Which Way Do You Facebook?

Not long ago, a friend of mine shared with me an experience her husband had on Facebook. He was casually scrolling through the news feed when he saw that one of his LDS friends had posted a very approving comment about the nature of same sex relationships on a photo of gay couple on a cruise. My friend’s husband was surprised. This man on Facebook was a faithful, active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who somehow didn’t realize that he was unwittingly giving approval comments about a practice that is in direct opposition to the teachings of our Church. Why would he feel okay with doing this, while on the other hand not feel comfortable positively commenting on other types of sins being hailed on social media? My friend then said the following:

How many others do this, in spite of the fact that the Brethren have clarified this issue to the point that no one can misunderstand the Church’s position? This is basic LDS doctrine. Do Church members realize when they “like” and leave comments of approval on Facebook, they are going along with behaviors that the Lord has clearly defined as serious sexual sin?  What kind of a message are they sending to others? To their children? To the youth they teach? Or to those they lead in the Church?  How are these good, faithful members missing this crucial point?

While we may not fully know the intent of others’ actions, we can look to our own actions in this regard. The point of sharing this story is not to cast judgment on an individual. Rather, it is to illustrate the point that we would do well to consider what we show approval of on social media, whatever it may be.

Many reading this may have had the same thoughts, being disappointed, concerned or surprised when they see LDS friends and family sharing and commenting positively on things in opposition to and in violation of God’s commandments. Others reading this will be angry and immediately cast this man as being judgmental and intolerant. Yet, knowing what we know about LDS doctrine and standards, why would some still choose to support practices that have been so clearly defined as right and wrong? Whom do we face when we see things contrary to Church standards and doctrine being advocated on social media?

fashion-person-woman-hand-largeWhich way do you face?

A few years ago, Elder Lynn G. Robbins gave a General Conference talk titled “Which Way Do You Face?” It’s a bold talk that gives us all reason to pause and consider who we face and which way we face when we interact with others—including on social media. He makes five important points that we might consider:

  1. Peer pressure tries to change a person’s attitudes, if not behavior, by making one feel guilty for giving offense. We seek respectful coexistence with those who point fingers, but when this fear of men tempts us to condone sin, it becomes a “snare”. The snare may be cleverly baited to appeal to our compassionate side to tolerate or even approve of something that has been condemned by God.

  2. When people try to save face with men, they can unwittingly lose face with God. Thinking one can please God and at the same time condone the disobedience of men isn’t neutrality but duplicity.

  3. Prophets through the ages have always come under attack by the finger of scorn. Why? According to the scriptures, it is because “the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center” Their scornful reaction is, in reality, guilt trying to reassure itself.

  4. The scornful often accuse prophets of not living in the 21st century or of being bigoted. They attempt to persuade or even pressure the Church into lowering God’s standards to the level of their own inappropriate behavior … Lowering the Lord’s standards to the level of a society’s inappropriate behavior is—apostasy.

  5. Some members don’t realize they are falling into [a] snare when they lobby for acceptance of [things] that are not in harmony with the gospel culture.

    It can be uncomfortable to take inventory on which way we “Facebook” when it comes to hot-button social issues and doctrines addressed in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. These things might include abortion, anti-Mormon/anti-Church leader articles, gay marriage, transgenderism, euthanasia, pornography, profanity, rainbow colored flags, rainbow profile pictures or pink “I Stand By Planned Parenthood” images. Regardless of the issue, these outward indicators are a way of showing our friends and family who and which way we face.

How we Facebook often shows who we face

We may click a “like” button on a post or image because it presents a fairly low-risk way to show support for something without fully engaging on an issue. We may make other supportive gestures such as changing our profile picture to show our allegiance to an activist cause. While some may say their actions are harmless and meaningless, most would conclude that if a person “likes” a pro-abortion photo, they are in support of abortion. It is not unreasonable to suggest that our actions provide a window into our belief system.

