I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and lived in the same neighborhood my whole young life. Then as a 12-year-old boy we moved and started a life in the country. Totally foreign to us, life on the farm was a brand new experience, but it turned out to be wonderful.
Gaining a Sure Testimony of the Holy Spirit
Interestingly, since that time I have faced similar occasions in my life when the future was uncertain and the circumstances at the time were sometimes confusing and even foreboding. But the Lord has always seen me through. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints my whole life, I have attended dozens of testimony meetings where others have borne witness of the influence of the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ, which provide direction in their lives. When I was young, my father too testified of the truthfulness of the gospel. His testimony was passionate, and I knew he would not lie. Anyone that knows my father can attest to that. It was not his character to do so. So even as a child, I knew what he believed was true. I felt warmth and confidence and certainty surround me. Others would say manifestations of the Spirit would come in thoughts and impressions and as a still small voice. I felt it, but at the time I couldn’t put it into words.
I remember thinking then “Is this it? Is this warm feeling from the top-of-my-head to the tips-of-my-toes the Spirit?” Of course the words were those of a child, but the essence of my request is captured in those questions. My parents taught me the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I felt it was right. I believed the teachings to be true, but the feeling was a frequent occurrence for me as a child in my home, and I thought then that this feeling is too good to be true.
But now after a lifetime of experience seeing its fulfillment and feeling the assurance of the gospel, I am familiar with this warmth and comfortable feeling it again and again.
Experiencing the Gospel through the Life of Progeny
Five of my children are daughters. Annually during their teenage years, they would attend girl’s camp. At church on the following Sunday, there were often talks from both the girls and the leaders regarding this week-long adventure. Naturally, I took particular interest in these reports, since my daughters and frequently my wife were involved. Well, this year was no different. My youngest attended camp with my wife, but this time I was actually able to spend the last evening with my daughter, wife, and others at girls camp. I heard all about the fun activities they had been involved in all week.
They told me about the evening when Ardeth Greene Kapp came and spoke to the young women. She’s 83-years-old now and a few of the girls thought she would be a dry speaker. But from the very moment she began presenting, the girls were captivated with stories, humor, and testimony. The Church encourages inspired leaders within its ranks, and Kapp epitomizes such a person. She was called to an ecclesiastical position as ninth president of the Young Women organization (1984–92). Exerting her gifts and skills to direct this organization, Kapp developed major elements in the Young Women program, including the revised Personal Progress book and official motto, logo, and theme. Her life experiences previous to this call primed her to lead the Young Women organization and make these contributions. Kapp herself has expressed this idea: “I didn’t recognize [how parts of my life led up to later events] until I looked back. And I thought, oh my goodness, the Lord does lead our lives.” After the meeting, my wife was speaking with Kapp’s escort. She said that while her sister had twelve children, Kapp was unable to have any children, yet she influenced the Young Women’s and Personal Progress programs more than 20-years-ago. The Young Women organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints instructs, encourages, and supports living the gospel for teenage female Church members ages 12 through 17.
The young women from our local congregations were involved in numerous other activities during the week; canoes at the water front, high adventure hikes, and the challenge course to name but a few. The adventures culminated the night I went up to camp with a faith walk, delicious meal, and testimony meeting around a roaring fire. The evening was deafening because the wind howled and the trees swayed and rustled as a result. Yet, the young women persevered and one-by-one many of the girls stood and expressed their appreciation for the gospel, love for their families, and testified of the divinity of the Savior. I thought to myself as I observed these young women how remarkable and comforting to see the caliber of these youth. Despite spending a week camping in the middle of the woods amid less than comfortable circumstances and here in the face of windy, cold conditions, these young women spent time thanking others and furthering the good all around them. This experience is a metaphor for life that will be repeated time and again in their role as mothers.
Now admittedly, I am not an attorney, and I do not practice law inside or out of the courtroom, but I believe I have seen enough hearings to know that one or two key witnesses can sway a jury and ultimately dictate the outcome of a verdict. We have seen many instances of that over a lifetime. Compare that with the dozens or hundreds, perhaps thousands of testimonies of others—including those of our young women—that witness of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord has promised us that if we will live His Word, we can know for ourselves that it is true. This week was once more evidence of that.
Some friends recently had dinner with a sister missionary serving in Salt Lake City on temple square. She contacted an investigator in another country, commenced teaching the discussions, coordinated the hand-off to local members, and followed up after baptism all from the Internet. This man lived in a country not currently open to proselyting missionaries. With technology and the advancements on the Internet, missionaries are now teaching the gospel in literally every country on earth. As a result, more people are hearing the message and joining the Church.
Technology is a wonderful instrument, but not something everyone understands extremely well. But incredibly, computer software and the Internet are solving that problem, too.
Distributed software today is everywhere. It’s user friendly, powerful, efficient, and empowering. We take advantage of it without even realizing it. Ask a class room of children how many of them could program a website and expect a few youngsters to raise their hands. Likely most of them have a Facebook page, however, which means they’ve already done what was asked without evening realizing it. We take advantage of the new technology because it’s easier and more ubiquitous than ever before.
