Stepping into the Darkness

"You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness, then the light will appear and show you the way before you."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Disciples in a Digital Age

This past week we had the privilege of being taught by a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.  Elder Brent H. Nielsen had with him the Director of the MTC. The Oregon Eugene Mission has been one of the pilot missions to roll out the use of the mini i-pad. They have been using them in the mission for about a year and a half. The church included a digital “area book” to track the teaching and work of the missionaries. This program will remain in the area, so when missionaries are transferred and new missionaries assigned and moved into the area, the records of the area will become available to the new missionaries in the area through the area book program. This is controlled and directed through a system called the Internet Missionary Operating System (IMOS). We spent our second week at the MTC being trained on IMOS. This system not only controls the area book, but also all the finances, correspondence and housing, transfers and companionships showing the complete organization of the mission. It is an amazing program.
Back to the meeting this week. They are rolling out the second phase, again with the OEM being among the first. The new i-pads that arrived yesterday have twice the memory and as the training moves along will include a special version of Facebook that allows the missionaries to proselyte over the internet. The goal is the have missionaries teaching 2 to 3 times more using these tools. When the Brethren were asked if they could really trust 18 to 20 year olds to use these tools responsibly, the answer from the First Presidency was a resounding “absolutely.”
They passed out two booklets to us that had “DRAFT” on the cover. Elder Nielsen explained they were not finalized yet and these were printed and sent just days before the meeting. In fact Elder Nielsen said that in the week since production started on the booklets we held, a couple of major revisions had taken place, which he had us pencil in.  They talked about how we will use these tools in the digital age. It was amazing listening to this inspired work.
Elder Nielsen then began to address the elephant in the room. He talked about the devastation being wrought among the saints by pornography. He talked about the months and years of discussion had by the First Presidency and the Twelve on how to combat this evil. The hope is that with the expanded missionary force and these tools given to us by God, we can raise a generation with the tools to overcome this evil.
They gave us the four levels or steps to using the internet safely. They are:
  1. Be in tune with spiritual promptings. The missionaries are asked to commit to following the safeguards and process in the booklet; to pray daily and specifically for guidance on how to use this technology; watch for and heed warning signs that come from the Holy Ghost; and record in our journals the promptings we receive about how to use the technology to increase the effectiveness in missionary work.
  2. Be focused on your missionary purpose. This purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. This is done by asking yourself, before using any technology, how it will help people- exercise faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repent, be baptized or prepare to receive other ordinances, feel and follow the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. Then turn on your device only after your intention is clear. If you can’t remember why you are using your device, stop what you are doing and review your plans. Use daily planning as a time to determine how you will use technology in proselyting and how your plan will help you reach your proselyting goals. Limit the use of technology when you are feeling bored, lonely, angry, anxious, stressed, tired, or any other emotion that makes you vulnerable or susceptible. Select a background screen image that reminds you of your commitment to your purpose.
  3. Be Disciplined. Avoid checking or responding to digital messages while you are talking with someone face to face. Prevent your device from becoming as excuse to avoid talking to people in person. Avoid checking or sending messages during sacrament meetings, ward council, or missionary training meetings. Use settings and features on the device that allow you to minimize interruptions during meetings, appointments, and conversations. Use study and planning times to locate content for proselyting use. Set up and use social media according to the guidelines in Missionary Work in the Digital Age.
  4. Be One. Be able to view your companion’s screen at all times. (They teach this as working shoulder to shoulder). Have your companion review all posts, comments, or messages before you send them. This does not apply to letters to the Mission President or e-mails home. Participate as a companionship in all social media teaching events such as e-mail, texts, Facebook messages, Skype, and FaceTime. Invite mission leaders to regularly review how you are using proselyting technology.
They go one to teach what to do when temptation comes along. It is interesting to note that the first three safeguards are self driven and encourage and teach to listen to and follow the spirit. These devices are very limited in what apps you can download and use, and if you stray the mission president will know what you did. They have the same kind of technology on the cars. If you speed, drive recklessly, or if you are not the approved driver for the car, the system tells the missionary to correct the behavior and sends the information to the mission vehicle coordinator and the Mission President. It takes very little and you do not drive the rest of your mission. What you do on them is known, but really, it is all known anyway. Some say, but what about my free agency? Elder Bednar has plainly taught, it isn’t free agency, it is moral agency, and when you have made the decision to follow Christ and accept baptism, you have spent your agency. Now your choice is are you going to keep your covenants or be a covenant breaker.

This seems lengthy, but it is only catching the basics. As we were taught the spirit bore witness and taught us individually about this program. It was an experience that defies adequate explanation. We feel so incredibly blessed to be able to be here. To be a part of this great work. We see so often the hand of the Lord in this work. We feel His spirit guiding us in our work. We are meeting people who are looking for what we have and so often take for granted. We have a wonderful yet small and modest apartment, work long hours supporting the work of the Elders and Sisters who can spend their full time teaching. They are miles above what we were when we that age. They are obedient, enthusiastic, their faces shine with the light of Christ, and it is humbling to be numbered among them.