LDS Blogging Caveat Lector – Elder Ballard Did Not Endorse “The Bloggernacle”

The LDS Church Newsroom is highlighting a speech given by Elder Russel M. Ballard, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Church, at the graduation ceremony of BYU-Hawaii on Friday, December 15th, in which he encouraged students to embrace the “New Media,” including blogging, as a way to share the gospel and support the kingdom.

You can read the full text of the speech:

Using New Media to Support the Work of the Church

This is very exciting news! Blogging is a wonderful tool for all the reasons Elder Ballard enumerates and I hope to see increasing numbers of faithful Latter-day Saints blogging about the gospel.

However, to all of you who are just beginning to discover and explore Mormon blogs, I feel compelled to post a Caveat Lector:

Elder Ballard endorsed LDS Blogging, but he did not necessarily endorse the existing LDS Blogging community known as “The Bloggernacle.”

I have been blogging since January 2004, and blogging about specifically LDS topics since August of that same year (first under the pseudonym “Ebenezer Orthodoxy” and later under my own name as one of the founding members of The Millennial Star blog). During that time I participated in the recently coalescing LDS blogging community called “The Bloggernacle.”

In August 2005 I withdrew from the “Bloggernacle,” disappointed by what I considered a widespread, inappropriate emphasis in the community on criticizing the Church and questioning its leadership and policies. I announced my withdrawal very publicly in a post entitled Alternate Voices: Why I Am Abandoning the Bloggernacle which sparked a little community controversy at the time.

I started blogging again in November of 2005 here at my personal blog “Sixteen Small Stones” outside of the “Bloggernacle” community. Earlier this year I had my blog listed on and recently at . It has now been two and half years since I withdrew. I still avoid participating in the community to a great degree. Even though I have received a number of invitations from prominent blogs to rejoin the community and be a guest contributor on their blogs, even recently, I have abstained.

There are a number of wonderful people involved in the “Bloggernacle” community, many of whom are good friends to me. There are also many wonderfully inspiring posts, even by people with whom I have vehemently disagreed at times.

However, the “Bloggernacle” community continues to be a forum of mixed Alternate Voices which Elder Oaks describes thus [modified to remove structural ambiguity – ed.]. In 1989, Elder Oaks described different kinds of Alternate Voices thus :

Some alternate voices are those of well-motivated men and women who are merely trying to serve their brothers and sisters and further the cause of Zion.

Other alternate voices are pursuing selfish personal interests, such as property, pride, prominence, or power. Other voices are the bleatings of lost souls who cannot hear the voice of the Shepherd and trot about trying to find their way without his guidance. Some of these voices call out guidance for others: the lost leading the lost.

Some alternate voices are of those whose avowed or secret object is to deceive and devour the flock. The Good Shepherd warned, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

You will find all of these kinds of voices in active participation in the “Bloggernacle” community, and it can be very difficult to distinguish one from another sometimes.

In the same conference in which Elder Oaks spoke about alternate voices, Elder Nelson warned us about the Canker of Contention saying:

…worthy servants of the Master, who would not speak ill of the Lord’s anointed nor provoke contention over teachings declared by ancient or living prophets. Certainly no faithful follower of God would promote any cause even remotely related to religion if rooted in controversy, because contention is not of the Lord.
Surely a stalwart would not lend his or her good name to periodicals, programs, or forums that feature offenders who do sow “discord among brethren.”

Elder Ballard himself has warned us to Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers

Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men and women, who are self-appointed declarers of the doctrines of the Church and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce.

Now let me give you a few examples of the false teachings of those who read by the lamps of their own conceit, who, though “ever learning,” are “never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7).
False prophets and false teachers are those who declare that the Prophet Joseph Smith was a duplicitous deceiver; they challenge the First Vision as an authentic experience. They declare that the Book of Mormon and other canonical works are not ancient records of scripture. They also attempt to redefine the nature of the Godhead, and they deny that God has given and continues to give revelation today to His ordained and sustained prophets.
False prophets and false teachers are those who arrogantly attempt to fashion new interpretations of the scriptures to demonstrate that these sacred texts should not be read as God’s words to His children but merely as the utterances of uninspired men, limited by their own prejudices and cultural biases. They argue, therefore, that the scriptures require new interpretation and that they are uniquely qualified to offer that interpretation.
Perhaps most damningly, they deny Christ’s Resurrection and Atonement, arguing that no God can save us. They reject the need for a Savior. In short, these detractors attempt to reinterpret the doctrines of the Church to fit their own preconceived views, and in the process deny Christ and His messianic role.
False prophets and false teachers are also those who attempt to change the God-given and scripturally based doctrines that protect the sanctity of marriage, the divine nature of the family, and the essential doctrine of personal morality. They advocate a redefinition of morality to justify fornication, adultery, and homosexual relationships. Some openly champion the legalization of so-called same-gender marriages. To justify their rejection of God’s immutable laws that protect the family, these false prophets and false teachers even attack the inspired proclamation on the family issued to the world in 1995 by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles.

