Peculiar Treasure

A few weeks ago, one of our spunkier staff members related some feedback from a Segullah-reading friend. Lately, she said, this friend has found the blog less open and welcoming than usual, more “hard-line” in terms of orthodoxy.

“I got a similar comment from a reader friend recently,” added progressive-minded staff member B.

“Interesting,” said the more conservative staff member C. “I heard from a loyal reader not long ago, concerned that Segullah was going the other direction.”

At first I bristled just a bit from the criticism (we editors have feelings too, you know). But after a few moments of reflection I had to smile. Staffer C’s correspondent thinks Segullah is a bit too edgy, and pals of staffers A and B think it’s not edgy enough? Sounds like we’re doing our job.

One evening in the fall of 2004 I sat down for dinner with Kylie Turley, a longtime friend from my married-at-BYU days. She congratulated me on having my first-ever personal essay published by Exponent II, a feminist-flavored newspaper that laudably pioneered the free expression of Mormon women’s voices. We wished aloud for an alternative publication that featured candid, thoughtful, probing personal writing while maintaining an ultimate stance of loyalty to the LDS Church. “Someday we should create a journal of our own,” Kylie said. “Can you imagine?”

We laughed. Our lives were full of young children and nearly void of discretionary time—the thought of us launching a new publication bordered on ridiculous. But in the days and weeks that followed, the idea stuck with me. As I went about the daily routine of diapers and homework and laundry, I daydreamed about a journal wherein Mormon women could explore and share their lives in ways that were solidly faith-promoting yet reached behind and beyond the carefully crafted “church face” we typically wear on Sundays. Kylie and I gathered some friends, began to scheme in earnest, and before long Segullah was born.

Since this forum’s inception, our name has served as a constant reminder of the blessings and responsibilities we receive in our covenant relationship with the Lord. Over these past five years I’ve realized that segullah describes something else as well: our voices in this forum. A collective voice that “explores life’s richness and complexity while reflecting faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Such balance is not easy to attain, and without constant diligence it quickly topples. But we believe it’s well worth seeking day after day on our blog, and page after page in our journal.

Inevitably, walking this path means we’ll draw criticism from those who prefer more or less controversy, convention, and/or conflict when it comes to expressing our experiences as LDS women. As another staff member recently remarked, “Some people think we’re flaming communists, others think we’re all romping around wearing denim jumpers and crocheting all day.” So be it. Inclusion is one of our watchwords, but if we tried to please everybody, we wouldn’t please anybody.

Of course, we very much want to please our intended audience: vibrant, grounded LDS women who enjoy lively yet respectful conversation on a wide variety of topics. For such individuals we want Segullah to be a comfortable place—one where our faith is affirmed and our views validated and our struggles understood.

On the flip side, we also intend Segullah to be a place of positive growth, and growth isn’t always comfortable. In our dialogue we should expect to have our hearts, minds, and spirits stretched on a regular basis, for here “our aim is to highlight a variety of women’s perspectives within a framework of shared beliefs and values.” Those beliefs and values—the core doctrines, standards, and policies of the LDS church—may be straightforward in principle, but can be amazingly nuanced in practice. And as the Lord’s cache of peculiar treasure includes an eclectic mix of personalities and perspectives, so do the women’s voices featured here.

Those are some of my thoughts about Segullah as we begin our next five years. And now, here’s your big chance to tell us what you think.

About Kathryn Soper

(Founding Editor) is the author of the memoir The Year My Son and I Were Born (Globe Pequot Press, 2009) and the editor of four published anthologies. She contributes to Mormon forums from Meridian Magazine to Sunstone on a variety of topics including gender issues, disability, mental health, sexuality, family life, and spirituality.

38 thoughts on “Peculiar Treasure

  1. I love Segullah. I love reading other womens experiences and their testimonies. It’s a place where women feel comfortable enough to share trials they have experienced and can turn to other women for advice and uplifting words. It’s a place of love: for the gospel, for other women, for marriage and Jesus Christ.
    Thanks to all the wonderful women who post their struggles, joys, heartaches, and thoughts with all of us.

  2. If I can’t make it here every day I miss it! This is where I find intellegent women talking about intelligent, real stuff! I don’t get that a lot anywhere else. I like the diversity, I like how the pendulum turns. I like how we talk about kids having the flu one day, gospel topics the next and sensuality another. I have found a great place here.As your Quaker/Lutheran I feel welcomed and heard and I appreciate your references to scripture.No problem.

    There is a saying – if they are complaining, they have heard you! It helps me grow personally to come here. If views are not mine it lets me reconsider them and/or define them better.

