What If President Hinckley Says This Next Month…

“…brothers and sisters, there is another matter of which I’d like to mention before we close this glorious conference. We live in a new age. A time where information surrounds us. The internet has grown to be a regular part of many people’s lives. Email makes it easier to communicate… but I’m not going to give you my email address (crowd erupts with laughter). Like all other forms of media the internet can be used for both good and evil. Pornography is the great plague of our times, it enslaves those caught in it’s web of deceit and pain.

“But this free flow of information has also provided opportunities for us to learn and grow. The Church has many websites devoted to helping us grow our testimonies of Jesus Christ and becoming better people. You may also know that the Church publications are available online for the growing internet populous. You can find these through lds.org and mormon.org. In addition to these resources there is Mormon blogging community, the Bloggernacle, who, in realtime, discusses gospel topics, similar to your Gospel Doctrine classes. They can be found at ldsblogs.org. Brothers and sisters, we must utilize these resources for good, we must build these communities in order to combat the overwhelming influence of evil in this world today.”

Yeah, yeah, I know, this would never happen, President Hinckley would probably just direct everyone to Nine Moons, but let’s put that aside and assume he refers the entire Church membership to our little community.

What happens?

What would happen Immediately? After three months? After a year? After five years?

35 comments for “What If President Hinckley Says This Next Month…

  1. Howie, I edited your comment because it did not conform to our comment policy. Please be more respectful of our posters even if you do not agree with them.

  2. It’s more likely that he would warn against the Bloggernacle. A majority of blogs listed at M.A. probably constitute the “other voices” that the Brethren have already warned against. And most of the blogs where the bloggers themselves are pro-church/pro-gospel/pro-Brethren still have many comments by the “other voices” that tend to undermine faith, not build it up. I’ve caught myself murmuring in comments where I could not go back and edit/delete.

  3. Well, President Hinckley would never commit that glaring solecism in print, anyway.

  4. Assuming that it did happen, which it won’t, for many varied and very good reasons…

    We’d have a rush of people commenting on everything. All sense of community would be lost. The nacle would be unmanagable. Naiah wouldn’t be able to dream of responding to individual commenters. People would ask strange questions and offer strange opinions as “gospel truth.” Lots of Mollys would get involved in an attempt to follow the prophet, and would be judgmental of everyone else. Ned would probably disappear, and FMH would soon be under massive troll attacks and “feminism is evil and you’re going to hell” protests until it would finally close. Threads about mormon culture would be more common, and would often present it in a positive light. Anti-mormons would get involved, and may even start BoH type blogs posing as members who gradually leave the church, getting people to sympathize and possibly follow them.

    The nacle would probably react by circling the wagons, and shrinking ldsblogs.org to only include larger or older blogs. Comments would probably be restricted, and someone might set up a WebBoard system for comments that couldn’t be published on the original thread. (I think that would be beneficial to the nacle, actually.)

    If the nacle didn’t die immediately, it would be changed significantly. Some of the changes would be cool, but I like it the way it is.

    In short, within a year, the counsel that “there is a bloggernacle, it’s a cool place” would be obsolete. Which, in and of itself, is a good reason why President Hinckley would never say that.

  5. I predict several things:

    1. Christian Cardall would admit that his long standing prediction that the brethren will warn people away from the bloggernacle was incorrect.

    2. Many people would fall away from the church, questioning the prophet’s inspiration for not mentioning LDSelect.org.

    3. There would be a large, somewhat disruptive influx of people. Some of them would eventually either acclimate to the bloggernacle, and others would simply tire of it. This would leave a larger, more robust community after the dust settled and the growing pains subsided.

  6. I agree with #4 above.I think it is more likely GBH would tell us to turn off our television sets and get rid of our computers and spend more time with our kids or the lonely people in the ward. We will have plenty of time for blogging or something like it in the spirit world.

  7. Ariel – that’s quite the Doomsday scenario! IF President Hinckley publicly encouraged more people to read and participate in the blogs here, I think there would be an initial torrent of commenters and bloggers that might overwhelm the community for awhile. After the floodwaters receded, however, the combination of the rare, but extremely tenacious, extroverted/exhibitionist online blogger personality coupled with spare time at work or at home guarantees that the bloggernacle will never run itself into extinction. But you’re right, I can imagine the bloggernacle would be a very different place with a huge influx of bloggers and commenters.

    What do you (or anyone) think about how the discourse in the Church (church meetings, conferences, etc.) might change if members were officially encouraged to participate in discussions of difficult issues online? Would the rough-and-tumble, generally well informed, bloggernacle conversations on, say, polygamy be more commonplace in your Ward’s Sunday School class?

    Is the bloggernacle primed to act as a vehicle to facilitate open discussion in real life about controversial Church history and doctrinal beliefs?

    Of course, whether or not LDS Church leaders put the official kibosh on the bloggernacle is also a (more likely?) possibility.

  8. For those who have played along, thanks. Of course President Hinckley wouldn’t say something like that, that’s why it’s fun to speculate what would happen if he did.

