During his address at the BYU Education Week devotional Aug. 19, Elder David A. Bednar urged Church members to flood the earth with gospel messages of truth.
“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 of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “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 discussed various technologies in the modern world and focused on three related topics: “One, the unique season in the history of the world in which we live even ‘the dispensation of the fulness of times;’ two, the inspired technological and communication innovations that have come forth in this decisive dispensation; and three, how we appropriately use these powerful tools to advance the work of salvation in all of the world.”
‘The dispensation of the fulness of times’
Elder Bednar stated that Church members today live in a “truly distinctive” dispensation.
The Apostle Paul declared in Ephesians 1:10, “In the dispensation of the fulness of times [God will] gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.”
Elder Bednar affirmed Latter-day Saints today are blessed to live, learn and serve in this dispensation.
“An important aspect of the fulness 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 said. “All of these advancements are part of the Lord hastening His work in the latter days.”
Messages and pictures that used to require days, weeks, and months to send and receive now can be communicated around the world in seconds, stated Elder Bednar.
“We thank thee, oh God, for the prophets who have taught and prepared us for the time in which we live — and who have urged us to use technological advancements to support the ongoing mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Approximately 40 percent of the Church’s worldwide missionary force soon will be using digital devices as tools in the work of conversion, retention and activation, he explained. “I am confident all of us also recognize how technology has accelerated family history and temple work, our individual and family study of the restored gospel, and made it possible for us to learn about, see and experience the world in remarkable ways,” he said.
Technology known as “social media” is evolving in and playing an increasingly important role in hastening the work of salvation, Elder Bednar declared, noting that the term “social media” refers to various channels of Internet and mobile-based communication that are used to create digital communities wherein information, ideas, personal messages and other content is shared.
Speaking of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest — and other such channels used by tens of millions of people — Elder Bednar said it is no coincidence that these powerful communication innovations and inventions are occurring in the dispensation of the fulness of times. “Social media channels are global tools that can personally and positively impact large numbers of individuals and families,” he acknowledged. “And I believe the time has come for us as disciples of Christ to use these inspired tools appropriately and much more effectively to testify of God the Eternal Father and His plan of happiness for His children, of 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 shared several examples of gospel messages and images that have been created by the Church and by its members and communicated to the world through social media, including: the Church’s Easter message “Because of Him;” the Church-sponsored the social media effort “Did You Think To Pray” that led to some 40,000 conversations about the need for prayer; the Instagram effort “Book of Mormon 365;” and General Authority social media accounts.
“You also may have noticed that some of the Brethren now have their own Twitter accounts, including Elder M. Russell Ballard, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and me,” Elder Bednar pointed out. “Additional members of the Twelve may be active on Twitter in the near future. All of the Brethren also have their own Facebook pages on which they communicate important gospel messages.
“Social media are helping the leaders and members of the restored Church to fulfill the Lord’s mandate to ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15)."
'Meet the Mormons'
Elder Bednar shared a final example of gospel content that can be shared through social media channels — the Church’s new film titled “Meet the Mormons.”
“A few years ago, the First Presidency approved the production of a feature-length film to help those not of our faith better understand Latter-day Saints as a people,” he said, noting the film was originally scheduled to be shown in the Legacy Theater in Salt Lake City and in visitors’ centers around the world. “However, with the growth of the social media technologies we have discussed today, we realized that worldwide distribution of the film was now possible through various digital channels.”
Elder Bednar explained that “Meet the Mormons” addresses common misperceptions about LDS beliefs and highlights the blessings that come from living the gospel of Jesus Christ. The film will be released after October general conference in several media and channels — first in select theaters in the United States and, later, in visitors’ centers and on television, Internet movie channels and social media channels.
Social media guidelines
Elder Bednar outlined several basic guidelines that should be followed as Latter-day Saints 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. We should not exaggerate, embellish, or pretend to be someone or something we are not. Our content should be trustworthy and constructive.”
Authenticity is strengthened through consistency, he emphasized. “The gospel messages you share will be accepted more readily if your Christ-like example is evident in the ongoing pattern of your posts.”
2. Edify and uplift. “We and our messages should seek to edify and uplift rather than argue, debate, condemn, or belittle,” Elder Bednar explained.
Share the gospel with genuine love and concern for others, he added. “Be 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.”
3. Respect intellectual property. “We and our messages should respect the property of other people and organizations,” he said. “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.”
To assist members in creating uplifting gospel messages, Church leaders announced 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 explained. However, he emphasized members are not to use the Church logo or otherwise suggest that they are speaking for or on behalf of the Church when they share messages online.
4. Be wise and vigilant. “We should remember that the Internet never forgets,” Elder Bednar cautioned. “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 message or picture for all time. Be wise and vigilant in protecting yourself and those you love.”
Elder Bednar said following these simple guidelines will enable members of the Church around the world to create and share gospel messages that will cause the light to “shine forth out of darkness” (Mormon 8:16).
He also warned the congregation “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. We should not allow even good applications of social media to overrule the better and best uses of our time, energy and resources.”
Sweep the earth
As Elder Bednar invited members to “sweep the earth” as with a flood with messages filled with righteousness and truth, he also asked that members "not simply participate in a flash flood that rises swiftly and then recedes just as rapidly. I am not suggesting a one-time glitzy initiative from which we quickly move on to the next task on our lengthy list of gospel things to do. We need not become social media experts or fanatics. And we do not need to spend inordinate amounts of time creating and disseminating elaborate messages.”
Quoting Elder M. Russell Ballard, Elder Bednar said digital technologies should be servants and not masters.
“According to our desires and circumstances, each of us can contribute consistently to the growing flood of truth and righteousness.
“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 floodwaters. May our many small, individual efforts produce a rainfall of righteousness and truth that gradually swells a multitude of streams and rivers —and ultimately becomes a flood that sweeps the earth.”
Closing, Elder Bednar evoked a blessing 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 you should about the role you play in helping to sweep the earth as with a flood of truth and righteousness.”