Mormon Mommy blogs are the traffic queens

A long time ago, I compiled a list of the LDS blog aggregators and made sure that I got listed on as many of them as I possibly could.  The effort paid off.  Although Google searches are still my number one source for bringing in new readers, being listed with the LDS blog aggregators has brought in a respectable number.  In fact, I get roughly eighteen percent of my traffic in this way.

Meta-list for Mormon Mommy blogs

My fellow blogger Megan from Hall Pass announced on Facebook a couple of days ago that she was a guest poster on Mormon Mommy blogs.  It got me to thinking about all the MM blogs I’ve seen spring up over the past few years.  I wondered just how much traffic they were bringing in.  I also wondered if there was a blog aggregator especially for Mormon Mommy bloggers.  Yep!

So I ran some Alexa comparison numbers and was shocked to discover just where all the LDS blogging traffic was really going.  The aggregator site called Mormon Mommy blogs was ranked higher in Alexa than any of the other LDS blog aggregators out there.  Now you may argue with me that it is not a real aggregator, but you might want to take a second look.  They are indeed!

LDS blog aggregators

Take a look at the chart I compiled of LDS blog aggregators sorted by Alexa rankings.  There are two MM blog aggregators on the list, one right at the top of the list.   You are probably familiar with all the others.  If not, you ought to be and you should make every effort to get your blog listed in them.  They can do wonders for driving traffic to your blog and getting you new readers.

Except for the two MM link-lists, I get referrals from almost all of them except the two from the More Good Foundation.  My blog is fed to Mormon Bloggers while LDS Blogs is really more of a hosting site.  I suppose they probably don’t really qualify as an aggregator but I do get some traffic from blogs found there.  I am pleased to see that Nothing Wavering ranks high on the list.

An amazing contribution

So congratulations to Mormon Mommy blogs, both the aggregator site and to all the MM blogs that are listed in there.  You are the queens of LDS blog traffic, at least according to Alexa.  If you have never visited their site, go take a look at all the blogs in the different categories.  You will be amazed at the diversity and thoughtfulness there as well as many that are just plain fun.

You’ll find book blogs, hair blogs, beauty and fashion blogs, adoption blogs and even some blogs about crunchy moms!  There are blogs about homeschooling, infertility, blended families, military life, singles, parenting, spirituality, photography, music, art, self-help, special needs and just about every other helpful topic.  What an amazing contribution these women have made!

Mormon visitors from outer space

I was looking for a quote today that goes something like this: “The only beings to visit our planet are those who were once inhabitants here”  (Update: Jeremy at the Seerstone provided the scripture as D&C 130:5). My search landed me on an article in the New Era from 1971 by Kent Nielsen.  Like Truman Madsen who just passed away, Dr. Nielsen is an emeritus professor of philosophy from BYU.  The article is entitled, “People on other worlds,” and is still fascinating although it was written almost forty years ago.

After a brief review of the basic cosmological configuration of our planetary neighbors, we are introduced to the simple math calculations used to deduce that we are not alone in our universe.  There are uncountable billions and billions of stars and galaxies throughout space.  If only one star in a million should have inhabitable planets, that would give us over 100,000 systems in our galaxy alone.  Galaxies like ours exist in the billions.  We are not the only life in this universe.

People on other worlds

Even with the advances of science in discovering planets around other suns that conceivably could harbor conditions favorable to human life, we simply have no way of knowing that there are any people out there besides us.  Or do we?  Latter-day Saints have known for over 170 years about the existence of people on other worlds.  In fact, we also know that people from other worlds visit the earth and have been doing so for many years to deliver important messages.

Can you imagine the impact it would have upon civilization if our scientists announced that they have detected an approaching spacecraft from outer space?  How would we be prepared for the visit of extra-terrestrial beings?  I suspect that Latter-day Saints would take it all in stride.  After all, we claim to have been the recipients of such visits for a long time.  No, the visitors did not require the use of a spacecraft to reach our planet.  Their method of travel is currently beyond us.

Prophets taught of other worlds

Brigham Young said, “…there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds, and men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are now passing through. That course has been from all eternity, and it is and will be to all eternity.”  The Apostle Paul knew that God had created other worlds.  He wrote, “God…hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…by whom also he made the worlds.”  Moses and Enoch revealed more in the Pearl of Great Price:

The Lord said to Moses, “The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine. And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works.”  Enoch said, “And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations…”  Joseph Smith’s witness is similar.

God created countless worlds

“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”  What an amazing testimony!  But wait, there’s more.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man. … he was once a man like us … God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth. …If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and … God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. … And where was there ever a father without first being a son? … If Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also?”  Now that is deep doctrine!

