David DeFord is the President of David DeFord Creative Consulting where he is a leadership speaker, trainer, coach, and author. He currently resides in Omaha, NE with his wife, Kathy. He served as a social media specialist for the North America Central Area of the church, and is currently serving as bishop for the fifth time. David hosts the Facebook page, Digital Disciples: Social Media Tips for Latter-day Saints You can learn more about him at: www.daviddeford.com
“Sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effects more far-reaching than ever before. . . . 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!” . . . “With the blessings of modern technology, we can express gratitude and joy about God’s great plan for His children in a way that can be heard . . . around the world. Sometimes a single phrase of testimony can set events in motion that affect someone’s life for eternity.” — Dieter F. Uchtdorf (Ensign, May 2011, “Waiting on the Road to Damascus.”)
With so many negative and downhearted messages being passed today, we can offer a fresh voice. We can use social media to:
- Lift the conversation
- Spread the joy and gratitude we feel in Christ and His church
- Keep influencing missionary contacts who have gone cold
- Provide positive content that our members can share with their friends
- Reduce or eliminate sacrament meeting announcements
- Highlight upcoming and celebrate just completed ward activities and service projects
- Spotlight member accomplishments
- Learn about members moving into the ward
We can add our individual and collective voices to assist the Savior in building up His Kingdom as we:
- Show our true devotion to, and commitment to the Savior
- Demonstrate our unity with the Savior and His Church
- Express thoughts and feelings of joy and gratitude
- Demonstrate the great work Church members perform locally and around the world
- Use social proof to show the fruits of gospel living
- Participate in the great gathering before the second coming of Jesus Christ
“It is essential that members create and promote online content that effectively communicates what the Church believes in clear, authentic, and engaging ways—especially on some of the most prevalent search topics. Church-produced content might appear more polished and professional, but yours will be viewed as more authentic. Because what you say comes with your personal experience and unique perspective, it enlivens content produced by the Church. These platforms are the primary sources of information in our time. We simply need more effective, engaging, and faithful content in more languages and cultures that can be easily found on these platforms—content that clearly communicates what we believe and why it is important in a positive and personal way. The Church can’t possibly produce all the content needed. We need your help and your voices. We must be a voice for truth. We must have the faith and courage to speak up and engage in social media in a positive, responsible, non-contentious and effective way. We can simply share what we know and believe with others.” (Your Voice Matters on Social Media to Share Truth and Clarify Beliefs, Elder Kevin W. Pearson, Fair Mormon Conference, 8 August 2018)
Let’s explore some ways we can use the social media tools to accomplish these things.
Lift the Conversation
What do we commonly find on social media? If you look right now at your feed (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) you will find many messages that are negative, untrue, and incompatible with joyfulness. I’ll look right now and report what I see:
- A post against the previous U.S. president
- A story about a violent protest against the current U.S. president
- A man bound over for arraignment on seven charges, including vehicular homicide
- A post of someone who is feeling ill
- Another post of someone who is feeling ill
- A post with pictures of food I shouldn’t eat (but am considering purchasing RIGHT NOW)
- A meme complaining about rock concert ticket prices nowadays
- A woman dies in deadly DUI crash
- And seven advertisements mixed in
Admittedly, included among the above were a few positive messages. Why? Because I choose my friends carefully, and block those who disturb my mood (including family).
We can do better than this. We can lift the conversation with posts that represent the good in life—the real life of joy and contribution, rather than the other real life of victim-hood and despair.
I recognize that some are uncomfortable being confronted with frequent positive messages—they may feel shortchanged or sad by comparing their life to yours. Those folks have three choices: scroll past positive posts, block you, or seek the good too.
We also provide room for the Holy Ghost to work on our contacts. As they experience feelings of hope and comfort from what you post, you open them to receive the message of the truth of the Restoration. Think of it as a cyber-seed-planting.
Elder Bednar stated: “I believe the time has come for us as disciples of Christ to use these inspired tools appropriately and more effectively to testify of God the Eternal Father, His plan of happiness for His children, and His Son, Jesus Christ, as the Savior of the world; to proclaim the reality of the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days; and to accomplish the Lord’s work.” (Elder David A. Bednar, Flood the Earth Through Social Media, New Era, August 2015).
How do we sweep the earth as with a flood? More missionaries—yes. More member involvement—absolutely.
Yet how do we engage our members in flooding the earth with the gospel message? We do this by encouraging them to use their social media channels to:
- Inform friends and acquaintances that they belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Frequently demonstrate that one source of the members’ uniqueness is their involvement in the spiritual and social activities of the Church
- Show that we do, indeed, follow Jesus Christ and His divine teachings
Rarely do friends begin to actively study about the Church because they’re interested in its doctrines. Usually they develop interest because they want what we have. They want our joy, our positive bearing, and they want that feeling they experience when they’re with us. We can use social media to show what we have and clearly pinpoint the source of what we have.
