Some Pointers About ZD

I started this post probably two years ago (like so many ZD drafts, it then disappeared into the depths of our queue), but a few incidents in recent weeks have inspired me to come back to it. These are some tips (some composed with the help of my co-bloggers) which I hope will be helpful for those participating here. They’re probably unnecessary for the majority of our commenters, but they might be worth mentioning for those who are less familiar with our style and assumptions.

(Reading through this again, I realize that it might come across as bashing people. I apologize for that–I wanted to be very direct and explicit, in hopes of reducing situations in which clashes arise from people going against our norms and expectations without even really being aware of what they are. It seemed only fair to try to do a better job of spelling them out.)

1. A basic premise of ZD is that honest questions, no matter how difficult they may be or how uncomfortable they may make us, are always okay. We don’t assume that the church is always right. Nor do we assume that it’s always wrong. If you can’t have a conversation within this framework (whether because you see it as unfaithful, or you think the church is a giant fraud), this probably isn’t the best environment for you. We don’t really want to spend gobs of time and energy arguing about the validity of those premises. Take them or leave them–but if you want to debate them, you’re in the wrong place.

2. Following from that–unless it’s the specific topic of the post, don’t start an argument about whether the church can ever be wrong. In most cases, an assertion that the church is always right, no matter how heartfelt, doesn’t actually add anything of substance to the conversation; if anything, it has the effect of shutting it down. And it gets exhausting when people continually demand that we debate that before talking about anything else. It’s as if we were trying to discuss a specific religious question, and an atheist kept coming by and demanding that we first defend the existence of God.

3. If you’re new, it’s not a bad idea to lurk for a while and get a feel for the kinds of discussions that take place here. Every blog has its style, and taking the time to get a sense for it can be quite useful. For example–you can be silly and somewhat irreverent on ZD. But if you’re condescending, you’re likely to ruffle some feathers.

4. Assume that the poster and other commenters are familiar with the scriptures and basic LDS teachings. Comments which do no more than rehash the kinds of statements which might be found in Church manuals generally come across badly–whether intentionally or not, such comments send the message that the commenter doesn’t think the poster is aware that (for example) Latter-day Saints are encouraged to seek personal revelation through prayer and scripture study. I would propose that one good rule of thumb for commenting on ZD is that if your comment is generic enough that it could easily come from, this isn’t the best place for it. After all, we all have access to

5. Don’t assume that discussions of difficult personal issues are invitations to point out the poster’s failings, recite platitudes, or give lectures. And unless it’s specifically requested, giving advice is dangerous territory, especially given how little you know of a person’s circumstances on the basis of a blog post.

6. Read the whole post before commenting.  You look pretty silly when you raise a question which has been addressed at length in the post, or make a comment which is clearly a response to the title of the post (or perhaps the first paragraph), rather than the post as a whole.

7. Watch your tone. We don’t react well to people who give the impression that they’re here to enlighten us with their wisdom (whether about church teachings, or about feminism). Talk like a person. Talk in your own voice, drawing on your own experience.  Don’t put on a missionary hat, or try to be faith-promoting, or attempt to channel a General Authority. Share ideas–don’t make pronouncements.

8. Don’t call into question people’s righteousness. (This is specifically mentioned in our comment policy.) Note that this doesn’t just apply to individuals–e.g., Lynnette, I can tell by your posts that you have the spirit of the devil–but also applies to generalizations–e.g., those who disagree with GAs should examine themselves for spiritual flaws.

9. Don’t hijack discussions with either your pet topics, or (as mentioned in point 2), by trying to bring every conversation back to some broader question (can a prophet be wrong? is feminism inherently un-Mormon? how do we account for the problem of evil?) Not that these aren’t worthwhile topics, and we do address them from time to time, but sometimes we want to focus on more specific issues. Tangents aren’t necessarily a problem–often we’ll cheerfully go along with them–but don’t pursue an argument if you’ve been asked to drop it. Which leads me to my next point:

10. When it comes to monitoring comments, our general policy is that the person who writes the post has the final say on what topics are relevant to the conversation, and if comments are in need of moderation. (Though other bloggers may jump in to try to keep things on track, especially if the original poster isn’t around at the moment.) As a guest on our blog, it is expected that you will respect the requests of the person who wrote the post. If you’re asked to drop something, drop it. If you’re asked to adopt a calmer tone or to stop fighting with another commenter, do so. Complaining instead that you’re being censored won’t get you very far. The great thing about blogging is that you can always write a counter-post somewhere else.