    By the way, I think I’m the one “in the denim jumper crocheting all day.” hehehehehehe

    I love ya all!

  3. I’ve only been reading Segullah’s blog for a short time, but it’s been a very comforting experience for me.

    I’m a relatively new convert to the church and the women in my ward are less than welcoming. I was afraid that the few women I’d met here are representative of the totality of the women of the faith.

    Segullah helps me remember that there is a diverse population of women who have accepted the restored gospel.

    Please continue to take chances and stretch us and please, please continue to show us the many differring faces of LDS women. :)

  4. I think you are doing a fabulous job! I have loved finding Segullah and reading about real LDS women with real problems, real insights, real questions and real testimonies. I love that when I come here, I feel closer to the Lord. It is a safe place to share and be supported in faith without being condescended to. Too many times I have felt “rejected” by other blogs because my starting point is orthodoxy. Here I feel free to discuss the challenges (emotional, mental, physical, spiritual) of living AND loving the gospel. I love having you in my life.

  5. I, too, recently discovered Segullah through a friend, and it has greatly enriched my life. I LOVE reading the experiences, innermost thoughts, joys and trials of LDS women from all ages and backgrounds. It stimulates my mind, it expands my view, it strengthens me. I am amazed, amused, strenghtened and sometimes irritated by some of the views in the comments section and I love that! I like to see it all, and discuss it all, and finally — a safe place to do it. So thanks for having that conversation in 2004. And just keep doing what you’re doing. ‘Cause it helps. It helps a lot.

  6. I do really love Segullah, I do. I’ve never really thought it crossed lines in either direction and I think it explores some amazing issues in just the right light. I’ve frequently come here to find that something is being discussed that I had recently been thinking about myself. But I’ve always felt a bit guarded in commenting. That’s not anyone’s fault (but my own?), and maybe it stems from my starting off commenting with something that I felt too strongly about and running up against opposition before I was ready for it. I can understand and respect and even appreciate good conflicting opinions, but sometimes I feel like I’m in Relief Society and the presidency has just shot down my suggestion. As it goes for me, I’m a much less frequent commenter in church itself over the last few years as my opinions become more rooted, but I was hoping to feel more welcome online.

    I really don’t mean to be negative, and I’m trying my best not to sound that way, because I read faithfully everyday, but I would hope that real feedback is truly appreciated and welcome. I’m not sure I’m accurately describing my thoughts, but I sometimes feel like I’m on the fringe of the “popular” group and can’t break in. I’m not a professional writer and it’s not even close to what I’m trained/educated in, but I have found that I really do love to write and that it brings me joy and I love reading the well written opinions of others, but I feel very much like an outsider all the same. I’m sure this is my own projection to some degree, but if someone else thought things were “less open and welcoming” maybe I’m not truly alone. I really love the topics discussed here and hope that you will all continue to serve such a great community of LDS women. Please don’t take anything I’ve said as being inflammatory…just my thoughts.

  7. I discovered Segullah over a year ago. It’s in my google reader and I love it! I’m often laughing or crying, but always touched and inspired by what I read here. It gives me something to ponder on and share with others.

    I wish I’d had this when I was a young mother – such a safe place to share the joys and frustrations. I’d like to see more essays/comments from older readers (I’m 51) into older mother/grandmothering topics. But not as many women in my age group are computer literate. I guess I need to spread the word!

    Thank you!

  8. Segulla is like my daily visiting teaching visit…i’ve always appreciated that there is one new post a day that i’ll get to read. i’m not an overly judgmental type, but i’ve never read a post that i didn’t like, or that struck a raw nerve. they either resonate highly with me, or don’t really apply to my situation. but i’ve been amazed at the diversity of things covered.

    in fact, …(honest feedback moment)…i love everything about it except the name. not that i have a better suggestion, but it’s just kind of a weird word, despite it’s meaning (which i’ve heard but can’t ever remember).

    i think the popularity of the publication is impacted because of it’s name(people don’t know the word, what it means, or how to pronounce it. is it seg-you-LAH? seg-GULL-uhh? seg-YOU-lah? SEG-you-lah?) anyway, IMHO we miss on a lot of people finding out about us in the first place because of the name, which is a shame, but at least i managed to find it.

    other than that, i’m ALL praise and adoration, and can’t imagine anyone not reading it every day. i love that most posts are a reasonable length (no dissertations), and that the comments are thoughtful and relevant and often heart-wrenching/warming. you all do an amazing job, and i thank you thank you thank you! ♥

  9. Corktree, I am on the Segullah board and have felt the same way…How can I break into being with all these amazing, talented women? I want to be part of the POPULAR GROUP! I know it is my own insecurities that feed this thought, so I try to dismiss it. What the Segullah women have taught me is about unconditional love. They are unjudgmental about my life (or past life) and encourage me in my love for writing. I do not have any professional training or am not published anywhere (except Segullah), but I have a deep love for the written word and that is good enough for them. Sometimes, when I am overwhelmed with busyness, my husband says to get rid of the things in my life that aren’t necessary and says, “like Segullah.” What he doesn’t understand is how vital Segullah is for me at this time. It has become a support and a place to meet LDS women who are curious, intelligent, and have a deep love for the Savior. I feel truly blessed.

