Church Members Blog to Defend Church
By Katie Geilman
BYU News Net
10 Jul 2008
With more than 13 million members, it is no wonder The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a frequent target of media scrutiny. Members of the church are consistently bombarded with both positive and negative commentary to their faith.
This growing wave of anti-Mormon sentiment has left some grappling to secure their faith and asking what they can do to help others in the same position. Following counsel from church leaders, members throughout the world are becoming engaged in a latter-day debate - finding ways to share answers and their testimonies in an evolving world.
Utilizing new media such as Internet communities, chat rooms, podcasts and blogs is a way that Latter-day Saints can begin discussions on religion, Elder M. Russell Ballard said during a December 2007 commencement address at BYU-Hawaii.
"I just write on my blog the things that are important to me," said Elisa Freeman, a family and consumer science education major and blogger. "The gospel is important to me, so it just seeps into my writing. It's not planned. I don't think, 'How can I share the gospel today?' It conveniently happens."
Sharing the gospel was not Freeman's purpose in starting a blog. She wanted to discuss food, share recipes and write anecdotes. She has since concluded that food and religion are closely related.
"When we eat together we are forced to spend at least a little bit of time together," Freeman said. "We can use that time to teach gospel principles or strengthen a gospel foundation."
Freeman often cooks for her neighbors and friends and writes about those experiences on her blog.
"I want people to have happy families," Freeman said, "so I tell them how to do it. I don't say, 'Did you know that this is a gospel principle? Let me teach it to you, and you'll have a better family.' It just so happens that the things that will make families happier are also gospel principles."
Freeman said blogging enables her to connect with friends and family she doesn't get to see often.
"In writing my blog, I can bear my testimony to my friends and family and have the opportunity to help them strengthen themselves in the gospel," Freeman said. "I can do it far more often than I would otherwise because time and space separate us."
Latter-day Saints are some of the best sources for answers about what their church teaches and believes, said Arnold Garr, professor of church history. He said he believes non-members are more apt to discuss the church with member friends than they are with strangers.
"The greatest counteraction to negative information is the good lives that members live," Garr said.
Elder Ballard said in the commencement speech: "Far too many people have a poor understanding of the church because most of the information they hear about us is from news media reports that are often driven by controversies. Too much attention to controversy has a negative impact on peoples' perceptions of what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really is."
Michael Ash, author and member of the management team of The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, has dedicated his life to helping others defend their beliefs.
In 1982, he had his first encounter with anti-Mormon literature.
"I was disturbed by the new information and decided to find answers," Ash said in e-mail. "I began reading everything I could get my hands on, including 'pro' and 'anti' literature . . . Eventually my intellectual testimony was comfortable once more with my spiritual testimony."
Ash offers help to others who struggle maintaining their faith in his new book "Shaken-Faith Syndrome."
"I hope to provide answers to some of the more frequent anti-LDS arguments and provide resources for further information," Ash said. Many other church members have dedicated blogs and Web sites to helping dissolve misconceptions.
Steven Evans, administrator for the blog ByCommonConsent.com said via e-mail: "I don't know that we're a source for apologetics, or for definitive answers to Gospel questions, so much as a place to exchange ideas and to represent Mormon life in all its facets," Evans' blog consists of anecdotes and short stories that focus on how the gospel affects daily life.
"In my experience, the best defense of Mormonism is to be found in ordinary people leading exemplary lives, showing the world that being LDS is a real source of joy," Evans said. "That strikes me as being far more important and effective than trying to take on the mainstream media . . . or engaging in fruitless arguments."