Joining the Conversation – What to Share continued…

So far, the previous post offered some simple tips on What to Share. To continue this theme, I am going to explore the two main avenues we can take to share our stories, and explore what kinds of thing we should share on each.

Either by starting the conversation ourselves.

                                or

By adding to an existing conversation.

While both will require a similar approach in terms of the information content, it is important to understand that each one is unique in the way we share it. So carefully consider the best way that you can share your story within the context of your preferred online presence.

Let’s look more closely at these two avenues, and discover the best way to share our stories.

1. Starting the Conversation

Blogging, as discussed in Part 2 of this series, is one of the more popular ways of communicating and publishing stories online today. Blogs are an ideal tool for starting a conversation.

What to Blog About:
As Ken Craig mentions (see What to Share), it is important for each of us to tap into what interests us and to use that as our starting point. So, really the sky is the limit. But when considering what to blog about, keep in mind that the topic should be something that is personal to you, that you have a connection to, and that is a big part of your life.

To what extent we mix our interests with sharing our gospel story is up to the individual as well. For many bloggers, their religious faith takes a back seat to the main topic of their blog. This is perfectly ok. It may only involve a comment in your ‘About’ page that alerts people to your religious affiliations.

What is important tho’ is that everything you say and share on your blog should reflect integrity in regards to your beliefs and lifestyle. You never know when the opportunity will arise for you to share more about your personal beliefs than your hobby or interests. Remember, blogging is about finding connections with people, and building on those connections. If you are inconsistent between the way your blog portrays you as a person and the way you profess to live your life, then that is going to reflect on your credibility.

For others their blog may be all about their beliefs and religious affiliations. That is perfectly ok too. But most important, these kinds of blogs should not become a soapbox for your beliefs (let’s leave that up to the missionaries). It is more about sharing our day-to-day stories and how gospel principles have helped us overcome obstacles, or blessed our lives.

What Makes a Good Blogger:
My good friend, and blogger, Naomi from Seven Cherubs, has shared 15 things that make a good blogger. If you wish to read a more detailed explanation of them then you can find it on her Seven Cherubs blog.

What Makes a Good Blogger?

  • They share their story.
  • They use good images.
  • They write from the heart.
  • They link to other bloggers
  • They know their worth
  • They don’t take themselves too seriously
  • They know their blog voice.
  • They love their readers.
  • They have a simple blog design.
  • They know content is key
  • They mentor other bloggers.
  • They are teachable.
  • They have a life besides their blog.
  • They know when to take a break.
  • They are not jealous.

I just felt to share a blog example here:

Women in the Scriptures – Heather Farrell just published a post about her testimony of the Book of Mormon. It is a heartwarming story of how she realised a missed opportunity in her life. It is also an example of how she has learned from that missed opportunity. It comes from the heart and carries a beautiful spirit.

2. Adding to an Existing Conversation

Adding to an existing conversation can involve several different ways of sharing your story. However, in most cases it will involve adding to an existing dialogue within an online conversation.

Most of these situations will be through commenting on other blogs, commenting on online editorials, and maybe even leaving a comment on someone’s facebook page.

This means of sharing your story requires a little more care, as you inject your ideas into a conversation between many other people; many who may have differing opinions.

I don’t want to get into how to deal with difficult conversations here, as I will be covering that in a post next week. But it is important to note that entering an existing conversation is different to creating one.

What to share:
In most cases, what to share will be determined by the topic of the existing conversation. But what is most important in this situation is in how you share it.

Here is a very quick video from Michael Otterson, currently the Managing Director of the Public Affairs Department for the LDS Church, that is very clear about the approach we should take.

Suggestions on how, and what, to share through an existing conversation:

  1. Make sure you are confident about the topic being discussed.
  2. Seek the spirit as you share your thoughts
  3. Share with love, with a sincere desire to find points of commonality.
  4. Try to share a positive experience you have had with whatever is being discussed.
  5. Maintain honesty in your conversations, and be prepared to admit you may be wrong in some things. Humility is a strength, not a weakness.