    Interesting thoughts. Some of your specifics are pretty funny and very possibly true. But I agree that the nacle would be changed significantly. I too like it how it is right now.

    2) Hilarious. 3) That’s a pretty good summation of which I think I agree.

    Those are some good questions, certainly more interesting that my original question.

  9. If the members of the church responded to this imaginary request in the way we have responded to, say, requests that we have family home evening regularly, or that testimony meetings should be for testimonies (as opposed to story time, long lists of medical ailments, tales of travels, etc), or to do our visiting teaching/home teaching, then the bloggernacle would probably see a very modest short-term bump in visitors which would very quickly be replaced by brief visits every six months. Or maybe just a phone call during half-time of Monday Night Football.

  10. Sunstone would publish an editorial by someone who had already left the Church critical of Hinkley for encouraging the Church as a whole to do something that a) requires internet access–digital divide, anyone?–and b) the ablilty to write fluent English. The Ensign would respond a few months later with a story about a family in Honduras who sold their house to purchase a computer and take English classes. Poor members in the United States would ask for Church welfare to pay for their cable modems…

  11. I think I would be cool to see a more selective entry of authoritative figures (like more professors of religion, more artists, more historians, more general authorities, etc.) entering the bloggernacle than a mass influx of the common church member. If we’re playing make-believe here, then I think it would be more cool if the First Presidency were to direct more authoritative figures in private toward the bloggernacle as an opportunity to teach and preach, but also to learn about the topics of the day that concern the average bloggernacle member.

    Of course, a little less outside the realm of make-believe, I think the same result could occur if the various blog managers were more proactive about recruiting fresh blood, kind of like how T&S has been doing bringing on guest bloggers of high quality.

  12. One certain result: at least for a time, the Bloggernacle would be more reflective of the politics and opinions on social issues of the larger LDS community.

  13. Dan S: not “I� would be cool

    Come on, admit it Dan… you’re cool. Especially after this comment: “kind of like how T&S has been doing bringing on guest bloggers of high quality.” :-)

  14. Those who have been around the internet for a long time will remember when AOL users were first given access to the newsgroups. For several months groups were overrun with newbies and some still point to this event as the beggining of the end for the format. Blogs have some advantage over newsgroups, but I can’t imagine that there wouldn’t be a severe impact. I would guess that many blogs would exceed their bandwidth limits within hours. Blantanly commercial LDS blogs would spring up. Last, but not least, large blogs such as T&S would have to seriously consider Slashdot style moderation systems. I fear that such sudden change would be too much for the ents.

  15. Rusty, fun post!

    I think what would happen if such a statement were to be made would be a fast-forward version of what is happening right now. The profile of the LDS blogging world is still very low but it is growing exponentially (unlike, say, the church itself). These people find their way into our community most often by doing Google searches; blog posts come up in the first few pages of many searches people might do in preparing Sunday School or Relief Society/Priesthood lessons. Most of the new arrivals have a brief look around but don’t become actively involved, but a meaningful number stay. And so the community grows. (Just this last week, someone in my ward called me RoastedTomatoes. That’s never happened before!)

    Bookslinger #4, I certainly understand your perspective on this, and I suppose it’s reasonably likely that you’d categorize me as an “alternative voice” in my own right. But I know probably half of the people listed on ldsblogs fairly well, and of those all but about two are definitely pro-church. Now, it’s entirely possible that some of the things which are said tend to undermine some people’s faith. But that raises serious questions. First, if people have faith in a way that is incompatible with some facts, then don’t we want them to progress to the point where they have faith that’s compatible with the facts? As the saying goes, faith is supposed to be “hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” Second, open discussion of the church and the gospel builds some people’s faith. Can we sacrifice those people to protect the others?

  16. I wonder if the church leaders would lead by example in this hypothetical. It seems that they would be unwiling to encourage church members to participate without offering some sort of official highly visibale way that they follow their own guidance.

    Would they start their own blog? Prophets Seers & Revelators.blogspot.com?

  17. After all the “newbies” overran the blogs, the seasoned bloggers would be so disgusted with the unscholarly and unintelligible conversation that they’d be forced to go back to spending time with their families.

  18. “Second, open discussion of the church and the gospel builds some people’s faith. Can we sacrifice those people to protect the others?”

    Isn’t the inverse of this question true as well? On the whole, I favor more discussion rather than less discussion; more facts rather than less facts. On the other hand, I think that this approach is spiritually healthy for me given my temperment. I am far less certain that it represents a per se superior approach. If someone wants to put their energies into something other than a thorough understanding of the intellectual issues of Mormonism (and I think such an understanding would require a lot of energy — certainly more energy than I have) doesn’t the merits of their choice depend on what they are putting their energy into?

  19. I thought the question was going to be what would you do if GBH got up in conference and asked the Bloggernacle to disband, and individual Saints not to participate anymore. (Assume a request, not a demand.) So how many blogs would comply, and how many would stay open, and which blogs would fall into which category? Would T&S pull the plug? And would people quite their blog habits cold turkey, or would they keep blogging away?