Purpose of all these worlds

We don’t seem to talk much about this doctrine any more – that God was once a man as we are now.  We tend to focus more on the idea that man can become like God.  We are not alone in this teaching as it gives hope and motivation to many people besides Latter-day Saints who believe it.  But the idea that God was once like us and passed through a period of mortality and testing is a bit much for some people to accept.  President Hinckley even downplayed it in a news interview.

Nevertheless, as far as I know, it remains a basic fundamental doctrine of our church that helps to explain the purpose of life and all the potential inhabitable worlds that have been created.  The worlds were created specifically to provide a home on which the posterity of the Gods could be tested and proven.  Yes, we believe in multiple Gods, but limit our worship to our own Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ his son.  We just do not teach about other Gods in our curriculum today.

Believed but not taught

I have often wondered about this unique way we have of doing things in our church.  There are many things which we believe and are written about in historical sermons of former priesthood leaders.  And yet, we do not include them in what we teach to investigators, new members, or even long-time members for that matter.  However, just like the idea of a mother in heaven we do occasionally sing about our distinctive beliefs.  A favorite hymn contains these words:

“If you could hie to Kolob
In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward
With that same speed to fly,
D’ye think that you could ever,
Through all eternity,
Find out the generation
Where Gods began to be?”

We are Gods in embryo

We are of the race of Gods.  We are of his species.  God looks likes us.  We look like him.  He has two arms, two legs and a head with two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth.  As Jesus said, “If ye have seen me, ye have seen the Father.”  We are his sons and daughters and he loves us.  The people who populate the other worlds out there are also his sons and daughters and look just like you and me.  There are no green, bug-eyed monsters.  They are also of the race of Gods.

The people who are out there are in different stages of their existence.  Like us, some are passing through a temporal period.  Others are living in worlds that have been celestialized and yet others inhabit a lower kingdom of glory.  This process of living and dying and being resurrected has been going on forever.  I can’t fathom that with my limited mortal brain but I know it is true.  You and I are a part of that process of seeking to be like God and to inherit a glorious exaltation.

Space travel to the earth

Could a person from outer space ever come to visit the earth?  Any Latter-day Saint knows the answer.  Of course, visitors from outer space can come to earth!  They’ve been doing it for many thousands of years.  God and angels visited Adam.  They visited prophets in the Old Testament and Apostles in the New Testament.  The Book of Mormon has numerous accounts of angelic visitations and of the visit of Jesus Christ to the ancient American people.  It is quite common!

In the spring of 1820, God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ visited the boy prophet Joseph Smith in upstate New York.  Angels came to deliver keys of the priesthoodto Joseph and Oliver in the Kirtland temple in 1836.  In our temporal existence we may not be able to travel to worlds beyond out own solar system but other beings in advanced phases of existence are not so limited.  When Moroni appeared to Joseph, he saw “a conduit open right up into heaven.”  Awesome!

Communication from space

Scientists have been listening for communication from space for years but they have yet to hear anything to indicate intelligent life.  On the other hand, Latter-day Saints are very familiar with the process of receiving messages from outer space, transmitted by means that transcend beyond the normal method of communication.  This is more than a future possibility.  It is a present fact!  Beings from outer space have been making great efforts to communicate with us every day.

They have been sending messages that are filled with wisdom and great intelligence.  These are messages that come from superior beings, who have evolved way beyond our limited mortal capacities to think and to understand. They live in dimensions that we cannot begin to fathom.  But they are willing to share with us knowledge that will transform our lives if we will just listen and apply what they say.  Their intelligence is far beyond ours and yet is beneficent and kind.

They are coming to visit us

What’s even more astounding to realize is that these same intelligent beings will be visiting us very soon.  The millennium is simply a period of time when earthly civilization will be brought under the government of superior beings from another world who will visit earth frequently to direct our affairs.  “Christ and the resurrected Saints will reign over the earth during the thousand year period.  They will not probably dwell upon the earth but will visit it when they please…”

But these beings who come from outer space, or another world, will not be aliens.  They will be our brethren, who have lived upon this earth in mortality.  What’s more, we expect a return of portions of this earth that have been broken off in times past when cataclysmic events sheared off that portion of the earth on which they resided.  First the Ten Tribes, then the City of Enoch and last the portion that contains the Garden of Eden.  Don’t believe it?  Look it up in our history!

