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Barett Christensen

Sweeping the Earth with Social Media

I’m sure that hymn was comforting to many of you, and it was especially comforting to me [referring to the violin solo performed just prior to Bro. Christensen’s remarks]. Brother Mellow, thank you for your testimony. I kind of wish that it would have been in Portuguese. It’s been 17 years since I’ve been down in Brazil, and I loved the Brazilian people and I loved the Portuguese language.

About a week ago I was invited to give this devotional address today. Today is going to be part workshop, part devotional. So there will be things that I’ll ask you to do, and maybe even ask for some responses from you. And there will be other things that I’ll just simply share with you. So let me make sure that we are up and running. Is there a blue screen behind me? Yes? Okay, good.

So, shortly after my wife and I were married, we were called to serve in the Primary. And we served there for two-and-a-half years, and we loved our calling in the Primary. I don’t know if any of you can relate to this, but there are times in gospel doctrine class where it’s a little bit difficult to stay awake. Let me give you a little secret. If you want to have a good time, go to Primary. Primary will keep you awake. They have so much energy, and they say the funnest things!

Being a bishop, I thought I knew a lot about ward members. I tell you, Primary teachers know a lot about ward members through the children. So as a bishop currently, I have the opportunity to go visit the Primary, and one of the things I like to do with them is share with them my jokes. I don’t have very good jokes, so it really only works on Primary kids. So I’m going to try it with you—give me a couple of laughs, just to make me feel good. But these are some jokes that the kids really love. You ready?

Here comes the first one: How do the leaves get back on the trees in the spring? The :Re-leaf” Society. Do you like it? It’s good isn’t it? It’s not going to get much better.

Here’s another one: Why did the Lamanites all have sore knees? Because of all the “Knee-fights.” That one might take a little bit longer. Get it? The Nephites?

All right, this one I need some help with: Knock knock. Who’s there? Goliath. Goliath who? “Go-lieth” down, thou looketh tired.

Okay, last one. This one was a little bit harder for them to get, but I think you’ll get it better: How many bishops does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but that light bulb has to want to change.

Okay, that’s it. That’s as funny as it’s going to be today. The rest is downhill.

So, let’s start first with maybe the workshop side of what we’re going to do today. So I entitled this portion “How to tweet without looking like a twit and other advice.” The world of social media is very exciting, but it’s also kind of dangerous. There are people that do things with social media that end up kind of haunting them throughout the rest of their lives. So I hope to give you a few suggestions this morning on how to use social media in a way that will be beneficial to you and also to the kingdom. Let’s start with some suggestions:

1.      Thou shalt come to devotional each week. This is a wonderful place to get amazing content to share on social media. So number one, if you want to help with social media, come to devotional each week.

2.      Thou shalt share what is meaningful, uplifting, and edifying to you. Elder Bednar’s recent remarks down at BYU highlighted these ideas (“To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood,” BYU Education Week, Aug. 2014). We ought to own the edifying and uplifting space on the Internet. We ought to produce so much wonderful content that people all over the world come to know the members of the Church as being uplifting and wonderful people. From “To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood,” address given at Brigham Young University by Elder Bednar on August 19, 2014).

3.      Thou shalt use the network that you’re comfortable with. How many of you are on Facebook? Could you stand for me if you’re on Facebook? Good. Stand if you are on Instagram. Okay. How many of you are on Twitter? Stand. How about Pinterest? All the guys sat down. There’s a few of us, I’ll admit—I’m on there too. Okay, good. How about Vine? Okay very good. Everyone can sit back down.

I think what’s important here is one thing that Elder Bednar stressed: don’t try and do everything. Don’t have your life taken over by social media, but maybe pick one. Pick a network that you like, and maybe that’s the one that you share the gospel on.

4.      Thou shalt download the mobile apps because they work well. Every one of these networks have really great mobile applications. So if you pick Facebook, download the Facebook app. It works really well and it’s really simple: Say, you’re at devotional, it’s really simple to quickly type something in and share it out on Facebook. Same thing with Twitter, great apps. So whichever one you choose, download that app, okay?

