The Devotional talk at Education Week 2014, by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, will be remembered as an important moment in the use of social media by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (You can watch the entire talk and learn more at social.lds.org.)
Elder Bednar said that his topic was a continuation of his 2009 BYU-Idaho fireside about the role of technology and cyberspace in the lives of members, which was entitled “Things as They Really Are.” In that talk he discussed the spiritual pitfalls of modern technology and some tools in our world today. This continuation is about what those technologies and tools can do for good.
With almost 40 percent of the missionaries using social media and technology now, Elder Bednar said “An important aspect of the fullness that is available to us in this special season is a miraculous progression of innovations and inventions that have enabled and accelerated the work of salvation: from trains to telegraphs to radios to automobiles to airplanes to telephones to transistors
to televisions to computers to satellite transmissions to the Internet — and to an almost endless list of technologies and tools that bless our lives,” he explained. “All of these advancements are part of the Lord hastening His work in the latter days.”
Speaking of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest — and other such channels of the social media, which are used by millions of people — Elder Bednar said it is no coincidence that these powerful communication innovations and inventions are occurring in the dispensation of the fullness of times.
Quoting past Presidents of the Church he illustrated how these prophets knew something was coming. President David O McKay spoke about the innovations which were coming, and President Spencer W. Kimball and President Gordon B. Hinckley said something great was on the horizon which the mind of man could hardly conceive of at that time, but the Lord knew about it.
‘literally to sweep the earth as with a flood’
Elder Bednar urged members of the Church to use social media to flood the earth with gospel messages. “What has been accomplished thus far in this dispensation, communicating gospel messages through social media channels is a good beginning, but only a small trickle,” said Elder Bednar. “I now extend to you the invitation to help transform the trickle into a flood. Beginning at this place on this day, I exhort you to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth — messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy — and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood.”
Elder Bednar gave four guidelines for member-generated content which illustrate how Latter-day Saints might use social media to convey gospel messages:
1. Be authentic and consistent. “A person or product that is not authentic is false, fake and fraudulent. Our messages should be truthful, honest and accurate.”
2. Edify and Uplift. “We and our messages should seek to edify and uplift rather than argue, debate, condemn, or belittle.”
3. Respect Intellectual Property. “We and our messages should respect the property of other people and organizations.”
4. Be Wise and Vigilant. “We should remember that the Internet never forgets. Anything you communicate through a social media channel indeed will live forever.”
He also said, “Try to imagine the impact we can have as hundreds of thousands and millions of members of the Lord’s restored church contribute in seemingly small ways to the rising the floodwaters. May our many small, individual efforts produce a steady rainfall of righteousness and truth that gradually swells a multitude of streams and rivers —and ultimately becomes a flood that sweeps the earth.”
‘Hang onto your hats. Things are changing.’
While part of the flood has already begun, Elder Bednar shared several examples of how gospel messages and images created by the LDS Church and its members already have been communicated to the world through social media. These include the church’s Easter message “Because of Him;” the Church-sponsored social media effort “Did You Think To Pray;” the Instagram effort “Book of Mormon 365,” and General Authority social media accounts. In addition, he stated, many church leaders now have their own Twitter accounts and Facebook pages on which they communicate important gospel messages.
Elder Bednar also related an two examples of gospel content that can be shared through social media channels — the Church’s upcoming film entitled “Meet the Mormons” will be released to theaters and visitor centers later this year, after October General Conference, and the Church’s Media Library is now available for Church members to use with their social media efforts (https://www.lds.org/media-library). “To assist you in creating uplifting gospel messages, we are pleased to announce that the content in the Media Library on LDS.org, unless otherwise indicated, has been cleared for use by members without seeking permission from the Church,” he said.
This is a miraculous time to be a member of the Church. As the Provo Daily Herald put it in writing about the speech in the Wednesday, August 20 edition’s front page article’s lead sentence (by Barbara Christiansen), “Hang onto your hats. Things are changing.”