Editor’s note: This is the final article in a series exploring the world of LDS blogging.
In 1991, Elder Robert E. Wells, then a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, related personal insight regarding the Liahona in a keynote address at the Sperry Symposium on the Book of Mormon.
Not only did the curious ball guide Lehi's family in the wilderness, but "a new writing, which was plain to be read" appeared on the pointers to give them "understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to their faith, diligence and heed (1 Nephi 16:28-29)." Elder Wells likened this phenomenon to reading the Book of Mormon.
"As I read the Book of Mormon passages of scriptures that I have read many times in one light seem to change — and suddenly there is a new meaning to that old and familiar scripture," Elder Wells said in his remarks. "I like to think that the Book of Mormon is truly like the Liahona of old. Not only does it point us in the way of the Lord and to the Lord according to the faith, diligence and heed we give it, but if we are interested enough to read it again and again, from cover to cover, there are times when a 'new writing' — plain to be read — seems to appear."
More than 20 years later, Brad Wilcox pointed to the same idea as evidence that the Book of Mormon is like the ultimate LDS blog.
"According to their faith, diligence and heed, new writings would appear. The words in the Book of Mormon never change, but our lives change, our circumstances change and our desires change. I think that makes the Book of Mormon the ultimate blog because you can read it over and over and over again and according to your faith, diligence and heed, there will always be 'new writing' that you can pull out of it," Wilcox said. "That's a pretty good blog.
"It's the blog that keeps on giving."
Wilcox, along with fellow LDS authors and speakers John Hilton III and Anthony Sweat, recently explored the analogy of how the Book of Mormon might be compared to a blog. The three BYU professors also discussed what the Book of Mormon could teach bloggers about sharing the gospel online.
Commanded to write
In 2 Nephi 29:11, it reads: "For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them."
“I think it's interesting that it's a commandment for us to write the words that God speaks to us. There are many things that God is speaking to us, both in personal revelation, revelation through prophets, experiences we are having, etc.,” said Hilton, an assistant professor of ancient scripture at BYU. “We need to record these things.”
Other Book of Mormon verses offer some insight into what people might write about in a blog.
1 Nephi 19:6 — "I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred."
2 Nephi 4:15-16 — "And upon these I write the things of my soul for the learning and the profit of my children. Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard."
2 Nephi 25:23 — "We write, to persuade our children to believe in Christ."
Jacob 1:2-4 — "And he gave me, Jacob, a commandment that I should write upon these plates a few of the things which I considered to be most precious And if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that I should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch on them as much as it were possible, for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of our people."
3 Nephi 23:4 — "Write the things which I have told you; and according to the time and the will of the Father they shall go forth unto the Gentiles."
3 Nephi 27:23 — "Write the things which you have seen and heard, save it be those which are forbidden."
Honest stories, positive resolutions
There are two things that Wilcox loves about Book of Mormon stories.
First, they are very honest.
Consider numerous examples, Wilcox said. Nephi writes that his brothers want to kill him; Sariah complains about her husband; Alma the Younger tries to destroy the church; and Corianton has to come home early from his mission because of immorality.
“I love the fact that the stories are real. It’s not all perfect. Sometimes in our culture we want to appear like the perfect family or ward. We want to portray the image that all the children are cheerfully doing chores and we all sing hymns as we wash dishes together,” Wilcox said. “I think as we share things on blogs, we have to be willing to be honest. Some things don’t always work. The kids don’t always respond. We’ve got to be willing to put our honest selves out there as the prophets in the Book of Mormon did.”
As an example, Wilcox cited Nephi’s famous lamentation: “O wretched man that I am” (2 Nephi 4:17).
“It sure makes me feel comforted when I see Nephi sharing those honest feelings because I can relate to him. There are times when I can’t relate to ‘I will go and do the things which the Lord has commanded’ (1 Nephi 3:7), but I can relate to ‘O wretched man that I am’ why am I so easily beset with sin?” Wilcox said. “If we are looking at the Book of Mormon as a model, we need to be willing to share when our family isn’t perfect or some of the struggles we are dealing with.”
Second, the Book of Mormon stories typically end with a positive resolution, Wilcox said.
“The story of Nephi’s family doesn’t completely end with a dysfunctional family. You see how he tried to teach his brothers, how he tried to be a good example for them. We see Alma the Younger say he was in the ‘gall of bitterness,’ but then he says how sweet was my joy (Alma 36:18-20),” Wilcox said. “Sometimes people throw out doubts and questions, but they don’t tell how they came to a resolution. You had a fight with your wife, how did you resolve that? You had a question about the church? How did you find the answer? I love the Book of Mormon because you have so many real solutions. I don’t want to say happy endings, but we do see stories resolved. If someone is writing a blog, teach us something, resolve something.”
