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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
We 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.”
“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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