Summary and conclusion

The earth has received many visitors from outer space over the years.  They do not come in spaceships and they do not wear spacesuits.  They come from a plane of existence that we can only dream about and not yet comprehend.  These are intelligent and magnificent beings that are glorified and exalted in their appearance and in their character.  They love us.  We are their children and their brethren.  They have come to bring us messages of great joy if we but listen.

Visions of angels and Gods from other worlds are not something that I have experienced but I know such things have occurred.  The influence of these beneficent beings fills the immensity of space and dwells here among us.  These Gods have given us gifts that help us communicate with them.  One of these gifts is the gift of the Holy Ghost.  It is real and is the means by which God reveals truth to the mind and heart of man.  Of this I and millions of others are unique witnesses.

Mormons can poke fun at themselves

Sometimes you’ve just got to laugh at Mormon culture.  Bishop Mike T. Young of the Spanish Fork 401st ward does a great job of  pointing out some of the insane things that we do because of our unique culture.  Love it or hate it, I just had to laugh. He’s been in his “calling” for a few months now and has been magnifying it admirably.

In the spirit of Seriously So Blessed, which pokes fun at Mormon mommy blogs and My Religious blog, which is absolutely hilarious, the Spanish Fork 401st ward joins the ranks of What Mormons like and Overheard in the Ward.  If you are offended by Mormons poking fun at themselves, don’t go to any of these blogs.

Here’s a sample offering from a recent post containing items from the suggestion box:

  • Mini-refrigerator stocked with cold Mt. Dew for Elder’s Quorum
  • A better selection of table cloths and flower arrangements for Relief Society
  • A, ‘preferred,’ calling spreadsheet where members can prioritize the callings that they’d like the Bishop to feel inspired to call them to
  • Home Teaching Hall-of-Shame list on the bulletin board for dead-beat HT’ers
  • Nose hair clipper to pass around HP Group meetings on Sunday

Go add your own suggestions and enjoy the other delicious treats to be found there.

New home for Latter-day Commentary

I’ve been writing on Blogger for quite some time and have long wished for greater control of the blog.  I like the ease of use of Blogger but it does not offer customization features that I have read are available with WordPress.  All the old Blogger essays transferred to WordPress without any problems.  The links still point back to Blogger but that’s OK.

I’m not sure that I’ll be able to get all the same widgets in WordPress that I had in Blogger but I probably needed to get rid of some of them as it was beginning to look cluttered.  I wish there was a way to transfer my blogroll but it looks like that may be a manual process.  I also changed the theme to one that promotes the writing and not the design.  I like the simple header.  It speeds up mobile loading.

Update: three days later

The move is complete.  I may still add some widgets but overall, I like the look and functionality of the new site.  The biggest hurdle was transferring all my subscribers without having to ask them to subscribe to a new feed.  I simply had to break the old feed from Blogger and redirect it from here.  Easy, I know, but it took me hours to get it right.

Now I know why I waited until the three-day weekend to attempt this.  The learning curve for WordPress was not too steep, but there still were some gotchas.  The whole process was rather time-consuming but fun.  I’m ready now to do some serious SEO and to get back to writing new essays.  Oh, and respond to some of the recent comments.

No blogroll on LDC

I decided not to add a detailed blogroll but will maintain several in separate web pages.  The links are at the top left: A new LDS blog aggregators list, the top LDS group blogs, the top LDS solo blogs and a large list of LDS Message boards or forums.  These were all previously posted but have recently proven to be very popular reference pages.

Thanks to all the aggregators and fellow bloggers who have linked to the old site over the years.  I know some have already changed to the new site.  Thanks for your links.  A blog is fairly boring without readers and comments.  Your links bring me new readers every day.  I look forward to the continued dialog and hope my essays are worth reading.

Church launches LDS Radio – Mormon Channel

The church launched a new online radio station today. You can read more about it in the newsroom at lds.org. Larry Richman, Director of the Church Publications and Media Project office also writes about it on his blog, LDS Media Talk.

“Mormon Channel, a new radio service of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, launches 18 May and can be accessed via the Internet or HD radio affiliates. The newly created 24-hour, 7-days a-week format is available live online at http://radio.lds.org/, but content may also be downloaded.”

First impression

I have been listening to it for several hours this morning and so far, it has been a glitch-free experience. I plan on downloading some of the podcasts and listening to them as I travel to and from the office later this week. They do not currently have a FaceBook Widget or an iPhone Application but are working on both.

My initial impression is favorable. It’s worth taking a look. One of the channels features personal interviews with Church leaders in a program titled Conversations. In the initial episode, Deseret Book CEO, Sheri Dew, interviews Elder David A. Bednar and his wife, Susan. I look forward to that and future podcasts.