5.      Thou shalt use a hashtag. Now, can you see those hashtags okay behind me? Just briefly let me explain what a hashtag is. A hashtag allows your piece of content to be extended farther because people search on those terms. People might search “#LDSBC,” and if you have put “#LDSBC” in your content, they’ll be able to see it. It will show up. So, those are some good hashtags; hopefully you’ve written them down by now. Please use those hashtags during devotional. The “#Share goodness” hashtag is the current hashtag the Church is using to share goodness online. “#LDS” is a common one, “#Mormons” is another one, “#Jesus Christ,” and during General Conference it’s “#LDSConf.”

6.      Thou shalt take tasteful pictures. Let me give you a couple of recommendations on this. Isn’t it neat to see all these memes [a meme is an image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied, often with slight variations, and spread rapidly by Internet users] and other things that people post? There’s a really easy way for you to make them yourselves, if you’d like. Write the things you’re seeing on the screen right now.

Make sure you find images that you have permission to use—Elder Bednar talked about respecting intellectual property. What that means is that when we create things, they become our property, and we can’t use other people’s content unless we have their permission. Now there’s a space on the Internet called the “Creative Commons,” and all the content there has been authorized to be shared by anyone. Some places you can find images are Flickr and Those are great free resources to find images and then lay text on top of them.

Now, apps to help you—you could be sitting in devotional and create an amazing meme. There are four apps that are useful. My favorite happens to be the one that is the most expensive—Word Swag. Then there’s InstaQuote, which is free, After Photo, and Over. All of these are very simple to use. You have your image, you overlay your text, and then you can publish it directly to the network you would like to use.

7.      Thou shalt not use potty language. Remember, the Internet never forgets. Think before you publish. Think before you hit send or share. Make sure you’re representing who you want to be online.

8.      Thou shalt not worry about tagging celebrities; let the missionaries convert them. And also, watch out for fake accounts. At our most recent conference, we had a Jeffrey Holland re-tweet some of our tweets. Well, guess what? Darn, it wasn’t Elder Holland. It was someone else impersonating him. So be careful of those fake accounts out there, okay?

9.      Thou shalt not be afraid to be an online missionary. How many of you have returned from your mission in the last two years? Raise your hands. Keep your hands up. How many of you were authorized to use Facebook in your mission? All of those whose hands went down, here’s a little idea for you. Why not reconnect to all those investigators you had and begin having a conversation with them? Go find them on Facebook, and continue teaching them.

10.  Thou shalt not play games on your phone during devotional. That next level of Candy Crush is really hard anyways. So as we’re encouraging the use of social media during devotional, it’s easy to get tempted into playing a game. So please don’t do that.

Now, this slide I recognize is going to be difficult to read. For the remaining time that we have now, I have three goals. 1) I want to confirm your testimony that Heavenly Father is in charge of this work and that He speaks to His prophets. He tells His prophets about things before they happen, and He instructs them on how to use them appropriately. 2) The communication technologies that have been given to mankind have been given by Heavenly Father to hasten His work. 3) I hope that you become excited about where we are in this great last dispensation and the opportunities that we have.

Let me orient you to what we’re looking at on the slide. This is a graph that shows Church membership. The orange line is the growth curve of the Church. You’ll see that in about the ’50s and ’60s, it suddenly starts going up very rapidly. The white text in there is a communication/technology invention; something comes onto the scene for the first time. The orange is the Church adoption of that technology. So we’re going to now fly around, so if you’re motion sick, maybe close your eyes every time I hit the button so then you can just look up and you’ll see a new slide.

The first Book of Mormon is published in 1830. The written word. Look at what Brigham Young had to say about the good things of this world: “All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. ‘Mormonism’ includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel” (“The Gospel Defined,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, [1997]). Let me pause for a moment. Remember what I was just telling you about tweeting during devotional? I’m going to give you lots and lots of quotes from the brethren for the next 20 minutes. Find one you like and tweet about it, okay? So, here’s our first one, President Young saying that everything that is good belongs to the kingdom.

Let’s keep going. We know that there’s the invention of the telegraph in 1844. The Church is fairly quick to also adopt it, and they begin using it in 1861. Let’s move next to the talking machine, or the phonograph. This was a device that allowed an individual to record their voice or other content onto different materials. Fairly soon after this invention was created, President Wilford Woodruff records his testimony. I want to play this for you, and we’ll listen to a part of it. We won’t listen to all of it. And it’s going to be very hard to hear because it was recorded on a wax drum. Underneath, though, you’ll see the subtitles. I invite you to pay attention to how you feel as a prophet uses communication technology, which was innovative in his day.

