An Announcement for DC-Area Bloggernaclites

Former T&S guestblogger, Naomi Frandsen has started a semi-formal discussion group for Capital-area Mormons. There first meeting will be this Saturday. Here is the announcement from Naomi:

Announcing a Mormon Discussion Series in the greater Washington, D.C. area

The Saturday Evening Discussion Series will hold the first of its monthly events this Saturday, October 15, from 6-7 p.m. in Pentagon City, VA. This largely Mormon-themed discussion group has invited T&S’s Nate Oman to be its inaugural speaker, and he’ll be giving a critical overview of the Bloggernacle from humble eginnings to Marauding Marsupial, speaking to the role such blogs play in Mormon community and intellectual inquiry. Future presenters include Katie Blakesley, Matt Bowman, Robert Ricks, and others from the greater D.C. area, speaking on topics from the Church’s political activism in the 1920s to Mormonism and the Middle East and why Mormon girls love hip hop. All are invited. If you’re interested in finding out more (like, for example, the address), please e-mail n dot frandsen24 at yahoo dot com. Many thanks to Nate for being our first presenter.

46 comments for “An Announcement for DC-Area Bloggernaclites

  1. I’m jealous. In spite of being in the middle of the University of Chicago, in Chicago, we have no such thing. Nor do I think we’d have the intellectual curiosity or desire to learn to support it.

  2. Well, those of us in Seattle are going to the Sunstone NW symposium this Saturday evening instead, so that makes us way cooler than you.

    Aaron B

  3. Thanks for putting up this announcement, Times and Seasons. Justin, this is a monthly group, so if you’d like, you can come in November. Surely you won’t have a sister-in-law going through the temple every month, right? Ben S., this could be a total failure, and then you’ll end up feeling glad you weren’t as foolhardy as we. Aaron B., you’re right, Sunstone NW is pretty cool. But the Saturday Evening Discussion Series has a MUCH more interesting name.

  4. By the way, I’m sorry about the strange formatting of the announcement. Please don’t take that as a reflection of our competency in other areas.

  5. I certainly hope and expect that Nate will give us a synopsis of his words at some point. Absent that, I certainly hope someone else in attendance will summmarize for us. I also certainly hope that BCC will be given the star treatment that it so richly deserves.

    Aaron B

  6. Sigh. Baltimore looks so close to northern Virginia but it really isn’t. Hopefully I’ll make one.

    BTW, there’s another covert study group near DC run by Greg Prince in Rockville, Md.

  7. I’d love to be there. But since I’m resident in the UK, I don’t think that I’ll be able to make it I’m afraid.

  8. Um, has anyone thought about the potential ramifications of referring to these gatherings as discussion groups (or as Ronan called them, “covert study groups”)? I know I probably sound paranoid, but maybe the whole bloggernacle would be better off simply describing them as partys with guest speakers.

  9. That’s not an excuse, Serenity. Such grotesque misspellings are unforgiveable. Please banish yourself from the Bloggernacle, effective immediately.

    Aaron B

  10. Ugh!!! I missed it after all!!! How was it, Nate? Full report for those of us out of the area or out of our minds busy yesterday?

  11. Nonetheless, there have been repeated official church pronouncements against private study groups. Serenity Valley may be acting out a paranoia in terms of whether there will be consequences for this particular study group, but using that phrase is treading on forbidden ground.

  12. RT: Have there been repeated church pronouncements against private study groups? I know that there was the symposia letter in the early 90s, but I don’t recall anything about study groups.

  13. Follow up: I just did a quick search of “discussion groups” in the Ensign at The most recent reference that I could find was in a March, 2005 article that encouraged participation in discussion groups as a way of furthering education for stay-at-home moms. The other references that I found were older, but positive, generally in the context of GA’s telling stories about their involvement in such groups. For what it is worth, my understanding is that President Hinckley has been a longtime (if intermittant) participant in the Hinckley-Cannon Group in SLC, which among other things has hosted Richard Bushman as a speaker on his Joseph Smith biography.

  14. IIRC, there was a First Presidency letter read from the pulpit several (6-10) years ago cautioning against participation in study groups outside of Sunday School, Institute, or Know Your Reliegion. Though the letter made no explicit references to such matters, my recollection is that it followed shortly after the excommunication of a group that had relocated from various places to the wilderness in eastern Utah to await the Second Coming. There were oblique references to the group’s actions in the general conference following the disciplinary action, as well, but the references were the of sort that if you didn’t already know the context, you wouldn’t have drawn the connection from what was said.

    I don’t know of a place where the FP letters read over the pulpit are collected. I didn’t find anything like that at, nor did google turn it up. I don’t think the phrase “discussion group” was specifically referenced.

  15. Found this. I know nothing about the website sponsor, but the content seems generally consistent with my dim recollection, though the time frame must have been much earlier than I’d remembered.

    We had a high councilman in our stake ex-ed in connection with this episode, which was what had caught my attention to the Church’s subsequent actions and announcements. Despite the soporific tendency of high council Sunday, I remembered his talk distinctly because of his advocacy that a year’s supply should include significant quantities of gold bullion and guns. Gold because it is always valuable when an economic system crashes, and guns because, of course, we’d want Mormons in charge once civilization crumbles, and guns were the obvious way to attain that.

