Hundreds of Latter-day Saints will take to their keyboards to entertain, uplift, offer commentary and share the gospel on the Internet during the weekend’s 183rd Annual General Conference.
In the April 2011 General Conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, told a worldwide audience that sharing the gospel is easier than ever before because of social media.
“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!” he said. “But please remember, all at the right time and at the right place.”
Social media tools range from Pinterest boards full of conference quotes to memes, blog posts, Tumblr pages and #TwitterStake and #LDSconf tweets. Regardless of the media format, those who share say that worship comes first.
General Conference weekend is always a popular time for the BYU Memes Facebook page. Laura Morgan, a site administrator for the BYU Memes page, referred to the period as “the conference high time” because of the influx of memes. In October, users posted more than 200 memes to the Facebook page during conference. More conference-themed memes followed in the weeks after.
Morgan expects approximately 70 memes this weekend, unless another major announcement is made (like the missionary age change). She said it is hard to estimate because the page is always growing as more Facebook users “like” and comment.
Morgan believes the best memes are those thought of on the spur of the moment, but she hopes meme creators will focus on the talks rather than on looking for meme opportunities.
“If people are trying to look for something to make into a meme, it’s usually not that funny,” she said. “Constantly thinking about what you can make into a meme at conference would miss the entire point.”
Perhaps the best-known LDS Tumblr page comes from “K,” a 23-year-old graduate student living in New York City. K’s page, “Just Say Amen Already,” has more than 305,000 hits. The author, who converted from the Jewish faith four-and-a-half years ago, uses her site as a means of both entertainment and blogging for non-Mormons and Mormons alike.
K started her blog to help give voice to members of the Church who sometimes feel isolated in Mormon culture. She never expected her blog to become a missionary tool, but it has. She has received emails from members of the Church who resonate with her spunky personality as well as less-active members, a few of which have thanked her for reminding them what they miss about the Church.
She believes her blogging is a good thing because it helps her non-Mormon friends see why the Church is such a huge part of her life. However, she will not be blogging during the conference talks.
“When I watch conference, I want to be really watching conference and hear the messages I need to hear,” she said. “I worry that posting during conference will make it difficult for me to focus on these messages and detract from the experience for me.”
K said she sometimes makes notes of funny posts she wants to make and then creates them in between conference sessions or afterward, rather than updating her page while she watches talks.
“I think it’s important to discuss and share the messages we hear during conference, but maybe not while it’s on,” she said.
Most Twitter users are not concerned about missing parts of conference due to tweeting and watching simultaneously. In fact, they say it helps them focus their thoughts and allows people who miss sessions to know what is happening.
It’s important to note that typing a quote onto your Twitter feed is almost effortless, while creating and uploading memes or Tumblrs takes creative effort and time.
“If you’re checking Twitter every once in a while, you can see things you might have missed,” said Brendan Holmes, a junior from Glendora, Calif.
Holmes said he uses Twitter to take notes during conference. “I tweet mostly quotes, but there is some commentary as well,” he said. Last October, one of Holmes’ tweets about the missionary age change was picked up by the Deseret News.
Brittany Molina, a senior studying accounting from Portland, Ore., said she uses Twitter during General Conference to see what other people think about announcements, revelation and other news using the #ldsconf hashtag.
“One of the reasons I live tweet is so that I can remember the special parts of conference that really hit me,” she said.
Molina says she sends out tweets regarding talks she likes, as well as what is happening in the Conference Center. She said the majority of her tweets are meant to be funny, but she does try to tweet things that will allow her non-Mormon friends to learn about her religion.
During conference weekend, many members of the Church use Facebook to invite non-Mormon friends to watch General Conference.
Alyssa Lamprecht, who lives in Provo and teaches Mormon.org chat to new missionaries, believes social media is a great tool for sharing the gospel.
When Lamprecht shares the gospel on Facebook, she keeps her posts brief and simple. Usually she shares quotes or links to Mormon messages. Her advice to members of the Church who want to share General Conference with non-Mormons online is to utilize links and keep it simple.
“A lot of people feel like they have to write a ton of their testimony and a ton about the Church, but I feel like it catches more people’s attention when you make short, powerful statements,” she said.
Whether or not you engage on social media next weekend, General Conference is bound to be an uplifting experience for all who participate.
The 183rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints begins Saturday at 10 a.m. MDT.
To visit K’s tumblr page, visit amenalready.tumblr.com.