Unfortunately, this can be especially troubling and spiritually damaging when others (including those with whom we have sacred stewardship over) observe us showing support for things contrary to the commandments and teachings of prophets and apostles. Why? As Alma explained to his wayward son, “… when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words” (Alma 39:11).

facebookWe know the Savior does not condone, encourage or congratulate things that are in opposition to the standards, commandments and doctrines of the gospel. But do we? Perhaps we can unwittingly do so on Facebook, Instagram, blogs or on dozens of other social media platforms. We want to be kind to our friends and family and not rock the boat. Perhaps we might even change our profile pictures and engage in “virtue signaling” as a way to show how compassionate, open-minded and enlightened we are compared to others on social issues. (Smug self-righteousness goes both ways, and we all should avoid it—whatever side of an issue we’re on.)

The point is this: As members of the Church, we cannot stand for righteousness while sitting down online and showing advocacy and support for that which is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We simply would do well to consider what we show approval of on social media.

Christlike love and social media

There will be those who feel these above points are too direct, too judgmental or not loving. Lest we misunderstand what the true love of the Savior means, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland says the following:

Sometimes—and this seems the greatest irony of all—these folks invoke the name of Jesus as one who was this kind of “comfortable” God. Really?

… Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this planet in part because righteousness was always supposed to accompany it. So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others.

Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once). (Link)

In his above quote, Elder Holland is trying to teach us that there is a better way—a higher level and manifestation of Christlike love. When we follow the Savior’s example of love and compassion, we understand that we are unable to condone or show advocacy for things contrary to the commandments of God. As Elder Holland states, if love is truly our watchword (as it should be), we cannot condone or show we approve of transgression in others. This is something that our modern culture seems to forget.

The Savior never forgot which way He faced

Elder Robbins teaches us that the Savior, our great Exemplar, always faced His Father. “He loved and served His fellowmen but said, “I receive not honour from men” (John 5:41). He wanted those He taught to follow Him, but He did not court their favor. … In His life, He was confronted by scores of accusers but never yielded to their finger of scorn. He is the only person who never once forgot which way He faced.”

He continues,

“May His inspiring example strengthen us against the pitfalls of flattery from without or of conceit from within. May it give us courage to never cower or fawn at the feet of intimidation. … When others demand approval in defiance of God’s commandments, may we always remember whose disciples we are, and which way we face.” (Link)

As we navigate social media and have conversations with friends and family, we need to always remember to who we face. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we face Him and not the world. At all times, and in all things, and in all places. These days, this is one of the best ways we can show where our latter-day discipleship lies. Whether it be the comments, photos or articles we “like” or share, we can show the Savior and others who we face—and which way we “Facebook”.

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Angela Fallentine

Angela Fallentine is a native of Alberta, Canada. She is a researcher and analyst for a small think tank focusing on social issues, religious freedom and international policy affecting the family at the United Nations. She couldn't do anything without the unfailing support of her incredible husband and an occasional Diet Dr. Pepper.

24 thoughts on “Which Way Do You Facebook?

  1. Gordon Girl

    I really enjoyed this article. I have had very similar thoughts and I struggle so much with posting what I believe sometimes because I am NOT a rock-the-boat kind of girl. I am a peace maker to the core and want everything and everyone to be happy all the time, but that’s not realistic. I am great about ‘liking’ posts that support gospel principles, but not necessarily posting them. This post has given me a lot of food for thought and I will strive to be a little bit more definite in what I post. Not that I think that I am going to convert someone with one post about the Proclamation, but because it will help strengthen me and my beliefs and faith. A little like bearing a testimony. Thanks!

  2. Rozy

    So very well said. I read a blog comment recently by a woman who didn’t want to condemn homosexual marriage with the prophets and apostles but neither did she advocate it, she wanted to stay as she said “in her comfortable middle ground.” My first thought was “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15-16) How can we as Latter-day Saints not want to be counted on the Lord’s side? It’s a mystery to me. It is impossible to straddle the fence, keep one feet in each camp, and lots of other cliches. Who’s on the Lord’s side, who? Now is the time to show. We ask it fearlessly. Who’s on the Lord’s side, who? Thank you for reminding us to be careful and consistent in all our internet actions.