  20. I second Comment #2 (in it’s edited form).

    Besides, you’d probably lose the intimate nature of this blog community.

    It’s the same problem every public figure faces. You gain recognition and exposure. But you lose freedom of movement and expression without everyone scrutinizing and criticizing what you do.

  21. Kevin,

    That would be really unfortunate, wouldn’t it? For good or ill, the internet exists. True, the bloggernacle can be a little edgy at times, but it is a far cry from the numerous anti-Mormon sites out there that would still be only a google search away. We should not be ceding internet space; if President Hinckley suggested such a thing I would respectfully ask that he and other Church leaders take a longer look at things. Under prophetic counsel we could be directed to be more careful in what we say perhaps, but to disband altogether would be very, very, very problematic. And, I dare say, counter-productive.

  22. Here’s a more metaphysical question, perhaps. Hands-up if you think the Mormon blogs are, in balance, a “good thing”. OK, so if President Hinckley says they are a “bad thing” have the blogs themselves changed from being good to bad because a Prophet has pronounced them so? If you think they’re “good” but also think it’s possible that in the future they could be described as “bad,” are they not “bad” NOW?

  23. I think Ronan’s right. I mean, you know there are GA’s doing Google searches and noticing the results are landing both in the anti side and the bloggernacle side of things. There is no doubt they’ve read some nacle blogs. The question is whether they understand that if we went away the anti sites would take over the search results.

  24. Geoff J., It’s true (not that I’m cool, but that the guest bloggers have been excellent). Guest bloggers generate different perspectives, writing styles, thinking, etc. Now, imagine if we had guest posts or comments by a lot of other authoritative figures. I think it could transform the bloggernacle into a powerful teaching tool for lds doctrine, socialogical, philosophy, etc. Of course, it is already a powerful teaching tool to those who participate, but an influx of authoritative figures could attract a greater lds audience, thus having a greater teaching reach. The bloggernacle could eventually become injected into Institute and religion courses, counseling sessions, leadership training, student writing competitions, support groups, scholarly forums, etc., where it hasn’t reached yet.

  25. Nate #21: Your comment in fact seems to be making about the same point that I tried to make above. I certainly don’t mean to say that people who feel strengthened by open discussion of the church, etc., are better than other people — only that there are costs involved in always closing all fora for such conversation.

  26. Leaders are fairly pragmatic most of the time, and in a world where Google is increasingly the first recourse for basic information, the Bloggernacle puts a bunch of fairly positive sites (compard to what else is out there) into the running for the first or second page of Google results for many targeted LDS searches. Ten minutes with a variety of Google searches will drive this point home.

    For example, Googling “Mormonism” gives seven “anti” or critical sites, three neutral sites (the BBC, Wikipedia, and a scripture site), and ZERO positive or official sites. Bad.

    But Googling “Mormon blog” gives SIX B’nacle blogs (the Big Four, Jeff Lindsay, and DMI), one neutral site listing LDS blogs, and only one “anti” site unwittingly promoted by SHIELDS. Pretty good.

  27. For example, Googling “Mormonism� gives seven “anti� or critical sites, three neutral sites (the BBC, Wikipedia, and a scripture site), and ZERO positive or official sites. Bad.

    One wonders if anyone has given a Power Point presentation to the Brethren about this. It is a HUGE problem. As I’ve said before, you’ll have fun googling “Mormon temple.” First hit is the Church’s site full of nice pictures. Second hit is another site full of, um, pictures. I’d say Google is the number one PR problem for the Church; the Bloggernacle would be so the wrong target and I think it would be incumbent on us to try to make that clear. You know, theoretically speaking.

  28. It may be due to the use of the words “Mormon” and “Mormonism.” If you Google “Latter-day Saints” you get a bunch of much better sites. I think the bloggernacle-ites could correct that. Why concede the M word to the apostate and fundamentalist crowd?

  29. JNS: From: http://farms.byu.edu/display.php?id=249&table=review

    “Happily,” notes Elder Maxwell, “defenders beget defenders. Unhappily, dissenters beget dissenters, and doubters beget doubters.” Yet, “Some of the latter may be able to be helped.”

    I’m glad that some doubters have been able to find satisfactory answers to their questions on the ‘nacle. But I’ve also seen too many instances of people reveling in their doubt or dissent.

    Sometimes blogs seem to confirm people’s doubts instead of answer or resolve them.

    Maybe it’s a case of finding whatever you’re looking for.

    Yes, the main blogs at http://www.ldsblogs.org are generally pro-church, etc. But a not insignificant portion are to blogs where the author attempts to justify his/her dissentions or doubts, not reconcile or resolve them. Problems/complaints are put forth, but without the proper context, often with self-justifications, not with indications that the complainant is seeking answers or solutions.

    The scriptures speak often against fault-finding and sowing discord. People who’ve been hurt and offended need a way to vent and unburden. But the public airing of such things, without the corresponding fixes or bandages (though some of which may appear months or years later in a blog) may well fall within what the scriptures warn us against.

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