Editor's note: This is one in a series about Mormons who blog and why they do so.
It may seem suspect to draw a connection between blogging and Zion.
Blogging is often maligned — and sometimes rightfully so — as navel gazing, and in Mormon culture those bare midriffs can seem awfully immodest. To be sure, self-absorption is the antithesis of the Zion we seek as a people.
But while Mormon bloggers have their fair share of narcissism, I believe most are motivated by a worthy desire to understand and be understood. And I believe such understanding is a powerful catalyst for building Zion, that state of spiritual unity where the Saints are of one heart and one mind, and have no poor among them.
In my five years of blogging I’ve seen an abundance of meaningful connections forged between fellow Saints that would be unlikely or impossible in other contexts, given the geographical limitations, cultural baggage and social restraints that separate LDS Church members from each other. These connections frequently surface in forthright and empathetic conversations on the most tender of topics, from eating disorders to pornography addiction to crises of identity and faith. We tend to minimize disclosure of personal struggles in Mormon culture, yet there is a direct relationship between our level of candor and our level of caring: Before we can carry one another's burdens, we must first share them.
As my friend and fellow blogger Tresa Edmunds says, “The first step toward becoming a Zion people is being honest.”
I’m not suggesting that the blogosphere is some kind of Mormon utopia. The diversity of perspectives online inevitably yields conflict, and that same anonymity which opens space for beneficial sharing also opens space for stark confrontation. When it comes to matters of religious orthodoxy, our behavior on the blogs often mirrors our behavior on the freeways, where we're tempted to yell at those who drive slower or faster than our own singularly appropriate speed.
But the challenges of blogging with charity, or at least with basic human decency, are what make it a valuable tool for spiritual refinement. Opponents can be the greatest allies for fallen mortals who desire to be Saints. Indeed, while blogging can be a frivolous pursuit, it can also be a sacred one.
Earlier this year on a popular group blog, I moderated a series of posts about Mormons living with clinical depression. In a roundtable discussion posted in several segments, eight bloggers (including myself) shared elements of their personal struggle with mental illness, hoping to offer companionship to fellow sufferers and perspective to other readers. For many participants the ensuing discussions were life-changing — and for a few, perhaps even life-saving.
One woman, a former Latter-day Saint, left an unforgettable comment that said, in part: "Thank you to you brave souls who have spoken straight. I felt genuine love for those of you who went through the dark, lonely 'hour' that I did. And more than that, you have the integrity to admit it. This post today changed something in me."
To conclude, I remind us that the curse of mortality is separation from God, from our true selves and from each other. As a result, each of us suffer from poverty of heart and spirit. Yet our collective wealth of experience and knowledge and compassion as a people is enormous, and the world wide web provides unprecedented means of distributing this wealth. In spite of and because of its challenges, blogging can increase our jointly owned riches of spiritual unity as Latter-day Saints, and can fortify and hasten our mutual journey toward that Zion where we shall be of one heart and one mind, with no poor among us.
Kathryn Lynard Soper founded Segullah.org.