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Beware the ‘Dead See Scroll’ of social media, Brother Newman tells BYU students

Time is a gift from Heavenly Father. ‘You have a sacred responsibility to manage it wisely’

Social media lures users into endless scrolling — which is one of the reasons Brother Jan E. Newman, second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency, likes to refer to it as the “Dead See Scroll.”

The Dead Sea, a salt lake located between Jordan and Israel, has living water which flows into it, but “nothing comes from it,” Brother Newman noted to those gathered in the Marriott Center on Brigham Young University campus for the weekly devotional on Tuesday, Feb 6. “Social Media is much like that. We so often put in our time and attention, and nothing of value comes out. We can often lose ourselves in this salty sea, void of life, that drains us of our self-worth, robs us of our purpose, and effortlessly floats us away in its toxic brine.”

Brother Newman’s caution regarding social media was one of several bits of counsel the Church leader offered listeners in regard to learning to navigate the use of their “precious time” on earth. 

Time is a gift from Heavenly Father, Brother Newman declared. “You have a sacred responsibility to manage it wisely.”

Brother Jan E. Newman and Sister Lucia Newman, talk with BYU President C. Shane Reese in BYU’s Marriott Center.
Brother Jan E. Newman of the Sunday School general presidency and his wife, Sister Lucia Newman, talk with BYU President C. Shane Reese prior to Brother Newman speaking during the weekly devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. | Abby Shelton, BYU

The myth of balance

Through the years, Brother Newman said he has been asked many times how he has balanced all of the responsibilities in his life as a father, husband, Church leader and business leader. Quoting Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Brother Newman said there really is no such thing as perfect balance in life.

“In fact, I don’t think balance is even the right word, because it implies that all aspects of our lives are getting an equal amount of attention. Not all aspects of our lives deserve an equal amount. And at different times and seasons, some aspects will need more attention than others,” Brother Newman said.

Instead, identify the most “important things and never let the lesser things take precedence over them.”

To those who worry that they are already at maximum capacity, Brother Newman reassured, “if you trust the Lord and draw on His strength, He will increase your maximum capacity.”

As life changes and evolves, so should individuals’ views about their time and how they spend it, Brother Newman said. As an example, Brother Newman shared how from his young boyhood, into his teenage and young adults years, and even into his marriage, he loved hunting and spent many hours planning and going on hunting trips.

One day while on a hunting trip, the Holy Ghost helped him realize that his hunting trips were taking him away from his family and opportunities to serve in the Church and that it was time to put it aside for a season.

Although he initially wrestled with the idea, eventually he conceded that it was not right to allow hunting to consume so much of his time. “To be clear, this is not about hunting. This is about anything that becomes a thief of our precious time and focus,” Brother Newman said.

A young woman takes notes as she listens to Brother Jan E. Newman of the Sunday School general presidency speak in the Marriott Center.
Students listen as Brother Jan E. Newman of the Sunday School general presidency speaks during the weekly devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. | Abby Shelton, BYU

Greatest priorities

Brother Newman explained that there are three things that need the utmost attention as individuals go through life: The Lord, family and work. “Remember, you only have a certain number of hours available to you every day. The amount of time required by each of these important aspects of life will ebb and flow over time. Just make sure you keep the proper perspective on the important things. If you take care of those three things, usually everything else takes care of itself.”

Get to know what is important to the Lord and make those things important. “Really, that’s just another way to state President [Russell M.] Nelson’s very simple counsel to ‘think celestial.’” (“Think Celestial,” October 2023 general conference).

Satan will do anything he can to monopolize individuals’ time and misdirect efforts away from the things of greatest importance, Brother Newman said. “He tempts us to displace our most important blessings with a mess — and I emphasize mess — of pottage.”

BYU students listen as Brother Jan E. Newman speaks in the Marriott Center.
Brother Jan E. Newman of the Sunday School general presidency speaks during the weekly devotional in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. | Abby Shelton, BYU

In issuing his caution against the “Dead See Scroll,” Brother Newman noted some might think he is being too hard on social media. In response, he encouraged listeners to notice how Church leaders use their social media accounts. 

“Their purpose is to inspire us to think a little deeper and a little more purely. I believe their hope is to extricate us from this meaningless Dead See Scroll and seek something higher and holier,” he said.

Brother Newman invited listeners to ask themselves: “Is social media — or anything else for that matter — helping me think celestial? Or is it dragging me into terrestrial or telestial thinking? Is it helping me make what’s important to God important to me? Or is it displacing important things with trivial things?” 

To those who find themselves getting caught up in the Dead See Scroll, “just pause and think celestial,” Brother Newman invited. “Then click on the Gospel Library app and read from the Book or Mormon or listen to a general conference talk. I promise a new light will come into your life as you drink from living waters.”

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Correction: An earlier version had referred to Brother Newman as the first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency. He is the second counselor.

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