I recall sitting in a special meeting called by our stake president a couple years ago, where we were asked to make sure everyone in our wards, including the youth, were on Facebook ASAP. We were then instructed to go to the Prophet’s Facebook page and “Like” him, as well as the other general authorities. Ironically, at that same time, I was feeling prompted to hold a special fireside for parents of the youth to talk to them about my very serious concerns over our children’s time wasted online and the dangers of pornography and sexting, which were ever so prevalent in our ward. The message I felt inspired to share seemed to fall on deaf ears with the sudden push by the church to get more connected and to go online more.
Elder Bednar was also simultaneously asking our youth to go online (on their smart devices) to do indexing. My kids came home from those meetings with all kinds of new “revelatory” reasons for why we needed to buy them iPhones. It was hard enough that all their church friends all had phones, and now pressure, instead of support, from the top.
And yet not too many years ago it seemed like every general conference talk was warning us about the dangers of the Internet. “Keep your computer in the kitchen in the view of everyone,” for example. Now, every 10-18 year old youth in my ward (practically), has their own hand held smart device. Most kids who confessed a pornography problem during my tenure said their problem began with their smart phone, often while sitting in the living room with their whole family present, “talking.”
The clear message from the church for many years was one of great caution regarding the Internet and such access. Here’s a sample talk from that era from President Hinckley.
“This is not the only letter I have received. There have been enough that I am convinced this is a very serious problem even among us. It arises from many sources and expresses itself in a variety of ways. Now it is compounded by the Internet. That Internet is available not only to adults but also to young people.
I recently read that pornography has become a $57 billion industry worldwide. Twelve billion of this is derived in the United States by evil and “conspiring men” (see D&C 89:4) who seek riches at the expense of the gullible. It is reported that it produces more revenue in the United States than the “combined revenues of all professional football, baseball and basketball franchises or the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC” (“Internet Pornography Statistics: 2003,” Internet, http://www.healthymind.com/5-port-stats.html).”
And now, the message from the top seems to be, “If you don’t have a Facebook page, or a Twitter account, or you’re not LinkedIn, not texting, or at a minimum equipped with a smart device, get with the program!” In its desire perhaps to improve its image, to preach the gospel online, do more Family History, to rank higher in the search engines, or perhaps even to fight against anti-Mormon messages online, the leaders of the church now encourage members getting online. I understand the church has whole departments at the church office building (COB) devoted to such efforts. Missionary couples and others are also called as full-time volunteers to work in the cyber trenches for the church. It’s really quite amazing.
The church also seems to spend a lot of money on Google Adword campaigns. I find it somewhat amusing that when I do a Google Search for “Pure Mormonism,” I often see the LDS Church’s Pay Per Click (PPC) ad, by itself at the top, just above Rock Waterman’s Pure Mormonism blogspot. This means that the church is paying for that keyword search (Pure Mormonism) and seems intent on intercepting people searching that term.
As a side note, I remember in a leadership training meeting where Elder Bednar told the story of how he was asked the following question: “How are you guys (referring to the brethren) so in tune with the Lord?” Elder Bednar’s response was interesting. “First of all,” he said “we are not ‘guys’. We are prophets, seers, and revelators. We are special witnesses. Don’t refer to us as guys.” (I caveat that I mean no disrespect to Elder Bednar. I simply relay the experience as I recall it.)
But, in the same training and later that weekend, Elder Bednar used words like “rad, dude, gnarly, and freakin'” and he gave all the youth “his” cell phone number and asked them to text him. Oh and to go “like’ their Facebook pages. The social media push feels very much like a “guys” and “dudes” attempt to make the world “Like” us more.
Showing a further commitment to the church’s new direction, missionaries in many parts of the world are now required to bring an ipad to the MTC. Now, I admit that it is perhaps easy to critique such decisions from a distance. Some commentators have already criticized me for doing so. But, I will say that as a parent, the last thing I want my child to have on their mission is an iPad. Some of the miracles I saw with young men overcoming pornography were because they were sent to places like Mexico and were disconnected from such distractions. I could tell numerous stories, were I permitted to, of missionaries who came home early because they went online in the mission field and got into trouble.
Now, some of you may be saying, “But Bishop Anon! You sound like an old dud unwilling to adapt! These kids will be online whether we like it or not, so why bury our heads in the sand? Let’s get them online using such devices to ‘Do the Lord’s work!'” I get that concern and can respect the argument, to a degree.
