Mar 24, 2009

The Faithful Dissident's First Anniversary

A year ago on this day, I published my first post.

Throughout the past year I managed to attract a number of regular readers and others who stumble upon my blog. Recently I was made a permablogger over at Mormon Matters and I've guest posted several times on Feminist Mormon Housewives. Sometimes I'm still amazed that anyone wants to read stuff that originated in my mind.

I thought that some of you may be interested in hearing the story of what became the catalyst for this blog.

I read a lot of news and somehow stumbled upon the story of Peter and Mary Danzig (see here and here to refresh your memory), which troubled me. And the more I read, the more troubled I became, not just about the Danzigs, but about things related to the Church and Mormonism that I had never heard of. And low and behold, I discovered something called The Bloggernacle.

At first I just read and read and read. But I had so many thoughts myself that I started to feel compelled to write them down. I began to think that perhaps I could start my own blog. But I wasn't a writer and I was definitely no scholar. Who would read it? And wouldn't it be like blasphemy or something? If someone found out it was me, could I end up like the Danzigs? So I put it out of my mind for a while.

I remember one day feeling incredibly frustrated by church. Something that someone in my branch had done to tick me off, combined with all the disappointing things about the Church that I had read, not to mention the fact that a couple of well-meaning yet overzealous missionaries scared off my non-member husband a couple of years before, and just the fact that I was utterly alone in the Church in general, made for an intensely negative spiritual time in my life and I was feeling very disillusioned. So I went out for a run in the melting snow to blow off some steam, my mp3 blaring, and that's when the idea to start a blog came back. And this time I wasn't going to shrug it off. But what would I call it? Feeling torn between faith and logic, I felt strongly that an oxymoron best described me. And then it came to me: The Faithful Dissident.

So, a year later, where am I now? In some ways I think I'm in a much better place now than before I started blogging, while sometimes I think that it just opened a can of worms. But I don't really have any regrets. I've met some wonderful people through blogging and although I've never met any of them in person, I think that we've made some special spiritual connections with one another that wouldn't have been possible any other way.

I can understand why some Church leaders don't want anyone to delve into Church history. I think that once you do, it's virtually impossible to maintain exactly the same beliefs that you had before you decided to delve deeper. So I'm actually hesitant to recommend doing so to anyone. It's a tough road to go down and there's really no going back.

In the past few years, my former view of the Church has been shattered. It's lost its shine and even some of its goodness in my eyes. My view of the Church is no longer this beacon of light and impeccable righteousness. I don't think it'll ever be the same. How can it be? But it's not enough to make me leave. I've just had to redefine what it means to me, FD.

I think what I've redefined more than anything is my priorities. To me, the most important thing is not to simply "follow the prophet," but to "love (my) neighbour as (myself)." To many Mormons it's all the same thing, but to me, sometimes paradoxes get in the way. Does this mean that the Church has become redundant or irrelevant to me? Not at all, since it's still very much the foundation upon which I build my life and faith in God. Does this mean that I now think that anything is acceptable? Of course not. What it means is that I'm willing to open my mind and spirit, look deeper into something and give it more consideration than most think is necessary. By doing so, I've been able to look at things very differently, learn a lot about the world and my fellow brothers and sisters, and even let go of some very stubborn grudges I had been holding towards some people. It's been a very humbling experience.

The decision of whether or not to remain active is really quite simple. Am I better off with or without it? Is it going to influence me for better or for worse in the future? My way of answering those questions is to ask myself yet another question: who and where would I be today if I had not been raised in the Church? I'd like to think that I'd be much the same person that I am now, but I tend to believe that the uniquely Mormon perspective of who God is and the Plan of Salvation -- as lacking in details and specifics as I think these doctrines still are to us -- are what have kept me from losing all hope and becoming very bitter and cynical about this world. And ironically, I think it's those fundamental beliefs that have shaped some of the views I hold which are so controversial or borderline apostate in the eyes of many of my fellow Mormons, whether it be related to racism, polygamy, socialism, or homosexuality.