For more information:

1. LDS Radio
2. LDS Media Talk
3. LDS Newsroom
4. A Soft Answer
5. Deseret News
6. Larry Richman
7. Kathryn Skaggs
8. Mormon Soprano
9. Salt Lake Tribune
10. News Archives
11. Kirby, of course
12. North Temple

The teaching and testifying missionary

Although I have previously shared a couple of stories from my mission, I have been wanting for a long time to express how much I enjoyed my mission and how it changed my life. There is no doubt that serving a mission was difficult but it was also a period of unequaled and appreciated spiritual and emotional growth.

I served in the Costa Rica San Jose mission from August of 1976 to August of 1978. The first two months were spent learning Spanish in the LTM in the old Knight-Magnum hall on the BYU campus. We were one of the last groups to be housed there. All the missionaries after us enjoyed the new facilities of the MTC.

The decision to go on a mission

Up until the day I turned 19 years old I wasn’t sure that I would be going on a mission. Although I grew up in the church, I went through a short period of rebelliousness in my late teens in which I did not attend church for about six to ten months. That all changed when I went to Rick’s College in the fall of 1974.

While there I experienced a mighty change of heart as I listened to prophets and apostles who came to teach us in the weekly devotionals. For those who remember LeGrand Richards, I attribute my desire to serve a mission directly to his amazing testimony of the joy that attends the missionary bearing witness of the restoration.

An idealistic missionary

I wrote a little about that experience in a previous essay. I made up my mind about a year later when I watched and listened to President Kimball teach us that every worthy young man should serve a mission. So I prepared and finally sent in my papers in June of 1976. Three weeks later I was thrilled to receive a mission call.

I wanted to be the kind of missionary that I heard about from LeGrand Richards. I wanted to be a teaching and testifying missionary and so I spent the last six to ten months before my mission studying the doctrines of the restoration so I could feel prepared. I studied, fasted, prayed and did everything to strengthen my testimony.

The shock of reality

I felt I was ready but still, I was in for a shock when I got to the LTM. Anybody who has served a foreign language mission knows what I am talking about. From day three in the LTM we were to only speak our mission language. That was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life so far but it was extremely effective.

By the time I got to Central America I thought I could communicate fairly well in Gringo Spanish. Shock! The native people do not speak slowly and they had very funny accents. Of course, they said my accent was funny and didn’t hesitate to laugh when I spoke. That was tough but they laughed at my companions as well.

Discipline of memorization

In those days we memorized the discussions word for word. Every morning for the first two months of my mission I memorized those discussions until I had passed them all off. From then on I felt like I could concentrate on conversational Spanish and began to feel that I could understand and be understood. Spanish became easy.

To me, learning Spanish in less than six months was a miracle and one of the gifts of the spirit. Once I had the language down, I then focused on being the kind of missionary that LeGrand Richards had caused me to see in my mind’s eye a few years earlier at Rick’s College. We had plenty of opportunities to teach each day.

Teaching and baptizing

Teaching forty discussions in a week was a normal goal for our mission. Some days we taught ten or twelve discussions. We had no problems being invited in as we were tracting so teaching and testifying were everyday activities. Amazingly, I began to recognize early in each discussion those who were sensitive to the spirit.

Without resorting to kiddie baptisms like John Dehlin talked about in his mission, the typical missionary baptized sixty to eighty converts during their two years in Central America. There were four countries in my mission and we could only stay in each county six months. So we changed companions about every six weeks.

First half of my mission

The first half of my mission as a junior companion in Honduras and Costa Rica was a preparatory time for me. I learned a lot from my senior companions. After that I was sent to Panama as a senior companion and then to Nicaragua as a zone leader. We had great success in every county but especially in the poor areas.

In Panama, we found and taught a family that to me, made my time in the mission worth the price. When I think of my mission, I think of the Delgado family. They responded to the spirit and worked hard to qualify for baptism. The way we found them was a miracle and their sweet influence on our whole district was profound.

A vision fulfilled

It was in Panama that I found myself literally fulfilling the vision I had seen of myself as a missionary while at Rick’s College. After teaching a first discussion, we invited a family we had just tracted to kneel with us in prayer. Something special happened during that prayer that brought tears to the eyes of the family.

While still on our knees I testified to them that what they had felt was the spirit of the Holy Ghost bearing witness to the truthfulness of the message that we taught. We asked for and obtained a return appointment and left feeling blessed, knowing that the Lord fulfills his many promises to back up our testimony with his spirit.

