General Conference, October 2018 – Sunday Afternoon Session – “Now is the Time” by Elder Jack N. Gerard, Of the Seventy
In his talk, Elder Gerard spoke about a frightening health episode that led him to reflecting on what is really important in his life–and it wasn’t the minutiae of daily life, or the business appointment for which he was traveling, it was his family! He asked himself two questions:
- How were we doing as a family and individually?
- Were we living our lives consistent with the covenants we had made and the Lord’s expectations, or had we perhaps unintentionally allowed the cares of the world to distract us from those things which matter most?
He then invites us to step back from the world and assess our lives.
Assessing Our Lives
Elder Gerard described assessing our lives as “an opportunity to step back from the world, reflect on where we stand on the covenant path, and, if necessary, make adjustments to ensure a firm grip and a forward gaze.” And he included a question to help us in our reflections: “How do we rise above the distractions of this world and stay fixed on the vision of eternity before us?”
He referenced two separate invitations from the prophet this year to the youth of the Church and to the sisters: to participate in a fast from social media for seven days and ten days, respectively.
It’s so interesting to me to see these very similar invitations coming so closely together! I wonder if the men or the general membership of the Church will receive a similar invitation at the next General Conference in April. It must be more important than I thought to disengage from the internet periodically, the way that we disengage from work by taking periodic vacations.
As I participated in my own social media fast in November, I felt a refreshing peace that I hadn’t felt in a while. I just don’t experience that type of peace when the internet is in my face all day! If you haven’t yet had a social media fast of your own, I really recommend it. I plan on doing another one, maybe over Spring Break in March or during the week leading up to General Conference.
I use an app called Pocket to save and share articles I find online and as I was writing this blog post, I paused for a moment to open a new tab in my internet browser to look up some information about “alternative facts” (see below, yikes!) and in my new browser tab, my app extension recommended an article called “How Much of the Internet is Fake? Turns Out a Lot of It, Actually.” (The article is about how on the internet, the metrics, people, businesses, content, politics, and ultimately we ourselves are fake, and the title made me laugh.)
“The debate over truth has reached a fevered pitch, with all sides claiming truth as if it were a relative concept open to individual interpretation.” Elder Jack N. Gerard
I remember the first time I heard the phrase “alternative facts” used instead of the correct terms “lie” or “falsehood.” I was equal parts horrified and bewildered–what sort of convoluted thought processes does one have to have to arrive at the action of being deceitful about lying? (The person who originally used this term later expanded her definition of it as “additional facts and alternative information” and, later that same week, substituted the phrases “incomplete information” and “alternative information.” Yikes.)
Clickbait headlines attempt to draw our attention to matters that are exaggerated beyond their mundane nature or are attempting to scam us out of our money or personal information. Top 10 lists! Must see! Most watched! You won’t believe what she does! Try this one weird trick! (In case you can’t tell, I can’t stand this sort of thing. I prefer my headlines to briefly sum up what I’m about to read, bonus points for puns.)
It’s becoming clear to me that as we draw nearer to the Second Coming, the personal witness of the Holy Ghost is going to be more important to our survival–spiritual and possibly physical–than ever before.
Elder Gerard quoted from Jacob 4 in the Book of Mormon (emphasis added):
13 Behold, my brethren, he that prophesieth, let him prophesy to the understanding of men; for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls. But behold, we are not witnesses alone in these things; for God also spake them unto prophets of old. (Jacob 4:13)
We certainly can’t rely on the world for the truth. The world can’t even decide what truth is! Actually, the world says we can define truth for ourselves! Everyone’s truth is different!
No, no, no.
That’s not how it works.
We must live our lives in such a way that the Holy Ghost can be our constant companion and testify to us of “the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:5)
I was just about to push the publish button for this blog post when it occurred to me (and I’m sure many of you realized this already but I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes and so I apologize if I’m belaboring the point) if we fill our time with mindless browsing on things we won’t even remember in a few weeks, we won’t have any time left for pondering and reflecting about important spiritual matters.
If we are constantly being bombarded by the noise of the world (I imagine the great and spacious building has a great and spacious sound system), we literally cannot hear the whispering of the Spirit!
I always pay my tithing first. It never works for me to pay tithing last, because some expense or impulse buy always crops up and eats away all the money I had set aside for tithing. But if I pay tithing first, everything always works out. Always.
I think I need to spend my time the same way I spend my money.