Creating Technology for Social Change

Blogging the Mormon Story, One Mormon at a Time

Mormon Church at 65 Binney St in Cambridge, Mass.

Boston-area Mormons have developed a local blogging scene that builds community between both parishioners and their non-Mormon friends. For a faith that’s accustomed to defending against stereotypes, a blog post is a chance to tell one’s own truth.

Amy Beth Harrison of Cambridge, Mass. published a post titled “Media Attention Misses the Heart of Mormonism” in February of 2012:

You don’t have to agree with us about what we believe. You don’t have to think we are Christian. You can find our practices odd or strange or have issues about our history. Please, though, understand how precious the LDS Church is to the heart of a believer.

Harrison’s post is one of more the 400 published under the auspices of the Boston Digital Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The effort includes four blog sites and a healthy stream of volunteer guest bloggers.

The larger world of Mormon blogs, nicknamed “the bloggernacle”, is vast and seasoned. It earned its name back in 2004 when The Revealer publishes a post siting jBlogs (Jewish blogs) and St. Blog’s (Catholic blogs) but lamenting no such clever moniker for Mormon Blogs. Times & Seasons, a popular Mormon blog, responded by asking its readers for a name. Commenter #3 suggested “The Bloggernacle Choir :-P”.

The blogs of this so-called Bloggernacle aren’t all that different from blogs in general. They include documentation of every-day life, thoughts on current events, opinions, DIY project ideas, and, of course, ruminations on religion.

The highest ranks of the LDS Church took note of its blogging masses. On December 15th of 2007, Elder Russell M. Ballard gave a commencement address titled “Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet” at Brigham Young University-Hawaii. He said:

There are conversations going on about the Church constantly. Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches. … Now, may I ask that you join the conversation by participating on the Internet to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration. …

You speak as one member—but you testify of the truths you have come to know. Talk honestly and sincerely about the impact the gospel has had in your life, about how it has helped you overcome weaknesses or challenges and helped define your values. The audiences for these and other new media tools may often be small, but the cumulative effect of thousands of such stories can be great.

Elder Ballard serves as one of twelve apostles – a group of men at the top of LDS church hierarchy. His words inspired the Cambridge stake of the LDS Church to take its faith to the Internet.

In January of 2011, after much research and conversation, the Boston Digital Mission launched three blogs. On Mormon Perspectives, posts offer first-person perspectives on current events. On Real Life Answers, posts follow a question and answer format and most quote scripture. On Next Door Mormon, bloggers write short stories on faith in their everyday lives. The Mission recently launched a fourth blog, Young and Mormon, on which young people learn to talk about their faith through blogging.

Harrison is the editor of, and before that she was a blogger for the site. Church leaders asked her to participate early on.

“I was like, ‘I don’t want to write for this if I have to write these cheesy little posts that I don’t believe in.’ And from the very beginning, they were always like, ‘Yes, we want your perspective. We want to hear what you have to say.’”

When Harrison published a post about her conflicted feelings on homosexuality in 2012, commenters were offended by her reference to gay “mannerisms,” and called her out on the stereotype. “That was good for me to hear,” she said. “It was a growing experience for me”. Her raw, messy honesty impressed the one person who was, perhaps, her primary audience: a gay man she’d befriended in graduate school. “He contacted me and just said, ‘I really like that post and I like your writing.’”

Mormon Church at 65 Binney St in Cambridge, Mass.

The four blogs of the Boston Digital Mission are different from the rest of the “Bloggernacle” in that they fall under the leadership of the Cambridge Stake of the LDS Church. As far as the Mission leaders know, their Stake’s project is unique in a church that boasts 14 million members globally.

Each of the site editors were called to their volunteer positions thought a process of prayer and communication with God. “We bring names and thoughts to God through prayer, and as we pray, we feel through the power of the Holy Ghost that this or that person is who He would have us call to that specific position,” said Reed Davis, director of the Boston Digital Mission. He was called to that position in March of 2012.

In his role, Davis sometimes helps first-time bloggers overcome their fears and writers’ block. Denia-marie Ollerton, for example, added her name to the guest blogging sign-up sheet at church one Sunday. A few weeks later Davis called Ollerton to see how her post was coming along. It wasn’t. She didn’t want to push her beliefs on anyone, and she didn’t want to get personal. Davis told her that personal stories often made for the best posts. He encouraged her to write something that came from her heart.

On a Saturday morning, Ollerton sat down at her kitchen table and cranked up the 80s music. She typed fast, in stream-of-consciousness fashion, about the cold, mean God she knew as a child; teenage years gone astray; intense loneliness; and then returning to the church, where she found unprecedented joy in a warm and loving God. Several revisions later, and after a round of proofreading by non-Mormon friends, Ollerton published “Why I’m Mormon” on

Ollerton’s story – one post from one member – is part of the greater whole. After she published it, her friends and co-workers reached out to thank her. “My friends knew I believed in something, but they didn’t know what I believed.” Colleagues and mentors had warned Ollerton, a mental health counselor, that she might be judged for her faith in her field of work. Yet her friends, Mormon and non-, told her that they felt like they knew her better now.

“I think that’s one of the nice things about being Mormon,” said Lisa Tecklenburg, editor of Real Life Answers. “We really do leverage each other’s experiences and each other to become closer to Christ. I think that’s what I like about the blog, and actually about being Mormon, is that we’re constantly looking to build each other up. That’s what the blog does.”

Photos: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 65 Binney St. in Cambridge, Massachusetts.