The Church of Jesus Christ and the Use of Technology
Such is the case for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well. Technology has considerably changed the way we preach the gospel. That which was difficult and localized is easy and worldwide. Thousands of digital reproductions are completed and posted only moments after live delivery, including video, audio, and text versions, amassing the single largest database of religious information from living oracles on the planet. All these media are made available to the entire world in many different languages free of charge.
Another popular website, FamilySearch.org, provides access to the largest collection of genealogical and historical records in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services each year to learn more about their family history. Digital records from over 100 countries spanning hundreds of years are safely stored. Experts claim access to an estimated 3 Billion names from all over the world. Additionally, there are 4,745 family history centers worldwide, where personal help can be had and resources are again available to all without charge, including 24/7 telephone support, live chat, email support, and a massive database of training resources and online troubleshooting database. Recently, FamilySearch participants have been granted personal access to Ancestry.com, FindMyPast, and MyHeritage. All this is provided to participants at no cost.
FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
According to FamilySearch, the site was launched 24 May 1999, and more than 3.5 billion names reside in searchable databases. Over 35 million historic records are published online each month. The resource boasts of 1,363 searchable historic record collections online and over 10 million visits per day by more than 85,000 visitors.
FamilySearch.org—Facts and Statistics
24 May 1999
Number of names in searchable databases
Over 3.5 billion
Number of historic records published online each month
Over 35 million
Number of digital images published online each month from original source documents
Over 33 million
Number of searchable historic record collections online
FamilySearch has 6.875 billion historic records on microfilm that are being digitized and eventually indexed. These records contain an estimated 20.6 billion names.
FamilySearch has over 200 digital record preservation camera teams in 45 countries who produce more than 100 million new digital images for free online publication each year.
The FamilySearch Indexing program is available in English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish with more language interfaces and international projects coming.
3. SOCIAL MEDIA
An estimated 80,000+ missionaries also use social media to preach the gospel all around the world. Facebook and Twitter are frequent sources of their message, but these sites are not the only social media regularly updated with Church content. Instagram was recently added to the list of social media used by the Church, which now includes at least the following media channels:
The enormous video project taken on by the Church depicting the life and ministry of the Savior, called The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Videos, combines technology, cinematic arts, and high-quality film making. Dozens of videos online portray significant events in the life of Jesus Christ. Users can sign-up to be notified as new videos become available. Internet technology was first offered to the general public in the last quarter century during the 1900s. The Church was right there using the Internet then and has improved right along with other advancements in this industry. The number of sites and Internet footprint was small then. But today, multiple sites, blogging, video, streaming and HD quality is common and abundant on all of its sites.
Hundreds more online videos, web links, and millions of impressions are made available through these media as they change the world as we know it, making wholesome and uplifting content available to users. Often embedded in the midst of the article or web page where the reference is used, video and audio are becoming prolific and common. This technology has made content more accessible and easier to use than ever before. But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can see, hear, and feel it for yourself.
The Church maintains dozens of websites in many different languages, and new sites are added and updated regularly. A consistent login is made available between multiple websites with some of the most popular receiving millions of daily visitors.
A partial list of the Church-sponsored websites follows:
• lds.org (informational) available in 100 different languages (unofficial count)
And these items mentioned are only the beginning. To these media there are many more technologies to add, including at least the following: temples, schools, universities, missionary work, broadcasts, training, curriculum, genealogy updates, and much, much more.
Provides church organization and membership contacts for local congregations from either a computer or the palm of your hand on a mobile device. In some cases it provides photographs and contact information. That content is left up to the local leaders and individual participants. Additional content is being added every day at a breakneck speed with no evidence of slowing in sight.
The Internet stretches beyond space and time to allow us to visit places and be involved in spreading the gospel message far-and-wide in a way we only dreamed about previously. Proximity is no longer a requirement to see and experience many locations all around the earth and enjoy the beauty this world and life have to offer.
Together these technologies allow the Church to share the gospel message to every corner of the earth, and people from all walks of life benefit.
The Use of Digital Devices in Missionary Work
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released updated information about the growing number of missionaries and the expanded use of digital devices and online missionary work. According to the latest reports, nearly 86,000 missionaries are now serving in 406 missions around the world. With the change in age requirements for both young men and young women who wish to serve full-time missions, the number of missionaries will continue to increase, but is expected to peak at about 88,000 after this year. It is also anticipated that in the late fall, the number will begin to plateau and then decrease and stabilize around 77,000. All the while, Sister missionaries have become a vital part of the discussion in mission leadership councils.
Additionally, 6,500 missionaries in 30 missions in the United States and Japan have been pilot testing the use of digital tablets. This technology is now being extended to all missions in North America, Japan, and western Europe which will enable more than 32,000 missionaries in more than 162 missions to have mini iPads for their immediate use for studying and teaching the gospel. Missionaries will be asked to purchase these $400 devices which they can keep after their mission. Assistance will be provided to those who cannot otherwise afford to purchase the device. Approximately the same number of missionaries will become anxiously engaged in missionary work online through such social media venues as Facebook several hours a day.
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