Blogging about Blogs

Blogs are everywhere now, and the number of people who have their own personal blog grows constantly. Its only logical that the subject matter on blogs should by now cover virtually every topic imaginable. Search any imaginable term in Google Blogs, or your search engine of preference, and undoubtedly someone’s blog will come up talking about it.

It is only fitting then that the amount of people blogging about the Community of Christ is growing. This site is merely just one example of people, some members/friends/associates/curious observers, blogging about their views and opinions on issues related to or involving the Community of Christ in some form or another. Many of the bloggers on Saints Herald blog elsewhere, too. Even Grant McMurray has his own blog:http://grantamused.blogspot.com/ Will it ever stop? Does it ever need to?

Community of Christ blogs are not only about the church from the inside, but growing more and more prevalent are blogs of others looking in on the church and examining it to varying degrees from their own set of life experiences. Personally, I see this most often in blogs from visitors to Community of Christ historic sites. People visit Nauvoo or Kirtland (mainly) then go home and blog about their experience with Community of Christ guides, or about their attempt to understand us. In a bizarre phenomenon, many of these visitors seem far more willing to pour their inner souls out to the entire world over the internet than they ever would on an anonymous comment card or simply to one volunteer.

I guided at Kirtland Temple for two summers. I’ve worked now in Nauvoo for nearly two and a half years straight. I’ve met thousands of visitors from all over the world. I’ve also been blogged about more times than I could ever locate. A surprising number of people will comment about “Kevin from the Community of Christ” and terms like that as they explain how they liked me, or disliked me, whether I was good or bad, and how naive or brainwashed I am. And these blogs are not just about me. Virtually anyone who has volunteered, interned, or guided in the last few years can probably find a blog about themselves if they are willing to sort through the search results. For fun, just try CofC’s Historic Sites Director Lachlan Mackay in a search. Blogs about him will pop right up, with some name misspellings and the like.

Regularly I’ll search to see what visitors are saying about tours they took in Nauvoo and Kirtland in the previous few weeks. As expected there are posts all over the spectrum. Some we blow away with awesomeness, some we depress with our evident apostasy. Some we wow for our historical knowledge, some we frustrate with our historical manipulations and lies. But rampant among blogs, particularly those done by Mormon visitors are all sorts of stories and tales about our inner hidden workings. John Hamer has tackled the subject of a few LDS myths about the CofC other places, here, and that’s not my goal anyway.

–But do read it if you haven’t already–

I wanted to specifically point out one blog in particular that I’ve recently come across. Now, I have no clue who this person is nor who she went on the tour with, but I suspect she was not really paying attention that well–because as someone who has given Nauvoo tours for years and knows very well every guide currently giving tours in Summer 2010, no guide would have omitted as much as this person is claiming. Virtually all of that is discussed as a part of the normal tour anyway.

Here’s the blog.

While the blog itself is not all that unusual for the type I routinely come across, I decided to do something I usually don’t–and comment. 99% of the time I don’t even bother because it feels like tossing pebbles into the ocean hoping to make a change, but I commented on this blog. I offered a correction and point of clarification in the comment, which you can read if you want. What really surprised me was in the next response the question of money being donated, so I probed a little further and the July 30th response was one of those that you just kind of have to laugh at.*

What causes this stuff? Why are these stories so pervasive? Why do “LDS missionaries mention it”? (Granted most do not, probably knowing it to be complete bunk, but I’ve had other visitors tell me they heard this too) If it were the Catholic church that owned Kirtland Temple, or the Nauvoo Mansion House, do you think there’d be crazy stories told about them? Is it something just in the Community of Christ…are we annoying simply because we exist and own some property? How would visitors respond if the Kirtland Temple was run by the National Park Service, or any number of other professional organizations? Better/worse? Why have historic sites become these modern theological battlegrounds for some, but unifying places of diversity and common understanding for others?

*As a side note for those who aren’t sure, I can state definitively: the LDS Church donates NO money to the Community of Christ Historic Sites.

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12 comments on “Blogging about Blogs

  1. Margie Miller says:

    I think it’s all wishful thinking on their part, Kevin. Obviously, they hope some day to obtain these sites. I have read other places on other sites about how the LDS donate money to us.

  2. LDS Observer says:

    Wow. It sounds like jtolman had some preconceived opinions that she was looking to “prove” during her CofC tour in Nauvoo. It’s unfortunate that she saw things so negatively.

    My experiences as an LDS visitor to Nauvoo have been the complete opposite. I’ve had the privilege of visiting Nauvoo twice over the last 2 years, where my CofC tour was actually a highlight of both visits. Kevin was my tour guide both times, where I was very impressed with his knowledge and enthusiasm. Keep up the great work, Kevin! I hope you’re still in Nauvoo next time I make it back.

  3. Rick says:

    Here’s my view having guided in Kirtland a couple of summers now.
    Some LDS guests will be friendly and will express genuine appreciation for your tour. Others seem to frown the whole time they’re there.

    My impression is that for a lot of the visitors, they wish they had gotten a tour from someone who really ‘gets’ what happened in the 1830’s. This condescending attitude can be easily be matched by Community of Christ guides who could potentially see the LDS guest as being too clouded by their need to validate their beliefs to be truly open to what you have to say.

    For some, there seems to be a sense of entitlement – the idea that they should not be charged for a tour as they are among those who should truly have possession of it.

    It has to be hard for some Mormons (whose testimonies of temples have been of buildings that are closed to the public and almost with the function of facilitate special ordinances) to come to the Kirtland Temple and to see how it is used:
    -It is owned by an apostate church.
    -The apostate church that owns it invites everyone in.
    -They charge a $3 fee for a tour, and don’t let people go in to look around without a guide.
    -The church that owns it rejects the “temple ordinances” that are so central to LDS beliefs on the nature of family and the plan of salvation
    -The church that owns the temple invites all people to participate in Temple worship events (even to the point of allowing ministers from other denominations to share the pulpit – for example during the ecumenical Thanksgiving services).

