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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Thoughts From Sunstone 2009 » Thoughts From Sunstone 2009

Thoughts From Sunstone 2009

MCQ - August 17, 2009

I usually try to make it to at least a few of the offerings at Sunstone each year, especially anything having to do with the bloggernacle or which is being presented by someone I know.  This year I particularly enjoyed a panel discussion about overcoming stereotypes through blogging.  It had a really great panel of bloggers from Exponent and fMh, Including Lisa and mfranti, and Cheryl (Bored in Vernal) from Hieing to Kolob.  Kevin Barney was the chair and gave some great off-the-cuff remarks at the end regarding his history with the nacle and the stereotypes he has dealt with during that time period.  My favorite part of his remarks was when he said he was leery of blogging at BCC at first because he always thought of BCC as “the apostate blog.”  I laughed out loud at the thought of Kevin as a Mormon conservative type looking down his nose at what he perceived to be the wild-eyed bomb-throwers of BCC.

It was fun to listen to them talk about stereotypes and blogging because, of course, life in general, and the nacle by extention, is full of stereotypes of one kind or another and it’s an interesting exercise to think about how blogging might break down some stereotypes, while creating or reinforcing others.  I always love listening to Lisa and Cheryl was particularly great, talking about how when she blogs, no one knows she’s small and no one hears her tiny voice: as a blogger, she’s a giant.  She finished with some of her poetry that was really beautiful and led right into mfranti’s remarks as if they had practiced it.  mfranti had previously tried to distract us from Cheryl’s talk by falling off the dais, but was enlightening when she finally got her turn at the mic.  She told the story, one I hadn’t heard before, of her conversion and struggle to fit into the sterotypes of Mormonism.  I was thrilled that a church member had the intelligence to tell her: “You can be your own kind of Mormon.”

I really hope that’s true.  I think we can be our own kind of Mormon, within certain fairly obvious parameters and it’s places like Sunstone (and the nacle, hopefully) where we find out just how diverse this thing called Mormonism can or might be.  One of the questions posed to the panel struck me as a funny yet important one: “Are you out?”  That is, do people in your family or your ward know that you are a blogger?  Lisa said that she had just come out to her mother and her mother already knew, had known for years.  This was funny because I remember hearing Lisa speak at Sunstone two years ago where she said her mother did not know about her blogging and she was afraid to tell her.  Apparently, there was good reason for the fear, as the conversation was not a pleasant one.

The more I thought about this question though, the more I thought it to be an important one with regard to stereotypes.  The two most prevalent (and most inaccurate, in my opinion) stereotypes regarding Mormon blogging are (1) the stereotypes surrounding the “liberal” and “conservative” labels as applied to people and blogs in the nacle and (2) the stereotypes surrounding Mormon blogs and bloggers in general in the minds of most church members: that they are either apostates or in danger of being excommunicated at any moment for fomenting rebellion against the brethren.  The only way to overcome these two stereotypes is to be completely “out,” that is, (1) be yourself and own your positions online and (2) be willing to tell your ward and family members about your online activities and the reasons you feel the nacle is an important part of being a Mormon.  I’m not saying that’s easy, I’m just saying it’s necessary.

A couple of ways of doing this came up during the panel discussion.  Cheryl mentioned that she has become much more open about her blogging after becoming active on facebook.  Since she has facebook friends that are both ward and family members as well as nacle acquaintances, she has had to merge her two personalities more than ever before.  mfranti described acting as a sort of fMh ambassador who reads every post and comment and responds to those who are either in need or who automatically assume fMhers are picking up speed on the downhill slope to hell.  Her efforts to reach out to Mormon “conservatives” who approach fMh in a very stereotypical way deserve credit and have resulted in at least some success stories where, instead of resentment and anger, there is now listening, along with (go figure) an ongoing friendly and respectful relationship.

That’s the way I want the future of the nacle to be.  Despite the dire warnings from some who suggest we’re out of touch with (or even hostile to) church leaders and the average member, I see shades of every kind of Mormon in the nacle and hope for more participation from those of every perspective.  The only way that happens, though, is through our efforts to talk about this place among our ward and family members and let them know what it means to us.  Those discussions should also come with warnings: you won’t like everything you see; not everyone is going to be someone you want to hang out with (place your favorite nacle nemesis here); but there are good people, good faithful church members, good discussions, a lot of good things to learn and hopefully, good friends to make here. 

Here’s hoping that we continue the process of breaking down stereotypes, including those about us.

21 Comments »

  1. Yes. Here’s to us!

    Comment by Kent (MC) — August 17, 2009 @ 6:21 pm

  2. What a fantastic commentary on that session! Very well said, MCQ.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — August 17, 2009 @ 6:47 pm

  3. MCQ: the stereotypes surrounding Mormon blogs and bloggers in general in the minds of most church members: that they are either apostates or in danger of being excommunicated at any moment for fomenting rebellion against the brethren

    What gives you this impression?

    (I almost never sense that kind of attitude about NCT from my local Mormons acquaintances — especially not in the last 3ish years.)

    Comment by Geoff J — August 17, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

  4. Geoff, if they know enough about the nacle to know what NCT is, then they’re not who I’m talking about. Members who know nothing about the nacle think it’s evil.

