Saturday, August 5, 2017

Elder Gary E. Stevenson offers cautions about the risks of modern technology

Elder Gary E. Stevenson (b. August 5, 1955) was called as a Seventy in 2008, then as Presiding Bishop in 2012. He was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2015.
"Now, having just espoused all the virtues of these new technologies [Internet, social media, etc.] and demonstrated their appropriate use, I think it is also useful to discuss some of the risks associated with them.
"We should all be very aware of the time that can be consumed on social media or in the use of mobile apps.
"The use of social media also carries a risk of reducing face-to-face interaction, which may be stifling the development of the social skills of many young people.
"The hazards associated with inappropriate content cannot be understated. There is an increasing epidemic of pornography addiction in society, which is negatively affecting and victimizing even Church members and families.
"Finally, I offer two additional merging risks, which net is cast over virtually everyone, including young women and millennial mothers and wives. I label these two risks as 'idealized reality' and 'debilitating comparisons.' ...
"Generally speaking, pictures that get posted on social media tend to portray life in the very best and often in an unrealistic, way. They are often filled with beautiful images of home decor, wonderful vacation spots, and elaborate food preparation. The danger, of course, is that many become discouraged that they seemingly don't measure up to this 'idealized virtual reality.' ...
"Hopefully, we can learn to find more humor and less discouragement when confronted with images which may portray idealized reality and which too often lead to debilitating comparisons.
"This apparently is not just a sign of our times, but, measuring these words from Paul, was in times past as well: 'But they measuring themselves ... and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise' (2 Corinthians 10:12)."
- Gary E. Stevenson, “The Knowledge of a Savior,” BYU Women’s Conference on May 5, 2017
Click here to read the full talk

This was a very timely message by Elder Stevenson, delivered to a Women's Conference at BYU earlier this year. The first half of the talk reviewed wonderful and powerful aspects of modern technology development, examining prophecies of how the tools would emerge to bless the Lord's work, and showing how the Church is taking advantage of them.

But then Elder Stevenson turned to some cautions about how these developments can impact our lives in less positive ways. It's very worthwhile to be aware of these risks and to ponder our lives as we consider the "pros and cons" of technological innovations.

His thoughts on those last two points were particularly interesting. It's so easy to assume, based on the images or descriptions we view via today's technology, that other people live nearly perfect lives while we ourselves struggle with so many challenges and shortcomings. Elder Stevenson shared some personal experiences and insights to help warn us of this tendency. In reality, we all tend to share with each other images and descriptions of only the very best of what's going on; but we can be assured that all of us have struggles in various ways, and face the challenges and imperfections of mortality in our lives. This article is very worth reviewing as individuals and families.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

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