I created a Facebook and a Twitter account ten years ago. Wow, I’m old. The Facebook account allowed me to connect with friends from high school, old mission buddies and converts, and friends from work. But I was taken by Twitter. I followed all of my favorite athletes and almost immediately received an interaction from Deron Williams. I didn’t use it as much to amplify my voice but to use it as a news feed. It sure beat the heck out of hearing about the Jeff Hornacek trade on the ten o’clock news or sitting glued to the radio on trade deadline day.
As you may surmise, I started a Twitter account to follow my beloved Utah Jazz. However, I’ve always considered myself a well-rounded fellow who more than dabbled in the debate of the forbidden topics: politics and religion. I was surprised and often dismayed when the offseason came around and the people who I follow on Jazz twitter would take off their masks and speak ill of the Church. In many instances, the tweet would start off with, “I’m a faithful member of the church, but…” The subversion was rich and the concern trolling abundant. It was inevitably enabled with online pats-on-the-back and praise from other so-called members as well as enemies to the Church. Of course, this breeds more of the same behavior which has multiplied exponentially over the years as people fish for likes and retweets, and more importantly, validation.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are nice. We’re the first to minister to those in need and “mourn with those who mourn.” Our enemies take advantage of our character and morals to bludgeon us over the head with beliefs they don’t share. Their refrain that we should be “Christlike” while they tar and feather us is the epitome of a double-standard. It is in our nature to avoid contention, which unfortunately allows for apostasy to fester and souls to be lost. We have been counseled to disagree without being disagreeable – but far too often we see many take the advice to mean not disagreeing at all. We claim to be the only true and living church with all of the keys of the Priesthood restored to a living prophet – a claim alone that is a line in the sand that cannot be crossed. Disagreements will be had.
It is with that backdrop that I began to see #DezNat crop up on Twitter around August or September of 2018. I saw some things that I really liked. There are people out there who aren’t afraid to defend their beliefs. I saw some other things that didn’t jive with me, such as some “Pepe the Frog” type trolling. I was personally battered and bruised from being very involved politically from 2015-16. My Twitter account was transformed from a Utah Jazz fan account to a political account. I wasn’t sure who my friends were anymore. I fought vociferously against people I had generally agreed with before. I was cautious.
General Conference came along in October and I enjoy scrolling through social media to read the reactions of fellow Saints between sessions. It became abundantly clear the mission of #DezNat: Sustain the brethren vigorously, without apology, and defend our beliefs. The rantings of people using #TwitterStake were mind-blowing. I realized that years of being poisoned by the likes of By Common Consent had taken a toll on the faithfulness of the Saints online. They were getting away with calling the Prophet an egomaniac and encouraging “middle-way Mormonism” unchecked. Many “members” were openly wishing for the death of some of the Brethren.
Meanwhile, there were some prominent accounts that I really enjoyed following because of their steadfastness in the faith. They were tagging #DezNat all through the Conference. I was sold. I put the tag in my bio and have been a steady user ever since. Whatever reservations I had about the tag were gone.
I am an openly Conservative person. I’ve spent the last several years trying to define what that means for me personally and what it ought to mean to other people. It doesn’t really work that way and is a waste of time, really. One mantra that many conservatives live by is that of personal responsibility. The worldview of the progressive breeds identity politics, which leads to judging an entire group of people rather than judging the individual for their own actions. As a Latter-day Saint, I am grateful for the personal judgment that I will receive by Christ himself. Tribalism on both sides has revealed that identity politics is rampant everywhere and we are often called to repent for the sins and errors of others. Whatever qualms I had with some of the accounts or posts I saw I laid aside because of the underlying mission I had seen in defending our beloved faith.
One of the things I have loved the most as I have engaged using #DezNat is to find out that it was completely apolitical. Seriously. I find it extraordinarily humorous to be labeled the “Alt-Right Mormons” or white supremacists. Did they read my Twitter account in the last three years? Have they seen my family? My wife is a native of Mexico. Actual alt-righters despise me. It’s almost as if I’m being judged without anyone knowing me. It’s amazing how Tolerance Boulevard is always a one-way street. As I’ve spoken with fellow users of #DezNat, we speak often that politics poisons our faith. Too often, people on both sides allow for ideology to dictate their beliefs. It is telling to observe who is out there making everything political. After the most recent General Conference, I put together a thread of various users as we distinguished between being “blue-pilled”, “red-pilled”, and “Vitamin Pilled”:
Over the course of several months between conferences, I have been blocked by countless people just because I use the hashtag. I’ve been accused of being hateful, vile, and horrible. The same people who call me hateful and judgmental somehow don’t experience whiplash for lack of self-awareness. Are there some people who have treated #DezNat like they have been called to hall monitor duty, correcting and nitpicking along the way? Yes. Is the purpose of #DezNat to call faithful and unfaithful Saints sinners? No, we’re all sinners, and we all need repentance. My personal view of #DezNat is that we should call out false doctrine, not sinners who are struggling. I believe that most have actually done a good job with that, despite some failings.