March 19, 1987: “I bear my testimony that the Prophet Joseph Smith said, before a large assemblage in Illinois, that if he were the emperor of the world and had control over the whole human family he would sustain every man, woman and child in the enjoyment of their religion. These are my sentiments today. I bear my testimony that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, ordained of God to lay the foundation of his church and kingdom in the last dispensation of the fullness of times” (From “Presidents Woodruff and Cannon at the office,” speaking into “Edison’s talking machine.” Transcripts and recording can be found at or

We’ll pause there. There’s actually about another three-and-a-half minutes of him bearing his testimony, and it’s quite powerful. You can find this on YouTube. Go Google “Wilford Woodruff first recording” and you can go listen to the rest of his testimony. So again, a prophet utilizing a recent invention.

Now, let’s zoom out and look at radio telegraphy. The concept here is that you can take content and send it through the airwaves, as opposed to it being recorded down on something. In 1900, roughly, is when it’s invented, and then you can see that the Church begins to adopt it by 1922. Heber J. Grant gives the first radio broadcast on May 6, 1922.

General Conference is being broadcast on this new technology. And then, we have the start of the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert series being broadcast; that starts in 1929.

Now, let’s go in and look at what some of the Brethren had to say around this time period. First, Joseph Fielding Smith: “I do not believe for one moment that these discoveries have come by chance, or that they have come because of superior intelligence possessed by men today over those who have lived in ages that are past. They have come and are coming because the time is ripe, because the Lord has willed it, and because he has poured out his Spirit upon all flesh” (“God Reveals His Secrets to His Prophets,” Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, [2001]).  

President McKay: “We must improve the means of communication until, with radios in our pockets, we may communicate with friends and loved ones from any point at any given moment” (President David O. McKay, talk given at a BYU assembly on January 29, 1935). I think it’s amazing that a prophet in 1935 could potentially be seeing our cell phones.

Let’s keep going. The next innovation in technology that we see is the electronic television in 1927. Again, not very long afterwards, the first TV-broadcast general  conference is made, and once again we see what the Brethren had to say during this time period. President David O. McKay: “Where, however, each missionary of old could speak to one person, the representatives of Christ today can speak to millions. A sentence uttered in an ordinary tone of voice can encircle the globe in less than a minute. The marvels and inventions of science today make it possible to spread the gospel as never before in the history of the world” (“The Life and Ministry of David O. McKay,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, [2011]). This was in 1953.

Again in 1953, Elder Cowley: “One day there will be channels under control of the church whereby they can direct this message, this witness, unto any nation they desire. And it can be carried through the channels of the air in the very language of the people to whom the message is addressed” [was unable to find reference]. Can you see prophets being prophets?

Joseph Fielding Smith: “I maintain that had there been no restoration of the gospel, and no organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there would have been no radio; there would have been no airplane, and there would have not been the wonderful discoveries in medicine, chemistry, electricity, and the many other things wherein the world has been benefitted by such discoveries. Under such conditions these blessings would have been withheld, for they belong to the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times” (“Meeting the Needs of a Worldwide Church,” Church History in the Fullness of Times Teacher Manual, [2001]).

President McKay: “There are discoveries latent with such potent power, either for the blessing or the destruction of human beings, as to make man’s responsibility in controlling them the most gigantic ever placed in human hands. . . . This age [in 1966] is fraught with limitless perils, as well as untold possibilities” (“A Divine Plan for Finding Security and Peace of Mind,” in Conference Report, Oct. 1966;

Then Elder Kimball: “We shall use the inventions the Lord has given us, to awaken interest and acquaint people of the world with the truths, to ease their prejudices, and give them a general knowledge. We shall need to answer specific questions, and perhaps that may be done by two-way radio and TV, perfected to a point beyond our present imagination. It is conceivable that such a program, greatly perfected, could be multiplied tens of thousands of times in tens and thousands of tongues and dialects, and tens of thousands of places far and near, tens of thousands of young missionaries,” do we have 80,000 now? “Endowed with the power from on high, will follow up on this proselyting. I believe the Lord is anxious to put into our hands inventions of which we laymen have hardly had a glimpse” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 1982, pp. 588-589).