Conclusion of my mission

When I arrived in Managua, I was amazed to discover that 85% of the membership in our little branch did not attend church. This was by far the highest inactivity rate we had discovered and we worked hard to change it. By the time we left Reparto Schick, the attendance had increased to 35% and we had new baptisms.

It was just a few months later that civil war engulfed this nation that had already been devastated by an earthquake that had destroyed their capital city. The stories of the missionaries coming out of the area were both frightening and amazing as they bore testimony of the hand of the Lord in protecting them in getting out.

The Returned Missionary

I came home determined to keep my testimony strong. But the transition for a missionary can be difficult. I found myself accepting a job that required working on Sundays. Slowly that fire became dim until I was able to change jobs and get back to regular church attendance. How I missed and appreciated church again!

Soon I met Carol and embarked on a whole new journey of learning to love and serve my own family. Because of what I learned on my mission, I feel I became a better husband and hopefully a better father than I would have been otherwise. I love serving in this church and appreciate the foundation I received on my mission.

Conclusion and summary

It’s hard to summarize the two-year Mormon mission experience in just a few short paragraphs. But if there is one thing I learned and cherish to this day, it is the fact that the Lord really does fulfill his promise that “the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record” unto the things we say when speaking the thoughts he gives us.

The knowledge, gained by two years of testing and proving it as a missionary, has served me well in many callings since that day. I love to teach the gospel. What I love most about it is the feeling I get when I teach and bear testimony to the truth. The feeling is indescribable other than to say that it is delicious and most desirable.

LDS Group Blog Rankings 2.0

I had a blast today updating my list of LDS group blogs. I confess that although I have visited and read all of these blogs in the past, I have been sporadic in following them lately. That’s not because they aren’t good reading. It’s just that I haven’t had the time. Who does? I know some people spend numerous hours each day reading and contributing to these LDS group blogs.

I had a blast laughing and being shocked by the wonderful banter that goes back and forth in these forums. And I learned more than a few things that I didn’t know before. It happens every time I go reading on the Bloggernacle. There are some great articles written and shared every day on these blogs, some profound, some historically significant, some touching and some sad.

LDS Group blogs are fun

But for the most part, these blogs are just plain fun. I don’t know how else to explain it. You can waste a whole day being entertained and adding to the conversation. But I’ve got to wonder how these people produce anything for their employers and contribute as much as they do. I just can’t do it and not feel guilty. Maybe they are self employed or independently wealthy.

Unlike the solo LDS bloggers list that I updated last week, the top LDS group blogs did not change much in position. I added over a dozen good ones that a felt were worth the visit. Of course this list reflects my own personal preferences and may include a few that are not strictly LDS. But for the most part it’s a good cross section of the Bloggernacle as it stands today.

Standard disclaimers

I have included a few disclaimers on the list, but here they are again: 1. These rankings are based on current Alexa rankings 2. This is not a comprehensive list. It is an arbitrary list of some of my favorites 3. List does not include LDS solo blogs 4. Some blogs may not be strictly LDS 5. A group blog has two or more contributors 6. All 9’s indicates that I recently added it

I know that Alexa is an imperfect measuring stick. I have had that conversation with others several times. If you know of a better way to rank the popularity of LDS blogs then let me know. I am open to adding your LDS group blog to this list as long as you have an Alexa ranking. The same goes for the solo LDS blogger. Just leave a comment or send an email.

Which ones do you recommend?

I used to participate in the dialog on several of the top group blogs years ago. I doubt that anyone would remember me as I probably didn’t contribute anything profound. But if you’re a solo LDS blogger like me and want to get exposure for your blog, I highly recommend that you join the dialogs on at least a few of the top group blogs. I always add readers every time I do.

So just out of curiosity, here are a few questions for you denizens of the Bloggernacle: 1. How many of these blogs do you read regularly? 2. On how many do you regularly contribute? 3. Which ones are your favorites and why? 4. Have you ever been banned from one of these blogs? 5. Do you feel that you are contributing something positive to the dialog there?

Smoothing down that Rough Stone Rolling

I have been listening again to John Dehlin’s interviews with Richard Bushman on my iPod on the days that I travel to the office. Thanks again John, for bringing the archives back. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: those podcasts are now an invaluable part of history. I’ve enjoyed each one and have listened to some of them multiple times, including the Bushman interviews.

I have also been re-reading Rough Stone Rolling, especially the early chapters dealing with the First Vision, the visit of the angel Moroni and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. I have thought deeply about this fascinating part of our early LDS history but John’s probing questions to Richard Bushman have got me thinking again about several of these rather complex issues.