I once told a friend that a testimony is like the stock market. It fluctuates and has its highs and lows, and in order to profit from it you have to be in for the long haul. I'm not sure whether it's appropriate to say that I have a testimony. A testimony is usually considered to be a witness of a knowledge that someone has and I'm very hesitant to say that I know anything. I do, however, have faith. And I have decided to invest it for the long haul.

I've only "come out" to a handful of fellow bloggers and friends I've met online that I've connected with and trust. Aside from that, only my immediate family members know who FD really is. I realize that someday, someone who knows me may stumble across my blog and put two and two together. In the mean time, although I've sometimes been tempted to reveal more, remaining at least somewhat anonymous allows me greater freedom to write what's really on my mind.

So that was my first "annual report" and I look forward to more in the future.

Some fun facts:

Most controversial post: Hard to narrow down, but anything to do with Prop 8 was generally controversial and I decided to compile my thoughts in My Prop 8 Manifesto

Post that generated the most comments: That would have to be Ezra Taft Benson vs. Democratic Socialism, which I wrote around the time that some Mormon Republicans were branding Obama a reincarnation of Stalin. Keeping up with all the comments on this post got to be a full time job and for the first time, I had to close down a thread. Even now, I still get lots of hits on that post. And in case any of you are wondering whether I've repented of being a part of "Satan's counterfeit plan," all I can say is that I'm still content with "spreading the wealth around."

Most thought-provoking post: There probably isn't much that requires more mental aerobics than reconciling the Church's teachings on gender and the reality of intersex and transsexuals. I presented my thoughts on the subject in Gender: A State Of Mind.

Most personal post: I related the very personal story about my brother and a conflict I had with him in 'Tis The Season For Making Amends.

Post that was the most fun to write: I would say that would be How I Co-Authored Barack Obama's The Audacity Of Hope simply because I thoroughly enjoyed the book, particularly the chapters about faith, which I cite in the post.

Post that was hardest to write: I really had to cough up my pride and let go of an enormous grudge against my sister-in-law in I Have A Confession To Make. In that post I also let off some steam about religion in general.

Most Frustrating Post: If I discount all the political and socialism stuff, Elder Russell M. Nelson gets the dubious honour for his conference talk about "cheap" marital options. My commentary on Elder Nelson's talk in How I Got My Husband Off The Clearance Rack on FMH generated a lot of feedback from other Mormons who were equally offended by his marriage analogies.

Post that I'm personally most proud of: Make Some Room. This post came as pure inspiration at about 2 am one morning just after the US election and I wrote it in a relatively short amount of time. I got some great feedback when it was posted on FMH and I even received e-mails from some members who thanked me profusely for it.

Now... here are some gems that I've discovered in the Bloggernacle over the past year that I recommend:

For the best-researched posts that I still cite from time to time, the prize goes to three bloggers:

Mormon Heretic for Was The Priesthood Ban Inspired?

Bored In Vernal: Hieing to Kolob for Evolution Of Birth Control Teachings In The Mormon Church

Dichotomy: Mormon In The Closet for LDS Gay History Timeline

Most touching post:

God's Love by my good friend Cody from GayLDSActor.

Other special mentions:

"I'd Like To Bear My Testimony:" Why I Came Out To My Entire Ward by Clint from Soy Made Me Gay.

Rick from Politicalds (one of my favourite blogs and the one that I probably spent the most time on) did this great post entitled Pro-Death? on why that description apparently fits him better than "pro-life," which sparked an interesting debate about abortion, euthanasia, and animal rights, among other things.

Late Addition:

Ray, coincidentally I just stumbled upon this post of yours from last year about When Moral Issues Become Political Issues. This is a keeper! Even if just for your position on abortion, which is exactly how I feel. Very good for all of us who feel torn on these issues.

21 comments:

Mormon Heretic said...

Great post FD. I should have done a "year in review" like you did, but I let my anniversary pass without any fanfare. It looks like I started just a couple of months before you did. I am coming up on my 100th post soon--I'm in the 90's now, so maybe I'll do a "top 10" list or something.

I don't know if you have installed Google Analytics on your blog. It's free, and gives you some cool blog stats, like top posts, and where visitors come from. I can help you if you need--just email me.

