* The contents of this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Millennial Star or its contributors.
Before anything else, I want to apologize to the folks at By Common Consent for the harsh criticism I insensitively levied against them a week ago. Even though I think that my underlying concerns are valid and deserve to be considered, my presentation was too contentious and personally hurtful.
I would like to explain those underlying concerns, which are really more about the bloggernacle in general than about any specific blog or individual.
Recently, there have been several references to Elder Oaks’ 1989 remarks on “Alternate Voices” in which he declared, among other things,
Individual members of the Church may also confront difficult questions when they are invited to participate. The question is more complicated when the invitation does not relate to a publication or a lecture on a single subject, but to a group of articles, a series of publications, or a conference or symposium with a large number of subjects. One article or one issue of a publication or one session of a conference may be edifying and uplifting, something a faithful Latter-day Saint would wish to support or enjoy. But another article or another session may be destructive, something a faithful Latter-day Saint would not wish to support or promote.
Some of lifeâ€™s most complicated decisions involve mixtures of good and evil. To what extent can one seek the benefit of something good one desires when this can only be done by simultaneously promoting something bad one opposes? That is a personal decision, but it needs to be made with a sophisticated view of the entire circumstance and with a prayer for heavenly guidance.
There are surely limits at which every faithful Latter-day Saint would draw the line.
As Latter-day Saints consider their personal relationship to various alternate voices, they will be helped by considering the ways we acquire knowledge, especially knowledge of sacred things.
The conference of 1989 is among the first that I can remember for myself. I was 14 years old. Elder Oaks was not speaking in a contextual vacuum. His remarks were immediately preceded by Bishop Glenn L. Pace’s “Follow the Prophet” talk. In the preceding session of conference, President Ezra Taft Benson had given his famous “Beware of Pride” address. And the next morning Elder Nelson followed up with his thoughts on “The Canker of Contention.”
- President Benson: Beware of Pride
- Elder Pace: Follow the Prophet
- Elder Oaks: Alternate Voices
- Elder Nelson: The Canker of Contention
A careful re-reading of these 1989 instructions from the Brethren, supplemented by Elder Maxwell’s 1992 address Settle This In Your Hearts, Elder Pace’s 1992 words regarding Spiritual Revival, Elder Ballard’s 1999 warning to Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers and Elder Eyring’s 2004 discussion of Faith and Keys has convinced me that I can no longer participate in the questionable dialogue that is the bloggernacle.
In “The Canker of Contention” Elder Nelson declared:
…worthy servants of the Master, who would not speak ill of the Lordâ€™s anointed nor provoke contention over teachings declared by ancient or living prophets.
Certainly no faithful follower of God would promote any cause even remotely related to religion if rooted in controversy, because contention is not of the Lord.
Surely a stalwart would not lend his or her good name to periodicals, programs, or forums that feature offenders who do sow â€œdiscord among brethren.”
I have been wrestling with my own participation in the bloggernacle for some time now, but recent events in my personal life, combined with these instructions from the Brethren have made my path clear.
There are wonderful, righteous people involved in the bloggernacle. I have grown to love and respect many of you, even among those with whom I most ardently disagree. I know that many of you with whom I have often disagreed are good people struggling with difficult issues, issues that often are born of difficult personal experiences of which I am largely ignorant.
There may be a few others who are wolves dressed in sheep skins, taking advantage of the nature of the Internet and the bloggeracle’s high tolerance of dissidence to destroy the faith of those who are already weakened by adversity–but they blend in so well that I cannot accurately tell them from the real sheep with honest questions.
Elder Oaks explained,
Some alternate voices are those of well-motivated men and women who are merely trying to serve their brothers and sisters and further the cause of Zion. Their efforts fit within the Lordâ€™s teaching that his servants should not have to be commanded in all things, but â€œshould be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.â€ (D&C 58:27.)
Other alternate voices are pursuing selfish personal interests, such as property, pride, prominence, or power. Other voices are the bleatings of lost souls who cannot hear the voice of the Shepherd and trot about trying to find their way without his guidance. Some of these voices call out guidance for othersâ€”the lost leading the lost.
Some alternate voices are of those whose avowed or secret object is to deceive and devour the flock. The Good Shepherd warned, â€œBeware of false prophets, which come to you in sheepâ€™s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.â€ (Matt. 7:15; see also 3 Ne. 14:15.) In both the Bible and the Book of Mormon the Savior charged his shepherds to watch over and protect the flock from such wolves. (See Acts 20:28â€“29; Alma 5:59.)
I look at the voices of the bloggernacle and often find it difficult to discern those questioning to seek answers and those questioning with less honest motives.
In general, however, I question the propriety of discussing doubts, criticisms, and concerns about the church in such a public forum. It is a little like discussing one’s marriage difficulties, concerns, or criticisms in a pub, and soliciting public comments from everyone present, while avoiding discussing the problems with one’s own spouse. That, I think, would be completely inappropriate. One might rightly wonder if someone who did so was not looking more for a sympathetic ear, and justification for their disenchantment than real solutions to their marital problems.
I know several people intimately whose questioning and oppositional attitudes foreshadowed their complete rejection of the Church, Joseph Smith, and even the need for a Messiah. My experiences inevitably contribute to my sensitivity to the dangers the alternate voices.
When the many voices of the LDS blogs are taken as a whole, I do not feel that the bloggernacle, as it currently operates, is consistent with my faithful support of the organization that the Lord Himself has established as His vehicle in the latter days. The good in the bloggernacle is not sufficient to justify the amount of questionable material that is simultaneously promoted. The tone and nature of the bloggernacle are much too critical of the Brethren and the Church, and much too contentious in general.
Another danger of the bloggernacle is that it is all too easy for those of us who started out as well-motivated men and women merely trying to serve our brothers and sisters and further the cause of Zion to change into another kind of voice. The contention, the natural temptations of pride and prominence, and the critical leanings of the bloggernacle can very easily transform even the best among us.
I have puzzled about how I can continue to contribute to the good in the bloggernacle without simultaneously supporting, indirectly, that which I believe is wrong and pejorative to the Lord’s organization, and without allowing it to transform me.
There is no perfect answer.
Nevertheless, I have come to a solution that I am comfortable with: I will withdraw entirely from participation in the bloggernacle community. I will no longer read any LDS blog or feed.
I will miss many of you. You can contact me at any time by emailing jmaxwilson, at gmail, dot com. If there is ever anything I can do to help you out, or if you ever find yourself in Utah and need a place to crash for a night, please let me know and I will be happy to do what I can for you–regardless of whatever ideological differences we may have.
If, in the last year, my writing, my thoughts, and my testimony have earned a little of the respect of the faithful among you, I urge you to read and ponder the words of the prophets linked to above and to prayerfully reconsider your own role and participation in the bloggernacle.
God bless all of you,
Jonathan Max Wilson