The difficult questions of history

If you’re a student of our history then you know what the questions are and have most likely formulated your own answers long ago. I know I have. Through my blogging activities of the past couple of years I have been able to present my own answers to many of those more difficult questions. I have also been called on to defend my answers by those who don’t agree with them.

Here are just a few of those issues I have blogged about: multiple versions of the First Vision, God is an exalted man, God has a body of flesh and bone, the seer stone in the hat, objections to the Book of Abraham, the burning of the bosom, Joseph Smith was a Mason, plural wives of Joseph Smith, the new Mormon history, the only true and living church and Mountain Meadows.

Not taught in the classroom

As I’ve written in several of my blog posts of the past, I feel very blessed and grateful that I had an advantage that many who have studied our history did not have. I was exposed to almost all of the troublesome issues early in life and had come to understand even in High School that what is taught in the LDS classroom does not always tell the whole story of what really happened.

From the time I was fifteen I realized that there are some issues that are not taught in depth in our Sunday Schools, Seminaries and Institutes and certainly are not brought up from the pulpit. This was not a problem for me. I learned about the rest of the story by reading books that my mother provided for us in the family library. Although a convert, mother loved our unique LDS history.

Information from other sources

I hope John doesn’t mind, but I think his story is illustrative of what has happened to many of our young people in the church who have discovered at a later point in their lives things they didn’t know about our history. After the shock wore off, a feeling of betrayal replaced it. As John said, this feeling came because they loved and trusted the church too much, not too little.

In John’s case, he discovered many of these troublesome issues when he was called on to teach seminary. He studied the material in great depth in order to be prepared as he taught. He also supplemented his study of the official CES material with what he discovered on the Internet. And there is the big difference between my experience with this difficult material and John’s.

Learning Mormon history

You can learn more about the issues that trouble some of our members and investigators through a simple Google search than I could through many years of reading selected books provided by my mother. However, what you usually find on the Internet is someone’s interpretation of what they read and very little original research. That can taint the way you learn Mormon history

From mother’s library, I read books like No Man Knows my History by Fawn Brodie, Family Kingdom and the Kingdom or Nothing by Samuel Taylor, Great Basin Kingdom by Leonard Arrington and Joseph Smith, the First Mormon by Donna Hill. We also had the History of the Church and the Journal of Discourses in our home library in which I looked things up.

Learn details of history in personal study

My point is that I had the luxury of slowly reading one of these historical books, discussing what I had learned with my mother and then pondering why I had not learned these kind of details in my seminary classes. I came to the conclusion that there just wasn’t enough time to bring up in that 50 minute early morning Seminary class some of the more interesting stuff that I had read.

Having taught Seminary later in life, I have been impressed with the clear direction from CES that we are not to teach some of the more complex and difficult parts of our history. I think I can understand why and in fact, agree with this direction to teach our history in a manner that is both uplifting and faith-promoting. But leaving major parts of it out can cause problems for some.

It is human nature to discuss

One of the methods of those who are opposed to the work of the LDS Church is to present us with shocking statements about our faith, our beliefs or our history and then to accuse us of not wanting to accept the truth. It doesn’t matter how we respond – shock, indignation, dismay, anger, or even kindness, their desire is not to help us understand the truth but to destroy our faith.

That’s the problem with researching the church on the Internet. It’s common to want to discuss our new discoveries with others. That’s how we solidify our understanding – by sharing things with others and evaluating their response. Our young people turn to online discussion groups or forums because many of the older members of the church have never learned about these things.

True believing Mormons who know

Unfortunately, it is rare to find someone online who knows our history well and has no problem with the more difficult parts of that history. In fact, it is rare to find someone in your own circle of contacts who really knows our history. We are a church of lay leadership. There is simply no requirement that you know the history, only that you believe, are worthy and want to help others.

That’s why John’s interview with Dr. Bushman is so helpful to those who are struggling with understanding and accepting all the warts and imperfections of our history. Rough Stone Rolling is a great resource that tells our story without trying to whitewash it or cover anything up. Dr. Bushman is careful to provide the complete story with contemporary sources from that time.

A safe place to discuss our history

I don’t know if John has found the answer to what I feel was his best question. He asked, “Where can we go to find a safe forum in which to discuss our history?” In my experience, Sunstone is not the place. I think they tried forums but they didn’t take off. And the Mormon History Association has wonderful conferences and publications, but no online forums.