I guess my feelings are mixed. I grew up in the church being told we were peculiar and that we should not try to be like “the world”. I grew up on the East coast. We were often confused with Mennonites, Quakers, and the Amish. I was taught it was okay if people didn’t “like” us. It seemed like even in a modernizing and changing time, we were still being taught to be somewhat old-fashioned and to be careful about our focus on the worldly and about ever becoming too up with the times or sophisticated.
Here’s an interesting quote from Harold B. Lee:
“Our failure to be a “peculiar” people in maintaining our standards, despite the jeers and the criticisms of the crowd, will be our failure to be chosen for that calling to which we are called. The Lord has told us, “Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen” (D&C 121:34), and then in the same revelation points out two reasons why men fail of their blessings. The first reason he gives is that their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and the second is that they aspire so much to the honors of men. So then as Church members let us beware lest we set our hearts upon the things of this world and lest we aspire so much to the honors of men that we compromise our standards. If we do so, we will be cut off in the Day of Judgment and will lose our blessings. Our reward for daring to live the gospel despite the oppositions from the outside world will be to have blessings added upon our heads forever and forever.”
I not saying that all technology is evil or wrong. But, I believe our obsession with being popular with the world, wasting countless hours in so called urgent stake meetings teaching other leaders and members how to “Like” each other, and our encouragement of more time online, feels to me like a step in the wrong direction.
Elder Bednar’s 2010 talk entitled, “Things as they Really Are”, is nearly 180 degrees from his most recent technology talk. What a difference 4 years makes.
I had this very conversation with my son last evening, and low and behold, I clicked on your blog and you are concerned about the same issue.
His kids do not have phones until they are 16 and then they are earned etc. My grandson, who is 17, just got his a few months ago. (His Eagle project had to be completed first.) Now, like you said, the pressure is on and he still has not relented. He said, “I ask my self the question…..Do I follow the brethren or do I follow what I think is best for my own family?” Of course… he is following his “Own Counsel” but he says he feels guilty, when he has to say “No” over and over again. “I feel things are “all a flutter” in my head.”
I think there are many messages coming from Salt Lake that are confusing and don’t resonate with counsel that has been given in the past. If adults are confused…. I can imagine how the kids feel, especially when it looks like parents are going contrary to what the “prophets” are saying.
We are living in precarious times and it is so important to be heavily invested in the scriptures, the restoration and have ears and hearts prepared to received direct revelation, through the spirit, from our Lord. I too love the gospel and my membership but I’m through with the “nonsense,” no matter from what man it comes.
What an interesting question you bring up Kathryn. When the counsel from “prophets” goes against what you believe, what do you do? What do you do if you feel they are teaching false doctrine? Does the Lord want us to just keep it all to ourselves and quietly go about our lives? Are we still seen as sustaining them when we disagree? Are we truly sustaining them when we say nothing?
Just to let you know, Bish, that I just “liked” your post (mostly to be sarcastic).
On a slightly more serious note, I really believe it is altogether too easy to get distracted with the online world to the point of neglecting much more important things, such as scripture study, being with spouse and family, providing service and relief for the poor and the needy, etc., or at least it is for me!
Regarding your response to Kathryn, I am reminded of 2 Nephi 28:31. As far as what I do about it, mostly I just complain to my wife, and then do whatever I want, or whatever I think is right (not always the same thing), but then maybe I’m too passive-aggressive.
Thanks for “liking” me MarkinPNW! Ha! If you also hashtag at @ #AnonBish, I’ll give you a free link to a free David Arhuleta song 🙂 (See “We’re Glorious” Post from yesterday). Great scripture btw:
Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Thanks for the humor and for the great thought.
To give my view on the questions posed to Kathryn:
First, to answer the question: “Does the Lord want us to just keep it all to ourselves and quietly go about our lives?” at length to provide context.
I believe the answer depends on the environment. If the people have an open mind, or are at least willing to consider, for a moment, that the counsel of a church leader, is wrong, then one may say something about it.
