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.
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.
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