fundamentally, it’s a distortion to reduce everything to a left-right continuum. That just doesn’t match reality. (Left and right are the wrong terms anyway, because none of the culture war issues you’re talking about have anything, really, to do with economic policy.) No organization is static. There are always going to be trends in church membership, in church leadership, in political parties, etc. Sometimes those trends are in tension with one another, but more often they’re perpendicular to one another, and to reduce it all to a big left-right fight is exactly the kind of thinking that makes the splintering worse.

    That said, I think your analogy of the anchored buoy and the unanchored boat is useful: we often think we’re the ones standing still while the world is all moving around us. The reality is that we are all moving all the time. Even an anchored boat moves within a certain limit. Those movements are useful to notice.

  153. CJ, I think that’s a really useful comment. But I can’t help but note that it’s hard to keep listening after anybody says any version of “end of discussion.”

    And may you be blessed in your new calling!

  154. Jared, It is indeed hard to keep listening after anybody says any version of “end of discussion.” It doesn’t matter if that person is a prophet-said-it-so-end-of-discussion type or a BCC perma (not you). I’ve seen both on this site. Maybe you mean to acknowledge that — sort of depends on where I imagine spoken emphasis in your sentence. However, the fact that I’ve seen both “ultra-orthodox” and BCC permas say that here, doesn’t reduce the extraordinary value of BCC to me.

  155. “It doesn’t matter if that person is a prophet-said-it-so-end-of-discussion type or a BCC perma (not you). I’ve seen both on this site. Maybe you mean to acknowledge that…”

    I do. I’d be lying if I said I thought it was equal on both sides, but yeah, I’ve seen it both from self-describe orthodox members and from those they would call “liberal” members.

    Sorry for the hedging about terms. I just hate all such labeling.

  156. Bob Powelson says:

    Pam’s comment on the first African American general authority is right on. I hope I live long enough to see the first “black” in the Quorum of the 12.

  157. it's a series of tubes says:

    Where is the post supporting it?

    Randi, I’m a white, male, 7th generation member of the church, RM, BYU grad, SLC temple married, parent of a half dozen, owner of a trampoline and an SUV, actively attend meetings, hold a current recommend, etc. etc. etc. I’m like a cartoon of a Mormon. But I do love Dr. Pepper, so there’s that.

    Maybe there are no posts supporting it because even people like me thought it was never supportable.

    Sometimes the Church makes mistakes. Sometimes its leaders make mistakes, both on the local level and on the global.

    The Church is true. It isn’t perfect.

  158. jlouielucero says:

    Wow. This post was very thought provoking. As I read the comments I had many thoughts, but I became unsure of whether Steve and BCC are looking for suggestions or just wanting to express feelings to influence the commenting behavior moving forward. In either case, I beg your pardon for a slightly longer comment:

    I started reading BCC about 7 years ago as I was struggling to be the middle voice in my Highland UT church experience. I distanced myself from the church over a decade ago, but have had spiritual experiences that have brought me back. When I came back I was committed to making a difference by helping those on the fringes feel like they can be a part of the church with unorthodox viewpoints, and also trying to help those who are uncomfortable with unorthodox viewpoints see their value. The blog has been so valuable to me as a person and to so many others. I hope that you are not considering ending the blog because that would be heartbreaking.

    With that being said, I have three suggestions to consider if that is what you are seeking. If not then I am sure this comment can be skipped over.

    1. It seems like most of the perma bloggers or authors of the OPs are attorneys, professors, authors, or experts in their field of study. This causes one amazing benefit that I love, and that is the supporting information, research, and experience that gives weight tot he opinions expressed. I love that. On the other hand, the expertness of the authors and permas can give weight to things that are being said that may not be 100% accurate or valid and only an opinion. In fact, sometimes it feels like the person with that expertness can wield that authority against those who might disagree. This has not happened to me, but I see it and feel it at times in the blog posts and comments. I wish there were more lay men and women who shared their experiences among the OPs, and not just guest posts. I am not advocating for less educated and expert posts, just more of a mix possibly.

