LOS ANGELES — Rebbie Groesbeck doesn't claim to know everything about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but as a Mormon living in Los Angeles, she has had plenty of opportunities to explain what she does know.
As a result of conversations with strangers about her beliefs, Groesbeck has been surprised to find that the most common reaction she receives is that she is far more normal than they thought she would be.
"I just felt like I heard over and over that people were shocked and so confused, like, 'You’re Mormon? But you’re normal!' That was always the sentence I heard over and over," Groesbeck said. "So then that became the joke, and I told people to call me the 'Normon.' "
It was then that Groesbeck — a Brigham Young University graduate from Provo who now works as a copywriter for an advertising company — decided to put her creative writing skills to use. She created a blog titled "Normons," which is online at normons.com.
"I had the idea (during the) summer of the campaign that (Mitt) Romney was running" for president, she said. "I got it all together. I knew I needed help and that I didn’t want to do it by myself because that was just pretentious."
As Groesbeck and her friends began to collaborate, the humorous website quickly came together.
"So I contacted my friend Carly (Walker), and she was the one who first helped me get (the blog) up. I don’t think any of the contributors — I mean they were like, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll help’ — but we didn’t really know where it would go."
Groesbeck's approach with the blog was inspired by experiences she had sharing the gospel.
"I moved to California and I was so excited to have my missionary experience, but I was really terrible about it," she said. "People would ask me questions, and I would be caught off guard. It's that moment when you want to do good answering, and you get so excited, but they just want to have a conversation with you.
"I guess I just kind of figured out that when I talked to them in a way that was obvious that I knew there were some peculiar things about us, and talked about it in a confident, calm, kind of funny way, the conversations always went better."
Groesbeck maintained the same mindset as she gathered content for the blog. Blog posts acknowledge the cultural anomalies of the LDS faith, but they also highlight similarities between Latter-day Saints and other religious groups.
But with the tagline, "Just a handful of Mormons trying to prove how freaking normal we are," Groesbeck admitted that some readers have not been keen on the approach.
"Some have said, 'Well we’re not normal. We’re not trying to be like the world,' and I understand that. That’s not what it is," Groesbeck said. "I would never say that we’re trying to be just like everyone else. It’s just more that we’re normal in the sense that we’re relatable. It’s not that we are trying to hide who we are or make us seem more mainstream or cool than we are. It’s more just going for the relatable side of the word 'normal.' "
After its launch following the presidential elections in 2012, Normons quickly began to pick up traffic.
"It was kind of a terrifying experience," Groesbeck said. "You write differently when you realize that lots of people are looking. Especially when it's about something that is so special. We realized, man, we could really impact people, and we need to make sure that while things are light and fun, it's also 100 percent respectful and not too light."
Critics also began to flock to Groesbeck's site. Although she felt she could handle the negativity, Groesbeck explained that it was somewhat difficult.
"It felt so much more personal when it was my beliefs and something that was so important to me," she said. "But there was just as much positive response as there was the negative. It's been amazing to me the people I have been able to connect with, people from all over the world."
Recently, Normons has featured a series highlighting the conversion stories of Latter-day Saints around the world. Groesbeck has received several emails from these members of the church who are eager to share their experiences.
But it's not only members of the LDS Church who follow the blog. Groesbeck, who used to serve as a ward missionary, explained how this type of online proselytizing has the ability to reach people who may not otherwise want to learn about the church.
"As far as the people I work with, they aren't going to let the missionaries into their house — they might now, because of me, and give them a lemonade, that's what they say — but they will read what I write on my blog," Groesbeck said. "It's been really cool. We've had a few people who are on the fence or investigating the church who saw the site, read it, were like, 'OK, I can be a part of this,' and they've been baptized and that's amazing."59 comments on this story
It was never Groesbeck's intention to create a blog that would result in conversion stories, and sharing her faith didn't always come easy. Initially, Groesbeck admitted to wondering if she could do it.
"I thought, 'Who am I to start a blog and make myself some authority on church matters? I'm no church scholar. I just have a testimony and I like to write,' " Groesbeck said.
But after the growth of online proselytizing was discussed during the historic missionary broadcast last summer, Groesbeck found the courage to share her testimony.
"We're young. We're 25 years old. I don't presume to have any more experience than I do, but we don't need to."
Email: email@example.com | Twitter: Sarah_DNews