Elder David A. Bednar spoke yesterday at the BYU Education Week on using social media to “flood the earth” with the message of the Restored Gospel. After listening to his remarks, I felt, more than ever, the excitement of the times we are living in. We are literally watching, and taking part in the fulfillment of revelation and scripture.
Read and watch his address HERE, on LDS.org
He quoted Brigham Young, who said, “Every discovery in science and art that is really true and useful to mankind has been given by direct revelation from God, though but few acknowledge it. It has been given with a view to prepare the way for the ultimate triumph of truth, and the redemption of the earth from the power of sin and Satan.” When I think of how this has come to pass it is humbling. Things like the internet, satellite, radio, television; the ability to record and save audio and video of General Conference, all have a place in spreading the Gospel. We can send and receive messages, pictures and video instantly as well. Twenty years ago when I was a full time missionary in Bulgaria, it would take six months to get a VHS tape of one or two sessions of General Conference into the country. Now, members can watch Conference as it happens on line, and the following week in their meetinghouses as a Branch. It is truly amazing!
Pres, Hinckley said as well, “We are confident that as the work of the Lord expands, he will inspire men to develop the means whereby the membership of the Church, wherever they may be, can be counseled in an intimate and personal way by his chosen prophet. Communication is the sinew that binds the Church as one great family.” I love that! Communication is the sinew that binds the Church as one great family! Remember that in a few weeks as we’re all watching General Conference. We will be bound with members of the Church all over the world because of technology.
Using Social Media to Spread the Gospel
Social media is really how we communicate and interact with each other in modern life. There are many different platforms which are available, and Elder Bednar mentioned five: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest. The Church has profiles on all of these platforms as well. The Lord is hastening the work, it’s not a surprise that these social media platforms are here to help in this.
Elder Bednar then issued a challenge:
“Social media channels are global tools that can personally and positively impact large numbers of individuals and families. And I believe the time has come for us as 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; to proclaim the reality of the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days; and to accomplish the Lord’s work.”
Elder Bednar also gave some examples of recent social media campaigns from the Church and from members. However, I want to focus in on the guidelines he established for spreading the gospel via social media. Each of us should take time to reflect and ponder on these guidelines, and then make our own plan for implementing them in our online activities.
Social Media Guidelines
The internet and using social media need not be minefield, although sometimes it can feel like that. All of us, no matter what our understanding of the Gospel is, or what position we take, need to follow Elder Bednar’s guidelines.
1. Be authentic and consistent
“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. Anonymity on the internet is not a license to be inauthentic.”
I would also add to this, as I have seen it too many times, anonymity is not permission, or a reason to be a jerk. If you would not say something to a person’s face, do not say it to them on line, masked behind a pseudonym. Be nice … that means everyone! Ask yourself frequently, “What is does my social media footprint look like?” Elder Bednar reminded us, “The gospel messages you share will be accepted more readily if your Christlike example is evident in the ongoing pattern of your posts.
2. Edify and Uplift
”Second, we and our messages should seek to edify and uplift rather than to argue, debate, condemn, or belittle. Brothers and sisters, share the gospel with genuine love and concern for others. Be courageous and bold but not overbearing in sustaining and defending our beliefs, and avoid contention. As disciples our purpose should be to use social media channels as a means of projecting the light and truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ into a world that increasingly is dark and confused.”
Again, what does your social media footprint look like? Are you the person that everyone rolls their eyes at with your online activity? Or do people like seeing your social media updates?
3. Respect Intellectual Property
“We and our messages should respect the property of other people and organizations. This simply means that you should not create your own content using someone else’s art, name, photos, music, video, or other content without permission. When you share messages online, make sure others understand that you are expressing your personal thoughts and feelings.”
In short, don’t steal and keep it real. Just like it was in school, do your own work, and cite your sources.
4. Be Wise and Vigilant
“Be wise and vigilant in protecting yourself and those you love. We should remember that the Internet never forgets. Anything you communicate through a social media channel indeed will live forever—even if the app or program may promise otherwise. Only say it or post it if you want the entire world to have access to your picture or message for all time.”
Thankfully, I’m old enough that I did most of my stupid stuff before the internet. However, as I’ve seen, and been part of the rise of social media, I have had to learn from mistakes I’ve made along the way. Yes, I have been a jerk online. Yes, I have done that anonymously too. Yes, I have put my foot in my mouth many times. Sadly, I have lost friends because of some of the things I have said. Those things bother me, still. I have had to practice my social media behavior, and refine it, so that it is representative of who I really am, and the things I believe in. As suggested earlier, if you would not say something to a person, face to face, then do not say it to them online. If you would not want your Mom, or your Grandma, or your Bishop, to see something, then don’t post it online. Sometimes it’s even ok, and preferred to NOT post things online. And, you can always walk away from an argument, even if you are right. As Elder Bednar said, “AVOID CONTENTION!” (See 3 Nephi 11: 29).
When we are online, especially when we are sharing the Gospel with others, we need to exercise self-control and self-governance. Elder Bednar warned that there are things online that can and do damage our spirits and numb us. He quoted Pres. David O. McKay, “Discoveries latent with such potent power, either for the blessing or the destruction of human beings, as to make man’s responsibility in controlling them the most gigantic ever placed in human hands. … This age is fraught with limitless perils, as well as untold possibilities.”
My hope is that we will all take Elder Bednar’s talk to heart and evaluate what we are doing online, how we spend our time and then make the appropriate changes. As time has gone on, I have found myself less interested in things that do not benefit and uplift me. I’ve removed those things from my social media experience. It’s ok to unfollow pages, and unfriend people if you need to (even family and friends if necessary). If you read or see something that you feel needs to be addressed, do so privately with that person. Face it, don’t Facebook it.
Elder Bednar invited us, “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. 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.” Are you ready to sweep the earth with positive, righteous and truthful messages? Even if you feel your contribution is small, it’s still important. Influence those in your circle of friends and you’ve done your part in helping move the work of the Lord along.”
We are encouraged with this, “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. “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great”
Elder Bednar closed with his testimony of the Savior, and with this apostolic blessing,
“We have been and are blessed in so many ways; and where much is given, much is required. As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I invoke this blessing upon you: that you may come to understand more fully the spiritual significance and blessing of living in the dispensation of the fulness of times, that you may have eyes to see clearly both the possibilities and the pitfalls of the remarkable technologies that are available to us today, that you may increase in your capacity to use these inspired tools appropriately, and that you may receive inspiration and guidance about the role you should play in helping to sweep the earth as with a flood of truth and righteousness. As you press forward in this holy work, I promise you will be blessed in mortality in the individual, specific, and necessary ways that will prepare you for eternity. I so bless you.”
We’ve been given much to do in this address. Using social media to spread the Gospel is so important. As members of the Church, we have to be a positive spot in the landscape of the internet and the various social media platforms. We have been promised the assistance of the Lord as we go forth to spread the word of God. My hope is that with this address we will each take the time to evaluate where we are at with our social media use, and what our social media footprint is, and make a plan to improve and to move forward in this work. We can do this, and it can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.