    2. I feel like the intent of the blog does lean more toward keeping the fringes in the fold. At least that seems to be the vast majority of the posts. However, I would like to see more posts (there seemed to be more of these a few years ago) where the intent is to help people who might be more uncomfortable with the fringes learn new things that can bridge the gap. It seems like there are many more guest posts, or perma posts, that reach out to people who are disaffected and maybe even against the church, than to those that love the church but could stand to see new perspectives. If the goal is to seek some unity, then I think there are smart and effective ways to reach out to those folks. I have seen it work in my own area, so I believe it could work in this forum as it has in the past. I used to share so many posts with people that made a difference, but it feels the last few years they have become fewer and farther between.

    3. Because so many comments are either extreme, or completely validate the OP with lived experiences, whenever a comment that is sort of middle of the ground is made, they seem to be met with silence. I think this encourages the echo chamber, or the alienating debates. I wish the comments were more geared to helping us discover ways to help each other, rather than engaging with extreme and only validating comments. I understand why that happens and don’t think it is malicious or even wrong, just a preference as to how the site resonates with me.

    Anyway, I truly appreciate the efforts that go into writing these posts and maintain the site. I have my own blog and understand not only the work it takes, but that when you write something you can never please everyone. I love and thank you for your efforts.

  159. Francine says:

    Speaking of posts I would love to see here, could we have one where we discuss ways to accomplish the promise of Zion that there were no poor among them. It might bring us closer to becoming one in heart and mind.
    And it would require real change from most of us, not just virtue signalling comments. And isn’t that the real purpose of mortality, that we change enough to want to live in a Zion world?

  160. it’s a series of tubes
    There could have been a post supporting the Nov 5 policy. I could have written it.
    I am also descended from pioneers, some of whom joined the Church before Brigham Young. I attended Church faithfully from age 12 forward, graduated from BYU, and married in the temple. But my mother had my siblings and me baptized partially because of pressure from my one set of active LDS grandparents, my mother’s parents. She had ceased attending LDS Church or any church in high school and did not practice or believe much of the doctrine. My father and his family belonged to another Christian faith and did not support either the teachings of the LDS faith nor my participation in it. There was conflict, which could have been avoided with more respectful policies in place then that required me to be 18 before baptism. I found in the Nov 5 policy just that kind of respect being shown to gay parents. Their children would not be put in a place where they were being taught that the marriage arrangements of their parents was wrong, just as I was placed in a situation where I felt that my parents eternal salvation depended on my example. Way too much pressure for a teenager to handle. And gay parents would not be placed in a situation where their parents were pressuring them to have the grandchildren baptized and they were complying to keep peace in the family or perhaps just to end the discussion. Baby blessings and baptism were to be restricted to those who actually intended to raise their children in the faith, including its teachings about same sex marriage. While I acknowledge this policy caused pain to some, overall I found it respectful of the rights of the gay parents.
    I do not know what the interpretation of treating heterosexual and homosexual violations of the law of chastity the same will be. Will gay married couples having sexual relations still be considered to be in violation of the law of chastity since we do not recognize gay marriages as valid in God’s eyes? So, how much has really changed?
    I feel like we could avoid splintering if the owners of the blog would include a wider variety of viewpoints in their posts. And assumed that other people’s lived experiences might offer a different perspective equally deserving of respect as that they hold.
    There is an ideological bias on this blog. We can quibble over the name to call it, left and right, conservative and liberal, progressive and TBM. It exists. When it ceases to exist, we will not need to splinter. We probably will not agree on everything and we will not feel the need to. We will accept that others can bring something to the discussion that can stretch our thinking.

  161. Nancy, I don’t want to turn this post into an argument about the specifics of the Nov. 5 policy, so I won’t respond point by point, but I respectfully, totally disagree with your defense of the policy. I don’t believe that respectful disagreement requires abandoning all our convictions (or bias–same thing) or imposing some kind of perfect balance between ideological viewpoints, or anything close to that. It doesn’t require us to accept or support views we disagree with. It requires a willingness to listen to each other and not dismiss each other when we find that our views are opposed.

  162. I’ve mentally composed my comment several times over the last two days, wondering if I had anything to add as a lurker who has commented maybe a dozen times over the years I’ve been here. And at the 160-comment mark, I have no idea who is still reading, but here goes.

