On August 19, 2014, Elder David A. Bednar called on members of the Church to get busy using Social Media in positive ways. More specifically he challenged:
“Beginning at this place on this day, I exhort you 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.” (link)
This topic has been becoming more and more of an emphasis by the brethren for some time. President Uchtdorf, Elder Perry, and Elder Anderson have all made it a point to encourage our use of Social Media in their General Conference talks. Apparently, they are serious.
So many obedient Latter-day Saints are joining the ranks, and flooding the earth on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and that Google + thingy. I have been at this for almost four years, and I still consider myself a novice, but I have noticed the increase as the trickle becomes a flood.
I guarantee that your efforts are not in vain. Many people will read your tweets and posts and be touched by the Spirit. Some sincere readers or followers might ask you honest questions to learn about “the reason of the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)
Some readers will be prompted to make changes in their lives, some will even embrace the Gospel because of what you share. It is worth it. I know this because I have experienced it. It is a noble effort, and you can find a great sense of accomplishment in being part of this great flood.
One thing about floods – they always seem to dredge up all sorts of crud.
This flood of goodness is no different. As we make an effort to spread the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ via Social Media – or any other method – there will be opposition. There are those out there desiring to add their personal backwash to the Living Water.
The following observations are based on my limited experience as a blogger and Facebook addict. I know that my experiences are not the same as yours. From my perspective, the opposition I encounter online can present itself in many different ways. As I have mentioned before, there are good-hearted people who ask questions to seek truth, there are also people who have other beliefs who can and will respectfully want to discuss our differences. The following are not those people.
Techniques of the Opposition
“And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.” (1 Ne. 8:27)
Sadly, it was effective:
“And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” (1 Ne. 8:28)
In my experience, the most vocal mockers are former members of the Church, rather than non-members, confirming what President Boyd K. Packer once said, “They leave the Church, but they can’t leave it alone.” (link)
As you share your thoughts and testimony with the world, there is a chance that you will be mocked by those who disagree. They might not even be subtle, or sneaky about it – they might just flat out attack you with snarky insults. Yes, it stings. They want you to feel stupid. They want you to stop. Don’t stop.
Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: Christ taught “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)
Disguised wolves are sneaky. They won’t confront you directly, but will try and engage you in conversation, and ask you seemingly sincere question, when in reality their motive is to have you provide a forum for their own views, as a means to discredit you. Their coup de grâce would be to sow seeds of doubt in your mind, as well as the minds of your readers. These wolves can come from both inside and outside of the Church.
President Harold B. Lee described it this way:
“There are some as wolves among us. By that, I mean some who profess membership in this church who are not sparing the flock. And among our own membership, men are arising speaking perverse things. Now perverse means diverting from the right or correct, and being obstinate in the wrong, willfully, in order to draw the weak and unwary members of the Church away after them.” (link)
Career Antagonists: Last year I had an article run in the Deseret News. Within minutes, there were multiple comments attacking, and mocking what I had written. They instantly began putting out counter-claims and contradicting not only me, but the prophets that I quoted. Their speed and efficiency was stunning.
As I looked into it, I learned that there are actually people who make it their life’s work to lie in wait to see anything positive about the Church or it’s members, then pounce on it. They have pre-written comments that they toss into a conversation like an anti-Mormon hand grenade, trying to see how much damage they can do.
After their attacks, they head back to their groups, or networks and brag about their exploits with their friends, and continue the mockery. It is their hobby – or their career. I believe the Lord called them out in D&C 121:12, when He said, “For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive…” (italics added)
The Non-Sequiturs. (Sorry, but the name fits – definition here)
Last week I posted some information about a free app that can enhance our scripture study and teaching. A few minutes later, a guy on Twitter starts in about how the “Church releases those to make money, blah, blah, blah.”
What? Did I mention that it was free app? And that it wasn’t even released but the Church? I told him – but it didn’t matter. He droned on about issues relating the the Church’s finances, tithing, business, etc., trying to see what would stick.
You will see a lot of non-sequitur behavior if you bring up anything regarding Church History, or Joseph Smith. A statement of gratitude regarding the pioneers can, and has, instantly become a discussion about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Sigh.
They are either trying to save you from what they consider your “ignorance,” or just trying to make you mad. Either suits their purposes just fine. Don’t take their bait.