In the Book of Omni, brothers Chemish and Amaron (Omni 1:4-9) didn’t appear to put a lot of effort into recording their experiences, Hilton said.
“They may have had good reasons for doing so; nevertheless, it seems like they put off writing until the last minute, and did not get a lot of significant things accomplished,” Hilton said. “Bloggers today can do the opposite.”
Bloggers would be wise to learn from the writers in Omni, Sweat agreed.
“Don't blow your chance to bless a life like Chemish and say nothing of value (see Omni 1:9), or be arrogant in your comments like Abinadom (Omni 1:10) and brag about how many Lamanites you slew,” Sweat said. “Be inspired like Amaleki (Omni 1:12-30) and give us something useful, something good, something beneficial to think on and learn from.”
Another blogging tip can be found scattered throughout the Book of Mormon, Wilcox said.
“The Book of Mormon prophets were not afraid to quote other prophets. Look at how Nephi quotes Isaiah? Jacob quotes Zenos,” Wilcox said. “In our blogs we don’t have to rely on ourselves, we can quote the brethren, scripture verses, good phrases and good books that we like and which have influenced us. As we do this it gives us authority and credibility.”
‘And thus we see’
A principle or the moral of a Book of Mormon story is sometimes introduced by the familiar words, “And thus we see.”
“And thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ,” (Hel. 3:28).
"If we are going to blog about the church and share our testimonies, throw in the phrase ‘And thus we see’ to show the key point," Wilcox said. "These key words and phrases draw attention to something specific."
Good blogs usually have a consistent theme, whether it's food, politics, sports or otherwise, upon which all their posts center, Sweat said. The central point of all the writers in the Book of Mormon was to “the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ” (Title page).
“That theme is more evident in the Book of Mormon than perhaps any other book,” Sweat said. “Have a point, have a theme, have a message, have a mission, have a purpose.”
One recent Deseret News article reflected the sentiment that millions of people are searching for the truth but don’t know where to find it. They have questions about the existence of God, the purpose of life and what happens after death, among many others.
“Those are questions that really matter,” Wilcox said. “One thing I think the Book of Mormon does well is focus on questions that matter.”
When blogging, consider addressing questions like "If I met God, what would I ask him? What would I want him to tell me? If I could speak to a prophet, what would I ask or want to know?"
“As you start conversations with heartfelt questions, you can find out what really matters to people. Why did my uncle have to die? Why did my aunt get cancer?” Wilcox said. “The Book of Mormon helps us focus on questions that really matter in our lives.”
“One way that blogs connect with the Book of Mormon is that they often connect people with causes," Hilton said. "The Book of Mormon repeatedly condemns those who neglect the poor and encourages us to help the poor and needy. This is a worthy effort with which many blogs are engaged.”
Another question Hilton likes is "Know ye not that there are more nations than one?"
“We live in an interconnected world," he said. "Blogs help us hear individual voices wherever they might be around the globe. This can help expand our horizons.”
Who will read it?
The Book of Mormon is full of warnings. Along the same lines, Sweat, an assistant professor of church history at BYU, cautioned bloggers to remember digital media is forever media, so be careful what you post.
“Remember, your ranting blog about politics or your post about your family trip to Disneyland, now that it has been published — like the Book of Mormon — will never go away. Its message will always be available to those who want to find it and read it,” Sweat said. “Don’t forever sow seeds of discord. Don't eternally post about things you'll later regret.”
And like the Book of Mormon, you never know who will end up reading it, so share a message that will make a difference in someone's life.
"You may be posting your sepia-toned photos of your latest camping trip for your grandmother in Wisconsin, but someone in Florida might stumble upon your blog, read your entry, love it, read more entries, start blog-stalking you, and be totally influenced for good by it," he said. "They didn’t anticipate stumbling upon your blog, and maybe they didn’t anticipate stumbling upon the Book of Mormon, but both of them are out there and can change lives.
"The Book of Mormon is like a blog in that you don’t really know who will read it, and how it will affect them. It was written to 'the Lamanites and also to Jew and Gentile' (Title Page) in the last days, but its content can be picked up and read by anyone, anywhere, anytime," Sweat said. "Make your blogs public. Write to the public. Let your light so shine."
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