SAN DIEGO — While heralding the advantages of today’s technology, an LDS apostle Sunday urged young Mormons to not let its use interfere with their relationships with God or with family and friends.
“It is important to be still and listen to and follow the Spirit,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Alluding to a scriptural verse, he added, “We all need time to ask ourselves questions or to have a regular personal interview with ourselves. We are often so busy and the world so loud that it is difficult to hear the heavenly words: ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ ”
Elder Ballard spoke to college-age church members gathered locally at the church’s San Diego California Stake Center — and watching worldwide via the Internet and satellite telecast — for a periodic Church Educational System devotional.
“I have heard that some people think the church leaders live in a ‘bubble,’ ” Elder Ballard said. “What they forget is that we are men and women of experience and we have lived our lives in so many places and worked with so many people from different backgrounds. Our current church assignments literally take us around the globe where we meet the political, religious, business and humanitarian leaders of the world. Although we have visited the White House in Washington, D.C., and the leaders of nations throughout the world, we have also visited the most humble homes on earth, where we have met and ministered to the poor.”
Members of his quorum each have strong personalities, he said, and when they are unified in a decision, they have arrived at it after much prayer and thoughtful discussion.
“We are young at heart, and the Lord blesses us to move his work forward in remarkable ways,” he said. “Tonight I will discuss with you three important subjects — one, the use of technology; two, combating pornography; and three, the doctrine of marriage.”
Saying that today’s pervasive handheld devices such as smartphones are a blessing, he declared: “They need to be our servants, not our masters. For example, if later tonight you share inspiring thoughts from this devotional on social media, your smartphone is a servant. If you randomly surf the Internet, your smartphone is a master.”
He expressed concern about excessive text messaging and use of social media that supplant talking directly with one another and talking in prayer to God.
“I also worry that some of you check your email, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts or send text messages during the most important gathering in the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our sacred sacrament meeting,” he said.
Some parents and church leaders are worried that young people carry their scriptures and other church resources on their phones and tablets, he said, “but I am not.”
Young people are reading their scriptures as Jesus did when he was given an Isaiah scroll to read from in Nazareth, Elder Ballard remarked. “You too can scroll — but please, not during the sacrament,” he said. “Surely during those few minutes you can focus on the Atonement of the Savior as you seek the Spirit of the Lord to bless you for the coming week. And consider putting your smartphone or tablet in airplane mode for the entire Sunday block. You will still have your scriptures, general conference talks, hymnbook and manuals, but will not be distracted by incoming text messages or push notifications.”
He said young church members need to find a refuge from the storms of life, including going to LDS temples.
“If you do not qualify for a temple recommend right now, visit the temple grounds,” he urged.
He compared the harmful effects of pornography to the harmful physical impacts of using substances prohibited in the church’s Word of Wisdom given in the 1800s and vindicated today by modern research.
“We don’t have to wait for 180 or even for 10 years to discover the devastating effects of pornography, because current scientific research has revealed that pornography cripples young adults in several ways and poisons their chances of one day having a loving and lasting marriage relationship,” he said.
Those effects include obsessive behaviors, unrealistic expectations and misinformation about human intimacy, conditioning the user to see people as objects to be disrespected, and “self-concealment” that hurts relationships and leaves one vulnerable to depression, poor self-esteem and anxiety, he explained.
“My dear young friends, do not be deceived,” Elder Ballard warned. “If you are involved in it now, if you are entrapped in this practice, get spiritual help now. You can overcome pornography with the Savior’s assistance. Do not wait. I plead with you to leave it alone!”
Elder Ballard characterized the church’s apostles as being charged “to be watchmen on the towers to see and teach the doctrines of Christ” and applied that to the church’s doctrine on marriage.
Traditional marriage is under attack today with many framing the discussion in terms of civil rights, he observed. He then quoted from a recent letter sent to local leaders by the church’s First Presidency that reads in part: “Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep his commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society.”
But Elder Ballard also noted the church’s recognition that same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people and the church’s position that such attraction itself is not a sin but that acting on it is.
“The church does not teach or advocate shunning or other unchristian-like actions,” he declared. “We must love and strive to help others to understand that no one should ignore or discount the commandments of God.”
Some young church members worry about being misjudged and ridiculed for standing up for the church’s doctrines and values, he acknowledged.
“Say to yourself, ‘I am helping the Lord as I reach out to share my testimony and to teach the truths God has revealed in the last days,’” he admonished.