Also, whether the Spirit is alright with it. I am NOT responsible to give light and truth to people, that is the Spirit’s job. I like to discuss, and yes discussions can lead to light and truth, as pondering things in our minds and in our hearts is a step and prerequisite to obtaining revelation (D&C 9:8.) However, if the topic or where I am headed toward with my discussion, leads to a truth an individual is unwilling or un-desiring to accept, I can use my common sense and moral agency and/or the Spirit will guide me TO NOT PURSUE THE TOPIC. I cannot, and will not, shove light and truth down people’s throats. Because of the method, even if I tried, the truth most likely wouldn’t be accepted. A teacher/priest who is striving to lead men to God, doesn’t use those methods. He uses the methods found in D&C 121:41–44. That is the problem with many so-called “Mormon Intellectuals” and men/women who leave the church – they are obsessed with making people see “the light,” when they don’t want to. The principle found in D&C 121: 41–44, perhaps, needs to be applied TO leaders of the church as well. THEY are people too. If church leaders are wrong in whatever they are presenting, and church members believe them; if they or church members are unwilling to accept, or even consider a different position than what they hold; IT IS THE SPIRIT”S JOB, NOT MINE or MEN’S/FLESH to bring them to a knowledge of the truth. The Spirit may inspire me or whomever at times to speak about a particular concept or principle, but it is not my main prerogative/”mental command,” (nor should it be others, in my view) to correct other people’s deeply held beliefs or convictions. That is God’s job. I wouldn’t be effective, even if I tried.
So, to answer your questions more directly:
“When the counsel from “prophets” goes against what you believe, what do you do?”
Most of the time, nothing. Outwardly nothing. Just live the truth God gives you. And you don’t have to make a show of it, or let anybody know. Now, in the family: keeping family informed, when necessary, is where most people encounter opposition. Simply state your position, and don’t change it. As long as you are not action upon them, and are acting as a free agent, you are doing no harm to them; they they may think you are. Yes it may be rough, but…they’ll live. The thing to keep in mind, is that you are doing no real harm to them.
“What do you do if you feel they are teaching false doctrine?”
Most of the time, nothing. Outwardly nothing. Just live the truth God gives you. And you don’t have to make a show of it, or let anybody know.
“Does the Lord want us to just keep it all to ourselves and quietly go about our lives?”
Most of the time, yes. If you feel you need to discuss, there are tons of blogs/websites created by fellow believers in which God gives support. Ultimately, though, it’s God who comforts you; because, at least for me, keeping things to myself can be a weight.
“Are we still seen as sustaining them when we disagree?”
Under popular Mormon teachings these days, no, you may not seem to be. But in reality you are. Sustaining them, to me, is simply being compliant with their administrative decisions; easy; at work, even if I think my supervisor is wrong about things, I worry about my own job; I contribute most to the group by “not inspiring mutiny” lol. As far as teachings go, if you feel what they say comes from God at any point, take it to God and see what he wants to teach you or do. If you feel that what they say doesn’t come from God, simply ignore it. The key is to stay close to God. Say you judged that one of their messages wasn’t from God, when it really was. Don’t you think God will let you know when appropriate, if you are truly striving to be true and faith in all things received from Him? And that he will have mercy to your benefit?
Are we truly sustaining them when we say nothing?
Yes. Truly sustaining leaders is very, very easy.
Reply to your post:
The internet is like a tool. Let’s say like a knife. Very useful for cooking. You can also cut and hurt yourself if you don’t have a degree of maturity. Same with the internet.
Jean Piere Peralta,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, many of which I agree with. I liked the talk on contention in conference today actually. But, I believe that in the name of not wanting to “offend”, disagree, or to be viewed as contentious, we often stay silent, rather than speak. I notice in my church experience that no one wishes to truly discuss anything. We feign oneness by pretending to agree, when in reality beneath us boils a pot of contentious discord never to be resolved. One can easily see it when tempers do flare in the church – when the pot has reached its boiling point. I love the section of scripture you cite us to. And I agree that we ought to apply the same standard to our leaders. But I would humbly submit that staying silent when we feel they are wrong is, in my view, dangerous. Did John, or Lehi, or Alma, or Abinadi, or Noah, or Jesus, or George Washington for that matter, sit by silently when they disagreed with their leaders or institutions? I say no. Jesus said concerning John, “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” (Matthew 11:7) In conference today we were reminded to not revile against revilers. A quick dictionary search online defines revile as: “to assail with contemptuous or opprobrious language; address or speak of abusively.” I agree with that teaching. I also agree the spirit of contention is not of Him. Did Christ’s message cause contention? Does it still? Did He not say His message would divide even families? Did He not give His message because he feared contention would result? Or that His message might be seen as insubordinate? I love your example about your boss at work. I think it reflects perfectly what I see as the problem. We have set “men” up as bosses, to rule over us rather than to serve us. Our silence emboldens them all while good people are leaving, as you point out, because no one stands for truth. If we disagree, we fear we will lose our jobs, as you say, or our membership. BUT my dear brother this should not be so! We bishops and presidents are called to kneel at the feet of the flock. The very word “sustain” implies nurture and feeding – “sustenance.” I need you to feed me, to nurture me with the good word of God! I need you to lovingly and firmly stand as a disciple of Christ against me, if I err in doctrine or in methodology as your leader. President John Taylor once said (and I may be paraphrasing only slightly – can’t find the quote online but it is in a Hirum Andrus book on government), “The definition of Priestcraft is when one man speaks and others blindly obey.” I think we promote priestcraft in the church. Having said that, I love this church. I agree with your premise that we should ever keep in our minds principles of righteousness in our daily walk. I’m working on that as it appears you are too. God bless you Jean Piere. And thanks for your comments.