11. We’re a feminist blog. This means that if you come by to argue against feminism, you’re probably going to trigger a lot of disagreement. This isn’t at all meant to discourage different points of view; I’m just thinking it’s probably good to be aware of that before jumping in. And if you choose to spend a lot of energy arguing here, we probably won’t be terribly sympathetic if you then portray yourself as a victim who is worn down from defending the faith. No one is forcing you to participate.

12. In case you didn’t read the “About Us” page, we’re family. Really. Half of us are related by blood, and the others are very much spiritually adopted. I’m mentioning that because I imagine it might be worth knowing, as it undoubtedly influences the dynamics here.

Likely because we’re a smaller blog, we don’t actually moderate people very often. It usually happens because of personal attacks, comments which suggest that those who disagree are unrighteous, or failure to drop something after being asked to do so. Things do get heated at times, and we may not always live up to this, but we do generally make an effort to keep it civil.

I worry a little about posting something like this, because I know we have lurkers who might be hesitant to participate, and I certainly don’t want to scare people out of commenting. I would say in brief that we blog because a) it’s entertaining and we get to meet fun people, and b) it’s nice to have a place where you can have discussions that you probably wouldn’t be able to have in Sunday School (and without being berated by the Orthodoxy Police). So if you’re on board with contributing to that kind of environment, please jump in.

Happy commenting!


  1. Isn’t the subtext of Troll 2 all about female ordination? I think you should be honest and come right out and say it. This coy femininity just reinforces gender stereotypes.

  2. If she was like the other angels with drawn swords, I suspect she actually commanded you to write multiple posts.

    Even worse. She proposed that I consort with multiple blogs. Whatever happened to the sanctity of blogging?

    But did you shake the angel’s hand?

    Dang it all, I always forget that part! Which might explain why I was deceived into buying thousands of dollars of Amway products.

  3. Mark, how did you figure us out? Only a select few are supposed to know about the Zelophehad Code, and our plot to take over the church, at which point we will extend the priesthood not just to women, but also to goblins.

  4. I was amazed recently to note while flipping through a 1st edition Mormon Doctrine that there was an entry on “goblins.” No fooling. Who knew that we had a gospel of goblins?

    I hope this counts as an acceptable tangent and not as a hijack to my pet topic, because honestly, anybody who thinks goblins are my pet topic is just apostate.

  5. I call Ardis’s righteousness into question for even hinting that there might be anything funny or objectionable about the first edition of Mormon Doctrine.

  6. Maybe you should put a big banner link on your blog that says, “Click here if you’re just dying to point out that we’re apostate feminists who will never stop until we’re each made an Apostle.”

    Then, of course, the link takes them here.

  7. I was amazed recently to note while flipping through a 1st edition Mormon Doctrine that there was an entry on “goblins.” No fooling. Who knew that we had a gospel of goblins?

    If you’re serious about that, please share. Now I’m curious about the theological implications of goblins.

  8. From memory – wasn’t it something along the lines that we don’t believe in faeries and goblins, nor should we pretend to be them for Halloween etc. Not too exciting.

  9. Keri, I’m serious. It was a cross reference (as were similar entries for “fairies” etc.) pointing to the entry on “ghosts,” which talked a little about what you would expect — spirits separated from mortal bodies — but was mainly just another one of BRM’s excursions into how apostate the rest of the world is, and how the world’s beliefs in ghosts (goblins, fairies, brownies, etc.) was an apostate corruption of the truth, yada yada. Nothing especially wrong, especially compared to other articles, but it was really weird to see “goblins” as a heading in a reportedly doctrinal book!

  10. My daughter is a brownie. And now I know why the church won’t affiliate with Girl Scouts like they do the Boy Scouts: since there are brownies, it’s clearly just an “apostate corruption of the truth.”

