Bloggernacle? Outer Blogness?
I for one always thought it was cool in junior high and high school about how other people had utterly no idea what I was talking about when I was referring to some uniquely Mormon concepts. Talking to nonmormon friends about “wards” and “stakes” didn’t really get anything but blank stares. Even worse was for vocabulary where the Mormon definitions differ from traditional ones. How do you explain to others that deacons are 12 years old and essentially glorified step-and-fetch-its (oh I’m going to burn for that one!) when this idea would be preposterous elsewhere?
It’s because, I guess, every religious group has its own linguistic tradition that evolves as an outgrowth of its cultural heritage. This is all probably basic stuff to a linguistics or sociology major, probably, but I think this raises some awkward questions for Mormons.
Mormons want to be seen as Christian. I mean, really, it’s in the name. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not only that, but the Church has done some fancy graphics design to highlight Jesus Christ over the Latter-day Saint part. Don’t believe me? Let’s mosey on down to the church’s website at www.lds.org…
So, we know that the Church is trying to establish itself as Christian. This actually leads to some other issues that are more revealing of LDS culture (this is advance warning that there probably will be some California Prop 8 coverage on this blog)…but for now, let’s just consider what’s wrong with the church trying to be Christian.
There shouldn’t be anything wrong…right?
Well…the church also wants to be…at least somewhat…exclusive and special. Mormons are a “peculiar people,” after all. And the church has repeatedly taken unpopular stands to maintain its alleged moral uniqueness. Some are absolutely necessary. The church couldn’t just say, “Well, guys, this Book of Mormon? Yeah, not so vital. The other Christians were right and we should only use the Bible!” But as they accept the BoM, this is a wounding point for many other Christians.
The battle between peculiarity and the mainstream has led to church leaders and members — and the LDS culture that intersects and pervades between and around them — to make some interesting concessions. Embarrassing church history is scuttled under the rug, but some odd differences are proudly flaunted.
What’s most interesting is that on the internet, where the General Authorities have only recently requested that members explicitly get more involved in sharing the gospel (so we can assume that what happens on the internet is not a case of “When the brethren have spoken, the thinking is done…”), Mormon culture has still expressed itself. And that gets me (in a roundabout way) to my title. When I first read my first Mormon blog (I don’t remember which one it was… perhaps someone had linked me to Times and Seasons…but it definitely hooked me only Mormon blogs in general — but the reason why is another entry), I was just tickled to see that someone referred to it as a member of the Bloggernacle. Even better, I was amused to find that there was not only a bloggernacle but also Outer Blogness.
It was an inside joke that I already knew, because I already knew the significance of Outer Darkness or the Tabernacle. And we have all these kinds of terms that make perfect sense within the LDS community. The idea of “cultural Mormonism” makes sense because we do recognize that Mormonism is not just a religion. It very much is a subculture (and perhaps a counterculture in some instances.)
How do we reconcile the unique aspects with everything else? I recognize, for example, that this entry…and a good majority of any articles I write in the future, will alienate a vast majority of people who are simply unequipped to understand the Mormon mindset. Even I cannot fully understand a multiple-generation-lives-in-Utah-true-blue-ancestors-were-pioneers mindset, but just as well, a convert cannot fully understand my position as the first born-and-raised generation in my family (my father was the pioneer, though, so he might relate to a new convert.)
But do we necessarily want to become bland? Do we want to be just like everyone else? I think that because we are so related by our mutual subculture, it builds a lasting bond. And I think this is in part a reason for the success of the religion. Beyond all spiritual things or regardless of the church’s spiritual truthfulness, it is a solid “family” and a pervasive culture.
It is irresistible. Even for those out of grace.