By Camille West LDS.org
Increasingly, the Church is using new technologies and the popularity of social media to help ensure the messages of the gospel of Jesus Christ are spread to “the uttermost parts of the earth” and are “preached unto every creature” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:64), fulfilling prophecies about the spread of missionary work in the last days.
While the Church will continue its efforts to share light and goodness on multiple social channels, parents have the opportunity and responsibility to counsel with their children to determine not only which social channels are appropriate to use in their own homes but also how to use the tools righteously and what safeguards the family will follow.
Technology’s role in the work of proclaiming the gospel
“Technology provides a multitude of powerful channels through which we can proclaim ‘Jesus Christ, and him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2) and ‘preach repentance unto the people’ ” (Doctrine and Covenants 44:3), Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught during a seminar for new mission presidents (“They Should Proclaim These Things unto the World,” address given at the 2016 Seminar for New Mission Presidents and Their Wives held on June 24, 2016). His advice is especially applicable to parents and families today.
“Digital and mobile devices surely will change in terms of usage, size, and power — but they are not going away,” he said. In fact, this “miraculous progression of innovations, inventions, and technologies” has enabled and accelerated the work of salvation and is part of the Lord hastening His work in the latter days.
The rising generation is especially well prepared to hear and learn about the restored gospel through these means of communication.
“Most young people today use extensively a wide variety of digital technologies,” Elder Bednar said. They likely are immersed in Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Snapchat, using social media to gather and share information and to communicate with family and friends. “They literally [carry] and [use] mobile devices everywhere they [go].”
In Elder Bednar’s talk “To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood,” given during Campus education Week at Brigham Young University on Aug. 19, 2014, he encouraged disciples of Christ to use these inspired tools appropriately and more effectively to:
• Testify of God the Eternal Father, His plan of happiness for His children, and His Son, Jesus Christ, as the Savior of the world.
• Proclaim the reality of the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days.
• Accomplish the Lord’s work.
To help achieve those goals, the Church has steadily enlarged its social media presence, which includes individual Facebook and Twitter pages for each member of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other leaders.
The Church uses a variety of social media channels to regularly post uplifting messages and invite members to “share goodness.” An example is the recent “Light the World” campaign encouraging people to share the Light of Christ through small but meaningful acts of service during December.
Four guidelines for social media messages
Elder Bednar invited members to “sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth” following these four guidelines:
1. Be authentic and consistent.
2. Seek to edify and uplift rather than to argue, debate, condemn, or belittle.
3. Respect the intellectual property of other people and organizations.
4. Be wise and vigilant in protecting yourself and those you love (the world will have access to your message or picture for all time).
Consider these warnings
Despite the righteous use of these powerful channels, “every tool created for good ultimately is co-opted by the devil for evil,” Elder Bednar said (“They Should Proclaim These Things unto the World”).
In a CES fireside in 2009, Elder Bednar warned against the “potentially stifling, suffocating, suppressing, and constraining impact of some kinds of cyberspace interactions and experiences upon our souls” and pleaded with members “to beware of the sense-dulling and spiritually destructive influence of cyberspace technologies that are used to produce high fidelity and that promote degrading and evil purposes” (“Things as They Really Are,” Ensign, June 2010, p. 20).
“Too much time can be wasted, too many relationships can be harmed or destroyed, and precious patterns of righteousness can be disrupted when technology is used improperly,” he later warned. “We should not allow even good applications of social media to overrule the better and best uses of our time, energy, and resources” (“To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood”).
Parents’ duty to prepare and teach
Because of technology’s inherent perils, parents have a sacred duty to talk with their children about their use of social media and other technologies and guide them along “the pathway of preparation and prevention.”
“Be careful to not regiment excessively the use of technology or proliferate endless rules and restrictions,” said Elder Bednar. “Desired attitudes and righteous behavior cannot flourish in the soil of constantly constraining control and coercion. Your love, patience, teaching and ministering will provide vital spiritual support as they press forward on the straight and narrow path.”
As parents help the rising generation learn and apply correct principles, the youth increasingly will become able to govern themselves, he said.
Those principles include:
• Teaching children to “righteously exercise moral agency and become agents who act in accordance with the doctrine of Christ rather than objects that are merely acted upon.”
• Helping them “learn that the only filter that successfully can overcome and avoid evil resides in the heart and mind of a faithful disciple of Christ. Only the companionship of the Holy Ghost can fortify sufficiently against ‘the fiery darts of the wicked’ (Ephesians 6:16).”
• Helping them “discover by inspiration the many ways these tools can be used to move forward the work of salvation.”
Such guidance will help youth “establish a firm foundation upon which they can build forever” (“They Should Proclaim These Things unto the World”).
Establish family safeguards
As parents work with their families to establish safeguards for using technology, the following guidelines adapted from the “Safeguards for Using Technology” booklet for missionaries (available in print and on the Gospel Library app) may be helpful:
• Be in tune with spiritual promptings. Filters can help protect your family from inappropriate content, but they aren’t effective 100 percent of the time. The best filter is an individual’s own will and desire to make righteous choices, aided by the gift of the Holy Ghost.
• Be focused on a higher purpose. Have a specific purpose for using technology, and limit its use when you are bored, lonely, angry, stressed, or feeling any emotion that makes you vulnerable or susceptible for using technology inappropriately.
• Be disciplined. Don’t let your devices control you. Use settings that allow you to minimize interruptions during meetings, appointments, and conversations.
• Be one. Agree as a family to support each other in setting and following safeguards. Don’t use technology when you are alone or when others can’t see your screen. If a family member misuses technology, lovingly work together to evaluate needed changes and strengthen righteous habits.
Living with safeguards requires effort and practice. Building strong, righteous relationships with your family and helping each other rely on the strength that comes through Christ’s Atonement offers the best protection.
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