    Comment by MCQ — August 17, 2009 @ 8:42 pm

  5. This is nice. I’ve told family and ward members that I blog at M*. One guy in my ward later got after me for not having posted in a while! I was pleased that he was following it that closely.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — August 17, 2009 @ 10:28 pm

  6. Great thoughts, MCQ. I really enjoyed this session too. I also really struggle with putting together my online and real life selves, but I can definitely see the potential advantages as you describe.

    Comment by Ziff — August 17, 2009 @ 11:13 pm

  7. Also, it was good to meet you. Sorry I missed the karaoke!

    Comment by Ziff — August 17, 2009 @ 11:14 pm

  8. Ziff, meeting you was a highlight! But I missed the karaoke too. Makes me mad. I brought the karaoke machine two years ago and nobody would do it except Kaimi. He’s always up for karaoke. He should really own a bar.

    Comment by MCQ — August 17, 2009 @ 11:39 pm

  9. Cheers to the panelists. I’m a regular at fMh and wholeheartedly support its permas and posters. Blogging has opened up a very necessary dialogue between those of different interpretations and outlooks on faith or life in general. There is nothing evil about cutting through this insidious silence that certain sectors of membership have imposed upon those of varying views- just by covert or even open accusations of unrighteousness for any deviance from some formulaic way of seeing things. It is faith affirming to discuss our issues, our doubts, our struggles and our insights…or to ask for input from others who understand our struggles within the context of Mormonism. We do not have to reach the same conclusions to have strong faith and love the Gospel.

    I appreciate the OP and agree that by dropping the cloak of anonymity on the blogs and then in our wards, we will open up the diaglogue in the face-to-face setting as well. We learn that the person sitting in front of us in SC has been struggling as well.

    A man may be haunted with doubts, and only grow thereby in faith. Doubts are the messengers of the Living One to the honest. They are the first knock at our door of things that are not yet, but have to be, understood… Doubt must precede every deeper assurance; for uncertainties are what we first see when we look into a region hitherto unknown, unexplored, unannexed. — George Macdonald

    Comment by Kimberly — August 18, 2009 @ 8:28 am

  10. “SC” was supposed to be SM. Rushing this morning.

    Comment by Kimberly — August 18, 2009 @ 8:39 am

  11. I’m glad you liked the panel!!

    Because of the fact that I blog under a pen-name, I think many people there didn’t connect me with my blogs, but I planned and organized this panel. In addition to my personal blog (linked with my name), I write for Main Street Plaza.

    Comment by chanson — August 18, 2009 @ 10:59 am

  12. Thanks chanson, I didn’t mean to leave you out. You deserve credit for a great panel and an excellent talk to kick it off.

    Comment by MCQ — August 18, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

  13. I must be traveling in the wrong circles in regards to blogging awareness. Anytime I’ve ever brought up that I read Mormon blogs (obviously I’m a light participator) I’ve never had more of a reaction than “Huh, interesting.” Maybe YSA’s are less likely to blog?

    Anyway, good post McQ. I’m sure I do my fair share of breaking down as well as proliferating such stereotypes!:)

    Comment by Bret — August 18, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

  14. Bret, thanks!

    BTW, you might be a little inexperienced with Mormonspeak, so let me help you out:

    “Where did you serve your mission?” means:

    I can’t see your garment line and I want to make sure you’re an RM before I flirt with you or line you up with anyone I know.

    and

    “Huh, interesting” means:

    Man, I sure hope the bishop didn’t see me talking to you.

    Comment by MCQ — August 18, 2009 @ 8:30 pm

  15. The stereotypical labels “liberal” and “conservative” don’t really apply to my blog, but perhaps there are a number of individuals who think I’m on the path to hell. However, very few of such people have actually commented on the blog and they’ve often had a change of mind after a discussion with me or others. I believe that the huge red and black anarchist symbol on the home page of my blog scares the hell out of all the closed-minded individuals and stops them from reading anything, leaving me to deal with the only people I want to deal with. So, my own solution, should you care to use it, for combating stereotypes regarding Mormon blogging is to paste large red and black anarchy symbols all over the place.

    Comment by LDS Anarchist — August 21, 2009 @ 2:41 am

  16. I’m not sure that particular image would work for everyone, but I’m sure we could all find one that would have a similar effect (pentagrams, anyone?), i.e. send a message that only the open-minded need stop by. The problem is that it’s the closed minded ones with whom we really need to open a dialogue.

    Comment by MCQ — August 21, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

  17. You wish to talk to the closed-minded ones? So, when you went on your mission, you sought out the un-elect? lol

    Comment by LDS Anarchist — August 22, 2009 @ 12:19 am

  18. the stereotypes surrounding Mormon blogs and bloggers in general in the minds of most church members: that they are either apostates or in danger of being excommunicated at any moment for fomenting rebellion against the brethren

    As they say, all generalizations are false.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 22, 2009 @ 12:25 am

  19. In my last ward, no one cared that I blogged, other than it came up “some people do genealogical research, some people blog” sorts of comments that came up in gospel doctrine. Our gd instructor (http://kevinhinckley.com/ — he looks a heck of a lot better in person than that picture) was fun.

    In my new ward, no one cares, as far as I know.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — August 23, 2009 @ 4:46 pm

  20. As far as you know…meaning you don’t have any idea?

    Comment by MCQ — August 23, 2009 @ 8:26 pm

  21. [...] after the conference, I was happy to see that two bloggers remembered the panel I organized as being a particular favorite! Unfortunately, neither one of them [...]

    Pingback by My First Sunstone! | Main Street Plaza — September 28, 2009 @ 4:10 am

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