  11. Ardis, I hope “hobbit” was not in that cross-reference whirlpool. If it was, I will have to insist on a book burning.

  12. Isn’t the subtext of Troll 2 all about female ordination? I think you should be honest and come right out and say it. This coy femininity just reinforces gender stereotypes.

    Oh, fiddlesticks. Now you’re onto us. And I thought we were hiding our true intentions so well.

  13. Let’s see … no … no, hobbits seem safe. So do brownies. The offending terms are apparitions, dragons, druidism, elves, fairies, goblins, haunted houses, phantoms, spectres, spooks, sprites, all pointing toward the entry on ghosts:

    1. Properly, a ghost is a spirit. In death the spirit leaves the body, or in other words the body gives up the ghost. (Gen. 49:33; Acts 5:10; Jac. 7:20-21.) Of our Lord’s death, the scripture says he “yielded up the ghost.” (Matt. 27:50; Hela. 14:21.) In referring to the third member of the Godhead the terms Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit are used interchangeably.

    2. As part of the mythology and false worship of apostate Christendom — particularly during the dark ages — the true concept of ghosts was perverted so that disembodied spirits (ghosts) were conceived of as being hideous and horrible denizens of an unseen world who occasionally appeared in bodily likeness to torment and frighten mortals.

    Along with this twisting of the truth, concepts arose relative to apparitions goblins, specters, spooks, sprites elves, fairies, and the like. Though these various mythological phantoms do not exist in reality, belief in them arose initially out of the true doctrine of ghosts and other actual beings of the unseen world. Such appearances of spirit beings (supposed to be goblins, specters and the like) as have actually occurred, probably, have been appearances of devils who never had a body rather than of disembodied ghosts.

    No trolls, either.

  14. Lynnette, I can tell by your posts that you have the spirit of the devils food cake. And possibly of deviled eggs, too.

    Deviled eggs . . . yum. With sriracha, of course.

  15. Kaimi, read this how you will, but I would not put on my spiritual armor if a devil’s food cake arrived at my door.

    WVS, when I was a kid I always had a vague association between the hobbit Sam and Nephi’s brother Sam. Both were kind of loyal sidekicks, after all.

    BrianJ, love it!

    Reader Rachel, I too was a brownie. Only now do I see the spiritual havoc it has wreaked on my life.

    Zarahemna, I hope we’re not causing inexplicable guilt. We’d much rather provoke sheer horror.

  16. @25

    Brilliant and Hilarious both.

    I wonder if this is more of an aims and objectives document though. Something to aspire to, rather than something to attempt to corral your visitors with?

    Having said that, your basic theme “This website is private property, so play our game by our rules or vacate the premises immediately” is perfectly reasonable in and of itself.

    Actually spelling out what you want from people is helpful, albeit stifling. But when you have all the comments you want it’s high time you reign in the ones you don’t. So good on you for publishing this. You could even turn it into a page “The ZD Visitor’s Primer”. 🙂

  17. If anyone is looking for wiggle room in their appreciation or interpretation of mythological creatures, then you could consider the fact that that these phantoms are associated with disembodied apparitions. Therefore an embodied elf is not necessarily to be viewed negatively, likewise for fairies of corporal form, even though a dragon might be problematic (if I have read the posts carefully). Nor does the church have a position on the origin of all classes of embodied mythological characters, though the etiology of disembodied mythological characters can be supported from generally accepted teachings of prominent church leaders.

    In summary, the crucial difference is whether the imaginary creatures have bodies or not. Regrettably, the church has no official position on werewolves and vampires (unless I missed this), so you may have to use your best judgement when deciding whether Twilight is a “twisting of the truth” or just purely imaginary. Without causing too much speculation, I must ask: Is it actually said anywhere that werewolves and vampires don’t exist? Or is the door still open? Let’s just agree to be cautious and wait for more guidance, hopefully to come in CHI 2014 edition.

  18. I’m pretty sure my views diverge from many of those expressed on this site, but can I say that I think the fact that so many of the permas are siblings is pretty cool. I had no idea.