    Never again heard from him over the pulpit after that talk.

  16. Greenfrog,

    Of course, that article also suggests that homeschooling is a suspect activity. Clearly T&S is on the fringes of acceptable discourse in more ways than one . . .

  17. Our bishop received a letter from the first presidency last year instructing him to discourage home schooling, saying that the practice was an example of looking past the mark. So there is some discourse supporting that idea…

  18. I do hope that I’m being paranoid. I think, however, that it’s best for us to avoid certain types of language that may cause our leaders undue alarm–I think we’re better off self-censoring some of our language now, rather than some of our ideas later.

  19. FWIW, Naomi’s choice was probably nothing more than a natural modeling of the long-standing and very successful study group my parents run in So Cal, the Miller-Eccles Study Group. They’ve never experienced any negative feedback on the name, that I know of, and they’re active in CES, local leadership, etc.

  20. Roasted Tomatoes (#28): Any further backup for that claim? Anybody else hear of such a letter? I’d be very surprised if the First Presidency issued a letter discouraging home schooling. And I would think we would have heard of it before now.

  21. Greg, it wasn’t a general-purpose letter, it was a response only for our ward. Some people in our ward wanted to use the chapel for home-school activities. The bishop wrote in to ask whether that was okay or not and received a letter in response, which he read over the pulpit, instructing him to tell people in our ward that they were encouraged to send their children to schools outside the home.

  22. Rosalynde: FWIW, I have always sort of thought of an invitation to speak to the Miller-Eccles Group as the apotheosis of Mormon intellectualdom.

  23. On the other hand, I’ve seen a few wards where the church was used for homeschooling. Also others where, when asked, the church indicated that the ward building should not be used for homeschooling, but expressed no opposition per se.

  24. I’ve read of a few incidents regarding LDS study groups. Devery Anderson started a study group in Washington in the early 1990s called the Forum for Mormon Studies that drew a very negative reaction from some local leaders. Volume 2 of the Mormon Alliance case reports published his side of the story.

  25. “I have always sort of thought of an invitation to speak to the Miller-Eccles Group as the apotheosis of Mormon intellectualdom.”

    LOL! Their list of past speakers *is* pretty impressive. But that would make my childhood home the current Valhalla of Mormon intellectualdom, wherein the blessed to meet to pontificate… Alas its hallowed halls witness far more bickering, loud piano playing, and soccer practice than pontification. (Actually, the LA County group has really been struggling in terms of attendance; the new Orange County location is much more robust, reflecting a decisive demographic shift.)

  26. The First Presidency issued a letter last April instructing bishops that church buildings are not to be used for homeschooling activities. Liability issues were offered as the primary reason. No comment on the practice of homeschooling itself was given.

    Full text, and some of my thoughts here.

  27. The letter read in our ward did rather give me the impression that church members were asked to avoid home schooling in general, but given the circumstances surrounding our bishop’s inquiry, it may just have been meant to prevent some localized problems–we had someone who was trying to start a bit of an LDS social isolationist movement.

  28. “…I remembered his talk distinctly because of his advocacy that a year’s supply should include significant quantities of gold bullion and guns.”


  29. Bryce, it may well be the case that our bishop added some thoughts of his own to the general-purpose letter. That wouldn’t be the first time, since we did have a bit of a maverick bishop at the time., Nevertheless, the version of the letter that we heard was unambiguous and led most of the home-schoolers in our ward to put their kids in private schools outside the home.

  30. RT and SV, I’m very curious all of a sudden. While I don’t doubt that there were local conditions that might have led to over-the-pulpit counsel to not homeschool, in general, I’m leery of such stories, as they tend to turn into “The prophet said not to homeschool”, which to my knowledge is not the case. Any chance of getting clarification?

  31. Bryce, I’m not aware of any really special local conditions in this case, other than one truly crazy family. The whole story, as far as I know, is that our bishop told us that the prophet said for the people in our ward not to home-school, and the people in our ward stopped home-schooling–including the really crazy family. There’s a nontrivial possibility that the bishop was freestyling in saying this; he’s expressed his own personal ideas as the voice of the church before (can you say unrighteous dominion?), but I also have to accept the possibility that the church wanted to make Mormons here seem a little bit more normal.

    A useful way to think about this is in terms of Armand Mauss’s idea of maintaining an optimal degree of tension with the broader community. Too little tension and investigators won’t think the church is anything special; too much tension and investigators will think we’re too strange to take seriously. In most of the country, outside of perhaps the mountain west, home-schooling is a sign of really extreme tension with the broader community, and therefore it may well serve to drive down conversion rates, etc. Hence, for purposes of organizational survival, the church may be well served by encouraging people to try to integrate into the broader society a little bit more in some places.

  32. RT, I don’t necessarily disagree with your point about managing the tensions between the church community and the broader community. I do worry that advice and counsel given in specific instances tends to become generalized to the church as a whole. There are plenty of reasons that people choose to homeschool their children. Very few of them merit counsel from the Brethren.

    Besides, haven’t you heard? Homeschooling is the new normal. :)

  33. Wow, my initial comment really took the train off the tracks, so to speak. Sorry about that. Back to the point: any more accounts of how the shindig last weekend actually went? It did sound fun…

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