Sometime in late 2003 or early 2004, Steve Evans told me I needed to check out his[fn1] website: rameumptom.blogspot.com. At the time, the nascent bloggernacle was so young that By Common Consent didn’t yet have a name (I think the name was voted on sometime during that first year). He may have also pointed me to Times & Seasons, or I may have found it linked on his blog. But I found T&S at approximately the same time.
In late-2003/early-2004, blogs were a new thing in the mainstream. The media had finally noticed them; Google had just purchased Blogger. And blogs were really the state-of-the-art in online discussion: Facebook didn’t happen until February 2004.
I was a third-year law student in New York, and Times & Seasons and BCC entered my life at a good time. I’d recently become fascinated by a number of Mormon Studies books from the University of Illinois Press. I was starting to Know [My] Religion[fn2] in a deeper, more academic way.
In the bloggernacle, I encountered incredible people, faithful people who explored their faith, often (though, of course, not always) in a deep, nuanced way. It was fresh and exciting. After reading for a couple years, I felt like I knew some of these people.[fn3] I was introduced to topics in Church history and thought that I was unaware of. I was introduced to books I needed.[fn4] Reading allowed me to engage with my Mormonism every day, at least by fits and snatches, in the cracks between other things I did during the day. The discussion could be franker, could be more contentious, and far more fascinating than what happens on Sundays.[fn5]
But, perhaps most importantly, I was introduced to questions, important questions that help me figure out my place in the Church and the Church’s place in me.
I joined Times & Seasons almost two and a half years ago. The timing was fortuitous: with Mitt Romney running for President, tax issues and Mormon issues frequently overlapped. (Seriously, who would have thought that Mormon tax blogging could be anything beyond, like, two posts?)
I read much less of the bloggernacle now than I did 10 years ago. Partly, it’s that what was fresh back then sometimes feels repetitive today. Partly it’s two callings and a real job. Partly it’s the time associated with three kids. But I still frequently find incredible value, insight, and surprise here.
So happy birthday, T&S! Happy birthday to us!
[fn1] Note that I don’t remember if he called it his website; he may have said to check out this website, or something else entirely.
[fn2] It’s surprisingly hard, actually, to find a site I can link to for the old Know Your Religion series that my parents used to go to when I was in high school. I assume it doesn’t exist anymore, and, frankly, have know idea if it existed outside of California or was, instead, some sort of stake/regional initiative.
[fn3] Eventually, I met some of these people IRL.
[fn4] For which my wife would probably like to sarcastically thank the bloggernacle; I’ve spent too much on LDS- and religiously-themed books, and have far too little space in my apartment for them.
[fn5] I should quickly point out that this isn’t meant to disparage Sundays; the bloggernacle serves a different purpose and a different population. As an opt-in community, members who are uncomfortable with the discourse can not join; not joining the bloggernacle discussion doesn’t impact our membership or participation in the body of Christ.
Fun post to read, Sam.
Sam (my Sam) and I used to attend Know Your Religion in Florida. :)
My parents attend KYR in Minnesota as well.
Thanks for the reflections. Fun stuff.
An my parents attended KYR in the Washington DC area in the 1970s, IIRC. I’m pretty sure that it was churchwide.
We also had a local version of Education Week, featuring many of the presenters of the BYU version who traveled to different places around the nation. They were very helpful in spreading Mormon culture and thoughtful approaches to Mormonism (although today I don’t think we would see them as all that thoughtful).
Many of our chapels also had “bookstores” tucked into a closet or cabinet somewhere — the local version of the “Seventy’s Mission Bookstore” I believe. As I understand it, these were discontinued for tax reasons — so Sam you might be able to write about them. IIRC, the reason was that running a bookstore in the chapel would put the Church’s tax exemption at risk. [Although now, I’m not sure that sounds reasonable.]
KYR, local education weeks, and seventies bookstores all went away in the late 70s and early 80s. I wonder if these were all Correlation-related changes? Which suggests DKYR (Don’t Know Your Religion) as a handy descriptive acronym for Correlation.
Late 70s and early 80s would explain why KYR doesn’t have any significant internet footprint. (I’m curious if it maybe extended to the late-80s, early 90s? I remember my parents going, but I can’t remember if I was babysitting or not.)
In any event, I’m kind of sad that they don’t exist anymore; I have no idea how quality they were, but I like the idea, at least.
KYR was happening as late as 1998 along the Wasatch Front. Stephen Robinson and Mme Mary Ellen Edmunds are two that I remember.