In the same devotional where President M. Russell Ballard referred to students as “modern sons and daughters of Helaman in the great battles of the last days” and invited them to use social media to share the gospel, the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was also recognized for his service and leadership.
After introducing President Ballard — who has given more than 40 years of full-time Church service — as Ensign College’s devotional speaker on Nov. 3, President Bruce C. Kusch announced that the M. Russell Ballard Service and Leadership Scholarship has been established at Ensign College.
The first of these scholarships were awarded this semester, President Kusch said. Twenty-one full-tuition scholarships were awarded to students who “demonstrate outstanding service and leadership by their actions and their character as capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ.”
With his remarks reaching students of the college even during a time of pandemic through the blessing of technology, President Ballard took the opportunity to both encourage and warn his young audience about the opportunities and dangers involved in today’s technology.
In 2007 and 2008, President Ballard encouraged graduates of BYU–Hawaii and BYU–Idaho to use the advances in technology to engage in worldwide conversations about the Church.
“I thought I was rather up to date when I suggested they share their views on blogs,” he recalled during the broadcast on Tuesday.
Since then he’s been introduced to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, Instagram, and Snapchat, and recently, TikTok.
“Wow! It seems like the world of technology cannot stand still for even a few minutes,” he said.
Use of technology
The modern world is ever changing. People of the past enjoyed an abundance of natural heavenly light without light pollution, natural silence without the interruption of man-made sounds, and times of solitude. “Even when we are alone today, we can be tuned in with our mobile devices, laptop computers, and televisions to keep us entertained and occupied,” President Ballard noted.
As the world gets brighter, louder and busier, the challenge to feel the Spirit gets greater. “If your life is void of quiet time, would you begin tonight to seek for some?” President Ballard asked.
It is important to be still, listen and follow the Spirit. Even the Savior during His mortal ministry found time to meditate and contemplate, President Ballard said. “And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23).
All individuals need time to ask themselves questions or to have a regular personal interview with themselves, President Ballard said. “We are often so busy and the world is so loud that it is difficult to hear the heavenly words ‘be still, and know that I am God’ (Doctrine and Covenants 101:16). We need this reassurance in this troubling time.”
The use of a smartphone or tablet can be a blessing, but when their use begins to interfere with relationships — with friends, family or, most importantly, God — individuals must make a change, President Ballard counseled. “For some of you, the adjustment will be slight; for others, it may be significant.”
Text messaging, Facebooking, Tweeting and Instagramming should not replace talking — talking to another person or to Heavenly Father.
President Ballard said he is also concerned that some Latter-day Saints are checking email, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or sending text messages during the most important meeting in the restored Church — sacrament meeting.
“In this important meeting we should be focusing on the Lord through praying, singing hymns, and partaking the emblems of His body and blood instead of checking social media, the news, or the score of an athletic event.”
Individuals cannot connect to the Spirit while looking at or sending messages on a smartphone or tablet, he said. “This spiritual connection requires the Light of Christ, settling from your minds into your hearts with burning love and devotion.”
President Ballard said he realizes that many people access the scriptures and other Church resources on their phone or tablet and invited individuals to consider putting their device on airplane mode during the Sunday block.
“You will still have access to the scriptures, general conference talks, hymns, and manuals in the Gospel Library app, but you will not be distracted by incoming text messages or other notifications.”
Refuge from the storm
In addition to finding time to contemplate and meditate, individuals also need to find a place that is “a defense, and … a refuge from the storm” (Doctrine and Covenants 115:6), where they can disconnect from distractions and connect to the Spirit of God, President Ballard said.
“One of the best places to connect with the Spirit is in the temple — the house of the Lord. Of course, the same can be said of our other dedicated Church buildings, including seminary and institute classrooms,” he noted. “We can find refuge in our homes or apartments when we choose to simply shut things off and be still and know of the things of God.”
As Latter-day Saints look forward to when temples are open again for proxy work, President Ballard invited his listeners to go as often as possible and to turn off their electronic devices before entering the temple grounds.
Qualify for a temple recommend, he counseled. Those who go to the temple or visit its grounds walk on holy ground. “You can hear the still, small voice of the Spirit in the temple or on its sacred grounds in ways you never will at the mall, in restaurants, and in public places. In fact, the temple is a wonderful place to receive answers to your prayers.”
President Ballard warned that the world is moving rapidly away from the teachings of Christ. Satan wants God’s sons and daughters to stop practicing good habits learned at home, in seminary or institute or on missions. “He also wants you to stand on the sidelines in today’s important and crucial battles,” President Ballard said.
“Remember, my dear young people, we are at war — a continuation of the one that began in the premortal world.”
As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, President Ballard invited listeners to “put on the ‘whole armour of God’ and join the battle today, like the sons of Helaman did so many years ago. Don’t wait until you get married or start your lifelong career or get older. The Church needs our young adults now. The Lord needs you now!”
The 2,000 stripling warriors “entered into a covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites” (Alma 53:17). The Church needs modern stripling warriors, President Ballard said.
“The Lord wants you to become the modern stripling warriors who stand strong and united to defend the truth. He wants you to be courageous and stalwart in the face of the enemy’s advances. We know that in the end the Lord will win the day and Satan will be defeated,” the Church leader said.
Through the various social media platforms, Latter-day Saints can have gospel conversations with family, friends, and, for returned missionaries, with former investigators and new members. “You can stand as witnesses to the truth and defend the kingdom of God,” President Ballard said.