Truth and Technology
My wife and I missed all the sessions of general conference last week. But we had a good excuse. My wife was giving birth.
Our second son popped out during the Saturday morning session not half an hour after the two new apostles were called. I suggested that we name him Dieter Uchtdorf Johnston in honor of one of our new apostles, but my wife wouldn't have it.
So we named him Jacob instead.
Back in the olden days, back when the church was first organized, if you missed a session of general conference you were plum out of luck. The Ensign didn't exist. Transcripts of talks weren't made available. If you wanted to catch conference, your only choice was to squeeze into the tabernacle.
Of course, it was also in those meetings that men were called on missions and asked to leave their families to preach the gospel abroad. So if you were a grown man, maybe missing the meeting wasn't a bad idea.
In any case, the audience for general conference used to be tiny, finite.
That changed. Eventually talks were printed and circulated for members to read. Then came radio. And then satellite television. Members could now watch conference live from their ward buildings or, if they owned a satellite, their homes.
Then came the internet. With it church members throughout the world could listen to conference live in their native language at a fraction of the cost of satellite TV. All it took was an ISP and a phone line.
And if you missed a session, no problem. The church provided streaming audio of every session at the church website.
And now streaming video is available, meaning you can watch any session of conference, including the priesthood session, whenever you chose.
This is incredibly convenient. My wife, who spends much of her day sitting and feeding the new baby, has already watched most of the sessions we missed. It's wonderful.
And as if that weren't enough, the church will now make sessions of conference available for download as mp3 files. How cool is that? All of you iPod owners out there can now add President Hinckley to your play lists. For free.
I've heard it said many times before, and always as a matter of opinion, that technology advances so that the gospel can advance. TV exists because the Lord needed TV. The internet exists because the Lord needed the internet.
There may be some truth to that. Maybe not. What I do know, however, is that the church is wise to embrace technology and use it as a weapon of truth.
Take the church website for example. It's packed with more information on our beliefs, practices, history, and scripture than you'll find in any single text. There are pages on music, welfare, church news, child adoption, whatever. It's wonderfully comprehensive.
And it's available to everyone, free of obligation. You don't have to login. You don't have to give away your email address. You just go to the site and browse. No gimmicks. No tricks.
For nonmembers leery of speaking with the missionaries, the website is a wonderful resource. And if the nonmember's investigation is sincere, chances are he or she will feel the Spirit of the Lord while browsing the site and want to know more.
Of course, members benefit from the site as well - probably more so. All of the resources we need for our Sunday worship are available to us online.
One of my favorite pages at the church site, for example, is the download page for PDAs or handheld computers. I don't own a PDA but I'm fascinated by them. I see them all the time at church now. They hold scriptures, hymns, lesson manuals, everything. They're compact, light, and very convenient.
And they also hold video games, so you can give the appearance of following the lesson while playing a round of Frogger.
Go to the church's music site and you can teach yourself to conduct music, download your favorite primary song, or even submit an original song to the church to be considered for publication.
Need a home evening lesson? No sweat. The Home and Family segment of the website has over twenty prepared lessons to choose from - not to mention a huge list of fun activities you can do as a family to compliment each lesson.
Of course the most commonly used feature of the website is the general search option. I'd wager that 99% of sacrament meeting speakers use this resource when preparing their talks. It's great. I don't know how we wrote talks without it.
And that makes me wonder, what awaits us in the future? What technologies will the church embrace ten years from now? Twenty? Will they spread the gospel faster? Teach the doctrine better? If they aid the cause of Christ, you can be sure the church will use it.
Of course even more reassuring is the fact that the truth won't change. Science may evolve and the chip may get smaller, but the the truth of the gospel will remain steady and constant with no shadow of turning.
So even if Jacob grows up and watches conference through hologram goggles, he'll still hear the same truths we're hearing now. He'll just look a little cooler doing it.
Copyright © 2004 by Aaron Johnston
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