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Browsing the Mormon Bloggernacle

Posted Sep 22 2008 11:04am

The LDS community has a rather robust and diverse blogging community that has really mushroomed the past couple of years.  I was first introduced to blogs in this venue and it remains the one that is by far the most familiar to me.  This introductions will therefore likely be much longer than it needed.  The community is just too broad and numerous.  Once upon a time there was a small group of eclectic blogs, specializing in Mormon history and culture, and consisting of an inordinate amount of Mormon lawyers.  I discovered this self dubbed Bloggernacle, short for the bloggernacle choir, a few years ago.  They have grouped themselves together at Mormon Archipelago, but like to think of the term as applicable to all bloggers covering Mormonism.  As the number of people blogging on Mormon subjects has exploded, there has tended to be more and more diversity of focus.  I feature on my sidebar a series of Mormon Blog Aggregators, each with their own personality. 

LDS Blogs is an incredibly comprehensive list maintained by David Sundwall at A Soft Answer and is an excellent and comprehensive resource for all the bloggers out there.

LDSelect is an aggregator developed by David Landrith of Mormon Mentality, that has the very cool feature of being personalizable, showing only the blogs you follow, in the priority you give them.  However, as the number of Mormon blogs has mushroomed, LDSelect has not really been able to keep up and the selection remains somewhat limited, though a decent representation of what’s out there.

Mormon Blogs is an aggregator set up by John Dehlin, founder of the podcast turned blog, Mormon Matters.  It takes the approach of dividing posts by subject matter using tags to try to avoid priveleging certain “elite” blogs.  Like Mormon Matters, the aggregator sets as a ground requirement simply that the blogger have a “deep and abiding love for Mormons and Mormonism.”  John’s goal has long been getting believers, non-believers, critics and the orthodox to civilly sit down and learn to understand one another.  As such, it is not surprising that he is very involved in Sunstone.  Consequently he features many writers who may be openly critical of doctrines, positions, or LDS culture but do so in a loving, or at least civil tone.  Others are much more faith affirming and orthodox.  This spectrum of views is not everyone’s cup of tea, and has (I think) an unfortunate stigma, but it is what it is.

Mormon Blogosphere was created to promote individual or small group blogs, which tend to get the short shrift on the aggregators because the very large groups can easily post much more frequently.  I do find the selection there is wide, the blogs featured much more personal.  Personally, I think a good individual blog will always be superior in quality, genuineness, and sincerity.

Nothing Wavering is the newest of the aggregators, created for those who prefer blogs whose content doesn’t tend to criticize church doctrine, history, or leadership.  I have to admit that I initially found the cavalier way that some Mormon bloggers would openly criticize Mormon leaders could be disturbing, and yet I have found real value in learning from the wide spectrum of world outlooks and points of view as well, so I happily participate in both Mormon Blogs and Nothing Wavering, just call me Dr. moderate.

The Deseret News has assigned a reporter their own column dedicated to scouring the Mormon blogs to find gems to share daily at the Mormon Times.  This is a wonderful way to get to know the bloggers out there.  I suspect I am not alone in popping in on occasion to see if they might have found it within themselves to throw a link my way, but I stand by my story, that it is primarily a great way to learn about what blogs are out there.

There are a few very large group blogs, each with their own slant as well.  I often feature posts that I find particularly uplifting, thoughtful and insightful my points of interest posts or in nuggets from all over on the sidebar.  The largest blogs are Mormon Matters, which I discussed above,  By Common Consent, which tends to have a liberal, generally faithful point of view, focuses on culture over spirituality, and is partnered the the Academic Journal Dialogue; a Journal on Mormon ThoughtTimes & Seasons, which is a bit more conservative and very academic and history focused, and Feminist Mormon Housewives, which focuses very much on the point of view of Women and frustrations of an ecclectic group of bloggers.  I have found much at each of these sights that is worthy of praise and will recognize it as such.  There is also plenty that may not be as praiseworthy for everyone disagree with at these sites.  Being conflict averse, I really stay away from the confrontive and contentious conversations that will always follow some of the more conservatively or liberally charged posts.  I find the more heat a post generates, the less light there is to be found in the ensuing conversation.

As the small group and individual blogs are my favorites, and tend to be less well known, I am going to highlight a few of my personal favorites from the point of view of this overeducated, spiritual, believing, Mormon scientist and physician.

Solo Blogs

1) Hieing to Kolob - Bored in Vernal is a self described idealist, pacifist, feminist Mormon.  She is also a faithful, sincere, and extremely spiritual person.  Perhaps this is why she is accepted and beloved by bloggers all across the spectrum, with sidebar links everywhere from the most straightlaced, doctrine only blogs, to the more nonliteral, questioning, intellectual typs blogs.

With a wonderful love of all things spiritual and fearlessness to ask sincere, heartfelt questions as well as assert her beliefs with kindness and consideration, she has guest blogged all over the place and her solo blog remains one of my favorites.