    1. Angela Fallentine Post author

      I totally agree. Being luke warm doesn’t serve us well. I was also thinking of another example. Let’s say I have a dear friend who is pro-abortion. I would aboslutely wish her well with whatever she has going on her life. But, I wouldn’t like her profile picture if it says “I Stand By Planned Parenthood” or like a picture of her at a pro-abortion rally. I think we can really be both loving while not supportive of things that go contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to master the art of teaching both love and the law. This isn’t fence sitting but it’s necessary for learning to live with and love those with whom we differ (even within our own membership). We never know if or when they may change their position to align with the gospel. If they do, it will be through Christlike love, not condemnation or hatred. I believe this is what the Savior would do. Just some food for thought! Thank you for your great comment 🙂

  3. Jana Hedelius

    Thank you for your wonderful article. It strengthens me to know that there are other women who follow the Savior and the prophet without apology.

  4. Abish

    Thank you for this timely post, Angela. I so totally agree that we must let our righteous light shine brightly on Facebook. Not only must we refuse to “like” inappropriate material such as photos of so-called “gay” couples, even if they are friends or family, we must also testify boldly against this sin.

  5. Kyle

    Thanks for the well articulated blog post describing exactly what my friends and family and I have observed online. Elder Holland’s comments are right on point about what is going on in society right now. What is unfortunate to me is how you are probably being attacked for this post by people claiming to be Chirst-like by only showing love and full acceptance of sin. Ironic, isn’t it? I’m guessing that some won’t understand or purposefully try to twist what Elder Holland and Elder Robbins and the Savior are teaching. To me, that is sad and disappointing in context of LDS doctrine and policies. It’s clear unless we try to purposefully misunderstand and twist it to our liking.

    I liked the part where you said:

    “In his above quote, Elder Holland is trying to teach us that there is a better way—a higher level and manifestation of Christlike love. When we follow the Savior’s example of love and compassion, we understand that we are unable to condone or show advocacy for things contrary to the commandments of God. As Elder Holland states, if love is truly our watchword (as it should be), we cannot condone or show we approve of transgression in others. This is something that our modern culture seems to forget.”

    We all may need to take a moment to realize what we are advocating for and where we face. It might hurt because the guilty do take the truth to be hard and we do sometimes react in vicious ways even when it is actually nicely pointed out, as you have done. When anyone sees those profile pictures with activism (good or bad), we immediately know where they stand and who they are facing. Immediately. Of course they will say we’re being judgmental for pointing this out, but we’re not. We’re just observing the obvious.

  6. Tom

    The Lord does not look in sin with any allowance and neither should we. Thankfully, Facebook now gives us the option to give a response other than like. Sadness or shock would be a better response emoji to use in these cases.

  7. Cheryl

    This is a wonderful article! Thank you for posting it! It makes one want to be more aware and careful while on Facebook or other social media outlets.

  8. Kirsty

    A friend of mine shared this article and I had to comment because she is getting attacked by a few members in her ward who don’t like Elder Holland or Elder Robbins quotes used here. It’s disappointing see members of the Church post “I Stand By Planned Parenthood” photos, articles or profile pics. I sincerely hope my Young Women’s leaders or other church leaders or parents of youth don’t do that. As a parent, I would have no choice other than to bring it up to my bishop or stake president because it is an act of defiance of what we know to be true. And yes, same goes with the gay pride parades and rainbow profile pictures. I really would go to my bishop and express concern if I saw a leader doing this online because people in leadership positions are in positions of trust and are to be examples of following LDS doctrine and standards. What we do online provides such an obvious way to show if turning towards or away from the church and the teachings of the Savior. Yet some justify it by saying they are loving and non judgmental. You are right in saying that everything we post or like or comment on shows where we stand and who we face, whether we realize it or not.