Also, thanks for the shout out for my priesthood ban post. It is one of my most popular hits, and I recently updated it with some corrections and new information I discovered. I made it purple to make it easy to find.

I love your blog, and check with it at least a few times a week, if not daily. Some frustrations in my ward inspired me to start my own blog too. It's nice to share common interests with people like you.

Marcus said...

Wow, you've had an amazing 1st year. I've just started to voice somethings online that have been in my brain for quite sometime. If nothing else it's very cathartic.

I appreciate very much what you've said and hope that you will continue to say things. It's a comfort to find others with similar ideas. What's even better is to know that there are people that will disagree with me, and yet will still be respectful of my opinion and listen. That's something I find missing in church.

Good work keep it up!

Papa D said...

"Sometimes I'm still amazed that anyone wants to read stuff that originated in my mind."

Yeah, girlfriend, that amazes me, as well. *grin* Now I can read the rest of the post.

Papa D said...

OK, I've read it now.

I also really enjoy your blog. I'll try harder to write something that will make your second year anniversary list of favorites. *bigger grin than last time*

Sanford said...

Happy anniversary Faithful D. Thanks for sharing your journey.

I am still bothered about the shoplifting/marriage talk. Elder Nelson spoke at my Stake Conference last weekend and I was very anxious to see him speak in person since I had such a negative reaction to the General Conference talk. I sat up front so that I could get a good look at him. I anxiously awaited his talk and when he finally stood to speak, his talk was absolutely inoffensive. He talked about the Draper temple dedication and references to temples in the Old Testament.

If I am being completely honest, I have to say that the talk was just kind of mundane. It wasn’t harsh like the marriage talk but it wasn’t moving or inspirational either. It was just a talk.

I spoke to a friend about it and he suggested that I need to cut Elder Nelson some slack and not expect so much of the Brethren. I think that is some fair advice.

The Faithful Dissident said...

MH, thanks for the tip about Google. I sent you an e-mail about it, which you'll probably see when you get up. :) I enjoy your blog also, especially because of the varied subjects that you discuss. I really appreciate your perspective.

Marcus, welcome. I'm glad I discovered your blog and look forward to some interesting discussions. (Marcus and his wife have started a blog called "Existentially LDS" which I've included in my blog roll. They share a lot of the same questions and problems that many of us do.)

PapaD, I'm sure you'll have no trouble making my list of favourites in a year's time. :)

Sanford, I think your friend was right. After I did my original "How I Got My Husband Off The Clearance Rack" post on my own blog, I edited it and did an updated version for FMH (the one I linked to), in which I did my best to cut him some more slack. :) After letting off some steam, I realized that I didn't disagree so much with what he said as much as I disagreed with how he said it. But I still hate that talk. :D

I think it's true that we shouldn't expect so much of the brethren. The problem is that we do exactly that. We expect (or at least most Mormons do) that they are telling us what the Lord wants us to hear -- until it comes across as narrow-minded or offensive and then we're told to cut them some slack and not expect so much from them. :)

Scott said...

Thanks for including my "LDS Gay History Timeline" in your favorites! I'm flattered, and even more so when I read the "Priesthood Ban" and "Birth Control" posts and realize that my post has been grouped with the likes of them.

I love your blog, and appreciate your thoughts and your willingness to share them. You've helped me to remain "faithful" on my own journey from orthodoxy to dissidence.

Allie said...

The "church" has lost some of the sparkle for me as well. I've decided that the church is just people, and people can really mess up sometimes. I think my beacon of righteousness is the gospel. The church (the people) might not always measure up but the gospel is what we aim for.

I was talking to a good friend the other day and I mentioned how we ought to cut the prophet and other church leaders more slack, because while they're good men, doing their best, they're still limited by their human weaknesses.

I think I may have upset my friend a little, because she views any non-positive talk about church leaders as the "road to apostasy".

I think God intervenes a lot less than I used to think he did. Not because he's not there, or because he doesn't care, but because it's the best way for us to learn.

I've enjoyed your posts, they've helped me during a difficult time in my spiritual journey.