How to Respond
Years ago, I was in a calling that was encountering some public opposition. Whenever we discussed it, my leader would say the same thing, “Don’t bite back.” It was inspired counsel, bore good fruit, and became a mantra I try and carry to this day.
But it is so hard! I still struggle with it all the time. My entire family has been blessed/cursed with a caustic, quick wit. Too quick, and too caustic. We can fire back so fast your head will spin, and it can be harsh. I have had to fight those instincts all of my life – and I still lose the battle on a regular basis.
Sometimes people post things that are so dumb that I just want to shred them publicly. Others send me emails full of hate and mockery. There are some popular bloggers who actually take such letters and use them for fodder for their next blog post, all while espousing their Christianity. It doesn’t wok like that. I have deleted so many posts, Facebook conversations, and tweets that I have written before I settled down and remembered to heed the simple counsel, “Don’t bite back.” Once the words are out there, you can’t always retrieve them. (Or ever.)
Christ taught the “Don’t bite back” concept this way:
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
Or this, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39)
It is more fun, more exciting, and more natural to fire back at ignorance or malice. That is just the problem – it is a more natural reaction – the very type of thing we are trying to overcome. But it is a constant challenge – at least it is for me.
When we fire back at an antagonist, they win. When a conversation with the opposition causes us to lose our temper, they win. They win because we abandon the very Christianity we espouse as we are defending it. I imagine they get a modicum of satisfaction from our failure, and a chuckle.
I lose these battles occasionally – but I am much improved. A while ago, I had a personal spiritual epiphany that helped me have greater love for those who oppose the Lord’s work and Kingdom. I wrote about it here.
My Blog = My Rules One of the favorite accusations of the opposition is to accuse us of “not being fair.” They make the point that by not permitting them to use your blog, thread, comments as a forum for opposing views, you have somehow broken an important Politically Correct protocol that allows for open discussion.
Hogwash. You have absolutely no obligation to host, entertain, or permit false doctrine to be taught on the forum you are hosting – the forum, blog, thread, or conversation that you are responsible for. You have been blessed with a delete button, and the ability to block people. Use them with power. Guilt-free.
Preach truth – let the others find somewhere else to share their falsehoods.
Refer: One of the true tests between a sincere questioner, – someone who really wants to learn – is how they respond when you don’t know the answer to the question. This might seem hard to believe, but I don’t have all the answers. When I don’t I can find them, and refer people to those who do have the answers, and they are usually better equipped at explaining them.
www.Mormon.org has tremendous resources to help teach. The very best reply is always to send the missionaries over to visit.
Also, the Church has recently posted wonderful articles about topics that get a lot of attention, and are favorites of there Non-sequitur Club: Polygamy, the First Vision, Mountain Meadows, Women and the Priesthood, etc. In addition, there are groups that make it a point to learn about, and how to teach difficult gospel and Church topics. We refer to them as “apologists.” One such group is FairMormon.
If they really want to learn more, you can help them. If they just want to argue, then you know what to do:
It is OK to thank them for their time, and move on. Last week I even had to ask a person (nicely) to stop tweeting me. It is OK to unfriend someone who is not your friend. You have no obligation to converse with someone who has a goal of undermining your faith, or someone who is mocking you. There is no defense for that.
To tie this up, Elder Bednar talked about how we should personally pursue our goal of flooding the earth:
“…we and our messages should seek to edify and uplift rather than to argue, debate, condemn, or belittle. As Paul counseled the Ephesians, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29).
“Brothers and sisters, share the gospel with genuine love and concern for others. Be courageous and bold but not overbearing in sustaining and defending our beliefs, and avoid contention. As disciples our purpose should be to use social media channels as a means of projecting the light and truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ into a world that increasingly is dark and confused.” (Elder Bednar)
• To my new friends who are just starting out as part of this Social Media adventure, I welcome you.
• To those who have been doing it for a long time, I thank you for your trailblazing and example.
• To those who haven’t started yet, let me reaffirm that sharing the gospel online can be a wonderful experience. Join the party! It is good for my soul, and helps me feel like I am fulfilling the Lord’s charge to me, as I’m sure it will for you.
“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58:27)
Get involved, love everyone, and remember, don’t bite back!