Technology in church has spiritual impact

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Technology has come a long way since the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830. Advancements such as smartphones, tablets and other devices allow the message of the gospel to reach the four corners of the earth.

However, technology may be hindering spiritual growth in church meetings.

BYU sociology student Emily Magleby said she thinks technology has its place in the church, but also sees the negative aspects of it.

“I think that (technology) has enabled people to interact with the gospel in a deeper way,” Magleby said. “But I think that a lot of people don’t know how to use it well.”

Magleby said when technology is used for games or texting in church, it can take away from the purpose of why people are there. She said she believes church meetings would be better without any technology.

When she was on a mission in Long Beach, California, Magleby brought a couple of investigators to church for the first time.

“We had explained the importance of the sacrament and just how special it was,” Magleby said. “Afterward, we asked them how they thought it was, and they said, ‘Well, it didn’t seem that important because everybody was on their cellphones.'”

Ethan West
Photo Illustration: The temptation to use technology in church can be hard to resist, even for BYU student Emily Magleby. (Ethan West)

Kevin Curtis, President of the Provo Utah YSA 7th Stake said he is concerned about cellphone and other technology use in church. He said technology can be a great tool of the gospel, but believes it can also distract from the Spirit.

“I believe when it is used right, it can be a blessing,” Curtis said. “But I think there is a blurred line between appropriate use and inappropriate use. I see often in church meetings people distracted because of their inability to control the use of that medium.”

Curtis said he also worries how church officials, such as bishops and stake officers, may be viewed when they use cellphones and tablets on the stand.

“Someone can be using that technology on the stand for example to look up a scripture,” Curtis said. “But to the congregation looking at that church leader, they may interpret it differently.”

Curtis said technology shouldn’t be used during sacrament meetings in order to preserve the Spirit.

Communications professor Tracie Cayford Cudworth, who also works for the Public Affairs department of the LDS Church, said she hopes technology can be used appropriately in church meetings.

“You see the church now doing more with technology,” Cudworth said. “With the apps, we can pull up scriptures, videos, conference talks and all sorts of resources on our iPads, smartphones and electronic devices. Even missionaries are using iPads in the field.”

Cudworth said she sees how technology has been abused in the church and even in classes. She said members need to think before they act and have to be smart about incorporating technology at church.

She said she encourages people to use technology to use church resources, such as the church’s apps, but to resist the temptation to use it for other means during church meetings.

“I would hope that we could trust ourselves with the technology,” Cudworth said. “Even with missionaries now with the electronic devices in the field, part of that is to train them on how to handle the technology and be efficient with that blessing we have been given to enhance our gospel study.”

Cudworth said she believes it’s important for members to use social media and smartphones to spread the gospel to members all over the world, since many of the church leaders have adopted this use of technology.

The leaders of the church get it, Cudworth said. “They carry smartphones too, and they understand the power of having essentially a computer in our hand and being accessible to the resources you need. But it also comes with a great responsibility to use those tools properly.”