I read a lot of blogs. Since I am a computer guy, a lot of them are technical. I know, boring stuff, but it pays the bills and I enjoy it. Many of them are political or news-related as I like to keep up with what’s going on in the world. They can be infuriating. But for the most part, I like to read religious blogs and visit websites where people post their religious views. I am grateful for good people who share their points of view about religious doctrine and practices. I find such writing to be thought-provoking and often refreshingly humorous or downright entertaining – see Jeff Lindsay’s Mormanity blog and his website (formally cracked planet) for many great examples.
I especially appreciate good writers who express themselves civilly, and where opinions are shared with respect. I had someone comment on one of my posts the other day that demonstrates the annoying opposite. The post in question is on the subject of eternal marriage and in particular about the idea of marriage in heaven. This is a subject upon which many in the Christian world do not agree. It also happens to be one about which I feel very strongly. In my post I shared modern scriptures and quotes from general authorities on the subject.
This anonymous commenter wrote that Jesus taught that there was no marriage in heaven. He wrote, “I KNEW my Mormon friends would freak. Of course you disagree. After all, who is right? Jesus Christ or Joseph Smith? Smith of course. Hah. You have to rely on Doctrines and Covenants from the LDS church to believe that, and you have to ignore Jesus. What a joke. Come on, LDS people. This is just one more case where you choose to believe your church while saying God is wrong. God (Jesus) is not wrong.” Such a comment does not solicit good dialog.
I responded with an amicable reply and shared a little bit more about my beliefs in Eternal Marriage. But I surprised myself when my response turned more into a declaration of testimony, a defense of Joseph Smith and of the Book of Mormon. I found myself using the word ‘proclaim’ and expressing something from my missionary days – that the Book of Mormon is a tangible witness of the calling and ministry of Joseph Smith. I concluded with a declaration of authority to administer ordinances. It seemed to fit perfectly with a post on Eternal Marriage.
I have been pondering this whole exchange. It is typical of so many that I read on the various religious blogs I visit. If you want to see this kind of exchange in action in its best form visit any news article on the Deseret News or Mormon Times that has to do with the church. You will find comments from these kinds of individuals. Them seem to delight in making personal attacks instead of presenting scriptures or authoritative quotes to be discussed or even debated. I know that religion is a very personal thing but personal attacks seem to be an immature tactic.
To me it all boils down to authority. In discussing religious doctrine or practice, we can only be an authority on our personal experiences. We can study, memorize and ‘know’ what others have taught on a specific subject, and thereby claim to be an authority, but in the end, we cannot be an authority on Joseph Smith, for example, because we did not live his life. Only he has that right. But we all have some knowledge that nobody can debate and with which they cannot argue. That knowledge is the sum of our own life’s experiences, especially religious ones.
One kind of personal experience that makes you an authority is personal revelation. Again, this is something that nobody else can ever take from you. If you have sought for and received a personal witness of some specific doctrine, then that is yours and can only be understood by others who have had a similar witness. It is possible that you can seek and receive a witness of things that are not publicly taught. There is nothing wrong with that but be careful how you share it. Sacred things can be easily misunderstood by those who have not experienced them.
What do you think? The Internet is a great way to share the gospel. We have been invited by an apostle to join in the dialog. Does commenting on religious blogs and other web sites with news or writings about the church help in that mission? Or is it just an invitation to an argument?