“Behold, I will hasten my work in its time.”
–Doctrine and Covenants 88:73
If you’re like me, technology can sometimes feel like a curse more than a blessing. Having so much information and entertainment constantly at my fingertips means I have to make a daily, moment-by-moment decisions to not go down the rabbit hole of distraction. And despite my best efforts, I find myself down that rabbit hole often enough.
But technology, when used correctly, is truly a miraculous blessing that can aid us as we walk down the covenant path. As I have used technology in my gospel living, and as I have studied the words of prophets and apostles, I have discovered four areas of our lives for which technology can be a blessing.
1. Temple and Family History Work
When thinking about how technology can bless us as we strive to live the gospel, temple and family history work are among the first things that come to my mind. Working on family history these days rarely means hunting down microfilm or traveling long distances to old courthouses, libraries, and churches. The digitization of marriage licenses, census records, ship’s manifests, and more means that for most information, the farthest we need to travel is to a laptop with a Wi-Fi connection. Through indexing, we have the opportunity to participate in this work together, helping to create this blessing for each other.
It’s no accident that technology is helping us to find and serve our ancestors; it’s a fulfillment of prophecy. Presidents Brigham Young and Spencer W. Kimball both believed that innovation and invention would someday make temple and family history work more available (Family History Student Manual).
The hope of these prophets has long-since been fulfilled, as then-Elder Russel M. Nelson stated in 1990: “Computers have been developed that allow the Church to serve living members and to organize information relative to progenitors who live on the other side of the veil. People throughout the world, once little concerned with family history, now search for roots of their ancestral heritage using technologies unavailable a century ago” (General Conference, April 1990).
It’s clear that the Lord is hastening His work on many fronts, including temple and family history work, and a large part of that hastening is happening through members of the Church harnessing new technologies to serve their family members on the other side of the veil.
2. Missionary Work
Nowhere is the hastening of the Lord’s work more evident than in missionary work, and technology has played a large role in that. When I began my mission in Oklahoma, each companionship had a cellphone, but calling members and investigators was all we were allowed to do. It wasn’t until halfway through my mission that we got the green light to begin texting. Actually, the first text I ever sent in my life was to my mission president. The addition of that one simple technology changed missionary work significantly. It became much easier to confirm appointments, invite investigators to church, share encouraging messages, and more.
Since then, missionary work has changed tremendously. Missionaries use smartphones, Facebook, and video conferencing. These changes have been implemented over a number of years, and it’s clear in hindsight that the Lord was preparing his work to continue moving forward even as the world shut down in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We might have been surprised,” Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said last year, “but God was not. All of a sudden we used technology in a wonderful way which blessed the work. And this way, in many parts of the world…we have fewer missionaries but more baptisms” (The Church News).
Even when missionaries were quarantined inside their apartments, technology allowed them to find and teach through Facebook, Zoom, and even simple phone calls. And, as Elder Uchtdorf pointed out, these methods have proven to be quite effective. On my mission, we spent countless hours knocking on doors as we tried to find people to teach. Recently, I heard a newly returned missionary say that he didn’t knock on a single stranger’s door. In his mission, their finding came through members and through technology.
Technology has also opened doors for member missionary work. For me, handing someone a copy of the Book of Mormon or inviting someone to Church is extremely intimidating. While I still look for opportunities to do those things, I’m grateful for the additional opportunities social media provides to share my faith in simple ways.
A couple of years ago, I shared my testimony of the Book of Mormon on Facebook, and I was amazed by the response. People shared that post far more than anything else I have put on Facebook. Fellow members of the church enjoyed the post, but I was surprised that even a few of my non-member friends read it and seemed to appreciate it as well. This experience showed me the power of doing member missionary work through social media, by simply sharing your testimony and uplifting messages.
In 2018, after President Nelson announced home teaching and visiting teaching would be replaced by a “newer, holier approach” (General Conference, April 2018), Elder Holland laid out the concept of “ministering” (General Conference, April 2018). Ministering is more than a monthly visit with a lesson.
“In addition to whatever schedule you establish for actual visits,” Elder Holland stated, “that calendar can be supplemented with telephone calls, written notes, texts, emails, video chats, conversations at Church meetings, shared service projects, social activities, and a host of possibilities in the world of social media” (General Conference, April 2018).
Of the nine ideas Elder Holland offers here, five of them involve the use of technology. Our smartphones and computers are incredible tools we can use to bless others. Social media, for example, offers us the opportunity to keep up on the lives of those we minister to, as well as our friends and family. I experienced this a few months ago when a friend posted on Facebook about the passing of a loved one. My wife and I were able to brainstorm ideas for how to serve this person, and we ultimately had a meaningful experience as we followed that inspiration. This experience wouldn’t have been possible without social media.
Technology can also open doors for service in your community and abroad. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, social media posts have spread awareness, solidarity, and access to fundraisers to facilitate humanitarian efforts. Closer to home, you can find local events through Facebook, including fundraisers and service projects in your area. You can also find service opportunities through the Church’s website justserve.org.
4. Gospel Study
So far, we’ve discussed ways that technology can connect us to other people, both the living and the dead, through service and missionary work. But can technology aid us individually as we seek to deepen our own conversion?
For me, the answer is yes. Technology intersected most with my spiritual life while I was a busy graduate student. Many nights, after a long day of classes, while waiting for the bus to take me home, I would open the Gospel Library app on my phone. That was often my best opportunity for scripture study during the busy day, and technology provided me with convenient access to the scriptures without having to carry more books in my already overburdened backpack.
Over time, I have come to appreciate other resources, in addition to the standard works, that the Gospel Library app has to offer. It provides free access to Church magazines, study manuals, handbooks, Church history books, and many other publications. What’s more, the Gospel Library app offers many of these resources in audiobook form.
Having so much gospel information so readily available has blessed me immensely. For example, when I am troubled by a doubt or question about the gospel or Church history that is difficult to answer, I have gone to the Church’s “Gospel Topics” essays for help. These in-depth essays are carefully researched and crafted by Church scholars, and being able to access these essays easily through my smartphone has helped me find answers to questions that I couldn’t find on my own.
Other resources I have found helpful in the Gospel Library app are the digital versions of the Come, Follow Me manuals, which contain more material than their hardcopy equivalents. Each chapter links to gospel art, videos, General Conference talks, and other materials that you can access by simply tapping a link in the text.
Caution and Encouragement
Technology is an incredible tool to aid us on our spiritual path and to serve others along the way. It’s one of the main tools the Lord is using to hasten his work in temples, the mission field, our communities, and our own hearts. But of course technology can also be used for misinformation, hate, addiction, and distraction–all of which can cause us to falter along the covenant path, or even remove us from the path completely. These temptations are much like the mists of darkness Nephi and Lehi saw in vision, “which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost (1 Nephi 12:17).
Fortunately, the Church has resources to help us and our families navigate the complexities of our online environment. In the “Life Help” section of the Gospel Library, there is a collection of “Media Safety” articles that provide counsel on using media wisely and creating guidelines for yourself and your family to help you avoid the snares that easy-access to technology can present. And ultimately, we have the guidance of the Holy Ghost and the word of God–the iron rod–to help us navigate the swirling mists of our digital world. As we lean on the resources Heavenly Father has provided for us, He will help us remain safe, focused, and He will help us make technology a tool that will enrich our lives and help us bless the lives of others.