I hear often #DezNat are akin to the Pharisees, looking to live a rigid and orthodox faith and force others to do the same. What is being missed is when those who are struggling are told that there is nothing wrong with them, that they should live their truth, that there is no need for repentance…who is removing Christ from the equation? While everyone wants to be nice, we weren’t commanded to be nice. We have been commanded to develop charity. The most loving thing that we can do is to offer Christ to someone, not to tell them that He isn’t needed. To love is to warn. To love is to correct false teachings, as needed. It not only helps the person in need but also all those who read the online pleas of said person seeking justification and validation.
When I see complaints that #DezNat users are calling out “sinners,” I see a misinterpretation of what is happening. “Don’t you know the Brethren have said that you can experience same-sex attraction and still be a member of the church in good standing?” Of course, I know that. I’ve never stated otherwise. You can experience same-sex attraction and be a member in good standing. However, you can not say the church is in the wrong for not allowing same-sex sealings and pervert the scriptures to say that it is eventually going to happen and is a part of the Plan of Salvation. See the difference between correcting “sin” and correcting “false doctrine”? The antichrists of the Book of Mormon led many away because of false doctrine – stating that repentance wasn’t needed and openly teaching Christ as unnecessary. You don’t have to openly state that Christ is unnecessary to teach it. To state that we’re calling out sin rather than false doctrine is the ultimate projection, and shows simply that you’re not offended by our lack of “niceness,” but the fact we disagree at all. Our voices are to be shut down completely while you continue to undermine the testimonies and faith of those who follow you.
After six months of being accused of being vile human beings, General Conference reconvened in April. Once again, an apostle was vilified for restating the doctrines taught in the Family Proclamation. Online commentators complained about the lack of women speakers, while at the same time showing disgust at Sister Cravens’ talk. We were asked to repent and taught of its wonderful blessings. We were told we needed to sustain the Brethren. The Prophet counseled Priesthood holders to be better. #DezNat trended above #TwitterStake. We were flooded with public and private messages lauding our efforts to Sustain with Exactness. When compared side by side during Conference, it is clear why #DezNat is needed when #TwitterStake is so poisoned.
Are we dividing? Are we creating modern day “-ites” as we have been accused? Ephesians 4:11-14 is one of my favorite scriptures. We read that Christ established his church for the purpose of unifying the faith. He did so by calling prophets and apostles. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that openly defending and sustaining the Brethren would mean that we’re following the Savior’s mission to unify? Who, then, is dividing?
Just as I can’t define what conservatism is anymore, other than a personal view, I can only define what #DezNat means to me personally. I don’t speak for each individual who uses the hashtag. This website is not the official website of #DezNat. Some individuals who have written here do not use the tag and have been openly skeptical of it. I have seen some people online who say they like what it stands for but want to use it in their own way. To each individual, I say: “Go for it. Build up the Kingdom of God in your way. Use the talents and spiritual gifts you’ve been granted. Not everyone is brash. Not everyone has a razor-sharp knowledge of every point of doctrine or the history of the church. To some are given the gift of faith. We have your back as long as you defend the faith.” We are asked to strengthen our brethren, and #DezNat has been a gathering of sorts for those who wish to be uplifted and openly and publicly share testimony of their belief in the Restored Church of Jesus Christ.
I set this website up with the intent of offering an alternative to other blogs out there who seek to change the Church and bend it to their will, rather than building up the faith and offering the ultimate charity we have: encouraging those who are struggling to hold to the rod rather than seek to justify their actions. Anyone who has a desire to share their testimony of the Restored Gospel and any of its principles is invited to participate and have your work published here. I seek to strengthen the Saints, and here you have a refuge.
You can follow Dustin on Twitter at @dmturner1232.