We welcome back to the blog guest poster Geoff Thatcher, a volunteer public affairs person for the LDS Church here in Cincinnati where I live. He’s written for us before about Mormon community service (rightly challenging my assertion that we aren’t doing enough of it; I’m happy to be proven wrong).
Today he talks about how Mormons are using social media to spread gospel messages — including tomorrow here in Cincinnati when he and I will both be participating in a “Day in the Life of a Mormon Missionary” event. — JKR
By Geoff Thatcher
This summer, I was emailed an equipment list for a Mormon youth activity that banned smart phones but allowed Kodak disposable cameras.
I felt like I was back in 1990.
Today, it’s not uncommon for overzealous early morning seminary teachers to prohibit smart phones rather than teach their students how to use them. But . . .
- How much better prepared would a full-time missionary teaching from her iPad Mini be if she had spent the last four years annotating the scriptures in the Church’s amazing Gospel Library App?
- What would happen if after every temple trip, leaders gave teenagers 10 minutes to take pictures of the temple grounds, the Angel Moroni or beautiful architecture and immediately post them to Instagram with an inspiring message?
- How different could Sunday School be if every class had a shared Pinterest Board?
- How much more helpful could a bishop or Young Women’s president be if they were friends on Facebook with their flock? Someday, we may actually long for a retweet from the stake president.
Jana asked me to write this guest post about technology because I help train Mormon leaders, members and youth in Cincinnati on how to use social media.
This topic is timely for a variety of reasons, but mostly because in August Elder David A. Bednar challenged members to use social media to “sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth—messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy. . .”
There’s no doubt this message is needed as there are still members of the church who view social media, smart phones, and other technology as stepping stones to distraction, disconnection, or worse, addiction.
Although those challenges are certainly real, Elder Bednar reminded us to focus on the positive. First, he acknowledged that there are reasons to be mindful, prayerful and even careful when it comes to social media and technology.
And second, he told us to get over it!
Well, not in those words exactly, but you get the point.
“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.” (Elder David A. Bednar, Aug. 19, 2014)
Elder Bednar used the metaphor of a flood sweeping the earth in his talk and described our efforts to date as only “a trickle.” Think about that for a second next time you visit LDS.org or the official LDS Pinterest page or the Instagram feed of the Mormon Newsroom.
It’s just a trickle.
Right now, around the world, wards and stakes are beginning to create their own social media pages and blogs. The Cincinnati East Stake Mormons Facebook page launched just a few days after Elder Bednar’s talk.
And this Saturday in Cincinnati we’ll be hosting our third #socialmediasplit (yes, we know we could come up with a better hashtag). On September 13, hundreds of members will tweet, post and share thousands of posts as they chronicle a “day in the life” of Mormon missionaries from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. This program has directly led to a number of conversions and other small miracles.
Our three #socialmediasplits in Cincinnati…just a trickle.
Twenty years from now, I believe that we’ll look back at 2014 as a watershed moment. Personally, I can’t even imagine what a fully connected missionary force of 90,000 will accomplish.
A fully connected congregation will literally transform how we interact with both each other and the gospel of Jesus Christ in ways we can’t possibly imagine. This will go way beyond a ward clerk live tweeting Sunday services.
Elder Bednar called for a flood.
I’ve been in a few floods over the years, and they can be both thrilling and scary.
So, grab a bucket and a paddle.
Geoff Thatcher is the volunteer assistant director of public affairs in the Greater Cincinnati area where there are about 22 congregations and almost 10,000 members. Twitter: @geoffthatcher
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