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19 July 2015

The Balance Between Overt and Hiding My Light

Where are the LDS Family History Bloggers?
Where are the Mormon Family History Bloggers?
In May, James Tanner posted the question  Where are the LDS Family History Blogs?
"... there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of blogs posted by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There just do not seem to be a significant number of them that focus on family history per se in the Church."
He wanted to compile a list of blogs that discuss LDS Family History topics prominently. He says:
"Do not bother to send me links to blogs that do not prominently announce their orientation. Just because you are member of the Church and write a blog does not mean you write about family history in the Church."
This blog post has stayed with me as I pondered the topic. Many thoughts have circulated in my mind. I do have the LDS tag on my blog at Geneablogger's Blog Roll, but I don't think that I'll make James' blog roll and I'll share why in a moment. Before I continue, I must say how thankful I am for the thought provoking exercise that ensued following that post.

There are several things that I have thought about and am still considering related to "Where are the LDS family history bloggers?" The preliminary topics of concern that come to mind initially are these:

Don't Wish To Speak For the Church

If I write posts about LDS Family History in an authoritative tone, would I cross the line of representing myself as speaking for the church? I would hate to be called out by church leaders saying somehow I've crossed the line.

There are so many LDS blogs, magazines, and online alternative media sites. They cross the line more times than they should. I don't want to fall into that trap.

I'd rather post information that is useful for anyone, rather than only targeting LDS church members who are involved in family history .

Don't Want To Seem Critical of Leaders

The flip-side of sounding like I speak for the church, I would like to discuss issues that may seem critical, but in no way reflects that I do not sustain my church leaders.

I want to be able to address some family history culture issues that I do not understand or wish could be improved. If I say I'm an LDS Family History blog and I 'go negative,' would I be inviting a spirit of contention? Would I be found to be contradicting my resolve to support my leaders?

I don't believe in the extremes of blindly following my leaders or rejecting my leaders whole cloth because I do not like a particular policy or action. I believe there is nothing wrong with advocating change in the LDS culture as it pertains to family history so long as it benefits members of the church and the overall genealogical community. Should I point out things that sound negative, I want my readers to know I do support my church leaders because I know they love the Lord.

Don't Want to Seem to Profit From Our Callings

I've searched the LDS site for the specific policy that relates to this topic, but I can't find it. I'd love to see the official statement for the policy that says we should not be directly profiting from our callings. But then, my relatives reminded me there doesn't need to be an official statement from the church because it's actually a fundamental principle found in the Book of Mormon and in the Bible.

  • "Men preaching and setting themselves up for a light to the world that they may get gain and praise of the world; they do not seek the welfare of Zion" (2 Ne. 26:29).
  • "Feed the flock of God, not for filthy lucre" (1 Pet. 5:2)

For some, these scriptures may seem unclear, but they relate to priest-craft. Priest-craft is essentially using your position in a church (bishop, deacon, women's leader, or family history consultant) to directly profit from. Profiting from your calling should be avoided.

This is a tricky issue to balance. A building contractor may be used by other members of his flock to build their houses but he should not be telling them they must use his services or feel ill will toward someone who choose a competitor's company. A parishioner (ward member) should not be using a member directory lists to promote their wares or inform others that their service or gadget is endorsed by church leaders. Any such activity would be in the realm of profiting from your calling (or priest-craft).

How does this apply to me? I have written a book about family history. Folks at church think that's so cool and often talk about how everyone should buy my book when we're in church meetings. I stop them cold on this. When we're outside church meetings and I'm not wearing a family history calling hat, anyone can promote my book and I'll gladly promote it as well. However, I will not tell anyone to buy my books when I'm in the role of my calling. And I will not be upset if someone does not buy my books or purchases other books on the same subject. When I am serving as family history consultant, I am 'feeding the flock of God' and nothing else.

If I were to be more overt about LDS Family History topics on my blog, would a reader be able to differentiate between when I'm acting in my calling and when I'm not? If they can not, then I should not promote my books or I should not be discussing LDS topics on my blog.

Don't Want a Narrow Focus

When I started to consider LDS Family History specific topics, I realized this focus would be too narrow for me. I like to talk about photographing memorabilia. Is that a LDS specific topic? I like to talk about scanning photos and documents and then using these image files to create scrapbooks. Is that LDS Specific?

In the years I have been doing family history and then blogging, I have had a handful of LDS specific topics to discuss. I would be completely limiting myself by focusing on just LDS specific topics.

Besides Mormons and Jews, who else defines their Family History in Religious Terms?


My final thought that is a potential reason myself and others are family history bloggers who happen to be LDS rather than LDS family history bloggers is this whole issue of religion in genealogy. Are there believers who talk about family history in relation to their religion? I did stumble across a Catholic family history group. So, perhaps there are. I didn't find anything when I searched for other faiths. Besides gaining access to a particular church record set, is there really a reason to blog about the religion and the family history issues together? Oh wait, Mormons have a stronger religious reason to do family history and we should blog about that. However, this brings me back to the first point of speaking for the church.

Devon Noel Lee Family History Conference Speaker
Sharing My Family History Knowledge

But is there room to blog about LDS Topics on this blog?

The above listed reasons weigh against being an overt LDS Family History blog. My thoughts are certainly not fully analyzed. It's the compilation of the thoughts that the original blog post prompted. Do you think I'm over thinking these things? Am I missing something else worth considering? I welcome further discussion in the comments thread as we analyze the issues for or against being a religious themed family history blog. 

Despite the concerns previously mentioned, I wanted to examine why someone would want to have an LDS Family History blog. I started pondering upon my unique gifts and talents. The perspective I have. The fact that I have some things I would like to share with my fellow LDS family history consultants or general church members. Perhaps these topics will not appeal to many of my blog followers who have supported me or will support me in the future.

But the question I consider is, should I talk about these topics? Is there room at A Patient Genealogist to address the problems, challenges, and possible solutions regarding family history in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints? I think there is and I have updated my navigation bar to reflect the place for such topics. As you can see, most of my topics will still be of value to a wide range of individuals. However, my LDS Specific topics can be found under the "Commentary" tab.

Once again, I want to emphasize my great respect for James Tanner's efforts in family history. His query and post have prompted a great mental exercise for me.  I can see where perhaps I could share a few things as they come up.

 I feel compelled to consider how I can be of service to those of my faith you hear the doctrine of the work but are struggling to be involved. Simultaneously, I know I need to be of service to anyone of any faith on the topics I have experience in. Finally, I must also remember to share my personal family history research as a way to draw in new-to-me cousins and hopefully break down some brick walls along the way.

I'd love to hear what you think about either this post and the combination of this post and the one that triggered this response. Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below. And if you are a LDS Focused Family History Blogger, be sure to tell James about your work.

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