However, in the Lord’s Church there is no such thing as a “loyal opposition.” One is either for the kingdom of God and stands in defense of God’s prophets and apostles, or one stands opposed.

You will, unfortunately, find a number of individuals who participate in the “Bloggernacle,” who openly flirt with some of these false teachings and some who even openly advocate them. There are also a number of participants who are no longer members of the church, but who continue to participate in order to express their opposition, albeit they are often very polite about it. But to a new visitor to the “Bloggernacle” it is not immediately or easily apparent which individuals are former latter-day saints and which are current members, and that can be confusing, especially to individuals who are not members of the church at all and are trying to learn more by visiting LDS blogs.

When faced with a forum of such mixed content, the words of Elder Oaks are still very applicable:

Individual members of the Church may also confront difficult questions when they are invited to participate. The question is more complicated when the invitation does not relate to a publication or a lecture on a single subject, but to a group of articles, a series of publications, or a conference or symposium with a large number of subjects. One article or one issue of a publication or one session of a conference may be edifying and uplifting, something a faithful Latter-day Saint would wish to support or enjoy. But another article or another session may be destructive, something a faithful Latter-day Saint would not wish to support or promote.
Some of life’s most complicated decisions involve mixtures of good and evil. To what extent can one seek the benefit of something good one desires when this can only be done by simultaneously promoting something bad one opposes? That is a personal decision, but it needs to be made with a sophisticated view of the entire circumstance and with a prayer for heavenly guidance.
There are surely limits at which every faithful Latter-day Saint would draw the line.

As Latter-day Saints consider their personal relationship to various alternate voices, they will be helped by considering the ways we acquire knowledge, especially knowledge of sacred things.

As Elder Oaks says, the decision to participate in such fora is personal, but he warns that it should be made with a circumspect consideration of how spiritual knowledge is acquired.

There is real spiritual danger in “The Bloggernacle” that we should not take lightly. In addition to a intellectual component, there is a spiritual component to that which we read, and we should beware of the spiritual affect words can have upon us.

In his injunction to blog, Elder Ballard says quite clearly:

Discussions focused on questioning, debating and doubting gospel principles do little to build the kingdom of God.

There is no need to argue or contend with others regarding our beliefs. There is no need to become defensive or belligerent. Our position is solid; the Church is true.

LDS Blogging can be a great blessing to the church and to you as an individual, and I encourage you to follow Elder Ballard’s counsel and start a blog. And I encourage you to read a variety of LDS blogs. But be selective. If a particular blog or commentator is too critical of the church, or advocates positions contrary to the gospel, don’t waste too much time jumping into heated debate with both guns blazing. Remember Elder Nelson’s warning about things “rooted in controversy.” Make your voices and testimonies heard, but don’t be drawn into contention.

At the same time, there are often elements about the history and doctrine of the church that we members are not as familiar with as we think, so just because a blog posts something that goes against your understanding of the gospel or church history, doesn’t mean that it is against the church and should be avoided. Remember to distinguish between folk doctrines of Mormon culture and what the Prophet and Apostles actually teach.

Pray for the gift of discernment and look for things that are edifying, true, and build up the Church.

Though I could be wrong, perhaps by appealing to the members of the church to blog about the gospel, the Brethren hope to balance out the over abundance of alternative, fringe LDS blogging that is often prominent in “the Bloggernacle” with an infusion of the mainstream.

And a final warning: I have often seen LDS Bloggers who prefer the “Bloggernacle” over their own real-life congregations because it is more “intellectually stimulating” and “edgy” than what they discuss in their Elder’s Quorum or Relief Society meetings on Sunday, while forgetting that it is also infinitely more public and recorded. I believe there is real spiritual danger in that sentiment (see my previous post On the Spiritual Danger of Virtual Communities).

So, with that warning, now go forth and blog!

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