Light and Truth in Social Media

My daughter came to me upset by a post she read on social media about Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s speech this week to the faculty of Brigham Young University. She has empathy for and wants to support those who are LGBTQ+ and this post criticized Elder Holland and emphasized parts of his speech which seemed to speak out against LGBTQ+ members and those who support them. I want to share with you what I’ve learned as I’ve pondered, prayed, and studied about this experience and how we can discern light and truth in social media.

Go to the source

My daughter and I listened to all of Elder Holland’s talk. I heard the parts of the speech that were used in the social media post, and I heard other parts that showed Elder Holland’s great love and empathy for those who are LGBTQ+. Elder Holland said, “Let me go no farther before declaring unequivocally my love and that of my Brethren for those who live with this same-sex challenge and so much complexity that goes with it. Too often the world has been unkind, in many instances crushingly cruel, to these our brothers and sisters. Like many of you, we have spent hours with them, and wept and prayed and wept again in an effort to offer love and hope while keeping the gospel strong and the obedience to commandments evident in every individual life” (The Second Half of the Second Century). Read the entire source and ponder the whole of the content.

Discern the intention of the post

One of my scripture study questions this week was, “How do I have clear thinking?” When I read posts that criticize the church and church leaders, my thoughts start racing and my head is full of confusion and darkness and I wonder if this church I’m a part of is the correct way to follow Jesus Christ. I don’t like that confusion, that darkness. “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. Light and truth forsake that evil one,” (Doctrine & Covenants 93:36-37). Light dispels darkness. Light is from Jesus Christ. In the account of Amlici in Alma 2, we learn that, “[Amlici] being a very cunning man, yea, a wise man as to the wisdom of the world,” drew away many of the people after him and “it was his intent to destroy the church of God” (Alma 2:1-2, 4). Amlici used his skills and wisdom to create contention and confusion. Ask yourself with a post, is the intention to draw me closer to Jesus Christ and my neighbors or to draw me away from Jesus Christ and my neighbors? Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf spoke at Education Week about conflict and contention. He said, “Conflict is inevitable. Contention is a choice. Contention is one way people choose to respond to conflict…we can choose a better way. … Let us emulate the gentle Christ. And we do that through learning to love God and reaching out to bless others,” (Five Messages That All of God’s Children Need to Hear).

Connect with individuals

Instead of engaging on social media and getting worked up about posts and injustices, connect with people in real life. Talk. Discuss ideas. Listen. Ask if you are being supportive in the way that person needs. You can do the most good in the lives of others as you interact directly.

Create uplifting posts

Elder David A. Bednar has encouraged us 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,” (Apostle Offers Counsel About Social Media). Use Elder Bednar’s tips to create your own posts of light and truth and follow his suggestions in reverse to analyze the posts of others. Is the content trustworthy and constructive? Does the message uplift? Is the opinion overbearing?

Work to receive personal revelation

Personal revelation is the way to know if you are following Jesus Christ and if you are following leaders who follow Jesus Christ. When you have questions and you will, know that your loving Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ want to communicate with you. They want to show you how you can love and serve them and others. Learning how to and increasing your ability to receive revelation is work, but work that is necessary. Choose to do the work to receive revelation through studying the scriptures, asking questions in prayer, recording your answers, and acting on the revelation you receive.

Jesus Christ is the true light

Jesus Christ is “the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (Doctrine & Covenants 93:2). Now more than ever with all the information we receive, we need to be able to discern between that which invites light and truth and that which invites contention and dissension. Then we need to choose light. We need to choose to follow Jesus Christ.

Seeing the Face of God

The First Vision, by Gary E. Smith

I have been studying Jesus Christ in the Topical Guide of the scriptures and am currently learning about Jesus Christ as the Redeemer. Since as mortals, we all sin, we cannot be in the presence of God. Through the Atonement, Jesus Christ paid the price/gave himself as a ransom/reconciled us to God/ redeemed us. I previously thought of this redemption as something that happens in the future when we are judged and then if we’ve repented and strived to keep the commandments, Jesus Christ’s redemption will make it possible for us to be in the presence of God and have eternal life. But in my recent scripture study, I’ve learned through the Spirit that Jesus Christ’s Atonement offers me redemption now. I can be in the presence of God now. I can see His face daily.