Let’s look at the next innovation—satellite communications. In 1958 the first communications satellite is launched. By 1979 the Church is broadcasting general conference through satellite. President Kimball: “I am confident that the only way we can reach most of these millions of our Father’s children is through the spoken word over the airwaves, since so many are illiterate. . . . Our Father in heaven has now provided us mighty towers—radio and television towers with possibilities beyond comprehension—to help fulfill the words of the Lord that ‘the sound must go forth from this place unto all the world’” (“When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974).

Continuing, “Just think what can be accomplished when we broadcast our message . . . over numerous radio stations, large and small, around the world, and millions of good people listening on their transistors. . . . The Lord has blessed the world with many Early Bird satellites. They are stationed high in the heavens, relaying broadcast signals back to almost every corner of the earth’s surface. . . . Certainly these satellites are only the genesis of what is in store for the future of worldwide broadcasting” (“When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974).

Now we’re going to zoom ahead a little bit. We’ll go to 1990, roughly, when the Internet comes about. And I think there’s debate about who invented that, but we’ll leave it alone. Shortly after that, in 1997, the Church launches Now many of you, this is within your memories—1997. Can you think where you were in 1997? In 1997, the Church enters on the web for the first time. All those other innovations were probably before most of our times; but this one, you guys were a part of. Let’s go in and see what the Brethren were saying at this time.

Elder M. Russell Ballard: “We are moving into an era when the Information Superhighway will have the capacity to cut a wide path right into our homes. With fiber-optic computer technology, it can link homes to an incredible assortment of messages and influences. This highway will be the conduit of information that will have the power to change our culture and, thus, our very lives” (“Answers to Life’s Questions,” Apr. 1995 General Conference).

In 1999, Elder Faust: “The miracles of modern technology have brought efficiency into our lives in ways not dreamed of a generation ago. . . . Scientific knowledge, the marvels of communication, and the wonders of modern medicine have come from the Lord to enhance His work throughout the world” (“Of Seeds and Soils,” Oct. 1999 General Conference).

Elder Ballard again: “The emergence of new media is facilitating a worldwide conversation on almost every subject, including religion, and nearly everyone can participate. This modern equivalent of the printing press is not reserved only for the elite. . . . There are conversations going on about the Church constantly. Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches” (“Sharing the Gospel using the Internet,” Ensign, Jul. 2008).

Let’s go to 2004. Facebook launches out of Harvard; 2006 it becomes more popular; 2007 it’s getting even more popular. Can you think of where you were in 2007? That’s about how long social media has been around—not very long. Let’s listen now to the Brethren and what they have to say about social media.

[Recording played]

“With so many social media resources and a multitude of more or less useful gadgets at our disposal, sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effects more far-reaching than ever before” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Waiting on the Road to Damascus,” Apr. 2011 General Conference).

“For those using the Internet and mobile phones, there are new ways to invite others to ‘come and see.’ Let’s make sharing our faith online more a part of our daily life.,, Facebook, Twitter—all provide opportunities” (Neil L. Andersen, “It’s a Miracle,” Apr. 2013 General Conference).

“Meanwhile, your exemplary lives will attract the interest of your friends and neighbors. Be ready to give an answer to those who ask why you live as you do” (Russell M. Nelson, “Catch the Wave,” Apr. 2013 General Conference).

“Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and to advance the work of the Lord—not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation” (David A. Bednar, “The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” Oct. 2011 General Conference).

“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!” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf , “Waiting on the Road to Damascus,” Apr. 2011 General Conference)

[End of recording]

Let’s do one more. This summer, Elder Bednar, at Education Week, gives a talk on social media. That same week, and it was on purpose, the Church released an update to Handbook 2 (Handbook 2: Administering the Church) that gave instructions to local ecclesiastical leaders on how to use social media.

[A recording is played from David A. Bednar,“To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood,” BYU Education Week, Aug. 2014. The recording included pieces of his talk, along with a couple of quotes from other general authorities.]

“We live in a truly distinctive dispensation . . .  from trains to telegraphs . . . to computers to satellite transmission to the Internet. . . . All of these advancements are part of the Lord hastening His work in the latter days” (Elder David A. Bednar).