Thanks to the ‘Sharing the Gospel Online’ blog, here are some more very good suggestions on how to share your story. Please visit there for an expanded explanation for each of the following:

  1. Answer the question – focus on what the question is and avoid going off on tangents.    As has been said, “…you can never cover everything in one conversation.” 
  2. In your language, avoid using absolutes such as ‘always’, ‘never’ and ‘all’. Each of us is different in our understandings, and it is not good to lump all members of the church under the same label.
  3. Use links and other online resources to give strength to your comments.
  4. Leave the door open for further conversation.

Remember, sharing your story is not about getting people to be baptised. What it is about is finding connection points with other people and assisting them to come closer to Christ. It is about opening their vision to a better way in life; one better than that which the world offers in terms of life’s guiding principles.

The scriptures teach, “Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them” Matthew 7:20. As we extend to our audience some of the sweetest fruit they can ever taste, let’s be loving, honest, sincere, and positive about it.

This brings us to the end of our conversation on what to share. Next week I will explore ways we can avoid contention and ensure our conversations are positive.

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Joining the Conversation – What to Share

Welcome to Part 3 of the ‘Joining the Conversation’ Series. Here I will explore  what kinds of things you can share to join this online conversation.

Is it really worth it to share your story online?
Here is a comment by Meg McDonnell, a well-respected Catholic blogger – her words might just convince you of the potential effect you can have on others. This was taken from her article,  ‘Mormon Mommy Blogs and the Quest for Peace’, and is in reference to the many Mormon moms out there who are currently blogging,

“In our often cynical and stifling world, these Mormon women seem to have kept the joy alive. So much so that even modern atheist women are captivated. Why, you ask? “Well,” explained Salon writer Emily Matchar, as she confessed that her and many of her secular friends with Ph.D.s read at least a dozen Mormon Mommy Blogs a day, “to use a word that makes me cringe, these blogs are weirdly ‘uplifting.’”

What does it mean to share our story?
Well, firstly, it is important to understand the conundrum of life; every one of us is unique in our own way, and yet we posses connecting points of similarity. For example, as members of the LDS church we have common ground through our religious beliefs and practices, but we also have differences that are unique to our cultural and social heritage.

If you don’t follow my meaning, then go on to Mormon.org and watch 4 or 5 of the ‘I’m a Mormon’ videos, and you’ll understand that while each individual is seeking to progress in this life through adherence to gospel principles and ordinances, they are all doing it in their own unique way, according to their different backgrounds and circumstances.

It is within these unique differences that our stories find value. Fundamentally, the world we live in is a world trying to find connections and meaning. As we share our stories, we offer connection points for anyone seeking them.

So when we talk about sharing our stories, it is in the literal sense. In most cases, this is all we need to do. We can take the experiences of our lives and, with a gospel focus, we share them with the world – offering connection points along the way.

To highlight this idea, watch this short (1.34min) video with LDS blogger and comedian, Ken Craig. Craig has tapped into his unique style of humour and uses it as a connection point for other people who are seeking humour in their lives. It is all about being yourself as you share your story.

Tips for joining the conversation:
Sometimes it can be daunting to know exactly what to write. Below are some simple guidelines to follow when putting your words together:           

  • Brevity – a few words go a long way. Craft your words carefully. We are stewards over every word that comes from us. Choose those words carefully, and make them count.
  • Live it first and then share what is in your heart. Make it organic – approach your writing from a place of faith; having lived it and experienced it.
  • Show, don’t tell – Focus on your personal story, rather than telling people what they should and should not be doing.
  • Be confident – don’t be afraid, write with confidence and conviction.
  • Explore the processes you go through to overcome difficulties – Show the world that we are real people. We can have both good and bad days. Eg. The Psalm of Nephi (2 Nephi 4:16-35)
  • Maintain missionary mode, not name tag mode – leave the preaching to the full-time missionaries. Turn our hearts to the spirit as we tell our story. To read more about what this means then visit the Sharing the Gospel blog, where this is discussed in more detail.
  • Use available resources – Places like Mormon.org, and the Mormon Channel all have videos and stories that can be used to support your ideas.
  • Add value to existing conversations – Use other blog posts and conversations to create your own conversation. Build on what has already been said by offering your personal take on it.
  • Be a good example – Be consistent with your beliefs by using appropriate language and sharing things positively.
  • Be Prayerful – Always write with a prayer in your heart.