For Family Home Evening we read the Gospel Topics Essay about Joseph Smith’s First Vision Accounts and we watched the video, “Ask of God: Joseph Smith’s First Vision.” I love that Joseph Smith asked for forgiveness of his sins and wanted a closer relationship with God. He didn’t expect when he prayed aloud that he would be visited by God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. They appeared to Joseph Smith and forgave him of his sins. He learned that he should not join any of the current churches and that Jesus Christ’s church would be restored through him. I used to long for the same experience. I thought that if Jesus Christ appeared to me, then I would have no doubts and I would have assurance of my acceptability before the Lord. Joseph Smith made mistakes after his vision, needed to repent, learned how to receive revelation, learned line upon line, was chastised by the Lord, repented again, received more revelation, and tried to understand the revelation he received. That is the same process for me. I do not receive revelation for the church, but as I receive revelation for me, my family, and my calling, I am seeing the face of God or in other words, communicating with him.

Recently I received personal revelation for myself about the COVID vaccine. I felt very resistant to getting the vaccine. I won’t go into all the reasons, but generally I felt like I was healthy and my immune system could handle the virus. I also don’t like being told what to do. I value my agency. I’d seen the post from President Russell M. Nelson in January when he received the vaccine, but didn’t feel like he was saying I had to get it. After a talk in Stake Conference from our Stake President, I felt like he was saying in order to follow the prophet I needed to get the vaccine. I read the January statement thoroughly, but still didn’t feel like the prophet was issuing a commandment to get the vaccine. I did feel like the statement encouraged each person to be responsible and figure out for themselves what was best. I decided to pray and ask God. I prayed thinking I would receive a prompting that I should get the vaccine and I thought I would be unhappy with that answer. That’s not what happened. The distinct thought that came into my mind was, “It’s up to you.” As soon as I had that spiritual impression, I decided to get the vaccine. I still don’t know why that answer helped me decide to get the vaccine. Maybe I needed to not feel like I was being forced or commanded.

Many are struggling with the most recent letter from The First Presidency with greater emphasis on getting the vaccine and wearing masks if physical distancing isn’t possible. I know that our Heavenly Father wants each of us to communicate with Him. He wants us to share our concerns, our sorrows, our fears. He wants to communicate with us. He wants us to see His face. This is how we do that. “Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:1).

Jesus Christ already redeemed us. He offered Himself for us. I believe that as each person does the work to receive personal revelation about the vaccine and any other concerns, what is more important than the answer they receive, is the process of coming to the Savior and seeing His face. And we can offer each other grace in this process.

Priesthood Power to Organize Young Women’s Camp

In January of this year, I was asked by the Stake Executive Secretary to meet with a member of the Stake Presidency. My husband and I speculated about what I would be asked to do. My husband knew that the stake calling I never wanted to do was to be the director of Stake Young Women’s Camp. I’ve organized several one day or overnight Scout camps for 11 year-olds, but I had little experience with young women and don’t like drama, crafts, or over-the-top productions. I’ve served in the young women organization two times for a short period and have been to camp as an adult only twice, once for the day and another time for one night and day. My husband told me I should never say I didn’t want to do something, because the Lord would give me a chance to grow in that capacity. My husband was right.

Today I want to share with you what I learned about my priesthood power in organizing YW’s camp. I was afraid and overwhelmed. Not only did I need to organize a Stake YW’s camp in a few months, but I had to consider COVID restrictions. When I was set apart to do my calling by a member of the Stake Presidency, he blessed me with my “burdens” and then he stopped and said, “I should say your opportunities.” When he set me apart to direct YW’s camp, he gave me priesthood authority for the young women and leaders who would plan and attend stake YW’s camp. I was able to access that priesthood authority and power as I followed the pattern of covenants.

I was first asked to present plans for camp with projected COVID restrictions. I read the current guidelines by the state of Idaho and realized that I did not have a task force to determine guidelines nor could I predict the future, but I knew the Lord could direct me. I sought revelation and during a discussion with my young adult daughter, came up with a solution that felt right. I submitted that solution and several others to the Stake Young Women’s Presidency and they were all rejected. Once I humbled myself and two assistant camp directors were called, we were able to counsel together and come up with a tentative plan. Soon after, the Stake Presidency issued recommendations for all group stake activities for the summer, and we proceeded with our plans. I had priesthood power to receive revelation for camp, that power was increased as I counseled with others asked to serve, and then I followed the guidelines of those with priesthood keys for our stake. This overwhelming task now became manageable. Countless times I felt that I did not know what I was doing. That I could not accomplish the organizing and executing of camp on my own. But I knew this was the Lord’s work.