  19. The fact that so many of the permas are siblings is what I like most about this blog. I have five sister’s and only one brother, so the blog has a homey feel to me (though our discussions are no where near as intellectual as the ones found here). I am now convinced that Troll II is going to have to be watched next time there is a family gathering, we do appreciate horribly done drama that is excessively corny.

  20. Yes! Yes! A convert!

    Also, now I’m curious what the church has to say about jackelopes. Cause once I made a paper-mâché jackelope at a church activity, and now I’m thinking Bruce R. wouldn’t have been down with that.

  21. You made a paper-mâché jackelope at a church activity? What has this church come to? In my day, we limited our paper-mâché to wholesome images like Nephi, the Constitution, and handcarts.

  22. Paul, I can only hope to see the day when werewolves (and hopefully dragons as well) are addressed in the CHI. It will help me decide whether I can market my brilliant theological treatise, On the Hermeneutics of a Dragon-Based Soteriology, to Mormons.

    WMP, the great thing is that I can justify blogging as “quality family time.”

    Kloewriter, a family dominated by sisters that gathers to watch Troll 2 is clearly a celestial one.

    You know, I think the conversation in the comments of this post better sums up the ethos of ZD than anything I said in the post.

  23. (though our discussions are no where near as intellectual as the ones found here)

    I second Lynnette. Our blogging is an extremely biased sample. In reality, we mostly talk about goofy stuff.

    Also, Exponent II is infinitely preferable to Troll 2. I don’t care what Melyngoch says.

  24. “On the Hermeneutics of a Dragon-Based Soteriology”


    I would read that. Since I had an emotional response while reading the title of your upcoming magnum opus, I can bear my solemn witness that your work is from God.

    Also, your work could easily work with Christianity as an expansion thereof, rather than a refutation. The truth of the matter is that there is a particular reason Chrst’s blood is mentioned in the New Testament, and we all no human blood is just stupid, but dragon’s blood, on the other hand, well, I don’t need to explain to any educated folk concerning the qualities of dragon’s blood.

    Also, it is no coincidence that the golden plates where written by making indentations into metal, because that is what a dragon would do with its claw… ergo, that is the secret reason that the BOM is the most true of any book: It was made after the manner of the dragon.

    Which brings me to my final conclusion. The real Truth. God is actually a dragon. Some in the Q12 already know this (it is actually one of the things Joseph Smith felt the world was not ready for, but some individuals have been privy to the information nonetheless). If more people would accept the Truth of God’s dragon-ness, we could set aside a lot of age-old debates. Theodicy, for one, is a closed book once we understand God the Dragon’s interaction with human kind: it’s not that he means to kill babies and kittens with floods and earthquakes, it’s just the he can’t fathom how anyone would die in such a little thing as a “natural disaster.” I mean, that kinda crap would NEVER hurt a dragon, so God the Dragon just forgets that humans are more like hard boiled eggs than they are like dragons, and that we just die so much more easily. See? Evil is just the product of us humans not being dragon-y enough, and not that God allows it. Like I said: a closed book. Done and done.

    In the blood of dragons we are saved.


  25. James, awesome. I think I might need you as a co-author.

    (I’ve known about the properties of dragon’s blood since I was six, and watched the movie Pete’s Dragon multiple times. This was doubtless related to my eventual decision to become a theologian.)

  26. I can’t vouch for the other X2 bloggers (except for maybe Jana), but I think costumes, like refreshments, would make the church more true. Therefore, I am all for paper mache’ jackalope/troll/dragon heads on all true believers!

  27. Ah, layers of meaning as in the layers of meaning that explain how someone can simultaneously preside over and be an equal partner with someone? 🙂

  28. Oh, ECS–just because I preside over this blog doesn’t mean I don’t value your input or see you as an equal. It’s just that it’s my divinely appointed rule to decide what we will discuss. But that doesn’t mean your contribution isn’t special. 😉

  29. ECS has a VERY SPECIAL role on this blog, which is to sacrifice everything in order to raise the little bloglings, as angel bloggerettes do.

  30. I wish I was funny enough to participate in these conversations instead of just reading them and laughing hysterically at my computer desk.

    I seriously love you people.


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