With the Church’s recent statements on ways digital media can be used to spread gospel messages online, and encouragement for members to use the Internet to flood the earth with truth and righteousness, many have questions about sharing beliefs without appearing to be “preachy” or “pushy.” This concern is understandable. In an era of crowded and confusing voices online, it can be difficult to tell if communications will be heard and understood.
With this in mind, the following questions will help you assess whether your online content will convey your meaning and intent:
~ Have I considered the audience’s perspective or frame of reference?
Messages intended for Church audiences often reach those outside the Church as well. When you share what you believe, select wording that is simple and straightforward. Starting with “I feel…,” “I believe…,” or “I have come to learn…” adds personal context to what follows. It leaves the door open for other opinions and questions from your readers.
~ Is my message consistent and aligned with the attributes and example demonstrated by the Savior?
There are many examples in the life of the Savior that will help you convey a message that is sensitive and meaningful in a modern setting. Note characteristics conspicuous in scriptural accounts of the Savior’s life and dealings with people, and pattern your communications accordingly. Consider how showing compassion, moral courage, self-control, humility, inclusiveness, and uplifting content draw others to receive more light and truth.
~ Is my message consistent with the ideals and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Does it measure well against what the Savior would say and do?
In addition to scriptural examples, take your cues from Church websites, magazines, and media outlets. Note how reoccurring themes emphasize a core message that following Jesus Christ in word and deed is a pattern you embrace, and such things as faith in God, strong support for the family, freedom, moral values, service, and self-improvement resonate with good people everywhere.
~ Have I valued honesty and authenticity in my message while avoiding idealized portrayals of Church members?
Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “Our messages should be truthful, honest, and accurate. We should not exaggerate, embellish, or pretend to be someone or something we are not. Our content should be trustworthy and constructive.” Using materials from the Media Library at LDS.org in your online content demonstrates qualities Elder Bednar describes. They are sharable and invite personal expressions of faith when you include them in your online messages.
~ Have I used personal stories or declarations of my beliefs to demonstrate the power of Church doctrine to change my life, rather than focusing on the Church as an institution?
People will draw conclusions about you and the Church from the “fruits” that naturally flow out of the experiences you share online. Participating in social media initiatives, and using the high quality images and video clips that accompany them, help you to focus on the reality of the Savior, His life, mission and relevance in overcoming personal challenges, improving daily, and experiencing lasting happiness.
~ Have I used words and phrases that may be common in a Church setting, but be beyond the experience of persons not of my faith?
In place of common Church terminology, substitute more generic terms and vary the way you express the same thought so that it does not become trite or overly repetitive. Exercise discernment, for some common religious concepts such as “salvation” and “grace” carry very different connotations for those who do not have the same religious background.
These questions invite careful introspection. With patience and practice your confidence will grow as you share messages online about who you are and what you believe.