This past week I studied Doctrine and Covenants 88 and listened to the “Follow Me” podcast with Hank Smith and John Bytheway. Their guest, Dr. Anthony Sweat, taught about the temple and the covenants we make there. Then during our Sunday School lesson and discussion today, I realized how the temple endowment gave me priesthood power for YW’s camp. In the temple endowment we make covenants which are sacred promises to God. Keeping those covenants such as the Law of Obedience, the Law of the Gospel, and the Law of Consecration gives us priesthood power which is the power God has given men and women to do His work on this earth. Even though I didn’t know how I could be the director of YW’s camp, I was obedient. As I was obedient, my heart was softened and I was blessed with revelation and other adults and young women to serve with me. I sacrificed a lot of time, I was continually humbled, repented, and gave of my talents, time, and resources to organize camp. In return, I received power to do God’s work with the young women and young women leaders in the stake. That power came in the form of revelation, strength beyond my own, increased friendships, the support and service of young women and young women leaders, and the privilege of being part of the great work of stake camp.

On the first day of camp when the first few wards arrived, I wanted to hide. All the planning, personal prayers, study, and councils were great in theory and on paper–much of which I’d printed from google drive documents to access at camp. How could I, one person, be expected to be in charge of over 250 young women and adults? Again, the Spirit reminded me, that it wasn’t all up to me. I had two great assistants, eight young women presidents, eight ward camp directors, five camp cooks, a nurse, stake leaders, adult leaders, youth camp leaders, and the power from the Lord. This wasn’t my work. This was His work.

On the last night of camp, I attended the testimony meeting for my ward. I witnessed the growth of testimony and friendships in the young women and leaders. There was no way one person could have made all that happen. But because I had accepted the calling, I was privileged to be a part of the power of God in the lives of the young women and adults there.

The theme of our Stake Young Women’s Camp was “Bloom” as inspired by the church’s youth theme for the year, “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days” (D&C 64:33-34). I was able to be part of His great work and able to witness the power of the priesthood, a power I have through my calling and my covenants.

A Light in Darkness

I like to make sense of my world and my actions and beliefs with cause and effect or if, then statements. If I pay my tithing, I will always have what I need financially. If I teach my children while they live at home through consistent Family Home Evening, family scripture study, family prayer, meals together, my example, and church attendance, then they will have solid testimonies. If I obey the commandments, I will be blessed which means I will be happy. In my immaturity, I thought I would not have struggles, that my children would not have struggles, that our lives would be happy and blessed at all times. Sure, I heard the testimonies of others of blessings through trials, but in my pride, I judged that they must not have been following all the commandments. As you probably already know and I’m being taught, my making sense of the world in this way was a false belief. Following Jesus Christ and keeping the commandments does not mean I will have no struggles or that I will be happy all the time. So what does it mean? Why follow Jesus Christ?

In our Relief Society class last Sunday we discussed “Infuriating Unfairness,” a talk by Elder Dale G. Renlund. Elder Renlund is an apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of his responsibilities is to testify of Jesus Christ to all the world. He spoke of several examples of intense struggle or unfairness including the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the affects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a man wrongly incarcerated, disease, abuse, and more. He said, “In unfair situations, one of our tasks is to trust that ‘all that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.'” He also said that we want to know how and when, but that hasn’t been revealed. As I tried to make sense of this in class, I read through my scripture study notes and found 1 Nephi 21:15-16, “For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” I will try to explain what the Spirit taught me, although words are not adequate to convey the light and understanding that came into my heart and mind, dispelling the darkness. The Atonement of Jesus Christ does make everything right, but not always in this life. The Savior knows the child born in Rwanda, the child born into an abusive home, the child born as a drug addict, the parents of those children. And He will make it right. Jesus Christ will be the judge and that child born in the abusive home will not be judged in the same way as I will be judged. The Atonement rights all the wrongs. Jesus Christ is the most loving of Gods. It’s not that he allows bad things to happen. It’s that His Atonement makes all the difference for all of us, for every circumstance. Each one of us is graven upon the palms of his hands.

Let’s go back to my earlier question. Why should I follow Jesus Christ? Why should I keep His commandments? If the Atonement of Jesus Christ rights all the wrongs, what does it matter what I do or what I choose? I don’t know all the answers to those questions, but what I do know is that because I studied my scriptures, because I attended church, because I repent, I received enlightenment during that Relief Society lesson. I received wisdom and peace. Jesus Christ has not left us alone to suffer. He sent us “another Comforter…even the Holy Spirit of promise” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:3). The Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost teaches us in our minds and hearts what the Savior wants us to know including increased understanding of Jesus Christ, “He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehend all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth. Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:6-7). I want greater wisdom. I want understanding. I want the light which shineth in darkness so that in my struggles, I can have joy even if I’m not always happy.

Last night as I drove home from a Relief Society activity, the sun was setting, a blazing ball of red which pierced the smoky haze. I am grateful for that light, that sun which penetrates my heart, fills me with warmth, light, and understanding as I continue to study, pray, keep the commandments, and receive personal revelation.