  10. I discovered the personal essay about ten years ago and fell in love; wish I could actually write one myself (I keep trying but I’m not much of a creative writer). I love both the journal and the blog for many of the reasons stated here: the sense of community, the generally uplifting and supportive tone of posts and comments, and the chance to talk about things that don’t often get talked about it other forums. I’m glad to have found this commmunity.

    FWIW–with all blogs there is a problem of feeling like you’re not ‘in’ if you weren’t in the founding group. Many group blogs have a core of members who know each other in ‘real life’; I have actually felt that less often from this blog than from other group blogs. I think it’s just one of those aspects of blogging that’s less-than desirable but hard to avoid.

  11. I heart Segullah blog and Journal super much. (I need, need, need to subscribe to the hard copy version I will be repenting with next issue.) You ladies walk the line of too far or not far enough with rare finesse. The reason I am here is the tone of the posts and discussions. They are something I always can keep close to me. Like an intimate conversation with dear friend. Sometimes the conversation matches my heart and understanding sometimes my heart is stretched, sometimes differs but always it is something I can hold close.

    I have shared it with a few of my friends and they read and comment from time to time. That is one my favorite things that happens here. Some of what they have shared in this forum opens up whole new levels of understanding to me.

    For myself I found Segullah almost a year ago. In a time in my life where I felt like I really needed a outlet for the kind of conversation that goes on here. I am not a writer but I like to write. At first I felt out of my league commenting and sometimes still do. If I remember that Jesus Christ and our womanhood are the real ties that bind I can overcome that anxiety. My understanding and my ability to express myself have increased as I have taken chance and participated in the discussions.

    Often there is a blog post here that will provoke the telling of something that had never been articulated or recorded before, I am so grateful for that. Sometimes (secretly) I copy my comments and keep them in my own archive because really if it has taken me that long to process an experience and put those thoughts together when am I going to do it again, really when?

    Keep up the wonderful work. I know there is hunger for what you do here. Thanks for satisfying it so well.

  12. traci, I think I speak for the whole staff in saying that we love having you here! And the rest of you as well! Thanks for reading. I only discovered Segullah (and Blue, you might be gratified to know that we’re considering printing Segullah T-shirts with the slogan “We don’t know how to pronounce it either” :) ) last March and I am still amazed that somehow I ended up becoming one of the staff—I believe it was a tender mercy from the Lord, given right when I needed it. This is an amazing group of women, and I’m grateful to be part of the vibrant dialogue that goes on each day. Kathy, thank you!

  13. I’m loving these comments.

    Traci, it is way cool to have you among us.

    Kari, you belong in this churchwide sisterhood. Our diversity is just as essential as our unity. So glad you’re here!

    Camille, Marie, Christine, Dovie, Sue: Thanks for your encouraging words. Your feedback will keep us going strong as we round the corner into our next 5 years.

    Corktree, thanks for your honesty. Blogging can bring out the insecurities in all of us. Sometimes my insecurities lead me to stay silent, sometimes to speak more stridently than needed or get unduly defensive. Over these past few years I’ve been blogging I have often felt ignored and snubbed–sometimes even heartily rejected. It can be hard! I’m so glad you’re sticking around and I hope I can remember to do a better job giving readers the benefit of the doubt as we have these conversations.

    Janet, yes, do spread the word–and please consider submitting a guest post. We really want to expand our readership across the age spectrum. I’d love to do an Up Close month on grandmothering as well as other topics that give more mature readers a chance to shine.

    Melonie, tell Jim I’m never making him baklava again. :)

    Blue, big grins. The name sounded like such a cool idea way back when, and it works fine in written communication. But once we started trying to spread the word verbally, we realized we’d dug ourselves a hole. Now we’re working on creative ways to make the weird name work to our benefit (like the t-shirts). Suggestions welcome!

    FoxyJ–you’ve gotta write! We’ve got a personal essay tutorial in the planning stages; hopefully that will help women like yourself to take the plunge. In the meantime, just keep in mind that the final drafts you read here began as incredibly messy and largely incoherent first drafts. Oh, the revision stories we could tell… in fact, we probably should.