Gay LDS Actor said...

I'm honored that you find my post the most touching. Tha means a lot.

Like these other bloggers, I, too, really enjoy reading your blog (even if I don't always comment). I always felt from the beginning that you and I really connected on a spiritual and intellectual level.

Congrats on a great first year. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on various things.

Sunflower said...

Love your Blog! The first time I came across it I realized your title "Faithful Dissident" summed up perfectly my own feelings. I too have been on a journey the past couple of years. The "rose-colored" glasses started to come off when I watched the PBS documentary "The Mormons" - which led to reading "Rough Stone Rolling" and then the path went from there. I loved what you said about things never being the same again, that you wouldn't necessarily recommend the path to someone else, and yet you are glad you've been on the path. I feel much the same way. As I am trying to reconfigure what my active membership in the church will now look like, it is so helpful to have someone like you to you to look to for ideas about how to do that. I appreciate the insights you have shared about this process. Keep up the great blogging!

The Faithful Dissident said...

Ray, I just happened to notice a comment on Mormon Matters on an old post of yours which I just read for the first time and found to be very useful and wish I had had as a reference on all my Prop 8 and political posts. I've listed it in my post as a "late edition." :) I could only disagree with you on one thing, and that was about partial birth abortion. I used to feel exactly as you do about it, since I could not believe that such a procedure would ever be needed -- until we had an abortion debate on Politicalds and I did some more research on it. Although very rare, sometimes in acute cases of preeclampsia, a c-section is too risky for the mother and the only way to save her life is to perform this dreaded procedure.

Scott said: "You've helped me to remain "faithful" on my own journey from orthodoxy to dissidence."

I think I can say the same about you and many others, Scott. The great thing about blogging like this is that we prop each other up. Maybe we drag each other down sometimes too. :D But I'd like to think that we end up coming out higher than lower. :)

Allie said: "I think God intervenes a lot less than I used to think he did. Not because he's not there, or because he doesn't care, but because it's the best way for us to learn."

I think that's very true, Allie.

Gayldsactor, your story and perspective has been an invaluable resource to me, especially since we connected on that "spiritual and intellectual" level. Getting to know you has made me think a whole lot about what it must be like to be in your shoes (and others who find themselves in similar situations) and what I would do. I still don't know what I would do, but I've certainly been able to understand better why you and other gay Mormons take the different roads that you do.

Sunflower, I had almost forgotten that PBS documentary, but that was also a catalyst for me to start searching as well. As I've said before, reading Rough Stone Rolling "rocked my world," in good ways and in bad. It was painful to read because, as you said, those "rose-coloured glasses came off" and my view of the Church and prophets would never be the same. And yet it wasn't destroyed. It's just "different."

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your blog. I came across it a week ago and really enjoy writing it. I look forward to reading your posts during the coming year.

CB

Papa D said...

Wow, lobbying really works! *grin*

Fwiw, FD, I have changed my stance on partial-birth abortion since I wrote that post - specifically because of a post on FMH that discussed those times when there simply is no alternative. Some of the comments were deeply profound and literally made me look at it in a whole new light. I had forgotten it was included in that post, so I am going back and editing that part.

Ray

Clean Cut said...

Faithful Dissident, I just wanted to say congrats on the year anniversary. It seems that you and Mormon Heretic and I were "freshman" in the Bloggernacle around the same time.

I've been an infrequent visitor but many of your posts have given me much to think about. Sometimes I think we have similar thoughts but we just package them differently, and we've each taken a different journey as we have reshaped our paradigms of the Church as we've learned more about Church History, etc. I've come to the conclusion that although my view is different and more realistic than it was when I was a kid, that I'm actually better off.

You made a statement about Church leaders not wanting anyone to delve into Church history. Who exactly? Because the vibe coming from Church Historian Elder Marlin K. Jensen is an invitation to "every member of the Church to make the acquisition of Church history a lifelong pursuit" ("Making a Case for Church History").

You said that once we do it is "impossible to maintain exactly the same beliefs that you had before you decided to delve deeper." Is that is actually a bad thing?

