Elder Bednar Urges Use of Social Media to Spread Gospel at Education Week

Taken from Daily Herald Article on August 19, 2014

Watch the full video of his talk at Education Week

Read the full text of his talk ‘To Sweep the Earth as a Flood

Hang onto your hats. Things are changing.

Elder Bednar urges use of social media to spread gospel at BYU Education Week - Daily Herald - Photo Ian Maule

Elder Bednar urges use of social media to spread gospel at BYU Education Week – Daily Herald – Photo Ian Maule

For decades, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been warned about the impact various media can have on them. Tools in and of themselves, they can be used for both good and evil, members were told.

The media have changed, and so has the emphasis.

General authorities of the church have begun using social media. The LDS church has an official Instagram account and has posted photos from around the world.

“The members of the First Presidency themselves specifically chose the photos to be posted,” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said Tuesday at a devotional at BYU Education Week. “Some of the brethren now have their own Twitter accounts, including Elder Ballard, Elder Holland and me.

“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.”

The church also approved production of a feature-length film to help others better understand the LDS people. Called “Meet the Mormons,” the film will be distributed worldwide through digital channels. That will begin after the church’s October general conference, first in the United States and then in other locations.

The church has also announced content in its media library, found on www.lds.org, has been cleared for use by church members without seeking permission from the church.

“As Elder M. Russell Ballard explained,” Bednar said, “‘In Shakespeare’s time, he was limited generally to the Globe Theatre, but we now have a global theater. … The doors to the world are literally opened wide.’”

Bednar said the Twitter and Facebook presence, and the motion picture, are a start, and more will be coming. Some efforts have been made by the church itself; others have had their origins in the members.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Part of the beginnings of that flood have included messages and images created by the church and its members and communicated through social media.

Bednar cited examples including a short video entitled “Because of Him,” which presents the message of hope, healing and salvation through the atonement of Jesus Christ.  It was viewed more than five million times during Easter week alone, in 191 countries and territories of the world.

Members have also posted photos of themselves on various media, telling about times when they pray and why. Another posting presents a 365-day program for reading the Book of Mormon in a year.

During broadcasts of the church’s general conference in October and April, there was a hashtag included on the screen. However, the idea is not new.

“Members have used this hashtag to promote general conference for years,” Bednar said. “The first use of the #LDSconf hashtag dates back to October 2008, when it was created by a faithful member looking for an opportunity to follow and share conference-related tweets — long before the church started using it.”

The technology that makes such communication possible is inspired, Bednar said. And it has been with a purpose in mind.

“The Lord is hastening His work, and it is no coincidence that these powerful communication innovations and inventions are occurring in the dispensation of the fullness of times,” he said.

“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.”

The use of social media will continue to be more widespread among church missionaries.

“Approximately 40 percent of our worldwide missionary force soon will be using digital devices as tools in the work of conversion, retention and activation,” Bednar said.

It’s been more than 30 years since Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley anticipated this day.

“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,” said Hinckley during the church’s 1981 general conference. “Communication is the sinew that binds the church as one great family.”

Bednar also referred to other church leaders who foresaw the communication technology, including Brigham Young.

“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,” Young was quoted as saying. “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.

“We should take advantage of all these great discoveries, the accumulated wisdom of ages, and give to our children the benefit of every branch of useful knowledge, to prepare them to step forward and efficiently do their part in the great work.”

Bednar also noted LDS Church presidents David O. McKay and Spencer W. Kimball for their remarks on the matter.

“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” (David O. McKay in Conference Report, Oct. 1966, 4). 

“I believe that the Lord is anxious to put into our hands inventions of which we laymen have hardly had a glimpse. … With the Lord providing these miracles of communication, and with the increased efforts and devotion of our missionaries and all of us, and all others who are ‘sent,’ surely the divine injunction will come to pass: ‘For, verily, the sound must go forth from this place into all the world, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth—the gospel must be preached unto every creature’ (D&C 58:64)” (Spencer W. Kimball. “When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974, 10–11).

Spencer W Kimball quoted in Elder Bednar's Talk

Spencer W Kimball quoted in Elder Bednar’s Talk

He urged members to keep their lives in balance and emphasized a warning of consequences of misusing the media.

“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,” Bednar said. “We should not allow even good applications of social media to overrule the better and best uses of our time, energy and resources.

“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.”

He also quoted Elder M. Russell Ballard, who taught that digital technologies should be our servants and not our masters.

But the combined small efforts of millions of members can have a great impact.

“May our many small, individual efforts produce a steady rainfall of righteousness and truth that gradually swells a multitude of streams and rivers,” Bednar said, “and ultimately becomes a flood that sweeps the earth.”