    It’s great to hear all this positive feedback as well as any concerns you may have. Please feel free to express your frustrations, wishes, and other insights regarding Segullah–we’re all ears.

    And THANK YOU all for being part of our community.

  14. As children of Heavenly Father, we all have more in common with each other than separating us.

    Just think what the basic needs are for all human beings, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

    I’ll ditto to your quality of discussion. I can be a faithful LDS while exploring life in all its varieties. Diligence is truly needed, as you said. I don’t have to try everything to find out what it’s about.

    It’s great that you’re opening up LDS perspectives. We’re no cookie-cutter people.

  15. Blue,

    The way I remember how to say the name is “Say-goo-LAH, ooo la LA” (Right, Kathy? Please tell me I’ve finally figured it out.)

    Kathy, thanks for the peculiar post.

  16. wow. all those attempts and i didn’t even nail the right way.

    maybe add a little pronunciation guide and definition at the top, under the banner picture.

    YMMV, but i’m not really a tee-shirt advert wearing kinda person so i don’t know that that would be a very effective way of getting the word out. it’s just not that memorable. but i’m mollified that even a staffer isn’t 100% sure on the name.

    Sometimes complete name-changes are useful, too. companies do it when the benefits outweigh the costs. so have a number of blogs as they’ve evolved. so if you did mull over a name change, you could find a title that better describes what you’re about, now that you’re well-established. and with all the technology available, you wouldn’t have to lose a single reader. you’d only gain new ones who found you through searching for what this blog has to offer.

    just a little idea. i’m glad you weren’t offended by my honesty. (out on a limb here)

    i’m not a writer either. though i’ve toyed around with learning more about what i don’t know i don’t know. i appreciated the series of posts on writing, and was tempted to take the class allison was teaching but couldn’t find out how much it cost. this place gives me so many different things to think about, and has been instrumental especially this past year in sorting things out. so, weird name or no, i’m here for good :-D

  17. I love love love Segullah. I have wept more times than I can count after reading someone’s beautiful writing on just the topic I’ve been pondering, or on someone’s experience that is so different from my life, or someone who sounds just like me. I love the sharing, and I’ve loved the few controversies. I love knowing that we are vibrant sisters with strong opinions that don’t always align. It stretches me and makes me consider my positions more clearly. Love it. I’m so grateful for all of the time and effort you all put into it. It’s also made me more willing to share my spiritual thoughts on my blog.

  18. I read segullah because I find the writing consistently good and the most nuanced of the group blogs written by practicing Mormon women. My only comment is that I think it could be even more diverse.

  19. You guys do a great job of balancing the extremes. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t occasional posts that annoy me, but usually it’s because of some little pet peeve of mine or some intellectual thing that I’ve probably spent way too much time thinking about. However, I can say with confidence that I have never felt like you cross the line of either being too orthodox or too liberal. You do a great job at creating an atmosphere of supporting the church, while also giving space to explore what that means. There are several blogs I have stopped reading because the writers seem more interested in criticizing the church than anything else, but I have never felt that way here. Also, there are some blogs that I have stopped reading because they were so focused on “this is the right way” that there’s no room for me to be myself, yet Segullah always seems alive with all kinds of perspectives and real life people. Please, keep doing whatever it is you are doing!

  20. Oh, I want to be a “vibrant, grounded LDS woman who enjoys lively yet respectful conversation on a wide variety of topics”.

    I want someone to describe me that way.

    That must be why I LOVE Segullah- it’s purpose, it’s print and it’s pronunciation- so much.

    Thank you.

  21. I love Segullah. It is the only LDS blog that I feel really comfortable with. I love the women, the topics, that it makes me think, that I take away thoughts to help me improve my life. Segullah makes me happy.

  22. If I may add my two cents, this is one of the best LDS blogs around. The topics are real and relevant. The writing is beautiful, evocative, and often poetic.

    It is always a true pleasure to come by every Sunday and be uplifted and edified by what I read here. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

    May the next five years bring new challenges, new growth, and new heights!

  23. I think it’s fabulous! Really really!

    I’m not always interested in the topic, but that’s okay. I still come back the next day dying to see what someone else wrote about.

    Honestly, sometimes I’m intimidated by the intellectualism and articulateness of the women here. But mostly it’s just very very inspiring. The only other place I get intellectually fed like this comes from “people of the world” and then I have to do all sorts of mental editing to place it within a gospel framework. This is like cake and lots of icing too! I’m still in the thick of diapers and toddlers, but Segullah gives me perspective and hope and community, and sometimes sanity!