  9. Sam

    As a followup to my earlier comment, Elder Christofferson has specifically said that expressing support for gay marriage on social media such as Facebook is not a problem for members of the Church. He said, “There hasn’t been any litmus test or standard imposed that you couldn’t support that if you want to support it, if that’s your belief and you think it’s right.” See:

    How to best implement the teachings of the Savior in our day-to-day lives is one of the challenges of mortality. The original post’s point of ensuring that our face is pointed the same way as our Savior’s is so very important, I really applaud that sentiment.

    As Elder Christofferson points out, one can be a member of the Church in good standing (including holding a temple recommend) and yet express support for marriage equality on social media.

    I hope you will include these comments so that some of your readers can see that seeking to be Christ-like in our actions, including loving our neighbor and putting love of God first in our lives, can be the motivation behind some supporters of same-sex marriage. I would value more conversation between those of opposing views to help us all come together in a society that has one heart.

    1. Kirsty

      I think the key point missing is what Elder Holland is trying to teach the members of the church that there is a way to do all of this without condoning sin. There are commandments. There are standards. There is right and wrong and it has been clearly defined by God. God’s views are always going to oppose the world’s views. It seems as though too many refuse to acknowledge that we can’t condone sinful behavior. We have to tell it like it is: a member of the church who supports gay marriage is supporting behavior specifically condemned by God. We can’t deny it and when I see people looking for loopholes to support same sex marriage or any other things that we’ve been told over and over again are sin, it can be very frustrating.

      I find it telling that some people are completely ignoring Elder Holland’s quote 😉

      “Sometimes—and this seems the greatest irony of all—these folks invoke the name of Jesus as one who was this kind of “comfortable” God.”

      An apostle has made it so clear. We cannot condone or show support for sin and then claim proudly that we are so righteous and Christlike. That’s what I see with LDS liberals (not all but most). The Savior supported the individual with love but also told them to go and sin no more. Why oh why do some members literally chose to ignore such a key point? The only conclusion I can find is that they do not believe in sin or the law of chastity.

      I’m sorry if I sound frustrated, but it’s the same rhetoric that people have: only love, no commandments, no mention of to anything having to do with sin. It doesn’t work. That’s not what Christ did but some are conveniently and purposefully parsing words and taking out the sin part of the Savior. We can be Christ like in our actions without advocating for sin online.

      There seems to be a huge disconnect with some, and I’m not sure why.

    2. Greg


      You mention supporting ‘marriage equality’ in your comments. Equality for whom? Same sex marriage creates a fundamentally unequal marriage for any and all children invovled. Same sex marriage by it’s nature eliminates either a father or a mother. How can taking a mother or a father from a child be considered fair or equal?

      You speak of Christ-like love. Is it Christ like to support robbing a child of his/her mother or father. We are taught that every child has an eternal right to a mother and a father. When we advocate for same sex marriage we advocate for robbing children of a mother or a father. There is nothing loving or caring about placing sexual preference above the rights of children.

      The Brethren have not counseled us to turn away from our loved ones who are same sex attracted, but they have taught us that same sex activity is a sin. The weight of balancing our response to these two issues is great and burdensome. In the midst of this challenge it would seem prudent to be very careful so as to not conflate our love for someone with acceptance of their sinful behavior. This is the lesson that Elders Holland and Robbins were trying to teach us. It is also the lesson that Angela was attempting to articulate in her blog post. The lesson also extends far beyond the single issue of same sex marriage.

      Making public statements that are contrary to revealed doctrine, official church policy or the public counsel of the Brethren seems an odd way to find the correct path with difficult issues such as same sex marriage. Yes one can turn away from any of the above and still retain a temple recommend but the act of turning away completes the metaphor and defines the way we truly face.