I have been thinking about this issue for quite a while as I Have watched the church’s leaders get Facebook pages, twitter accounts and even Instagram accounts. My theory is that the initial strategy was to try or get people to stay off the internet altogether. This strategy makes some sense when you remember that the leaders are all of an advanced age, and frankly didn’t “get it.” Meanwhile the internet exploded with blogs and websites like Rock’s, MormonThink, Reddit, etc that prefixed immediate access to the type of thinking and information that the church doesn’t like and would rather go away.
Eventually some of the younger folks in the COB alerted the brethren that everyone was on the internet in spite of their advice (sorry) and there was a battle for the hearts and minds of the saints being waged. And the Church was losing big time. So they switched tactics and now they are literally trying to drown out the bad stuff by flooding the internet with cheesy memes and uplifting YouTube videos. In fact, Bednar has been one of the greatest proponents of the new flood the internet with cheesy stuff strategy. All I can say is good luck with that!
Thankfully I stopped paying tithing a few years ago so I’m not paying for all of the ads directed at people who are trying to find PureMormonism! That’s your tithing money at work folks, building the kingdom, one click at a time.
The internet is a tool, but only sort of like a knife. When using a knife you are VERY largely in control over what it does, the internet involves so many unknowns, that one click, that should be safe, can put you in a morally perilous situation. So yes, it is a tool, but your control can be very limited because there are so many unknowns. As a side note, I think we are failing at how we and our children are using this “tool”. As I see it, it is largely used to waste time, indulge in sexual immorality, and distract us from quality time with our families. So ask yourself this what doth the internet profit you if you lose your soul over it.
Having spent time with Bednar myself…I cant imagine dude or gnarly ever coming out of his mouth. He was as prim and proper in smaller, more intimate settings, as he is at Gen Conf.
Can sustaining be similar to honor? A body honors their parents by doing what is right.
I was discussing some of this with my nearly 30 year old son. He said we are a progressive church in the 21 century. Gotta love it.
Where and when was the training meeting? I want to document this for a research paper I’m writing on how the meaning of the word “guys” has changed over time.
Cache valley. 2010. Fall timeframe.
This is an interesting discussion about the internet and being able to speak out in Church. I have experience with the Church speaking out on the internet and I can tell you that if you are against them they will come after you for saying anything contrary to whatever they do or say. For example, I disagree with the leadership of the Church on their acceptance of abortion, homosexuality, blacks in the priesthood, no common consent, idolatry (the Christus is an idol), changed temple ordinances and a number of other things. Can I even mention any of these in Church? No, if I did I would be cast out and censored and even excommunicated. What if I do these things on the internet? Same thing happens because you can’t disagree with them.
Consider this scenario. I’m sitting in the Church and in the middle is a staunch member of the Church. Pays his tithing, goes to the temple, has a calling. On his right side is a person that calls himself a homosexual. The homosexual pays his tithing, goes to the temple and has a calling. I sit on the left side. I won’t sustain these wicked brethren because they accept what the guy on the right is doing, and so I can’t hold a temple recommend and can’t have a calling. Do any of you see anything wrong with this? Because I won’t accept the apostasy I’m cast out. As I recall there is a story like this in the Book of Mormon. Well you get the point. I can certainly understand why Anon Bish is Anon.