Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Today's featured blog

Thinking in a Marrow Bone.
I rarely do this, but this blog REALLY caught my attention. This particular link goes to a post with which I could strongly relate.
Manifesto Against Mormon Lingo
I have long thought that Mormon culture lingo sounds stupid and is off-putting and degrading.

Which is wonderfully exemplified by the poem “RULDS?” by Joel Hardy (which I found in a comment at this Splendid Sun post in 2006).

I read the BofM,
I study the D&C,
I peruse the KJV,
back it up with JST.
My son’s at BYU,
at the MTC,
They used to call it LTM
when I was young like he.
I collected for SME,
while in the BSA.
My wife who’s in RS,
teaches YM/YW in MIA.
Today in BYC,
We planned for EFY.
I stayed a little later,
and had a HT PPI.
I listened to some MoTab,
I found at the DI.
then I washed my Gs,
after FHE we had pie.
Now if you’ve understood,
this alphabetic mess.
Chances are quite good,
that you are LDS.

I have heard this little poem read in Sacrament Meeting!

More than once!

I really have no idea what the point was. A celebration of our shared peculiarity, I suppose.

But imagine how it would feel to be a visitor to the Church and hear something like this! I would be confused and scared. Confused about what all that jargon means, and scared that this group is for some reason celebrating their jargoniness. I might have asked one of the missionaries about it, and he might have responded with (and I have heard this before, too), “Oh, you’ll learn it all in time!” (as if learning these terms is a rite of passage for entry into the population of mature Latter-day Saints).

The title of the poem is revealing: “RULDS?” I’m reminded of that obnoxious bumper sticker that reads “RULDS2?” What a lovely message we are spreading here with this item that you can purchase at Deseret Book (or at least you could in the past): “I’m most comfortable around people who are LDS like me because they can understand the obscure culture that I have constructed for myself about what it means to be a Latter-day Saint. And if you’re not LDS2, maybe you can join us for FHE — we’re studying the D&C.”

(While I’m on this note, don’t even get me started about all the rip-off LDS clothing items you can buy, most of which have close imitations of famous brand insignias, such as the t-shirt with the hybrid Nike swoosh / angel Moroni sign. “We’re weird but we’re worldly!”)

We need to do much better, as an LDS community, wherever we live, to minimize the ingroup talk and to be less concerned about maintaining an idiosyncratic LDS community. From that same Splendid Sun post that I referenced above, here is a comment (by “sideline”) that exemplifies this problem well:

I was raised protestant and had visited several different Christian churches before joining the ranks of the lds. During my 10+ years as a member I brought several friends and family members as visitors.

I can tell you from my own experience and theirs that the culture, language, and quirks of other Christian sects are more similar to each other and easier to relate to and understand than to the lds culture, language, and quirks.

This is not to say anything is *wrong* with that of the lds. It is only to say that it is a greater alienating factor. This is intensified by the reality that the lds are a tight knit community. This is not lost on a visitor who comes in and it looks like everyone knows everyone else. This is not the case in most other churches, save tiny ones out in the country. There is very much a difference in visiting an lds chapel versus visiting other churches. While is [sic] can be appealing, it is also alienating and something members would do well to be cognizant of.

We would do much better as a people to ditch the acronyms and vain repetitives — in our testimonies, in our prayers, in our meetings, and in our casual conversations. Parents should encourage their children to do this — trust me, they are capable! Mission presidents should encourage this of their missionaries as well. We might consider speaking as if visitors (or new converts) are at our meetings. From my experience, this endeavor is better for everyone, not just those who might be visitors. We should stop pretending that being a Latter-day Saint means learning a specialized and off-putting vocabularly.

Transition to the “Bloggernacle.”

As a relatively new blogger, I have been disappointed with much of what it is on the “Bloggernacle” — a term that somehow has gained the status of a quasi-official name for “the LDS-blogging community.” I dislike and reject this name. For me, it creates the same kind of in-group off-putting effect that is characteristic of LDS lingo. It sends the message that the LDS-blogging community is an off-putting special society for a certain, elitist type of Latter-day Saint.

Oh, wait. That’s what it is.

As I’ve surfaced, as a newcomer, some of the popular (or not so popular) Mormon blogs, I’ve had similar experiences as sideline’s (above). You learn quickly that there are certain quirky terms that you need to know. It took me weeks to find out what TBM means (true blue Mormon). Or “permablogger” (which apparently is unique to LDS blogs — a person who regularly posts on a certain blog). And I *think* I’m a fairly intelligent person…

Of course, my criticism goes far beyond terms. There is simply, for me, an aura of elitism, arrogance, and in-group-iness that reigns on many LDS blogs. They certainly are not at all inviting to Latter-day Saints who are not currently “in the know.” Please recognize, also, that I realize that there is much that is wonderful also! And I recognize that someone could perhaps accuse this blog of similar things.

I hope, however, that Thinking in a Marrow Bone (begrudgingly acronymed TMB) strives to be different. It is our goal (or mine anyway) to provide an atmosphere where any thoughtful Latter-day Saint — with or without blogging experience — can feel welcome and wanted (as well as those who are not LDS). TMB is not intended to be a place to escape the mainstream of the Church, but to engage it. Certainly, TMB is not perfect in this regard; but we are trying.

I invite other LDS blogs (to try) to do the same.

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