I don't pretend that losing the internet has anywhere near the hyperbolic significance of losing the Holy Ghost. (Perish the thought!) However, its brief absence from my life did afford me a similar opportunity to pause and actually think.
This is my 200th post on Ward Gossip, a little blog that I started in late 2009 as a writing exercise to help me kickstart my novel, The Girls From Fourth Ward. I'd read that J. K. Rowling had written backstory on all of her characters, including the minor ones. While I'm obviously not J.K. Rowling, she's the one who gave me the idea to flesh out my minor characters here, in the form of emails from the Abbottsville Fourth Ward "until they delete from their mailing list." (You've got to have a gimmick--I've since changed the tagline to "and other musings.") I committed to writing once a week for one year.
In March of 2010, only a few months after I'd started blogging, I received an angry and lengthy personal message from a childhood friend that included the following:
I was taken aback at the time, so much so that I considered shutting down the blog. I didn't want to "publicly insult" my friends. There were and are many Mormons whom I respect, some that are near and dear to me. I went back and forth on the issue. In the end, I decided to keep writing. Writers need to write about what they know and, after years of living within Mormonism, I was familiar with my subject. Moreover, while there were and are Mormons whom I respect, I have little respect for the LDS Church, an organization that has caused me and others great pain, and has managed to be on the wrong side of just about every social issue of my lifetime. I went on blogging and braced myself for the inevitable barrage of nasty emails."I don't understand the need to publicly insult the intelligence of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints. You seem to enjoy promoting hurtful stereotypes which, in my opinion, were created by narrow minded, uneducated, bitter people. ... It's not funny. I can see why your blog only has a following of 5. ... I find it sad that you can't just go on with your life without having to create a blog of lies to vent your frustration with the church."
But here's the thing. They never came! Over three years have gone by and I've received over 1600 comments and countless emails. Most have been from ex-Mormons and other free thinkers who've encouraged me to continue writing. But I've heard from believing Mormons too. Some have confided that they secretly agreed with me, some have respectfully disagreed, and some have not so respectfully disagreed--but in a humorous or sarcastic way--and I'm a big fan of both humor and sarcasm.
So how did this little writing exercise go from being a one-year commitment to a three-plus yearlong journey? Well, because of the MATERIAL, of course.
First there's the routine craziness that is the Mormon experience. Super-special Young Women's hand-outs about chewed gum (written out in calligraphy in pink pen and on pink paper), holiday celebrations like "Smithmas" and the annual "Mother's/Patriarchy Day Sacrament Meeting," oxymorons like "Mormon elders" and "BYU Education Week," the painfully humiliating existence of the LDS single adult, and so on.
Then there's the random craziness that is the Mormon experience. Big Love, a Broadway musical, a reality TV show, the Romney campaign, and the hilarious "hair on fire" LDS PR campaign to counter the publicity. --That website, Mormons and Gays; Colbert couldn't have made that one up.-- A nut-job GA who called tolerance a sin, a "rock star" GA whose dippy analogies about forget-me-nots, etc. have sent the entire Relief Society into a series of mass orgasms, and a desperate Prophet, Seer, and Revelator who lowered the age requirement for full-time missionaries. Not to mention the recent gifts from my favorite oxymoron, the "Mormon feminists," who've been collectively fist-pumping because a woman prayed in Conference and a few sisters wore pants to church. Awesome.
Aside from the material, the other thing that's gotten me to post 200 is the small community of free thinkers, ex-Mormons, and believers who've supported this blog. You truly are gentle readers. Many of you are bloggers as well, and I enjoy reading your thoughtful posts. You inspire me.
And in closing, if I have offended any of you, that's probably because you've let a misogynistic, homophobic, anti-intellectual cult tell you what to think. Go ahead, fire off a nasty email my way. Also, I would be remiss if I did not thank my Internet for leading me to the place where I belong, to the people who've helped me recover from Mormonism; to those who've inspired me to write a blog, write a book, and write a second book that I hope to see published this year. Thank you, Internet, and thank you, Gentle Readers.
As for the Holy Ghost -- he can get lost.