The aging, faded photograph shows children playing a backyard game. The faces are obscured in the grainy black and white image — but at the time the photograph was taken — sometime in the 1950s — the technology was the best there was. Now, nearly a half century later, the photograph evokes memories of a slower-paced time, a sense of family fun and a reminder that we all once were children.
Today, digital imagery and high-speed computer graphics and programs enable us to sharpen and tone photographs, like those of the 1950s. What was accomplished in only photographic laboratories just a few years ago can be done at our fingertips at home on a computer. Photos can be digitized, shaped, cropped and sharpened to show the smallest detail — a marking on a shirt or a shoe brand long since forgotten.
But the marvels of today's technology also have sinister uses. Pornographers have used the digital images to post lurid images online. Pedophiles surf the Internet to lure unsuspecting victims into their depravity. Television programs push the decency envelope in prime-time programming.
For all our "technological progress" what seems to be missing in this atmosphere is common courtesy. How many times recently have you heard someone speaking so loudly into a cell phone, you thought the speaker was talking to you?
And what happens when the daily commute turns usually mild-mannered individuals into road-rage drivers?
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "We have achieved technical miracles, but tragically we are experiencing a moral and ethical disaster. . . . If we continue on a diet of pornography and filth and profanity, the mores that govern civility and respect and reverence will crumble around us. I am more concerned about the moral deficit (in America) than I am about the budget deficit." (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 19-20.)
Many of us have become enamored by our own technological good fortune. The convenience of modern devices delivers spectacular advantages. High-definition television can show programs in blazing color. Digital recordings contain wonderfully mastered sounds that pick up all instruments in an orchestra.
The same digital recordings allow the Church to record the proceedings of general conference and deliver them to congregations soon after the sessions conclude. Satellites beam the proceedings to hundreds of meetinghouses across the globe in real time. This use of technology spreads the gospel message far and wide. It is a blessing to be able to log into www.lds.org and organize a lesson, search the scriptures or do things only imagined years ago.
What will the future hold? It may hold holographic images that we only dream of now, making today's hi-def as ancient as those grainy photographs of 50 years ago. It will be up to us to use today's technology and the technology of the future wisely and prudently.
President Spencer W. Kimball advised, "The way for each person and each family to guard against the slings and arrows of the adversary and to prepare for the great day of the Lord, is to hold fast to the iron rod, to exercise greater faith, to repent of all our sins and shortcomings, and to be anxiously engaged in the work of His kingdom on earth" (Conference Report, October 1982, p. 4).
We can use technology for our own edification and study. We can use it to enhance lessons, help organize our family time and even learn a new language. As the world creates evil things and debases itself in self-indulgence we can rise above the filth and improve our sense of purpose.
The Savior counseled, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).
No matter what the future holds, we need to put our trust and our priorities in God's hands and do all we can to build up the kingdom of God. The Savior did not need HDTV to get His message across. His was a sincere invitation to "come and learn" of Him and find eternal truths.