During a special devotional for youth ages 12-18, President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encouraged young people to take part in the latter-day gathering of Israel. “How exciting is that?” said the prophet, stating that the Lord had reserved His “finest team” for the work of these latter days. He went on to explain that there is “nothing more important” than the current gathering of Israel.
As part of his challenge, President Nelson encouraged youth to do five things:
1. Hold a Seven-Day Social Media Fast
To frame this challenge, Nelson pushed youth to, “Disengage from a constant reliance on social media in order to decrease its worldly influence upon you,” calling social media a “fake life.” Indeed, he said, “Give yourself a seven-day break from fake!” citing the dangers posed by regular, even addicting social media use in creating a false sense of identity. He promised that abstaining from social media use will be a “sign to the Lord” that youth “are willing to step away from the world in order to enlist in His youth battalion.”
Social media has its benefits, of course (after all, the Church employs its use extensively), but President Nelson reminded us that, “If you are paying more attention to social media than to the whisperings of the spirit, you are putting yourself at risk.”
Unsurprisingly, the prophet spent more time on this point than the others.
There’s obviously a certain irony in posting this summary, but we’re going to take the risk that 1) readers 12-18 do not a sizable portion of the TWiM audience make; 2) The rest of you are going to do your best not to listen to any of this counsel [insert smiley face]. Either way, neither youth nor adults will be accessing said social media on the Church’s wifi networks.
2. Make a Weekly Sacrifice of Time to the Lord for Three Straight Weeks
“Let [the Lord] know that you want to be part of His battalion more than anything else.” President Nelson explained that learning how to sacrifice time will team us how to reorganize our time and move away from senseless pursuits, and eventually to fill that time with worthwhile pursuits. Simply put (and this is my interpretation): it’s easier to fill a vacuum with something positive than nothing at all. Don’t just give up time for nothing. Fill it.
3. Keep on the Covenant Path
To “let your heart and mind be more pure,” carry out an honest inventory of yourself. Find out if you truly understand the atonement. Talk to your bishop or parents if you aren’t sure where you stand or what you should do. “Please do not stay off the covenant path one more minute,” pleased President Nelson.
4. Pray Regularly that all of God’s Children Receive the Gospel
This bit of counsel hearkened back to remarks President Nelson gave at the beginning of his address, when he discussed a prompting he had to learn Mandarin with his first wife, and how that shaped his career by allowing him teach and perform medicine in China. China remains closed to formal missionary activity, but it serves as one of many reminders that there are many parts of the world that still lack the gospel.
5. Stand out and Be Different from the World
“”The Lord needs you to look like, sound like, and act like a true disciple of Jesus Christ.” Asking us to “avoid the stain of the world” and “avoid the celebrity culture that has smitten our society,” President Nelson encouraged youth to be proud to be different; wear it with a badge of honor. Do not view oneself as needing to stand apart from the world. Instead, set the tone for others. Read For the Strength of Youth. Live the standards of the Church. President Nelson even asked youth to give a copy of the youth standards pamphlet to a friend.
Some might argue that points 3-5 are a bit more boilerplate than something as dramatic as deliberately sacrificing time for the Lord and ditching one’s smartphone for a solid week. And that’s fine. Mormon youth are not immune to the temptations of social media.
So, we’ll see you in a week?