A wave surged through the online LDS community on Twitter, a worldwide social media site during the Sunday morning session of the April 2011 general conference.
"Twitter Stake, how do you like THAT shout-out from Elder Uchtdorf?" typed a user named Jory.
All at once, dozens of tweets just like Jory's circulated among the LDS Twitter group, celebrating a very public nod from an apostle to social media. ("Tweets" is another word for text messages sent on Twitter.com.)
"With so many social media resources and the multitude of more or less useful gadgets at our disposal, sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effect more far-reaching than ever before," said President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, the second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint.
"Perhaps the Lord's encouragement to 'open (your) mouths' might today include 'use your hands' to blog and text message the gospel to all the world!" he said.
Meet the self-proclaimed "Twitter Stake" — a large group of online Mormons who do just that. During the October 2010 general conference the group tweeted 24,600 times during the five weekend sessions. They group their comments and quotes together by inserting the hash tag #ldsconf somewhere in the tweet. A hash tag allows anyone to search Twitter for all tweets relating to a specific topic and group them together on the screen.
Many who participate rave about social networking and their conference experience.
"I love it," said Candy Eash, of the Hobble Creek 8th Ward, Springville Utah Hobble Creek Stake. "People were tweeting from all over the world and I was right there with them... It was also a wonderful way to gain insight from the talks with all of the different perspectives."
Bob Aagard, who attends a young single adult ward in Holladay Utah, noted, that "It forced me to pay more attention, knowing that others would be reading what I had written. It was like allowing the world to see the notes I've always taken during conference."
Jessica Bradshaw of Austin, Texas, who runs a political network on Twitter, shared her LDS conference experience with members of other faiths.
"Several of my followers (who aren't LDS) did tweet back questioning what #ldsconf meant. I was able to briefly explain what it meant and direct them to the online feed," Bradshaw said. "It was nice to share the experience with nonmembers in a a way that they find non confrontational."
All three of these Twitter Stake "members" saw their network grow with new friends and followers during conference weekend.
Greg Masters, a Twitter user from Santiago Creek Ward, Orange California Stake, described in real-time how members tweeted conference together at his stake center.
"(I was) sitting in the designated tweeting area of the stake center — in the back on the left. Lots of LCD, screens around," Masters wrote.
The trend for social media and its unique style of gospel sharing is on the rise. During the April 2011 conference, the #ldsconf hash tag rose to the number four spot for most tweets worldwide. This is the first time the number of LDS tweets ranked in any of the Top 10 spots on a worldwide basis.
As a result, curious onlookers were asking lots of questions, "Who is Elder Scott?" "What is #ldsconf?" Many members from the Twitter Stake not only answered the questions but sent invitations and provided links to watch conference as well.
Anyone with a Twitter account may join in, simply by using the #ldsconf hash tag in their tweets. To see the tweets of others, a continuous stream of all #ldsconf tweets roll across the screen in real-time at streaming services like Twubs.com. Both the Twitter and the Twubs websites are easy to join and simple to use.
Shawn Cannon teaches a Book of Mormon class and resides in Grants Pass, Ore., with her husband, Joel, and their six children. She is a successful entrepreneur and created their family's commercial website.
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