“Scientific discoveries that ‘stagger the imagination’ . . . now can be communicated around the world in seconds. . . . The time has come for us as disciples of Jesus Christ to use these inspired tools appropriately and more effectively. . . . The popularity and reach of current social media tools are staggering. . . . ‘In Shakespeare’s time, he was limited generally to the Globe Theatre. But we now have a global theater.’ . . . I now extend to you the invitation to help transform the trickle into a flood” (Elder David A. Bednar).

“We invite the young and the old, the adults, the young adults, youth, and the children everywhere to join with us” (Elder L. Tom Perry).

“Imagine the impact we can have as hundreds of thousands and millions of members of the Lord’s restored Church contribute in seemingly small ways to the rising floodwaters. . . . He is hastening His work, and no unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing” (Elder David A. Bednar).

[End of recording]

Brothers and sisters, when I hear Elder Bednar, I get really excited. I think he’s talking to us—I think he’s talking to this group in here. As we’ve looked at the history of communication technologies, for whatever reason, Heavenly Father has put you at your age at this place with this particular technology. And I am confident that there are more technologies to come, but they probably will not be given to us until we have effectively used the current technologies. I hope all of us will join Elder Bednar and begin to sweep the earth. If we don’t know how to use social media, ask somebody that does.

Now, in conclusion, here is a bit of an incentive: With Brother Taggart and his group, we’ve decided to have a little competition for the month of October. But this is a competition for amazing, uplifting, outstanding content created by this group right here. So, let me describe what we want to do. It is Halloween; we’re not going to have a Halloween competition. But, what we are going to do is ask each of you to think about how LDS Business College has helped you to overcome a fear that you have, and then create a video about that. As you create your video, we want to make sure that your video is no more than two minutes long, and you’ll want to upload your video and tag LDS Business College’s Facebook page. And the way to do that is pretty simple. First, you need to go find the LDS Business College Facebook Page and “like” it. That’s your first assignment. Once you’ve done that, when you use the @ symbol, it will then add that page into your content. So that way, we can see the videos that are being submitted over this next month. The competition will go through October 31st. The prizes for our winner will be $100 and tickets to a movie, $50 for number two and a movie, and $25 and tickets to a movie for number three. And here’s how we’re going to judge you: we will have a panel of judges that will select the top three, and then just after October 31st we’ll let you all know to come back on to the LDS Business College Facebook page and begin voting for your favorite. And that’s how we’ll determine the winner of this competition.

So again, we are going to talk about how LDS Business College has helped us to overcome a fear. We would love to see really great content, uplifting, edifying, things that others not of our faith might see and would think, “Wow, what’s going on at LDS Business College? Those Mormons are interesting. Maybe I should try and learn a little bit more.” So, we don’t want Halloween videos; that’s not going to attract anyone. We want uplifting content that talks about how you have overcome your fears, okay?

Well brothers and sisters, the time is now up. I would like to bear you my testimony that I do know that Heavenly Father is in charge of this work, that He talks to the prophets, that they are very well aware of innovation that’s going on, and they do take advantage of it. And they do ask us to participate with them. I’m grateful for the restoration of the gospel, I’m grateful for our Father in Heaven, I’m grateful for the Savior, Jesus Christ, and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Introduction: President J. Lawrence Richards

Brother Christensen was born in a very small town at the foot of the Sierra Mountains in California. The name of the town is “Cool,” which is . . . cool. After graduating from Placer High School, he served a mission to São Paulo, Brazil. Upon returning he attended BYU, where he received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Brother Barrett has also taught seminary at South Jordan Middle School, and Pleasant Grove High School. He was then offered a position with LDS Philanthropies, where he worked with donors who contribute to the Church and its institutions, including LDS Business College. Brother Christensen spent eight years at LDS Philanthropies as a donor liaison, and then later as manager of communications and donor engagement teams. He was hired by LDS Business College this year as our Social Media Marketing Program Director.

Brother Christensen has served as a Primary teacher, a counselor in the bishopric, and currently serves as the bishop of the Provo Peak 7th Ward. Brother Christensen married Heidi Mock, and they are the parents of three young daughters, whom we have all now met Clara. They live in Provo, and they enjoy the outdoors together.

We’re very grateful that Brother Christensen is part of our team. Many of us in the administration have known him when he worked for LDS Philanthropies, and we were most excited when he expressed an interest about coming to join LDS Business College. Brothers and sisters, you will be blessed by his message, and you’ll be blessed by his spirit.


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