This “cyber-seed-planting” can be a very simple process:
- Share memes and inspired quotes from our general and local leaders
- Share videos found on Mormon.org, LDS.org, the Mormon Channel, and other independent sources
- Share pictures of ward activities, temples attended, and sacred church history sites
- Share thoughts and notes from sacrament meeting, stake and general conferences
- Express sincere feelings of gratitude and reverence for Heavenly Father and Jesus Chris
- Share appropriate spiritual experiences
- Invite contacts to our sacrament meeting talks
- Notice contacts who frequently “like,” “share,” or “heart” your spiritual posts, and invite them to an activity, your sacrament meeting talk, or to meet the missionaries in your home
In his article, Elder Bednar offered four guidelines for effective social media engagement:
- Be authentic and consistent
- Edify and uplift
- Respect intellectual property
- Be wise and vigilant
What can leaders do to help members rise to the challenge of “cyber-seed-planting”?
- Create a ward social media platform
- Post examples of sharable material and encourage members to share them on their pages
- Provide links to videos and articles that members can share
- Set the example of positive social media activity
The work of ward missionaries can be unclear and awkward. Finding people to teach, friendshipping contacts, and nurturing new converts is such an individually-specific effort. What are some specific activities ward missionaries can perform using social media to improve their effectiveness?
- Perform the “cyber-seed-planting” activities indicated above
- Teach and model these activities to ward members
- Notice those who seem moved by your messages, and make invitations
- Friend, follow, or connect on social media with contacts who are meeting with the missionaries
- Learn their passions, interests, and focuses o Connect them with members who share common interests
- Send them messages that explain the principles in which they have concerns
- Acknowledge their positive posts by commenting, liking, or sharing
- Stay connected to those who have cooled off and are not meeting with us anymore
- Keep posting positive, faith-filled messages
- Post pictures of activities and other spirit-filled experiences they are missing Nurturing New Converts
- Teach them how to perform “cyber-seed-planting” activities
- Do many of the friendshipping activities listed above
- Link them to sites that nurture and that are based on the truth
Wards and branches can improve their connections with members by establishing a group page on which leaders and members can share information, collaborate, and highlight upcoming and past activities.
In creating the group page, follow the guidelines found in Handbook 2, section 21.1.22
Here are some ideas for effective ward page activities:
- Cut sacrament meeting announcements by posting frequent announcements on the group page
- Highlight activities just enjoyed
- Spotlight member accomplishments
- Inform class and quorum members of next lesson topic or reading assignments
- Follow up lessons with assignments given
- Thank specific members for helping clean the building, moving a member family in or out, etc.
- Provide suitable messages for sharing on their personal pages
If you know a member or non-member who is struggling with massive challenges, the Mormon Channel has a series of videos hyperlink below to this that relate real-life experiences members have faced and how the grace of Jesus Christ carried them through those challenges. Such challenges include (not a complete list):
- Suicide of a family member
- Bullying and thoughts of suicide
- Losing a loved one to drug addiction
- Post-mission anxiety
- Living with an eating disorder
- Finding hope after losing a child
- Recovering from an addiction to painkillers
- Forgiving the unforgivable
- Coping with infertility and loss
- Living with depression
- Overcoming PTSD
Our voice cannot only be heard but felt as we share authentic, inspired thoughts and experiences on our social media platforms. If we have leadership callings in our ward, we need to realize that we are to be ministering to our entire ward boundaries, not just the members who attend each Sunday. One easy way, that doesn’t take a lot of time, is sharing how Father’s hand was in our life today. Let’s model the social media activity we wish to see our members perform. Let’s lift the conversation and create opportunities for those we know and love to find hope, peace and connections that will bless their life.
- Here are a few links to ideas, sharable content, and guidelines:
- LDS Media Library – Social Media Sharable Videos
- Elder Bednar’s Social Media Guidelines
- LDS Media Library – Social Pages
- LDS Media Library: Social Media
- Follow the Brethren on Social Media
- Flood the Earth through Social Media, Elder Bednar: August 2015 From an address given on August 19, 2014, during Campus Education Week at Brigham Young University.
- LDS Media Library: Using Media for Sharing the Gospel
- Your Voice Matters on Social Media to Share Truth and Clarify Beliefs Elder Kevin W. Pearson
- Three Tips for Using Social Media to Lift Others
- How to Be a Digital Missionary New Era – March 2018
- Latter-day Lives
- Meridian Magazine
- LDS Mission Cast
- Social Media Mission Page
- Latter-day Light
- LDS Scripture of the Day
- Scripture Analyst