Sister Bednar and I are grateful to worship together with you in this Brigham Young University Education Week devotional.
In 2009 I delivered a message to the young adults of the Church entitled “Things as They Really Are” and discussed the spiritual potential and pitfalls of various technologies in our modern world (see Ensign, June 2010, 16–25). My remarks today build upon and extend that previous message by focusing upon three related and important topics: (1) the unique season in the history of the world in which we live, even “the dispensation of the fulness of times,” (2) the inspired technological and communication innovations that have come forth in this decisive dispensation, and (3) how we appropriately use these powerful tools to advance the work of salvation in all of the world.
I pray the Holy Ghost will teach and edify each of us as we consider together true principles and how to apply those principles in our lives.
The Dispensation in Which We Live
We live in a truly distinctive dispensation.
A gospel dispensation is a period of time in which the necessary priesthood authority, ordinances, and doctrinal knowledge are found on the earth to implement the Father’s plan of salvation for His children. Essential to the establishment of a dispensation is an authorized servant of God, a dispensation head, who holds and exercises the authority and keys of the holy priesthood. Gospel dispensations were established through Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, and others. In every dispensation gospel truths are revealed anew—or dispensed—so the people of that period are not entirely dependent upon past dispensations for knowledge of Heavenly Father’s plan.
Apostasy from the truth occurred in each previous dispensation. However, the work of salvation that was commenced but not completed in those earlier eras continues into the final dispensation. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that for this reason, the rolling forward of the latter-day glory, even the dispensation of the fulness of times, “is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age; it is a theme upon which prophets, priests and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 186).
In this greatest and last of all gospel dispensations, “a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. And not only this, but those things which have never been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and the prudent, shall be revealed … in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times” (D&C 128:18).
The Prophet Joseph further expounded: “All the ordinances and duties that ever have been required by the Priesthood, under the directions and commandments of the Almighty in any of the dispensations, shall all be had in the last dispensation … , bringing to pass the restoration spoken of by the mouth of all the Holy Prophets” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 511).
As the Apostle Paul declared, “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” (Ephesians 1:10).
The Dispensation of the Fulness of Times and Technology
In 1862 Brigham Young said: '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. 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” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe , 18–19).
In 1966 President David O. McKay prophesied scientific discoveries that “stagger the imagination” would make possible the preaching of the gospel to every kindred, tongue, and people. And further:
'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” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1966, 4).
Please now listen to the voice of President Spencer W. Kimball, recorded in 1974, as he described the future of missionary work:
'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)” (“When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign,Oct. 1974, 10–11).
And in 1981 President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: '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. Communication is the sinew that binds the Church as one great family. Between those facilities which are now available and those which are on the horizon, we shall be able to converse one with another according to the needs and circumstances of the time” (“Faith: The Essence of True Religion,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, 5).
Messages and pictures that used to require days, weeks, and months to send and receive now can be communicated around the world in seconds. We thank thee, O 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.
In June of 2013, Elder L. Tom Perry described the impact of digital technologies on missionary work. He said:
“When I was a young missionary, we were able to speak with contacts on the street and knock on doors to share the gospel. The world has changed since that time. Now, many people are involved in the busyness of their lives. They hurry here and there, and they are often less willing to allow complete strangers to enter their homes, uninvited, to share a message of the restored gospel. Their main point of contact with others, even with close friends, is often via the Internet. The very nature of missionary work, therefore, must change if the Lord is to accomplish His work of gathering Israel ‘from the four corners of the earth’ (2 Nephi 21:12). The missionaries are now authorized to use the Internet in their proselyting efforts. ...
“As missionaries enter this new age where they will use computers in the work of the Lord, we invite the young and the old, the adults, the young adults, the youth, and the children everywhere to join with us in this exciting new work by becoming Facebook friends with the missionaries in your area on your own computers and sharing their gospel messages online and by becoming involved in missionary work yourselves” (“Missionary Work in the Digital Age' [worldwide leadership training meeting, June 2013]; lds.org/broadcasts).
Approximately 40 percent of our worldwide missionary force soon will be using digital devices as tools in the work of conversion, retention, and activation. 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.
A technology known as social media is evolving in our day and playing an increasingly important role in hastening the work of salvation. The termsocial media refers to various channels of Internet and mobile-based communication that are used by individuals, families, and large groups of people to create digital communities wherein they share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content such as pictures and videos.
The popularity and reach of current social media tools are staggering. For example, Facebook is a networking service used to share messages, images, links, and videos with family, friends, and followers—and has approximately 1.2 billion average monthly users.
YouTube is a platform through which videos can be distributed, viewed, rated, and shared—and has approximately one billion average monthly users.
Twitter is a means of sending and receiving short, quick text messages and images called tweets—and has approximately 250 million average monthly users.
Instagram allows the sharing of pictures and short videos—and has approximately 150 million average monthly users.
Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board used to collect and share content and images from around the web—and has approximately 70 million average monthly users.
Please note that I have identified only five of the presently popular social media channels; many other such channels are being used by tens of millions of people. And new methods of and channels for digital communication are being developed constantly.
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 fulness of times. 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; to proclaim the reality of the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days; and to accomplish the Lord’s work.
I now want to present 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.