“But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.” 2 Nephi 32:9

Tips on what to avoid:
We also have to be careful with our word choice. Online, our words remain long after we have moved on. Below are some tips on what to avoid:

  • Avoid too much detail – Don’t get side tracked. Stick to your story without getting lost in too many words.
  • Don’t turn it into a slinging match – Keep it to your own story and not someone else’s. Nephi (2 Nephi 4:16-35) told his story after having a hard time, but he kept the story about him and his experience.
  • Never be confronting in your language – always be open to different opinions, and never feel that you have to convince someone they are wrong. The emphasis is on sharing, not preaching – “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”.
  • Keep sacred things sacred – Don’t talk about things that are inappropriate to discuss in a public forum. Make sure that visitors know that you will just not go there.
  • Never violate the privacy of others – Don’t talk about, or share images of other people unless you have their permission. Maintain the mandate, ‘Think before you share, ask before you post’.

Next week I will continue by exploring more closely the two main avenues we have to share our story, and the best way to apply this information there.

Acknowledgements
Since I’ve not been a serious blogger for a very long, I would like to acknowledge the several resources I have drawn on for this post and the next.  Thanks go to the following blogs

Seven Cherubs
Simply June
Sharing the Gospel
Tech Savvy

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Joining the Conversation Series

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, as well as on my page ‘About My Blog Topic’, the brethren and other LDS church leaders are increasingly encouraging us as members of the church to join the online conversation. Indeed, it is exciting to hear and see of some of the ways that members of the church are embracing this challenge and harnessing many of these online technologies (see the end of this post for some examples of this).

Elder M. Russell Ballard, in 2007, described these online tools as the modern day printing press. He states, “The Internet allows everyone to be a publisher, to have his or her voice heard, and it is revolutionizing society” (“Sharing The Gospel Using the Internet”). We only have to look at the LDS Church as an example to see the means by which it has harnessed these new media technologies:

When you think upon the printing press analogy, you may recognise the momentous impact that these new media technologies can have on the world at large. I love history, so for me, understanding that these new technologies can assist in bringing many people out of spiritual darkness, just as the printing press did in the 13th Century, and offer something  they have never had access to before, excites me. I see it as a tool for a reformation of many things spiritual.

These new media channels, such as social network sites, blogs, vlogs, tweets, and interactive websites, are now becoming available to use by the average ‘Joe’ and ‘Jane’. At least, we can share ideas, opinions and stories that may be of interest to the world. At best, we can use them to further progress the Lords work here on earth, and help dispel the false information that is being so readily published.

For many of us this can be scary. For me, a student of the Internet even, it is daunting to say the least, but if we are prepared it can offer some wonderful opportunities for each of us to share our story in an honest, personal, and loving way. “…if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” D&C 38:30

Most recently, Elder L. Whitney Clayton, of the Presidency of the Seventy (see my post ‘Advice on Representing the Church’), encouraged all members of the church to tell their story. In this discussion he recognises that it may not come naturally to many of us; we may need to work on it. Elder Clayton suggests two very important things we can do to prepare:

  1. Be well informed
  2. Be friendly

The purpose of this series is to assist you in being prepared by understanding the in’s and out’s of using the Internet as a means of sharing your story. Part of being well informed not only includes being informed about your subject (the gospel, which is worthy of a series of its own), but also being well informed about the safest and easiest ways of navigating this great space, the best way to share your story, what to share, and skills and ideas needed to deal with different situations that arise.

For this purpose, the ‘Joining the Conversation’ series will be divided into four parts:

  1. Online Privacy and Identity Protection
  2. How to Share Your Story
  3. What to Share
  4. Handling Difficult Situations

Each week, for the next four weeks, I will share a new part from this series. I encourage each of you to explore the suggestions and resources offered here. We can all participate in the work of the Lord in our own unique way.

Please feel free to make suggestions, corrections, or comments where you feel the need. But, for some, this blog may be an opportunity to simply dip your toes a little further into the  waters of the World Wide Web.

So, come on in, the water is fine 🙂

Examples of how some LDS members have joined the conversation:

If you have any other LDS blogs, vlogs or websites, that fit within the terms ‘Joining the Conversation’, that you would like to share then please do so below.