As is usual on a lazy day off I woke up, grabbed my phone, and scanned Facebook to see everyone else enjoying their mornings at work while I was still at home in bed.
“4G is up & running in Jasper!” one of my employees had just posted, and I checked the top of my phone’s screen to see a 4G/LTE emblem there, which caused me to literally leap out of bead shouting “YAHOO!”
Now I don’t want to sound like some sort of techie geek, because I’m really not (I used to call my friend Gabe to come and just hook up my new DVD players or cable box – I’m not that technologically savvy), but my excitement was beyond words. Living in the small city of Jasper, Alabama means that in a very real sense we are shut off from a lot of the technological advancements that occur in the world. We’re not hillbilly woods people living in huts, but working at Verizon it is absolutely amazing the number of people that come into my store each day who can’t even get internet at their homes unless they want dial up. Our technological infrastructure is just behind the times. And I have to laugh when I meet people who have just moved to Jasper from somewhere else and they say with complete contempt for this place, “We can’t even get the internet where we live.” Since our network’s 3G coverage covers most of the hills and gullies around here though we are able to offer internet to those who would otherwise not have it. So it’s a joy each day working in an industry where I get to serve my neighbors and be a part of the most advanced technology in our area. Our 4G wasn’t supposed to be “turned on” until next Thursday in our area. However, in order to fully test the network and vet out any glitches before the official laungh they turned it on.
(Now I’ll move on, because that was starting to sound like a canned Verizon commercial…)
As I enjoyed that new and nifty 4G signal at the top of my phone’s screen it got me thinking about technology and reflecting on just the things I’ve seen in the past few years.
I remember growing up as a little kid in Redmond, Utah and feeling like I was cut off from the world. The three channels we enjoyed on network television showed me places I couldn’t even imagine. New York City looked big and amazing and a million miles away. I remember seeing Michael J. Fox use an overly-large phone in a limo in a movie once and asking my mom how he could do that. I was in awe. And every time we watched a movie it had that “movie music” in it. – By movie music I mean popular contemporary music. – The small Sevier Valley of central Utah carried only two radio stations at the time (one AM and one FM) which were both country, and if I held my tiny radio just right at night I could pick up a fuzzy Spanish music station. So anything that wasn’t Garth Brooks or had a salsa feel to it just weren’t a part of my world or reality.
We learned to type in the first grade. There was a doublewide trailer known as the “Computer Lab” by the playground of Salina Elementary. I remember each morning we would walk the 250 feet or so from Mrs. Bills room, up the stairs, and into the trailer which was one large room filled with thirty or so computers. The first time I walked in it I remember it feeling magical. “So many computers!” I thought. “It’s like a spaceship in here.”
For my sixth grade science project I got super fancy and typed a fifteen page report on my cousin Heidi’s computer. I remember the technological amazement that DOS was, and the green blinking cursor on that dull black screen. When I finally printed off everything I had typed we then had to “trim” the edges by ripping off those endless strips of perforation.
I never had a Gameboy growing up, but I did have the original Nintendo, and it was amazing how many hours could be spent playing Mario and Duck Hunt. The graphics and game technology rocked my little kid world.
For my thirteenth birthday my grandparents got me a computer, a large gray desktop that was built by Mr. Porter in his computer shop there in Salina, Utah. We also got the internet. On evenings when we would connect at a whopping 13.4 kilobytes per second it was “blazing fast”. Excite.com was the search engine of choice and being in a chat room felt super cool. I could even bring my 3.5 inch floppy disk home from school and work on my eighth grade english assignments. And email! Oh, email was just so amazing.
To say that technology has advanced a little bit in my lifetime would be the understatement of the millenium. I now have a phone which has a micro SD card with more memory than that original computer Mr. Porter had built which weighed roughly a million. And the internet speeds connected to my phone are tens of thousands of times faster than those first couple of years of internet usage when it literally took minutes to download one picture. On my phone I manage four email accounts (two personal and two for work), have hours of music arranged into playlists, and a plethora BYU devotionals saved by topic. On that phone I can listen to thousands of radio stations from throughout the world, can rent full-length movies in HD, get navigation, play countless games, bank, pay bills, check the weather, and (because sometimes I forget it does this too) I can even make a phone call.
It is amazing the powers that we are capable of as a people in our current day and age. But what is the purpose of all of this technology? What is it good for? How should we be using it in our daily lives? And why has God endowed the minds of scientists in our day and age to come forth with such mind blowing amazing things?
