Choose to engage in active media conversations, not in passive media consumption.
In Tuesday’s Devotional, Amy Jensen, chair of the Department of Theatre and Media Arts, spoke on how students can spiritually benefit from media technologies by using them to serve others.
While the young generation certainly deserves praise and recognition for its capacity and achievements, Jensen said students should also recognize they have their own unique characteristics and challenges.
“For example, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to capture and maintain your attention,” Jensen said. “I know that many of you are multitasking at this very moment – doing homework, checking your Facebook account, answering e-mails, texting your friends about your lunch plans or even shopping.”
Admitting she uses her iPhone and laptop all the time as well, Jensen said her talk was not to scold or reprimand students for spending lots of time on Facebook or for taking a phone to class. She said it was rather to give some hopeful and helpful words about how one’s spiritual life might intersect with the world of data and devices.
For that purpose, Jensen shared a past Devotional talk given at the Marriott Center in 1988, which she attended as a student. It was titled, “Souls, Symbols and Sacraments” by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who was president of BYU at the time.
Jensen said she believes two doctrines Elder Holland spoke of in the talk, the doctrine of the soul and the doctrine of the sacrament, have profound implications for current mediated interactions with the world. She quoted Doctrine and Covenants 88:15, which says “the spirit and the body are the soul of man.”
“With this in mind, I want to call to your attention the ways that mass communication technologies impact your body, and therefore your soul,” Jensen said. “I also want you to be conscious of the way the world is impacted by your soul, and therefore your body.”
Jensen said she believes people’s agency has been enhanced by technology, allowing them at every moment to choose the better parts of the world.
“We should acknowledge that our cell phones and laptops carry no secret powers that will push us toward one side or the other of the war that began in heaven,” she said. “They are simply tools that amplify the choices we make through our own agency.”
Jensen said when students engage with the world through digital devices they should take every opportunity to “formally take the hand of God and feel his divine power,” making the use of technology and media a “holy sacrament.”
“This means that we must not take our souls to places that the spirit cannot follow,” she said. “We must not find ourselves in circumstances that the Holy Ghost cannot abide.”
Jensen told a story of her younger sister who died of cancer and how she constantly used a blog and other tools to help and encourage others and to share her testimony of God.
“Her engagement with the world through the technologies of our day was something more than just entertainment or a hobby or an interesting way to pass the time,” she said. “To her, these were holy activities – purposeful and consecrated actions, sacramental exercises of faith to help her obtain and share the vision of our Heavenly Father.”
To find out if media and technologies are affecting the soul positively or negatively, Jensen said students can regularly ask the following questions: Am I having media conversations, or am I simply consuming it? What conversations am I having about media with my family and those closest to me? Lastly, what am I doing to improve the conversations around me when I use media to communicate?
Closing her talk, Jensen encouraged students to be record keepers, to build their faith and the faith of those around them. She also talked about consecrating thoughts, communications and actions while using those technologies, and asked students to look outward in service to others to find answers to their own prayers.
“Choose to find ways and go to places and create circumstances where you can unite symbolically with our Father, and gain access to his power to help you navigate through the choices and challenges of your generation,” she said. “For this is life eternal, that you in your world, with the tools of your day, and practices of your everyday life – that you will come to know the true and living God, and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent.”