I also can appreciate your testimony analogy to the stock market. That made me chuckle but I think there's a lot of truth to that!

Lastly, I wanted to say that your "Make Some Room" post is one of my favorites from LDS bloggers all time. I've had a link to it on my own blog ever since Ray pointed it out. Great, great post.

So pleasant journey on the rest of your rollar-coaster ride of "faithful" Mormon blogging. Look forward to seeing more of you in the future. :)

The Faithful Dissident said...

Clean Cut,

Thanks for your kind words! So glad that you enjoyed "Make Some Room." :)

"Sometimes I think we have similar thoughts but we just package them differently, and we've each taken a different journey as we have reshaped our paradigms of the Church as we've learned more about Church History, etc. I've come to the conclusion that although my view is different and more realistic than it was when I was a kid, that I'm actually better off."

Sometimes when things get challenging, I think that ignorance truly was bliss. But, when I really think about it, I also think that, despite the challenges, I'm better off. It's how I'm growing (hopefully. :)

"You made a statement about Church leaders not wanting anyone to delve into Church history. Who exactly? Because the vibe coming from Church Historian Elder Marlin K. Jensen is an invitation to "every member of the Church to make the acquisition of Church history a lifelong pursuit" ("Making a Case for Church History")."

I should probably re-phrase that. I agree that we're encouraged to study our history and that we often do so at church. I think, though, that Church leadership is generally less enthusiastic about members delving into historical information that is not officially put out by the Church.

"You said that once we do it is "impossible to maintain exactly the same beliefs that you had before you decided to delve deeper." Is that is actually a bad thing?"

Definitely not! I guess I can only speak for myself, but I think that although it can be very difficult to "keep the faith" or be active in the Church after delving deeper, we can come out stronger in the end. I think, however, that it can be a bad thing when it leads to anger and bitterness. And I admit that it's not always easy to keep those emotions under control when dealing with troubling aspects of Mormon history.

swedemom said...

Since when has the church encouraged people NOT to look at church history?

Mormon Heretic said...

Swedemom,

The church has always asked that members be careful when studying church history. For example, there is plenty of anti-mormon spin on events, and they often bring up events that mormons are unfamiliar with.

For example, in 1838, Joseph Smith and the church started a quasi-bank to take care of banking needs in Kirtland, Ohio. The bank was grossly undercapitalized, and failed. Anti-mormons want to call this fraud. Mormons would prefer to give Joseph the benefit of the doubt, and conclude he was just a terrible in business. It is easy to see how one could be swayed in either opinion of Joseph. (You can see how I approached this incident at http://www.ldssundayschool.org/RS-Lesson_27

Church authorities would rather focus on Joseph's strengths of prophecy and revelation, than to find fault in his business dealings.

Anonymous said...

Thumbs up for you!
I am a mexican LDS living in the USA and I am still in shock when I hear my fellow US-LDS talking about the religion/state mix and the "True Party"... They seem not to realize that:
1) LDS Church is not anymore a regional church but a worldwide church, with members of all colors and flavors.
2} There is life beyond the True Party (God bless Obama!)
3) Modern socialism IS NOT communism.
4) USA has not the best health care system in the world.
5) The A+ countries are Canada and the Nordic countries.

So, it has been refreshing to find your blog. It's like a stream of clear and fresh water in the middle of the arid sands of republican conservatism and pure capitalism.

Long live to your blog! =)

The Faithful Dissident said...

Anonymous Mexican, glad that you found my blog! :)

natalie said...

I sooo appreciate your insights, FD. I really wish I could emulate your peace and tranquility in the face of doubts and frustrations. I know my comments are few and far between, but I read all of your posts. And at times when I think "This is just too much, I can't take it", I have thought back to you. Thanks so much for your example. It really means a lot.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Thanks so much, Natalie. If it's any consolation, I probably appear a lot more "tranquil" in writing or even in person than I really am on the inside. :) I think we all have thoughts like "this is just too much, I can't take it." Some days I have more of them than others, but I have to say that you also have been an example to me. I've really enjoyed the things you've had to say in the other forums where we've gotten to know each other.