I believe the words of modern prophets and apostles can best answer that question. Said Elder Joseph Fielding Smith,
I maintain that had there been no restoration of the gospel, and no organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there would have been no radio; there would have been no airplane, and there would not have been the wonderful discoveries in medicine, chemistry, electricity, and the many other things wherein the world has been benefited by such discoveries. Under such conditions these blessings would have been withheld, for they belong to the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times of which the restoration of the gospel and the organization of the Church constitute the central point, from which radiates the Spirit of the Lord throughout the world. The inspiration of the Lord has gone out and takes hold of the minds of men, though they know it not, and they are directed by the Lord. In this manner he brings them into his service that his purposes and his righteousness, in due time, may be supreme on the earth.
“Now let me say briefly that I do not believe for one moment that these discoveries have come by chance, or that they have come because of superior intelligence possessed by men today over those who lived in ages that are past. They have come and are coming because the time is ripe, because the Lord has willed it, and because he has poured out his Spirit on all flesh” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1926, p. 117).
Obviously the Lord has held out the greatest advancements of technology for our age, the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times. Our’s will finally be the day and age when not only will we have the fullness of the gospel, but we’ll have the greatest means with which to share it with our family, friends, neighbors, and the entire world. Elder Russell M. Nelson words also come to mind,
We are blessed to be living in such an exciting gospel dispensation. God is inspiring the minds of great people to create inventions that further the work of the Lord in ways this world has never known” (in “Computerized Scriptures Now Available,” Ensign, Apr. 1988, p. 73 ).
And we see it more and more with each passing day, month and year. The technological wonders of today will be old news by next month and pieces of antiquity by next year. As the Lord’s covenant people we have hopped on board with the rest of the world by buying our iPhones, endless computers, tablets, HD flatscreen televisions, and an assortment of other electrical mumbo jumbo. In a time when sharing the gospel has never been easier it seems all the more harder because we have allowed this God-given technology to take up more and more of our time each day.
It was Archibald F. Bennett’s words that came to my mind though this morning. As I was leaping around my bedroom shouting “Yahoo” to have 4G Brother Bennett’s words seemed to ring within my soul.
Sister Susa Young Gates related to me that she once asked her father [Brigham Young] how it would ever be possible to accomplish the great amount of temple work that must be done, if all are given a full opportunity for exaltation. He told her there would be many inventions of labor-saving devices, so that our daily duties could be performed in a short time, leaving us more and more time for temple work. The inventions have come, and are still coming, but many simply divert the time gained to other channels, and not for the purpose intended by the Lord” (“Put on Thy Strength, O Zion!” Improvement Era, Oct. 1952, p. 720).
Those words, being brought to my mind by the power of the Holy Ghost this morning, caused me to literally stop in my tracks and ponder in awe the great things God has given us.
The automobile, airplane, indoor plumbing, electricity, dishwasher, clothes dryer, internet and telephone were not specifically given to us to make our lives any easier, or happier, or to give us more time to laze around and watch television. And yes, while they do allow us a great amount of ease and enjoyment in our daily lives, it is of great importance for us to remember each and every moment of every day that they were given to us to make living the gospel easier. Of course Satan and his minions have tried to coutnerbalance the efforts of our Heavenly Father. The same computer screen that can bring me streaming videos of General Conference can also bring in damning pornography and corruption to the soul. And while living the gospel and having access to the words of prophets may have never been easier, getting accidentally caught in the mires of sin has also never been easier.
We live in a world of extremes. And it is Satan, the father of all lies and contention, who continues to push us in opposing directions. It can be seen in our political systems, in our society’s moral values, and even in the ways that we use the technology that has been given us. As time goes on and technology advances things will only get more divided and the extremes will only grow further apart.
So I invite you to examine how you are using technology. Are you letting it be an asset or a hindrance to your life as a Latter-day Saint? Do you spend countless hours each day watching the latest shows you’ve recorded on your DVR, or do you do family history work? Do you play Angry Birds until your phone battery dies, or do you take a chance to listen to a General Conference talk during lunch? And do you Facebook continually, scanning the statuses of people whom you haven’t seen since high school, or do you pick up the phone and call a friend, loved one, or a member of your congregation who you haven’t seen in a while?
Technology is a great blessing from our Heavenly Father. He has given it to us to enable us to more easily walk back into His presence with as many of our loved ones as possible. It makes our lives easier. It gives us extra time. And it really is a great source for entertainment. But be aware of the other end of the spectrum, and that once we become addicted to our gadgets Satan has won in not only taking our time and lives away from us, but also our very allegiance to the things we worship.
The choice is up to us.