Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Personal

"The goal here is for people to understand that any institution, any collection of people, is really just a manifestation of the beliefs of its members."
--Scott Swofford, director of media in the LDS Church's Missionary Department

The Church published this on their blog after the release of 4.0. The point of the new site is to facilitate, "...more effective person-to-person connection modeled after unique qualities found in face-to-face communication." We send over 51,000 missionaries out to all countries of the world, attempting to teach people this message through face to face communication. Indeed, Christ himself went among the people, teaching His sermons, appointing his disciples to go and do the same. It seem the key form to liberating this gospel out of obscurity, the key to spreading the church, is person to person communication, is personal, is the individual.

I commented in my earlier posts that the Book of Mormon, a key to conversion, is a personal account of the happenings on the American continent. Here's my thought process:
  • The Church's strongest tool for conversion is the "personal" what.
  • Through launching 4.0, the Church has utilized the resources available through the internet to put a personal face on the what.
  • While this has increased the viewings of the website ("Visitors to have nearly tripled over the past year to 650,000 per month, thanks to promotional efforts and a growing public interest in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" -- LDS Newsroom), we as members of the LDS church can take it a step further. We can further liberate the messages of the gospel from the stigma of "Mormon" or self-marketing by creating our own forums where we share our thoughts about our religion.
What is more liberating than the breadth and depth one gets through reading others' interpretations? The reason literature exists at all is because personal interpretations differ. There is no one reality to which we all subscribe, for each person's understanding of existence makes for as many realities as there are people to create them.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Finding My Angle

"Its appeal is as timeless as truth, as universal as mankind. It is the only book that contains within its covers a promise that by divine power the reader may know with certainty of its truth."
Gordon Hinckley
"The Power of the Book of Mormon"

There has been some confusion as to what my angle is here. When I contend for a "liberating form" of the Book of Mormon, am I suggesting a new, revamped, digital version or am I pushing for a more personal version of the book? Honestly, I'm not 100% sure. There are elements of both within my argument. But if asked which I see taking the book further, I would say I'm not pushing digital versions as much as personal versions through the digital. Confused? Don't worry, me too!

My Idea
The Book of Mormon is a personal account of the histories of a people. These people had scripture (1 Nephi 4), and read/comment on that scripture. Those commentaries have become our scripture. This idea of personal knowledge, personal interpretation, being scripture is amazing. When the Book of Mormon is read as only an impersonal document, it is a stale unchanging record. However, we see all the time, people read themselves into different accounts and suddenly the book is brought to life! Nephi recognized this when he commented:

And I did read many things unto [my brethren] which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scripture unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning. -- 1 Nephi 19:23

Indeed, Nephi clearly states that his purpose in writing on the plates, " that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, and be saved." 1 Nephi 6:4

Nephi didn't say he only wanted to bring people of his day to God, but said he wanted to persuade men, all men, to come unto God. Suddenly there is personal application and we see the book's relevance to Christianity not just 1,400 years ago, but today!

The New Epistemological Crisis
--How do I know what I think I know? Read my blog?
It's like during the Renaissance, with the emergence of the printing press, suddenly people began to have their own copies of the Bible and questioned the church's authoritative voice on scripture. The Bible was suddenly open for interpretation, for the general public to make personal, and it was everywhere. I believe the way to liberate this book out of a form which makes it seem objective and impersonal, is to publish personal commentary on the book and use social networking devices (Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, etc.) to publish that commentary. This is the way to bring the book to all the earth, one person/personal blog post/Facebook update at a time.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Evaluating What's Out There

As I have been getting some feedback and consulted with some people who are more current in this field than me (shout out to Prof. Burton!), I realized this idea I have is not incredibly original. It has been argued and pushed before. The idea of Mormon blogs is nothing new to the internet. The website, my personal internet demi-god, has a whole page on LDS blogs and a simple Google search reveals these "Mormon Blogs."

However, I would also contend that these blogs are not doing the job they set out to do. I would consider my internet knowledge that of your average reader's. I had no idea these blogs existed until I began doing some research. Fair enough, they're not hard to find. But they do seem to be grouped under the category of "Mormon Blog" which really does not promote the everyday image I believe we need to get The Book of Mormon everywhere. Granted, when your average Mormon is blogging about the Book of Mormon, this does present a bias. But when you write personal feelings, human responses, when the writer is not contending why Gadianton really isn't to blame for the Gadianton Robbers (come on, really?), but rather commenting on how their religion is their life, not just a day of the week, that is when the bias leaves and the "human" emerges. We want to remove the stigma that labels The Book of Mormon as only a "Mormon" book and show it as one more work of scripture which furthers christinaity.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Putting the Money Where the Mouth Is

Ok friends, I have put my money where my mouth is and started a "scripture blog":

The first post is a bit explanatory, and in subsequent posts I will begin writing on what I learned through my scripture study.

This brings up a question I've been wrestling with. I am trying to avoid stigma. Obviously I will have some stigma, as I am discussing the Book of Mormon and am a Mormon myself. However, would it be better to have the blog be a personal blog, and insert a few posts per week with a more spiritual vein, or is it ok to have a blog which specifically discusses what I learned in reading the scriptures that day? What are your thoughts? Would one be better than the other, or is it 6 of one and a half-dozen of another?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Book of Mormon 2.0 Take 2

After I got some feedback, I have specified my idea a bit more as to what I'm actually proposing. The idea is far from complete. I have been posting my process of thinking, not my product. This is just another step towards narrowing and focusing my idea!

The Book of Mormon 2.0

Each form of the Book of Mormon has met the needs of the society it was written in. From the laboriously carved golden plates of Mormon’s time, to the digital editions online today, each form has slowly made this book accessible to more people worldwide and liberated the messages within through the medium of presentation. New print editions, like The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition, have brought back the original narrative form as well as highlighted the literary aspects of the book, creating a form which presents this book as both a spiritual document and literary work. It has been represented multiple ways in print, why not online? It is my contention that the form of the Book of Mormon can be pushed further, modified from thin pages to digital web pages, from impersonal commentary to personal experience, from a stigmatized scripture read only by Mormons, to a literary and spiritual book which furthers Christianity.

The LDS Church has digitized the Book of Mormon and has attempted to put everyday faces on the church with the new website. However, these sites come with a stigma of biased representation. Readers might question the validity of the Church’s self-marketing. Even associations (such as the AML) or discussion forums (such as the bloggernacle) which discuss the Book of Mormon are obviously associated with a bias and cater to a fairly narrow audience. These forms of presenting the Book of Mormon are specific, not a part of everyday internet reading. Personal blogs, on the other hand, have become a part of daily internet reading and reach a broad audience. Personal forums must be created where we personalize the messages within the Book of Mormon; forums where discussion can occur; forums where we peak society's interest and help all types of people confront and take charge of their personal salvation.

As the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to bring others to Christ, Ezra Taft Benson proposed that the Book of Mormon needed to "flood the earth." However, he put the responsibility not on the church, but on its members. Personal narrative converts. Just as the Book of Mormon, a personal account of history by prophets of old, has been a tool in converting millions of people worldwide to the gospel, the way to bring others to the book, is to bring that personal narrative back into the book. Personal testimony, experiences and beliefs all based upon scripture fill our general conferences, sacrament meetings, firesides, Sunday school lessons, etc. If that is what the leaders of the church use to teach the messages within the Book of Mormon, then I believe when every member writes their personal narrative, or experiences with the Book of Mormon, using social networking tools such as Facebook, twitter, and even, linking the blog to a person, to share that work, the endless personal experiences will be the liberating form or medium through which the Book of Mormon will flood the world.