      1. Lavinia

        This is so true. I never thought of it as robbing a child of a mother or father. I have mentioned to supporters of gay marriage that a child deserves both a mother and father, their argument is “What about single parent homes?” I don’t see it the same as having two parents that are the same gender, the child may technically have two parents in the home but is still lacking the role the opposite gender provides to bring balance.

  10. Chris L.

    The thing is, I’m not sure “likes” are really the main issue. I like things that maybe I shouldn’t because yeah, it does send a message. I need to think about this liking thing some more. But I agree with the post and she’s lucky she backed it all up with GA’s because it doesn’t leave room for nay sayers to say it’s all just opinion. I do think it was right on about what we do in the online world. Most people, well I guess at least reasonable ones, would agree that what we do and say or share shows where we are on any issue. We’d be naïve to say otherwise.

    I seriously don’t think liking a photo of your gay uncle is the issue. No way. That’s not how I read this at all. It was more about the comments and other stuff we do. I’m more of the mindset that the profile pics or articles say a lot more. Jerk comments say a lot about us too. I wish the article would have talked about the idiots out there who go on witch hunts when faithful members of the church try to share something that is actually pretty valid. Are we naïve enough to think it doesn’t show where we stand on an issue? I saw a firestorm about this article online and just shook my head and thought, “They don’t get it. They are purposefully trying to ignore the fact that there are things we do and don’t condone in the gospel. They are just finding any excuse to be angry and are totally missing the point on purpose.”

    Anyways thanks for the good food for thought and clever title. It’s what most of us wished we had thought of.

  11. Melissa

    I get the point of the article, which is that we should be careful about what we show support for, even through “liking” something in Facebook.
    I also get the other side: The most basic being that we have no idea what the motivation of people who “like” certain things is. When we assume that we do, we’re taking over God’s job. It may be that this man made a positive comment so that he could keep a good relationship with his uncle and thereby welcome him with open arms should the uncle decide to turn back to gospel standards of living. It may be that he does support that lifestyle. We just dont know. We can always assume, and sometimes be right. But only God can see our hearts.
    As pointed out in the article, We should all do our best to stand for truth in all situations, being careful that we are not supporting behaviors God has condemned. And we should also be humble enough to show the same compassion, mercy, and benefit of the doubt we daily plead for to our fellow men.

    1. Jeff and Julie H.

      I posted my comment in a different place but meant to respond to your comment Melissa. Here it is:

      These are great things to remember. I might also add that when on Facebook, everything we do paints a picture as to who we are online. We may not like the idea that we are being watched by others–including people looking to us for guidance on these issues–but we are. Everyone notices what we do online, for good and not-so-good. So, what we share, comment on, post or like tells others where we are on issues and what we believe. If we’re members of the Church, we should strive to be good examples of affirming things that are in line with LDS standards and doctrine.

      I think kindness, love and affirming things in line with LDS standards and doctrine can coexist. I think we need to all work on it. Here’s the thing I have noticed though. When members of the Church are pro-LGBT (not to be confused with family member support), I’ve noticed that they also often won’t stand for or affirm things that are in line with LDS standards and doctrine. In my experience, I haven’t been able to find anyone in that camp that are activists, Mormon and who are really good at doing both. Does that make sense? Standards, love and doctrine all in one. Maybe it’s just my observations, but we’ve talked a lot about this in our family and we haven’t seen much in the way of pro-LGBT Mormons (especially online) who will also believe and stand by the doctrine on the family, the family proclamation, chastity, etc. I think that’s why there is a rift because those in this camp don’t seem to believe the foundational doctrines being taught by their own church. I hope I’m wrong, I sincerely do 🙂

  12. Cade

    Thanks for writing this article – right on the money! It’s a topic that all of us have observed, but this is the first time I’ve seen it addressed so directly.

