Experiencing General Conference in today’s media world

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When the house lights dimmed at General Conference, Andrew Potts noticed that not everything went completely dark. Across the aisles of thousands of people, small lights began to glow as some people tune into Conference through electronic notebooks and smart phones.

It may seem like they are just playing games, but some are in fact connecting with General Conference in today’s media world — they are texting, posting and even live tweeting the words of the general authorities who are speaking.

This is just one sign of the new technological face of General Conference. Technology has permitted members to attend General Conference at meetinghouses across the globe, or even from the comfort of their own homes. According to mormonnewsroom.org, General Conference sessions “are broadcast via satellite to over 7,400 church buildings in 102 countries.” The ushering in of this new Conference experience, however, has come with mixed reactions.

Andrew Potts, a political science junior at BYU, thinks live tweeting quotes from general authorities is a great idea but believes it can be distracting.

“A lot of times, when I’ve been to the Conference Center, you’ll see the phones come out and they’ll be tweeting,” Potts said. “I’m not a fan of it at all, just because it’s super distracting. I think it’s great that they’re tweeting it … but I think that they can do it after conference, not during.”

Jordan Darling, a family and consumer science education major, turns her phone off during General Conference even though she is an avid Twitter user.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love that I’m connected, and I love when I’m at concerts and stuff and seeing what others are saying. But for General Conference, I feel like that would take away from the Spirit,” Darling said. “I turn my phone off because I feel if you are going to go to General Conference to hear the prophets and apostles, and you want that … spiritual experience, you shouldn’t be focused on other things at the same time.”

Instead, Darling writes down her thoughts in a notebook while the sessions are going, and then she submits her thoughts online later.

“Last April, that’s what I did. I posted it when I was done with some of my favorites,” Darling said. “The majority of my friends on Facebook aren’t LDS, and from my home town and my high school there (were) not a lot of members. So I do feel like it does benefit, just not necessarily during (the sessions).”

Just like Darling did for her friend, the Church encourages members to take advantage of modern technology to share the gospel. On the Church’s official website, lds.org, a recent front page titled “Invite Others” encourages members to tap into the resources of social media by placing banners on their blogs or websites to encourage others to “come listen to modern prophets” at General Conference.

At the last Conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf encouraged members of the Church to share the gospel through a variety of modern ways. “With so many social media resources and a multitude of more or less useful gadgets at our disposal, sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effects more far-reaching than ever before,” President Uchtdorf said. “My dear young friends, perhaps the Lord’s encouragement to ‘open (your) mouths’ might today include ‘use your hands’ to blog and text message the gospel to all the world! But please remember, all at the right time and at the right place.”

For the masters of multitasking, the right time and place may mean listening live to General Conference while interfacing with social media. Despite the potential of distraction from other tweets and the temptation to start up a game of Angry Birds, today’s General Conference attendees will tap into the world of social media to make the most of their Conference experience. Their faces may glow with a pale blue light when the lights go out in the Conference Center, but they are the faithful Latter-day Saints connecting with General Conference.

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