If I remember correctly, I first came across Greg Trimble’s blog by seeing his post “Quit Acting Like Christ Was Accepting of Everyone and Everything” shared by a friend on Facebook, apparently some time in 2014. I liked it enough that I shared it in a few places as well. He has since written a bunch of other posts that have also been shared widely, so most LDS people online are probably familiar with his name.
In the last year, Trimble has started publishing books. His first one, Dads Who Stay and Fight: How to Be a Hero to Your Family, showed up on Audible’s website, so I thought I’d give it a listen. It is a book about being a good father written by a young father, so it does have its weak spots. A lot of the chapters could have used fewer stories and more concrete examples. But there were some really good ones that made the whole thing worthwhile, in particular the ones on marriage, technology, and protecting your family from worldly influences.
A few months ago, I saw that he had published another book, The Coming Revolution Inside of Mormonism. I was curious enough about the title that I wanted to take a look at it, and I requested a review copy. When it arrived, it was accompanied by The Virtual Missionary: The Power of Your Digital Testimony, which had also recently been published. Since then, The Coming Revolution Inside of Mormonism has been retitled to The Cultural Evolution Inside of Mormonism, apparently because the original title had caused a lot of confusion. In order to avoid confusion here, I will refer to the book by its new title (and assume that none of the actual content has changed).
The Cultural Evolution Inside of Mormonism turns out to be a collection of blog posts loosely based around encouraging us to be less judgmental and more Christlike, along with “an attempt to understand some of the things that have presented the most significant stumbling blocks for my friends and family members over the last few years” (page 1). Each chapter is a separate blog post, many of which have been slightly edited or rewritten, so they are a little different than what appears on his website.
Some of the chapters are better than others. There is one called “Millennial Mormons” that is essentially an attack on science that many would find fault with. Yet, there are also some that are very good. “Change Comes Slowly” reminds us that this is a living church and change happens through revelation “line upon line, precept upon precept.” But it’s also “important to understand that the doctrine of Christ does not and will not change. There are certain doctrines that are the same yesterday, today, and forever. These doctrines are central to the plan of salvation. Policy is completely different than doctrine” (pages 68-69).
There are a couple chapters about improving teaching in the church. “The teachers of this Church have a duty, a responsibility, and an opportunity that is unparalleled in this Church. Sometimes that fact gets lost in the cultural hoopla of other callings and their associated importance. The gospel teacher has got to be on their game, and the rest of the Church has got to back them up and give them the support they need. This is especially true for the teachers of the youth” (pages 166-167.) Seven tips are given for avoiding common problems when teaching, such as making sure to pay attention when people are giving answers to your questions, avoiding the idea that you have to cover everything in the lesson, and not going overtime.
There is a really good chapter called “Peeling Back Polygamy.” In it, Trimble uses the scriptures to show that the practice of polygamy has been authorized only at limited times during the history of the world, and that it is an exception to the normal rule of monogamy. He addresses the fear that it would be required in the Celestial Kingdom and discusses the various kinds of sealings that have taken place throughout the history of the church. Some of it may be more opinion than doctrine, but since there is so much about this topic that we don’t know, where his opinions make sense, they may bring comfort to some that struggle with it.
A chapter that really made me think, and that I will probably continue to ponder on for some time, is about Sabbath observance. He discusses different ways that people keep the Sabbath day holy, and points out that it may be more proper to spend time playing with your kids in ways that you might initially not think would be in keeping with the Sabbath, than to go off by yourself and take a nap or read the scriptures all day. He also points out, however, that it’s improper to try to justify things that plainly should not be done, with the excuse that you’re doing it with your family.
In The Virtual Missionary: The Power of Your Digital Testimony, Trimble talks about how he started his blog and grew its online presence, and gives encouragement and directions for creating your own blog to share your testimony with the world. He speaks from the experience of not only creating his own personal blog, but also his professional experience in the online world as the creator of a digital marketing company.
He starts off by explaining that the Church has encouraged us to share the gospel online. “In July of 2008, Elder Ballard asked members of the Church to ‘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.’ …Elder Perry followed up a few years later requesting us to join with him, ‘In this exciting new work by becoming Facebook friends with the missionaries in your area on your own computers and sharing their gospel messages online.’ And most recently, Elder Bednar asked us very clearly to sweep the earth with messages of goodness using various social media outlets” (pages 19-20).
He then addresses the problem of “Internet transparency:”
Because of the transparency of the Internet, each of us have been forced to dig deeper into our testimonies. Many of us have been blindsided by some of the historical aspects of the Church that have come forth, and it can be hard to swallow new ideas that contradict the things we’ve been taught for so long. In no way does it mean the Church is being dishonest with the information that it has, just because new things have come forth. For me personally, I love the transparency that the Internet provides. It helps us get to the bottom of things that have remained a mystery for years. But just hearing cursory descriptions of new information shouldn’t cause us to make rash decisions against the Church. We should look at it as an opportunity to learn more about topics that have been obscure in the past.
He talks about the problem of investigators turning to the Internet after the missionaries leave, to find out more about the church, and having antagonistic information come up in the first results, which makes them no longer interested in having the missionaries return. He explains how to help combat that problem by writing a blog post to address the very things that people search for, such as “Is the Book of Mormon true?” “Is the Book of Mormon false?” “Was Joseph Smith a true prophet?” “What is the purpose of temples?” etc. He tells how to use keywords in the title and meta information for the post, to help when Google indexes it, so it will come up higher in the results.
There are chapters about overcoming your fear of sharing, not waiting until something is perfect before posting (or else it may never be posted), adopting a conversational writing style, and how to format your blog posts so that it will be read by both people and Google. He talks about how much easier it is to share things where people will see them than to approach them individually to talk about the gospel, and that what you say may plant seeds that you never know about.
One chapter talks about “Staying Positive with the Critics.” “It will be tempting to respond to critics, to call people names, to be sarcastic, or to demean and belittle because of a comment here and a biting remark there. …If you stay positive, others will take notice and be drawn to the things that you’re writing. If you become negative, then people will be turned off to your message” (pages 120-121). It warns that “If you are willing to begin creating content that is favorable to the Church and you are defending the truth online, there is a good chance people will begin creating content to discredit you as well. It is something that you’ll need to be ready for if you’d like to become a virtual missionary for Zion” (pages 122-123).
Other chapters cover practical things like how to set up a blog and how to create an online strategy for your stake. The book ends with warnings to remain humble and not to expect to get rich from blogging, followed by one last chapter encouraging online missionary work. There are also appendixes with available tools and a list of ideas for topics to write about. Finally, there is a “bonus chapter” about writing a book and getting it published.
Some of the things I learned from the book can actually be applied to the FairMormon blog and our use of social media. And if anyone is inspired by the book to create your own blog, we’d be interested in crossposting any post you write that meets our criteria and our mission (see our guidelines here).