    I love love love Segullah. Thank you for starting it and keeping it going.

  24. Wow, so many awesome comments. Thank you, everyone–your feedback means a great deal to us. Kay, Ashlee, Katie, sar, Katie–we’re glad you’re with us. And al, we’re delighted to be providers of cake as well as icing. :) It’s wonderful to hear from our male readers, too. So much love for Segullah! Again, we’re interested in hearing your concerns and criticisms as well, so don’t be shy.

  25. I’ve enjoyed Segullah very much. I first learned about it when you started the journal. It has been a pleasure to read the posts on an almost daily basis.

    I don’t always love every post nor do I agree with everything that is written or expressed, but I do learn each time I visit this site. And reading the thoughts and concerns from others has helped me understand my own opinions and feelings better.

    In the past few years, I’ve whittled down the number of blogs I read to a few. And this blog is the only expressly LDS group blog that I read. I used to read several of the major ones, but I found the tone of constant criticism about what the church is or isn’t, nitpicking of general authorities, and endless bickering over doctrine soul-crushing. The fact that I continue to visit this site daily says a great deal about what you’ve been able to achieve. Also, one of the best things I’ve enjoyed about this blog is that, for the most part, readers aren’t attacked for expressing opinions that go against the general tone. That is not something that can be said of many LDS group blogs.

  26. I know that I can always come to Segullah to be uplifted and to have my mind broadened. I am not a writer, nor a good speaker, so I love it when others can put my thoughts and feelings into something beautiful and profound. That is what I find here.

    I like reading everyone’s different viewpoints, because, frankly, I sometimes forget that even within the Church there are other ways of thinking. Duh. It helps me to remember in real life that I need to be aware and sensitive of other’s differing feelings and opinions and just that there ARE different ways to see something.

  27. If my husband wasn’t so sweet he would be sick of hearing me say, “Listen to what I read on Segullah (you know that blog I love but can’t pronounce?)”
    I sometimes wish Relief Society could be as “real” as this blog is. I heard yesterday that a woman left the church because she felt all the women in Relief Society were perfect and it made her depressed. None of us are perfect, we all have struggles, and sometimes it’s good to open up about our challenges. That openness exists at Segullah, within a faithful framework.
    I also love the respectful way people are treated (for the most part) in the comments. This is very different from most blogs, but I think this probably says more about members of the Church than Segullah in particular.
    Thanks to the editors and writers! Keep up the great work!

  28. A note to Blue, who said,
    “i love everything about it except the name. not that i have a better suggestion, but it’s just kind of a weird word, despite it’s meaning (which i’ve heard but can’t ever remember).”

    “Segullah” means “peculiar treasure,” as in, the name of this post. :)

  29. I think Segullah actually does quite a nice job of walking the line between being orthodox but thoughtful and open to discussion. Certain topics don’t get discussed here, but that’s fine, that’s why I read more than one blog.

    The only think I think is somewhat lacking here is that it seems to me that many commenters do not read other people’s comments; they read the post, then put down their two cents and leave. So there sometimes isn’t much of a discussion. I’d like it if readers engaged with each other more. I think my observation is related to Corktree’s post about feeling on the fringes. It’s a tiny bit clubby here. But I do enjoy the writing, which is why I keep reading.

  30. I’ve said it before, I love Segullah too. #21 sounded like she’d read my mind. I also read snippets of posts to my husband. I also cry or laugh frequently when checking what’s on Segullah today.

    I have a lot to say, but should so to sleep so my husband can get up early for the Seminary drive.

    Love Segullah. I might comment again.

  31. Kevin, I think you’re missing a significant meaning of Segullah that was not explored in your post, but I can’t comment since the thread is closed.

    And it’s fun being around here.

  32. I don’t always have time to read every blog, but I am usually always glad when I do. And I don’t always have time to read every comment before leaving my thoughts (expand on comments like it has been suggested here). I just know that I don’t get the spiritual interaction with women I once got weekly before I was banished to the Primary program. And this fills that need for me.

    I love reading thoughtful, church-related ideas here at Segullah, you lovely editors! Wishing you continued success and happiness.

  33. I love to read Segullah, I think everyone does a fabulous job, and I love reading the comments. This is easily my favorite online LDS community (there seem to be so many!)

    When I start to try to become involved is when things get sketchier. I’ve sent in guest essay submissions and more than twice I’ve tried to have myself added to the Segullah Blog Sampler, but I’ve never heard back. If I could just take that back and go back to being “just” a reader, I’d have 100% rave reviews!

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