2) Mormanity - Jeff Lindsay has been blogging since before it was even called blogging.  I remember stumbling across his site when Netscape and the world wide web were brand new things.  He proudly wears the badge of Apologist and has always been a strong defender of Church doctrine, but he does so with a goofy sense of humor, wit, and charm that agree or not, people just have to like the guy.  His more spiritual posts convey a true sense of charity and compassion.

3) Mormon Organon - This is a more recent blog belonging to Steven Peck, a professor of Biology at Brigham Young University.  His sight is dedicated to celebrating the traditional ties between Mormonism and Science and fighting the assumptions that some in the anti-intellectualist crowd have about science and atheism coming in a package deal.  He enthusiastically professes both his faith and the nuanced understanding his life exposure have brought.  His blog is fantastic as long as he stays away from ranting about gay porpoises (Seriously Steve, what is that all about?).

4) Mormon Mysticism - I have a confession to make.  I am completely fascinated by the ancient Jewish mystic tradition and have found some powerful and profound insights into the temple through what little I have been able to study.  I have gained a love of mystic imagery, symbolism and spirituality.  The blogs tying ancient tradition to the temple, ala Hugh Nibley multiplied in number recently, but I still think the most powerful imagery, most beautiful wisdom and insights are those found at David Littlefield’s blog.

He writes beautifully and seems to find exactly the right balance between traditional Mormon thought and exploration of the mysteries of God, for my sensibilities anyway.  He is cautious enough to stay on safe doctrinal ground but fearless enough to ponder some very deep doctrine.  He has been posting less of late and I’m hoping this will help spur him on.

5)  Life on Gold Plates - Blair Hodges is an independent researcher and historian of Mormonism who has embarked on what I think is a brilliant project.  The Journal of Discourses is a collection of teachings by Nineteenth century Mormon prophets that would be forgotten if not for Mormon critics, who revel in cherry picking the stranger sounding parts of them and quoting them devoid of context.

Blair’s goal is to read and study the Journal and then write to give Latter-day Saints a more complete understanding of what the context and our history actually is.  He has done a brilliant job so far and I feel I am actually getting to know who Brigham Young really was for the very first time.

Small Groups

1) Zelophehad’s Daughters - This is a family group blog consisting of some very brilliant and accomplished women and one token male, Ziff, all of whom are related.  The blog generally leans feminist, but don’t let that scare you away. ;)  They are right at home discussing some of the deepest theology and always provide a poignant, thoughtful, and considerate point of view.

2) Thinking in a Marrow Bone - This is a group blog dedicated to covering faith, scripture, politics, culture, the arts, philosophy, and science.  The blog name pays homage to a wonderful poem by W. B Yeats.  I love the humanities oriented and thoughtful point of view that this blog seeks to express in the best tradition of our faith.

Politics is always tricky territory for keeping civility and can be very volatile, and yet Dennis has been wonderful so far, fair to both sides in his analysis of our current presidential candidates, as he has sought to elucidate and elaborate where they stand on actual policy issues, moving beyond the sound bytes and ideology.

3) Latter-Day Saint philosopher - This is a newer blog that has made a very strong debut, reviewing the jargon filled world of philosophy in language we laymen can comprehend and yet in a manner that is intellectually stimulating, doctrinally rooted, and spiritually enriching.  Nathan Richardson’s two paradigms series was magnificent, laying down the foundation for morality, ethics, agency, and Christian love in an intellectually rigorous and spiritually inspired way.

4) Juvenile Instructor - Blogs that focus on early Mormon history are legion.  I have always been somewhat lukewarm to the topic and think it is generally beaten to death, that is, until I ran into this blog.  Far from pining away about how learning about the mistakes and skeletons of the past have challenged their faith, they seek a more constructive, rather than deconstructive approach.

They use history to find what works best, rather than criticize and tear down the problems of the past.  They do history with the goal being more than just truth for truth’s sake, but in order to build true empathy and dialogue about what we can learn from those who preceded us.  This is history done right.

5) Waters of Mormon - This is a blog by your standard bread and butter members of the Church who love the Gospel of Jesus Christ and seek to understand and learn all they can.  It sometimes feels as though some people believe this premise is too boring and too like what we get every week in church.  However, done right this can be a beautiful thing.   This blog is at once intelligent, spiritual, humble, diverse, and welcoming.

I am familiar with enough of these blogs I feel bad about the ones I have left out in spite of cheating with the solo and small group categories.  You may notice that many of the small group blogs are not on the sidebar.  This is because I am trying to stick to a theme and keep the Mormon section from swallowing the entire sidebar.  Nevertheless, my Google reader is full of these and many others that put out some great stuff. Happy surfing.  Next week I’ll share some of my favorite blogs covering psychology and mental health specifically.

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