    Here are my 2 cents. The things we do are usually a reflection of our inner beliefs and convictions. People define us, and we define ourselves. Actions are all we have to go on when we’re defining each other online. We aren’t defined by our intentions or our thoughts; we’re defined by what we do. This is especially true online because we can never really get the nuances of non-verbal communication. If we were having a conversation with a friend about the social issue de jour, it would be much easier to communicate where and why we have that position. Online is a different animal and as Mormons, we need to “be an example of the believers” and live like we believe.

    It’s our actions that will always leave the lasting imprint. So, when we share an article on that’s against Church doctrine or we lash out online at a General Conference talk by an Apostle or change our profile picture to advocate for xyz, or comment enthusiastically about a lewd or profane photo, it’s a given that people will come to a conclusion about us and where we face.

    We leave imprints online for others to define and remember us by.

  13. Jeff and Julie H.

    These are great things to remember. I might also add that when on Facebook, everything we do paints a picture as to who we are online. We may not like the idea that we are being watched by others, but we are. Everyone notices what we do, for good and not-so-good. So, what we share, comment on, post or like tells others where we are on issues and what we believe. If we’re members of the Church, we should strive to be good examples of affirming things that are in line with LDS standards and doctrine.

  14. Dave

    While avoiding saying things against gospel principles, it’s just as important to find uplifting, positive things to say. So, if your gay friends or family post a picture of themselves on vacation, it’s okay to compliment their clothing, hair-do, environment, car, shoes, pets, smile, etc., while not feeling compelled to say you support their lifestyle.

    As for Planned Parenthood, I don’t support them, but I don’t put it in the same category. A case can be made that they are about more than abortion. That one’s a personal decision regarding how we support them.

    1. Angela Fallentine Post author

      I agree and see what you’re saying 🙂 I believe that the same principle does apply to both social issues, though. PP and SSM aren’t the same, but whether there’s a rainbow profile pic, a Planned Parenthood profile pic, or a pro-traditional marriage, pro-life pic, etc. our profile pictures make a big statement. I think this is what some are really missing about this post. We make statements about which way we face by how we “Face-book”.

  15. Jenny

    I have been mulling over this article all week. I absolutely do understand the point being made and appreciate it. We have stake conference this weekend and at the adult session tonight, our stake president was reading Alma 1: 22…” 22 Nevertheless, there were many among them who began to be proud, and began to contend warmly with their adversaries, even unto blows; yea, they would smite one another with their fists.” He talked about how this is happening all around us..although the blows we seem most likely to give today are blows with our words rather than our fists. He then went on to read the next 6 verses that explain how they were able to have peace despite the contention around them… Great insights for this time we live in.

    I think what has me mulling this over so much though is this…I conscientiously try to make sure that my beliefs show through in the things I post. I sustain the prophets and love and believe in the Family Proclamation. Meanwhile, I have friends and family that I love dearly that don’t have the same values or beliefs. I sometimes like or comment their posts as a way of showing love to them. I feel like I am fairly careful about what I like…but in the case of one dear friend in a same sex partnership, I do like photos of her family and express genuine and heartfelt concern for them. Despite disagreeing with her lifestyle choice, I love her. I love her children. I want her to know and feel that my love and concern for her is genuine, particularly because at the same time I may be posting something about my beliefs that might feel hurtful to her. I don’t think I am expressing myself very well, but I have always felt that expressing concern for her is part of “loving and living with differences” as Elder Oaks spoke about. The same is true for those who are in unmarried partnerships or who drink or who, in a variety of ways, choose to live differently than I do. (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/10/loving-others-and-living-with-differences?lang=eng). So while I agree with 99% of what was said, there’s a small 1% that I feel less certain about, if that makes sense.

    This is something I feel I still need to ponder more…for myself but also as my daughters are nearing their teen years and will also be navigating social media.

    1. Angela Fallentine Post author

      Great comments! I agree and think that some things simply need to be evaluated on a case by case basis. That talk by Elder Oaks is fantastic!

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