    As shocking as this might be to a Mormon whose testimony of their church is closely related to their use of Temples, all of these aspects to the way that the Community of Christ runs the Kirtland Temple are pretty much common to what the early Saints did. In fact, adjusted for inflation, the $0.25c fee charged by the 1830’s church for a tour would today be about $5 – so we charge our visitors less than Joseph Smith did (although many of those who came in the 1830’s got to see real egyptian mummies, so maybe that’s what the extra 2 bucks was for).

    I also suspect that upon their first visit to a Community of Christ site, many may be trying to figure us out, and are initially not entirely sure if they can trust us with these sacred sites.
    I have found that those who have heard about the church before, or have come back, after having visited previously, tend to have a greater respect for our church, and our care for our historic sites.

    Now with all this said, we cannot generalize too much.
    Many of my experiences have been with the visitors and the guides finishing their tours with a greater appreciation for each other’s faiths, and passions for the history of this sacred site. Many of these are with first-time visitors.

    I suspect much of the burden lies with the guide. As historic site guides, we need to ensure that these concerns that LDS guests often have are addressed.

    LDS guests come to historic sites expecting a strengthening of their testimony – so it is important not to spend your time debunking their beliefs. I find that people will respond well when you give enough emphasis to the spiritual importance of the site.

    LDS guests also often carry concerns for the maintenance of the site. I’ve seen several blogs and overheard comments about the cracks in the walls of the Temple, and how they show a lack of care (or inability to care) for the site. So I try to mention that preservation and maintenance has been a major concern for our church, and that’s a big part of why the Temple today is a stronger building than it has ever been (“and will continue to be, in part, because of your preservation fees and donations).

    The other big concern for many is the idea that the Temple has lost its spirit, and that it has been reduced to a tourist attraction. I try to emphasize that we continue to use it for those same functions it had in the 1830’s – especially for worship and spiritual empowerment (including through the Kirtland Temple Spiritual Formation Center – which you should all come and see). People continue to come to the Kirtland Temple and have amazing experiences with God.

    This is not enough for me to win everyone over (as I said, I suspect that some are busy trying to figure out what to make of me as a member of the Community of Christ). But in most cases people seem appreciative and happy to have come. I feel it leaves people somewhat reassured about the church that operates the Temple, and for those who are perhaps more distracted with figuring us out, maybe next visit, they’ll be able to feel more comfortable with their guide, having some more knowledge about our church, and our common concern for our history.

  4. Rick says:

    A side-note:
    I also find it interesting that, being an Australian guide at the Kirtland Temple, many LDS visitors assume I must be a convert. Perhaps they don’t expect our church to be broader than the United States. Most who ask this question are surprised to hear that the Community of Christ was established in Australia in the 19th Century, and that I’m a fourth generation church member.

  5. mark gibson says:

    I know of several members in our ward who have visited Kirtland and had no complaints, although they ask me (former RLDS) questions.

    My main concern also would be the upkeep of the historic sites, which rely solely on contributions.

    There have been some joint LDS/RLDS historic projects, such as the Smith family cemetary in Nauvoo.

    Rick, were there any LDS ministers invited to speak while you were there?

    • Rick says:

      As tour guides it’s important to keep in control of your tour (for logistical reasons), so I tend to only invite people to speak when asking questions, unless they have especially made arrangements to do something else.

      However, we frequently have LDS services in the Temple, which are often organized by the tour groups as they travel through. Any denomination is welcome to hold a service in the Temple. They just need to make arrangements with the Temple’s Site Director.

      A local LDS patriarch, considered to be LDS church’s expert on Kirtland often talks at these services, provides classes in the Temple and gives talks to new missionaries in the Temple.
      We also involve the LDS missionaries from Historic Kirtland in some of our major temple events, like the Emma Smith Hymn Festival.
      So members of the LDS church are active participants in much of what goes on in the Temple today.

      (I also want to clarify that those who may have any of the more negative experiences that I described are definitely in the minority. A noticeable minority, but definitely a minority).

  6. Doug Gregory says:

    Since there are no new posts, and since I’m not able to compose an article for submission, I have a question I’d like input on.

    As a member of the RLDS / CoC, it seems we never discuss John 10:34, nor its corrolaries in Psalms 82:6, Genesis 3:5, etc.

    “Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’?”

    I’m interested in what this group has to say to enlighten me.

  7. mark gibson says:

    Doug, I’m not enlightened on the subject myself. We believe the Trinity to be seperate personages but one in purpose. One explanation states that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are the only Gods that we worship, but there are other holy personages who have passed on to exaltation and are thus gods.

    11 years as a mormon and I’ve not heard a talk on plurality of gods yet!

    • Doug Gregory says:

      Interesting. I always thought that one of the things that was attracteive to many converts to the Mormon faith was its vision of eternal life, of which temple sacraments and understanding of exaltation would be foundational. That would seem to require teaching about plurality of gods. I’ve learned something already!

  8. Mormons don’t start talking to new converts about their more, um, extreme theologies until year-12. ;)

  9. mark gibson says:

    Doug I didn’t mean to imply that plurality of gods is a neglected subject. It’s just not one that often becomes the topic of a talk in sacrament service; more likely found during Sunday School/Priesthood lessons.

    The RLDS had beliefs/doctrines it intended to change or remove; that was not known by the general membership.

    In 5 days I’ll be starting my 12th year as LDS, so I’ll keep BTC posted.

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