I've recently been visiting blogs for LDS class units, especially LDS Young Women classes and Relief Societies. I love them, but there's a problem: the practice of creating a blog for your Young Women's class (or any other church unit, class, or auxiliary) is strictly prohibited by a First Presidency directive:
Even "private" (password-protected) organizational blogs are prohibited.
Yeah, it's lame, but necessary to protect the privacy of Church members. I am an administrator on our ward's website, and on that site we are instructed to never post the locations of youth activities on the front page of the site which is publicly accessible. All youth activity information must remain as private as possible to protect our children as best we can. It is also legally necessary for the Church to protect itself by keeping the only source of information of its activities to be LDS.org.
LDS Blogging the "Right" Way
So, now you're totally bummed that you can't blog about that fantastic youth conference service project, right? I would be, too, but you should know that it is perfectly acceptable (probably even encouraged) for you to blog about the great activities you are having at Church. You just need to do it the "right" way -- by writing about it on a personal blog.
While the Church can (and should) direct its members not to have organizational website, they will not ask members to stop blogging about activities on their personal websites. Blogging about an activity on a personal website can be a great missionary tool. It could help someone else looking for ideas or help. Blogging personally may not be as fun as having a blog site for your class, but it is a great way for you express your excitement about successful activities.
Here is a list of things to avoid when blogging about Church-related topics:
- No last names - Never ever post the last name of a minor online. Ever. I don't even post the last names of adults on this website (unless requested to) so they are protected as much as I can. Try to substitute initials, or if a first name is necessary use the first name only. I use the common abbreviation "DD" (dear daughter) or "DS" (dear son) when referring to my children online -- even on Facebook. I advise against using nicknames because others may know them.
- No locations - Don't ever use a blog or MySpace page to broadcast the location and time of a youth event. Protect those in your class by keeping that information private. I expect that even a Twitter account would be prohibited under the instructions in the First Presidency letter, so use your creativity to find a different way to get the word out.
- No ward or branch names - You can increase the privacy of the information you post by not stating your ward or branch's name in your blog post.
- Posting pictures - Pictures are a great way to engage youth! You can put funny captions or leave them without a caption, but don't put the last names of individuals out there. I would personally never state a location of an event until well after it was completed, and even then I would be leery of sharing that information.
- Protect other's privacy even when they don't - Individuals in your class may already be on mySpace and Twitter and have their own website. Even if an individual seems to be careless with their information online, use your common sense to keep personal information just that -- personal. Remember that we discuss sensitive topics in Church meetings, and sometimes that information is too precious to be shared online.
Here is a list of Dos for your LDS blogging:
- Share your experiences - Talk about what you're doing in class, during visiting teaching, your scripture study, family home evening, and more! Keep confidences, but TALK. No discussion is prohibited on a personal blog, afaik.
- Post pictures and videos - embed those fun YouTube videos and drop in your PhotoBucket images all you want! Just remember to keep personally identifiable information OUT (including captions with locations/full names)
- Link to Church Content - The Church is adding RSS feeds, widgets, videos, and other items you can drop into your blog to begin a conversation on the web
- Get followers - Invite those in your class to subscribe to your blog posts by RSS feed or a subscription service like Google Friend Connect. They will receive email notification about when your blog is updated. Use this with caution, however. Since yours is a personal blog, you'll probably make posts about things that are not of particular interest to all your friends and may not want them all updated.
- Tag your content - Tag your content with the calling that you held during the blog post, the topics you covered, or maybe even a scripture reference. You and others can use those tags to find information on your website quickly. You never know when that great object lesson on faith might come in handy!
- Enter the Bloggernacle - There are several websites out there that list updates from LDS blogs. Submit your blog to them and make LDS friends online!
- Post your family history - share histories, photos, reunion ideas, and more online!
- Comment / Back link - comment on others' blogs. Ask for back links, too!
- Save the Stuff on your old blog - if you're shutting down a blog that didn't comply with the FP directive, simply copy your entries to a personal blog (or just change the name to something like "Sister Jenny's Awesome Mormonness", instead of "Bonneville First Ward Relief Society Blog"). Be sure to check for full names, locations, birthday announcements, and other personally identifiable information and remove it.
- Blog about that missionary - What better missionary tool than sharing mission experiences of your favorite missionary!
You can make friends and influence people by your righteous example online, as well as in person
LDS Blogging links
You don't have to take my word for it! Here's links stating the same stuff I'm telling you from LDS.org:
- Finding and Sharing the Gospel Online, Ensign, Oct 2009, 22–26
- Guidelines and Helps for Latter-day Saints Participating in Online Conversations About the Church - lds.org/newsroom