There are a plethora of online forums to which we can turn to discuss the church. I have listed them in a previous essay. You just have to choose what level of moderation you are going to accept. Some strive to keep the disaffected Mormons out, but what if you are simply going through a temporary crisis of faith? Who can you trust to guide you through your explorations?

Summary and conclusion

The Internet has done amazing things for the church. It has helped us share the message of the restoration in a way that allows us to reach millions, even billions with the story of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. It allows us to present our faith, our doctrine and our history in a manner that is faith-promoting and uplifting. That has been my objective in the essays I write.

John prepared and shared a wonderful presentation on how to stay in the church in spite of the loss of faith. I highly recommend it to all, no matter what your current level of belief. An updated version is available at the staylds forums, which I missed when I compiled my list of LDS-related forums. Thanks to John Dehlin for his work in helping those with a crisis of faith.

Top LDS Blog Rankings – version 2.0

At Connor’s encouragement, I updated the rankings list of the solo LDS Blogs I read on a regular basis. I now have 110 solo blogs in my Google reader and listed on my sidebar. That’s an increase of thirty solo blogs since I published the last rankings five-six months ago in November 2008. Click on the image of the screen print below to go to the page and view the list with the hotlinks.

Although I noted several disclaimers at the bottom of the published list, I will include them here as well: This is an arbitrary list of some of my favorite solo blogs. It does not include LDS group blogs. The rankings are based on current Alexa rankings. Some blogs may not be strictly LDS. The top 3 are skewed due to their hosting site. All 9’s indicates that I recently added it.

How blogs are ranked

Look for the updated group blog rankings later this week. I classify a group blog as any LDS-themed blog with more than one contributor. In the list above, I have tried to only include those that are maintained exclusively by one person. It is not always possible to determine this so some may be in the wrong list. I move them around as I discover where they belong.

The top three are hosted on blog sites that include a whole bunch of other blogs. Alexa is unable to split out the individual blogs from these sites – About.com, Beliefnet and BYU. That would make Seriously So Blessed the top LDS solo blog but I doubt that it really is just one person maintaining it and of course, it’s not a serious effort at sharing doctrine. But it sure is fun!

LDS Blog Aggregators

This is in no way a complete list. There are thousands of LDS or Mormon related blogs out there. You can find a lot of them listed at LDS Blogs, which is curiously found at the URL of Mormon-Blogs.com. A big Bloggernacle thanks to David Sundwall of A Soft Answer and Of Good Report who has been publishing this list as a service to LDS bloggers for many years.

You can find many more LDS blogs at Mormon Archipelago, also known as LDSBlogs.org, Mormon Blogosphere, compiled by Dr. B of Mormon Mission. There are several other aggregators, one I especially recommend: Nothing Wavering. Another good one is the Blogregate at MormonBlogs.org. LDS Rankings rounds out the list. LDS Select seems to have disappeared.

A final note

Again, this is just my own list of LDS blogs that I follow, ranked by Alexa rankings. If you want to be added to the list, just let me know. I’ll add you as long as I find your content interesting, current and ranked in Alexa. If you are just starting and aren’t ranked yet, just give it time. You can read more about how to promote your LDS blog at this essay I wrote last year.

The end of the world is not imminent

Two weeks ago Carol and I traveled to Provo from our home in California to attend a unique symposium on the subject of prophecy and the last days. The presenter was Anthony Larson, an LDS author and publisher of five books on the subject. I read Anthony’s books back in the 80’s when they were first published and again over the last year after he and I started corresponding.

Anthony has a unique view of cosmology that incorporates many of the writings of Velikovsky (Worlds in Collision) and of David Talbott (The Saturn Myth). Some of his most recent work embraces the discoveries of Anthony Peratt and the Birkeland currents. Anthony Larson brings an LDS perspective to these theories, adding relationships between ancient history and prophecy.

Report of the Provo symposium

Anthony claims that there is a connection between scriptural accounts of catastrophic events and the irregular motion of planets in our solar system as recorded in ancient myths. He connects errant heavenly bodies with the signs of the last days. He teaches that Earth’s ancient planetary history has had a distinct effect upon the language of the prophets and Gospel interpretation.

Observing the attendance at the symposium, I believe interest in the events of the last days has increased, or at least it has among Latter-day Saints. The event was organized and sponsored by Doug Mendenhall of Publishing Hope, a small LDS book publisher out of Mt. Pleasant Utah. Doug is known for publishing a book about his daughter’s illness and visit to the spirit world.

Authors want to sell books

Carol attended the Friday night introductory lecture but did not sit with me through the all-day symposium on Saturday. Based on her expression of interest, I thought the material would only be interesting to guys like me who are into theoretical explanations of cosmological events. But I was pleasantly surprised to see an equal mix of men and women listening intently to the lecture.