    Almost 15 years ago I joined a small LDS forum that operated on the assumption you were participating as a faithful member of the church and moderation kept it a great little space. Yet within those parameters and our discussions I learned that the variety of opinions held by members was a much larger spectrum than any discussion in Gospel Doctrine ever hinted at. It was the perfect place for “inoculation.” I learned over the course of years many of the thornier issues in the church, and had the time and help to process during moments of “Joseph Smith did WHAT?!” Ben Spackman was one of our members, and I learned a lot from his contributions. Eventually the forum stopped, and I still miss it. BCC hasn’t filled that hole completely, but it helps. I love the discussions that are thoughtful and intelligent.

    One thing about our group that I initially found surprising was the policy that we wouldn’t talk about politics. The charter said basically it was because Mormons can’t seem to talk about them without quoting scripture and calling each other to repentance, and I remember thinking, “Mormons do that?” It turns out that a lot of American Mormons do that. I’m Canadian – and not a Southern Albertan version, either. It was my first introduction to what I believe is an unhealthy mixing of religion and politics, and it has gotten much, MUCH worse since then. And I’m watching the rise of vitriol in my own country as well. It’s worrying.

    I wish I had a solution. Maybe outsource moderation to try and work against bias? Have Ziff from ZD crunch the numbers on the posts here, see if things have changed? How about looking for new contributors, possibly ones from outside the US? Speaking as an ___th generation member whose ancestors crossed the plains but then went north, I’ve got the Mormon heritage but my outlook is different. After all, isn’t that one of the points of BCC? The understanding that there are many, many ways of being a faithful member of the church.

    Maybe it’s time for us lurkers who love this place to start commenting more.

  163. it's a series of tubes says:

    Nancy, thanks for your reply. I would be more inclined to agree with you if the policy in question: (i) wasn’t simply a mirroring of the policy that had previously been in place (and remains in place) with respect to children of polygamists / fundamentalists, simply repurposed; (ii) was publicly announced by the Church, rather than leaked by its enemies; (iii) wasn’t revised / clarified within a few days after the leak; and (iv) didn’t include the exceptionally loaded word “apostasy” regarding those who enter into a same-sex marriage. In the context of the church, there are few terms that carry more import or historical meaning. Perhaps at present, “murderer” or “child molester” are worse; historically, “apostate” was about the worst.

    Now, we have the scenario where the same person, in November 2015, was an apostate, and in April 2019, is no longer an apostate – without that person doing, being, or thinking anything different.

    Regarding your lived scenario, I completely agree that the Church has been too aggressive in the past at baptizing children, new converts, and others without sufficient support in place. We can do better. A shift from focus on baptism to a focus on true conversion and retention is needed.

  164. “overall I found it respectful of the rights of the gay parents”

    That’s so considerate of you to speak for the gay parents you don’t actually seem to know, Nancy. Please, get to know some gay members of the Church. Although you probably already know some, but don’t know you know.

    “caused pain to some”

    You have no idea. Whole extended families. Bishops. Stake presidents. Missionaries. Returned missionaries. Temple workers. Really, they’re not telling you about their experiences and pain. Sometimes it’s because they need to protect the privacy of their family. Sometimes it’s because the pain is too deep and the experience too complex to share with strangers and random church members.

    Besides what Jared said, on a topic like this, a privately-run blog has no obligation to host discussions that will continue to injure an already-marginalized population.

  165. Not to be too contrarian, tubes, but I half-disagree that we’re too aggressive about baptizing people. I’d prefer to see baptism thought of not as the way you join the church, but simply a sign of repentance. Then I’d prefer to see confirmation as the means by which we join the church. That way we could focus on teaching repentance and faith before baptism, and after baptism, then we can worry about having somebody attend a certain number of times and hear certain lessons and all that.

    But I know I’m in the minority on this. And of course, I have no keys to make those kinds of decisions, so in the meantime I’m happy to support the current way of doing things.

  166. In the OP, Steve refers readers to a Jason Wharton. After reading not only his remarks but all the comments I have decided nothing has changed. The direction has been going down for a long time.

  167. My post was not a referendum on BCC, or meant to invite arguments about the existence of trans people. It was solely to point out a degradation in our community.

    I think the comments here have largely been positive, and I wanted to thank those who participated.

    At this point I’m closing comments on the post. I think the conversation has run its course. I would like to point out that since writing this post, we’ve received a number of comments here, on Twitter and on Facebook accusing us here of being trash and apostate. I’m not exaggerating.

    I remain fairly pessimistic about the future of our online communities as a whole, but feel encouraged about many of you as individual examples of good faith.