Friday, October 21, 2011

The Technology dichotomy

In this last general conference I noticed a theme emerging which we've heard about before but which is becoming increasingly important. This theme is the dichotomy between the good and bad of technology. A certain hesitancy is often found, especially among the older members of the church, when a new technology emerges. They wait, as is often proper, to see the way the brethren are leading on new issues, at time decrying them without instruction. I think we all remember the days of YouTube being blocked on campus and the bishops teaching that FaceBook was the realm of Satan. Now there church owns their own YouTube and posts to my news feed everyday, and missionaries in my mission teach lessons on FaceBook.
The work of the Lord moves forward through new technology, but those that worry about it are not without basis for this belief, both YouTube and Facebook have been used to send terrible messages and illicit material, MySpace was essentially a creeperfest, and text messaging has become a physical addiction for some people. This is why we have prophets and apostles now, so that as the world changes we can know how the an unchanging God wants us to act and react.
The church has always been at the forefront of using technology, Music and the Spoken Word is the longest running broadcast of all time, General Conference was transmitted via telephone, radio, television, and satellite as soon as those technologies were available, prophets were among the first to make audio recordings of themselves, the Church owns its own T.V. stations and produces its own smartphone apps (in fact they were producing apps back in the days of PalmPilots), and while I was reading the Ensign yesterday (on my iPod) I found QR codes are being introduced to it for the first time.. So we shouldn't necessarily be surprised at the developments of these recent conferences.
Because technology is becoming such a part of our daily lives we need to know what is expected of us in relationship to us. I'm so glad the apostles are speaking on it. This past conference was the first, I believe, to include a web address posted to the screen. This was during Elder Bednar's talk to the youth on family history as he encouraged them to use their technological skills for this great work. He told the youth that "Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord—not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation." In the second mention of tweets and texts in a single session of conference Elder Arden of the 70 gave this warning "There is much that is good with our easy access to communication and information. I have found it helpful to access research articles, conference talks, and ancestral records, and to receive e-mails, Facebook reminders, tweets, and texts. As good as these things are, we cannot allow them to push to one side those things of greatest importance. How sad it would be if the phone and computer, with all their sophistication, drowned out the simplicity of sincere prayer to a loving Father in Heaven. Let us be as quick to kneel as we are to text." This echoes Elder Bednar's own prophetic voice from a few years ago when speaking to the young single adults. Here's a video from YouTube on that:

This is a real danger, I spend most of my life on a computer, I have an iPod (4 actually), a cell phone, and a kindle. Everyday at work I see people so absorbed in the electronic that they no longer know how to interact with human beings but treat you as part of a machine that will spit out smoothies for them. Especially those of us of the rising generation have got to learn how technology must be used correctly. We can't just hide under a rock, pretend to be stuck in the 1980's and not use it, its to valuable a tool for the spreading of the gospel, imagine if that had been done with print or broadcast media? No, we have to use it, but we have to use it correctly, and we better figure out what its about so we can teach our children. All of my younger siblings use iPods, iPads, and kindles. They have no idea there was a life before we had computers in our homes. If this group is not taught how to control technology it will destroy them, but if they are taught to harness it for good it will cause the gospel to be spread faster than ever before.

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