The Aspen room of the Provo Marriott was packed with over 200 attendees who paid a small fee to cover the cost of renting the room. I can’t imagine that there was enough profit other than to pay for Anthony’s travel and accommodations. I did see a lot of his books going out the door from the back table so I think his motivation is mainly to educate people and promote his books.

The material is a little advanced

Anthony loves to study, write and to share what he has learned with others. That was obvious to those who were in attendance. He was very comfortable at the podium and had no problem with keeping our attention for hours on end. He has a command of his material and presented it in an interesting manner with PowerPoint slide shows and videos with his own musical compositions.

At times he was passionate about defending his material and unless you know a little about what he has had to deal with over the past fifteen years, you might not understand why. As you can imagine, Anthony’s theories are not orthodox and not embraced by the majority of the Latter-day Saint community. In fact, he has been labeled a crackpot by some academic scholars at BYU.

More than just interesting material

I consider myself extremely conservative, orthodox and typical of most Latter-day Saints when it comes to what I teach and share in any official capacity in the church. In other words, when I teach a class or speak from the pulpit, I am a stickler for teaching only what the Brethren have said is appropriate and authorized. I make every effort to know and teach only current material.

You probably know where I’m going with this. What Anthony teaches is not something that you are going to hear in your gospel doctrine class and probably not from the pulpit. It is considered way out there. I would put it in the class of interesting to know but not essential to either our salvation or exaltation. Anthony feels otherwise, or so he expressed in his Friday night lecture.

We need to study on our own

We are so concerned in the church with teaching only the basics of the gospel that we rarely talk about the things that Anthony presented. He gave us quote after quote from the early Brethren, including Joseph Smith that laid a case for his claims of impending cosmological catastrophism. The evidence was methodically presented, allowing the audience time to absorb and understand.

Anthony’s material consisted of a series of separate lectures, each focusing on one aspect of his research and each presented logically and systematically. He laid the evidence out there and then expressed his opinions and conclusions, leaving the audience to determine on their own if they agreed or not. He often paused and reminded us of the importance of studying this on our own.

Teachings based on the prophets

He did not teach that the end of the world is imminent. In fact, he said the exact opposite and backed up his view with many evidences from statements of prophets of the past. He clearly taught that we must first look for the one grand sign that the Prophet Joseph taught would be the harbinger of the coming of the Son of Man. The whole world will see this approaching planet.

That was surprising to me. Had he aligned himself with the Planet X theorists who claim that the end of the world is closely tied to the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, I probably would have packed my laptop up and walked out. But he didn’t. He was very careful to point out that we need to base our understanding of the last days on what the prophets have taught on the subject.

Anthony’s viewpoints are fairly unique

So I continued my note taking and filled five pages with point after point that demonstrated a lifetime of research and collection of evidence to support his theories and conclusions. Anthony has no qualms about acknowledging that he is alone in what he is teaching. He knows that there are very few in the church or the world who agree with what he says, let alone understand it.

He has been misunderstood and maligned by those who have not studied his material or attended one of his lectures. As I wrote in a previous essay, I had never met Anthony but intended to go with an open heart and an open mind. I came away convinced that he is right about most of the things he is teaching. I agree with his conclusions and appreciate all of the supporting evidence.

Cosmological connections to the temple

I wish I had a chance to sit down one on one with Anthony and ask him to clarify what he meant when he taught Friday night that this material is so crucial, even central to our salvation and our exaltation. I have not yet made that leap and neither has Carol. Of all the things she heard, that was the one statement that made her feel that she could dismiss or ignore the rest of his lecture.

He taught some things about the temple and connections with cosmology on Saturday afternoon that are far beyond my understanding. I had trouble absorbing it but took lots of good notes and will study it out for myself as he suggested. I think he could write a whole new book about what he taught but it would have to be presented very carefully with the detailed supporting evidence.

Endorsement of the symposium

And that’s the problem with teaching anything that is deep or advanced in this church or among the LDS people. There are wackos out there that start teaching their theories of the end of the world and then they are suddenly claiming that God told them to re-introduce polygamy. Let me make it clear that Anthony is very adamant in advocating that we follow the prophet of our day.

As one who has now studied Anthony’s material over many years, both what is contained within his published books and more recently with what he has placed online, may I offer my heartfelt endorsement and recommendation that you go and listen to what he has to say. He is offering two additional symposia this weekend in Arizona – Snowflake on the 8th and Mesa on the 9th.