Making immediate internet headlines, former Bloggernacle participant and seasoned blogger Ryan Bell is returning to the blogosphere with his newly minted Romney Experience blog. His focus with this foray into blogland is to support LDS Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s campaign.

Ryan Bell was an early Latter-day Saint blogger whose blog was part of the early core what came to be known as the Bloggernacle. In Mormon blog ancient times (as far back as May 2004), he ran a fascinating shop inexplicably called IntellecXhibitionist. During his time blogging there with his brother, the Bloggernacle was in its formative stage becoming a more-or-less cohesive entity of LDS group blogs structured around Times and Seasons and By Common Consent. In other words, Ryan’s blog dates to the first days of the Bloggernacle and formed part of its initial core.

On January 31, 2005, Ryan and a few other established LDS bloggers — as well as some new names — established the LDS group blog Millennial Star, where Ryan continued blogging for quite some time before silently exiting the Bloggernacle (although he is still prone to surface on threads where his name features prominently). He hosted a couple of Bloggernacle gatherings at his house in SLC in the early days, both of which I was privileged to attend (and at one of which I was lucky enough to meet Kristine Haglund from BCC, and others). He and his family are wonderful people.

According to Politico, which announced Ryan’s new project yesterday, Ryan’s blog is “meant to counter the ever more frequent misinformation being published in the political sphere about the LDS church and its beliefs.” Ryan Bell is an ideal voice for tackling this goal — this is a windfall for the Romney campaign and even for the Church. Ryan is working solo on this, completely independent of the Romney campaign organization:

Bell, who’s never met Romney, also said he had never informed the Romney campaign of his plans. And a spokesman for the former governor said he’d never seen the site until a reporter brought it to his attention.

Part of Ryan’s goal is to show that Mormons are “mainstream” and to dispell notions of “weirdness” associated with the Mormon faith. This impulse is understandable but can be taken too far by glossing over aspects or doctrines of the Church that differentiate it from other religions.

Not everyone is a Mormon and there’s a reason why. We simply believe different things. The key, perhaps, is for Ryan to point out that Mormons are “mainstream” in their daily living, in being good — even model — citizens, of leading clean, trustworthy lives, of being reliable and supportive neighbors who are involved in community and national life. To my mind, however, there is no reason that Ryan or others supporting Romney (or even those speaking for the Church) should deemphasize our unique doctrines which, in truth, are often viewed as “weird” precisely because they are different. Although “weird” is not exactly a nice word, it is perhaps a fair characterization of our beliefs from the perspective of those outside the faith. But — and this is absolutely key — LDS teachings and doctrines are no more “weird” than the teachings and/or doctrines of any other religion, including creedal Christianity. They are just not as familiar.

This is where Ryan’s approach seems to promise the most benefit — in providing exposure and explanation. As Politico notes, Ryan “believes that by openly going where the church won’t [supporting Romney] and Romney, at least for now, won’t either [being a representative or spokesperson for the Church], [he] can help dispel any notion that ‘Mormons are kind of goofy.'” Even LDS bloggers who do not support Romney’s candidacy, such as Guy Murray, can get behind this vision.

To Ryan I would just say, please don’t go overboard with that sentiment. People need look no further than the Word of Wisdom’s prohibition of coffee and tea to realize that “Mormons are kind of goofy”. But I stand fully behind the sentiment of your observation quoted by Politico that “If you know a Mormon that is usually enough to disabuse you of a notion of weirdness,” even if I think we should own to being weird if we are unashamed to live the Word of Wisdom and other aspects of our faith, which should definitely be the case.