More and more members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are following the encouragement of leaders and embracing social networking as a means of sharing the gospel.
"It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies,” said Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, during his remarks in the Saturday afternoon session of the church’s 181st Semiannual General Conference. “Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord — not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation.”
While Elder Bednar and other general authorities spoke on Saturday and Sunday, members watched conference or listened via TV, Internet or radio. In the process, they tweeted and posted quotes, thoughts, feeling and impressions for the world to see.
“About to be spiritually blown away — at LDS Conference Center,” one person posted on Facebook.
"Watching #LDSConf on Lds.org — it's not just for Mormons! If you're looking for spiritually uplifting stuff you should check it out," Jason Koertge tweeted on Saturday.
“Elder Hales’ talk makes me think about my patient & long suffering dad who waits upon the Lord in his trials & my mom who happily serves him,” Broadway actress Natalie Hill tweeted about Elder Robert D. Hales' talk.
At various times during the weekend, the hashtag #LDSconf was trending on Twitter. (A hashtag is a tag or keyword prefixed by a hash symbol that accompanies a Twitter post or tweet. The posts containing a relevant hashtag can be searched and indexed efficiently.) At one point, #LDSconf accounted for .11 percent (approximately 220,000) of the total tweets on Twitter (more than 200 million per day), according to trendistic.com.
Other hashtags about conference included #twitterstake and #pajamachurch.
Last April, .14 percent (approximately 98,000) of the total tweets on Twitter (70 million tweets a day) carried the hashtag #LDSConf.
Among the trending topics were LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, Elder Hales, the Provo Tabernacle and the Book of Mormon. While most tweets were in English, many others emerged in Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish, including tweets by Radio Kolob, an online Spanish language radio station.
While some used Twitter, others used Facebook to share links, quotes and reaction to talks and announcements. A Provo Tabernacle Temple fan page was created before the end of the Saturday morning session, when it was announced that the Provo Tabernacle would be converted into a temple.
"Can't wait for the Provo Tabernacle Temple!" one person posted.
"I HAVEN'T BEEN THIS EXCITED SINCE I WAS BORN!!!!!! Provo gets second temple!!! #ldsconf," blogger C. Jane Kendrick tweeted.
Web masters, bloggers and tweeters also created a public Google Document to share notes and links to various forums and threads discussing conference during each session.
Elder L. Tom Perry, another member of the Quorum of the Twelve, encouraged LDS Church members to use the Internet and social media to share the gospel. "The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is unlike anything else you will ever share with others," Elder Perry said. "It in this information age, is the most valuable of all information in the world. There is no question about its worth. It is a pearl of great price."
Elder Ian S. Ardern of the Seventy acknowledged the positive aspects of online networking, but said it’s also important to “not become compulsive fingertip communicators.”
“Let us be as quick to kneel as we are to text,” Elder Ardern said.
The greatest happiness comes by tuning into the Lord, Elder Ardern said. He promised that what the Lord reveals is important and will bring greater rewards than “mindlessly tuning into countless hours of status updates, Internet farming and catapulting angry birds at concrete walls.”
Contributing: Trent Toone, Michael McKinlay