With The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the national spotlight, people across the country are asking questions — and a group of Mormon bloggers is happy to give answers.
With vintage-style photographs, picture-perfect desserts, fashion tips and family-life anecdotes, Mormon bloggers have attracted the attention of readers far outside the LDS blogosphere.
Last year, Emily Matchar wrote an article on salon.com attempting to explain her fascination with these blogs.
"Their lives are nothing like mine — I’m your standard-issue late-20-something childless over-educated atheist feminist, Yet I’m completely obsessed with their blogs," she wrote. "On an average day, I’ll skim through a half-dozen Mormon blogs, looking at Polaroids of dogs in raincoats or kids in bow ties, reading gratitude lists, admiring sewing projects."
The project sends readers a packet of testimonies from 32 LDS bloggers and a free Book of Mormon as a way for readers to better understand Mormons and what they believe. The packets are sent only to interested readers and kept offline to encourage civil discussion, according to Wangsgard.
"I just got to the point where I saw all these people wondering and not getting good answers," Wangsgard said. "I just think people want to know, so we don't have to be so afraid. ... Most of us aren't afraid to say that we're LDS, but it usually stops there. We wanted to stop holding out on our readers."
Three months ago, she began emailing every Mormon blogger she knew, asking if they would be willing to submit a page or two for the packet. Bloggers would then send suggestions of other bloggers she should contact. The number of participants grew from there.
Shawni Pothier, author of the blog 71 Toes, was one of the bloggers recruited to submit a page explaining her experience of being Mormon. For her, the project offered the opportunity to clarify Latter-day Saint beliefs.
"I just feel like there are a lot of misconceptions with our church, so I was just happy that someone was taking a stand," she said. "As mothers, bloggers and Mormons, we have a lot of power to influence what's out there. ... There are some crazy things that people hear, and I just want people to know how much it can bless people's lives."
Emily Hill, creator of the blog Is This REALLY My Life?, said the project is more about helping people understand Mormon beliefs than converting readers.
"We're not trying to be out there in a sort of in-your-face, convert-everyone type of way," Hill said. "This is kind of trying to level the playing field and say this is who we really are, this is what we really believe."
For her, the project provided the opportunity to explore the spiritual aspects of Mormonism rather than the lifestyle and cultural factors she said she feels are more often focused on in blogs and the news.
As part of the project, each blogger submitted a page-long response containing her testimony, and some included a favorite scripture.
As part of her response, Carrian Cheney, owner of the blog Sweet Basil, shared Matthew 4:18-20 because she said these verse remind her what matters most.
"Money, large houses, fame, etc. only last for a short time. However, following the teachings of Christ — which are centered around charity, love, forgiveness — will always bring balance, peace and true joy into our lives," Cheney said in an email.
So far, the project has been received well by readers. As of last week, Wangsgard said she had received 25 requests from people who are not Latter-day Saints for the package. She said many of the people have appreciated the willingness of the bloggers to share their faith.
"I had several emails from nonmembers who told me how they had LDS friends who will never talk about their beliefs, and so they are grateful that we will because they are, in fact, curious," she said.
To learn more about the project and other bloggers involved, you can read Wangsgard's original post here.
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