During a recent worship service, a 30-something woman shared President Russell M. Nelson’s timely challenge for teenagers to take a seven-day fast from social media. She then mentioned an interesting coincidence. A popular band would be holding a phone-free concert in our area later in the year. She wondered if the same people who abandon their phones for a night because a musician asked them to would do the same if it was the prophet making the request.
Her words and her tone seemed a touch defensive to me, and that’s OK. The important thing is they have stayed in my mind. They have made me think, which is what many great sacrament meeting talks do. I wondered then and I continue to wonder now why it matters, generally speaking, who is asking someone to do something that is good. Do noble deeds—learning to become technology’s masters instead of its servants certainly counts—have less value if the prophet isn’t the one asking us to do them?
This woman is probably right. Most who are not Latter-day Saints are not concerned with what the prophet has to say. But this isn’t necessarily rooted in some kind of stubborn wickedness. We all have limited time and attention to give to anything outside of our obligations to family, work, community, and church. Latter-day Saints, just like those not of our faith, have busy lives and limited attention to give beyond the spheres of influence we feel are most important.
With this in mind, we should remember Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s comment that “truth is scattered liberally across the globe.” Considering that Latter-day Saints make up 0.2 percent of the world’s population, we should not be surprised to learn of good things happening outside of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After all, as Elder Orson F. Whitney said, “God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of his great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous, for any one people” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1928, 59).
I went online later the next week to read more about this phone-free concert. The organizers extoled the virtue of experiencing something in person, without distraction. One man even said “you’re draining energy out of the room” when you are focused on the device in your hand instead of the person talking to you.
That is a message many today need to hear. Our relationship with the present has undergone major disruption due to technology advancing more quickly than our understanding of how to use it in constructive, righteous ways. I think of how often as an iPhone-carrying parent I pause during precious moments with my children to take photos or video of them. It happens. A lot. But how much of this is too much? When does it simply become an idle distraction? I think back to a time when I was filming my 3-year-old daughter’s silly antics because I love her and I wanted to preserve the moment. Proving that out of the mouth of babes come forth marvelous words, my little Emmy Joy gave me a stern look and said, looking directly in the camera while pushing the device away with her hand, “Put your phone down!” She was telling me that most important in that moment was my engaged presence with her.
When President Nelson encouraged youth to hold a social media fast, he said it would be a time to take a “break from fake” and “disengage from a constant reliance on social media.” I believe the musicians mentioned above would agree with President Nelson based on their invitation to experience life in person, giving undivided attention to those in front of us. Doing so is to come closer to experiencing “things as they really are” (Jacob 4:13).
Remember that Joseph Smith said we must “get all the good in the world.” He also taught that we ought to “receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” And keep in mind Brigham Young’s call to embrace “all truth, wherever found” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young , 18). These comments matter because charity, that purest and greatest of loves, whose source is Jesus Christ, “rejoiceth in the truth.” Without charity—and thus, without truth—we “are nothing” (Moroni 7:45–46).
We can learn truth from all our life’s experiences and from a variety of people. One of our privileges as Christians is to “seek out and to welcome all the reflections of [the] one true light in the lives of those we meet.” Indeed, “there is something deeply repulsive in the attitude, sometimes found among Christians, which makes only grudging acknowledgment of the faith, the godliness, and the nobility to be found in the lives of” those who don’t believe the way we do (Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, 180). We need to keep learning in every way possible because there is still so much we do not know. Fortunately, God will help us. As Orson Pratt taught, “So long … as [Latter-day Saints] are ignorant of any thing past, present, or to come, so long, we believe, [we] will enjoy the gift of revelation.”
My gratitude abounds when I hear messages that challenge the way I’m living and help me come closer to discovering light and truth and experiencing real joy. When we see those not of our faith doing good, why not rejoice and sing with gratitude to the heavens that in a world of so many dark influences, light and goodness are getting a greater hearing?
Samuel B. Hislop is a writer from Utah. He and his wife, Melissa, are parents to three little girls.