Blogging bishops: 2 Mormon men talk about sharing the gospel online
Following the church's recent October general conference, Mickelson blogged about personal experiences he'd had in reference to certain topics discussed by church leaders. For example, he related to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk about depression. He wrote about struggles he had while serving as bishop.
"I just could not shake the anxiety I was feeling. It wasn’t depression (so far as I can tell), but it was quite a struggle to manage projects, interact with people, or have the energy to do much of anything in my day," Mickelson wrote. "I prayed a lot and tried to analyze what the problem was. Was it sin? Was I guilty of something? Yes, but nothing major. Was it a chemical imbalance? Maybe. I’m imbalanced in a hundred ways."
He tried to just deal with it, but his wife encouraged him to see a counselor at LDS Family Services. He resisted at first but eventually made an appointment. It was the help he needed, he wrote.
"I’m thankful that I was finally able to take appropriate action to get the help I needed," he wrote in the post. "Things have improved and we’ll see where things go from here. I’m grateful that Elder Holland was inspired to address this subject."
The response to Mickelson's more religious entries has been overwhelmingly positive, he said. Although he doesn't consider himself to be a gifted writer, he has received a number of messages from readers who are touched by his posts, leaving comments like, "This was exactly what I needed to read tonight," or "This post answered a question I've struggled with for 25 years." Sharing the blog through social media has greatly expanded its reach, Mickelson said.
"It has been a blessing to be a small part of helping other people with spiritual matters," Mickelson said. "Carving out a little time to write about what thoughts I’ve had during the day has been a challenge. Otherwise, writing posts for the blog has been a wonderful experience and has blessed me greatly."
Have you interacted with anyone who became interested in the church?
Mickelson is in the middle of a series of communications with a woman from the Midwest who is investigating the church and came across his blog post about Elder Holland's talk.
"She is a wonderful and spiritual person who is really searching for truth. I've enjoyed our communications," Mickelson said. "I've had a small number of conversations with friends who are not of our faith about LDS topics. These are conversations I would not have had without the help of the blog."
Strobel has hopes for one man who found his father's obituary online and sent his family 6,000 ancestral names. The man had also written a book about the Strobel family. He said the man is reading the Book of Mormon but hasn't yet spoken with missionaries. Strobel and his son, Peter, also helped one woman who had questions about death.
How has blogging about church topics or sharing the gospel via the Internet blessed your life or strengthened your testimony?
Blogging has blessed Strobel in his calling as bishop, he said. Years ago, he heard the late President Gordon B. Hinckley say that "a greater enthusiasm for missionary work will strengthen the entire ward." So he has enlisted members of his ward in blogging. Many of the posts on NextdoorMormon.com are from his ward members.
Blogging has blessed Mickelson's life in a number of ways, he said.
First, writing a post forces him to research, study, ponder and organize his thoughts on a gospel topic. This process strengthens his faith and testimony.
Secondly, writing and engaging in conversations have helped him to better understand the opposing views, beliefs and opinions of others.
"That has helped me look for common ground between myself and others," he said.
The best feeling, Mickelson said, has come from finding out how a reader felt blessed for reading something he posted.
"That is particularly humbling," he said.
What lessons have you learned from your experience that you might share with others who want to get involved?
Mickelson has learned not to put too much pressure on himself to write the perfect blog or post too often, he said.
"I don’t worry about the statistics that my blog host provides to me. I write when an important topic is on my mind," he said. "If there is a topic on my mind for a few days, I figure I’d better at least put a post together to see how I feel about it."
Mickelson also suggests avoiding controversial topics.
"That may not be everyone’s choice, but I just don’t have the interest in my life to argue with people or combat people who are in the mood to attack my beliefs," he said. "I’m happy to explain or even defend my beliefs in a friendly manner, but my blog is not a place for bashing, arguing or attacking."
Strobel's advice? Don't be a blank wall; people are capable of more than they know, he said.
"I didn't think I could do it but I did it. It’s blessed my life. I’m able to share what I know with everybody," Strobel said. "I want to share the gospel with everyone in the world."
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