The Internet gives everyone a voice.
Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg and U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch were at the BYU's Marriott Center this morning for a special technology forum. Zuckerberg spoke about technology and education as Sen. Hatch asked a few of the questions previously submitted through BYU's Facebook page.
It was an interesting forum, relatively short (less than an hour), but the most interesting comment from Mark Zuckemberg for me was when he said that
One thing that gets blown out of proportion in our culture is the focus on the single person or the couple of people that are running something. The success of Facebook is all about the team that we built. I think that's true of any successful company.
I couldn’t agree more, but obviously Mark Zuckemberg is a living proof of something that is getting blown out of proportion, but it is not his fault!
Filed under: Internet & Media, News & Politics, Videos
Last week I heard about the recent developments in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the army is helping the police to gain control of the favelas (slums). This video is an interesting analysis of what is happening.
An article on BBC explains that
“Everyone here is focused on the World Cup and the Olympics.” As Rio gets ready to host the matches in the 2014 World Cup and the Olympics two years later, the city’s hillside shanty towns are the target of a government clean-up that in turn is being used as a springboard to develop tourism in the favelas with special tours.
To have the privilege of hosting the finals of the FIFA World Cup or the Olympics is a responsibility that pushes governments around the world to make some real improvements (and some only for appearance’s sake) that will make them ready and especially “look good” to the rest of the world. In spite of their dominating ideology or current economic circumstances, they know that they need to live up to certain minimum standards to be considered good hosts. At each new event, the hosting nation tries to impress the world.
Even Hitler tried it. According to the Holocaust Encyclopedia
For two weeks in August 1936, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi dictatorship camouflaged its racist, militaristic character while hosting the Summer Olympics. Softpedaling its antisemitic agenda and plans for territorial expansion, the regime exploited the Games to bedazzle many foreign spectators and journalists with an image of a peaceful, tolerant Germany.
Therefore, what we see in display during the games is not the reality of the country, but I believe that in most cases (Germany’s case was very extreme) there is a benefit in giving a chance to new and in some way problematic countries (and all are in some way) to open up and better align themselves with the “best practices” around the globe, and become more fully integrated with the rest of the world.
In the case of Brazil, for example, their soccer team is already good enough, but they need to make an effort of improving many other things, first of all, safety around the stadiums.
To choose Russia and Qatar to host the World Cup will also push those countries to do something real beyond lots of propaganda (and Russia is very good at it). Russia will try to show that is really becoming a modern and democratic country, and Qatar will be engaged in proving that Middle East countries are not all about extremism and intollerance.
This is obvious a very superficial and quick analysis, and a lot more could be said, but I cannot avoid feeling like these international sport events may provide many benefits in at least some of the countries they touch.
In Brazil, even after the World Cup and the Olympics will be over, many of the economic and safety changes will probably stay with the population. In other countries, such as China, or Russia, perhaps new opportunities will be created. Ideas and values may be shared, and personal friendships between people who normally would never be in touch may be formed. Those ideas and relationships over time may grow and produce real changes, in spite of the original intentions of those who are in control of a country.
Filed under: Internet & Media, News & Politics
After the last General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) there has been some unrest among proponents of same-sex marriage in Utah. Some of the comments made in the talk of President Boyd K. Packer have not been received positively by some in the gay and lesbian community.
To disagree seems to me a normal aspect of social life. During elections this become absolutely obvious, but even when elections are not involved (if this is possible, since we are always between some kind of election) different groups have opinions or beliefs that do not always agree with each other, potentially leading to some sort of conflict.
In some cases the disagreement relates to issues that are so personal that it is hard for some to refrain from reacting in some way. They do not want to accept other people’s point of view, but they want to silence them. This is clearly the case of those who feel attacked by the Mormon Church when its leaders openly teach that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and not between two people of the same gender.
This topic tends to become so laden with strong emotions that it becomes extremely hard to express a point of view that defends traditional marriage without being accused of discrimination and malicious intents. This is what happened to President Boyd K Packer. In his talk President Boyd K. Packer was teaching young (and older) people about the dangers of present times, and what is most important for their happiness in this life and beyond. He said,
This general conference was convened at a time when there is such confusion and such danger that our young people hardly know which way they can walk. Having been warned through the revelations that it would be this way, the prophets and apostles have always been shown what to do…
To be entrusted with the power to create life carries with it the greatest of joys and dangerous temptations. The gift of mortal life and the capacity to kindle other lives is a supernal blessing. Through the righteous exercise of this power, as in nothing else, we may come close to our Father in Heaven and experience a fulness of joy. This power is not an incidental part of the plan of happiness. It is the key--the very key (added emphasis).
As prophets and apostles of God, men like President Packer need to stand for what is right, they need to defend true principles, even if they are not “politically correct” , and the same is true for the members of the Church. At the same time, however, as so well explained by Michael Otterson (Church Responds to HRC Petition)
While we disagree with the Human Rights Campaign on many fundamentals, we also share some common ground. This past week we have all witnessed tragic deaths across the country as a result of bullying or intimidation of gay young men. We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different - whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation or for any other reason. Such actions simply have no place in our society.
Therefore, it is extremely unfair to compare the leaders of the Mormons Church (or its members) with those who commit those criminal acts against gays or lesbians. To commit such acts is not part of what the Mormon Church teaches. Michael Otterson explains,
As a church, our doctrinal position is clear: any sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong, and we define marriage as between a man and a woman. However, that should never, ever be used as justification for unkindness. Jesus Christ, whom we follow, was clear in His condemnation of sexual immorality, but never cruel. His interest was always to lift the individual, never to tear down.
My hope is therefore that
within this community, and in others, kindness, persuasion and goodwill can prevail (Michael Otterson).
Filed under: Internet & Media, Mormon Church
This is the video of the famous Regional Representatives Seminar by President Spencer W. Kimball in 1974.
From this video is taken the quote below that confirms the importance of using the Internet for finding people who are interested in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church). The video shows its age, but the prophetic message is still valid.
I believe that the Lord is anxious to put into our hands inventions of which we laymen have hardly had a glimpse. ... When we have used the satellite and related discoveries to their greatest potential, ... then, and not until then, shall we approach the insistence of our Lord and Master to go unto all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. (President Spencer W. Kimball)
Filed under: Internet & Media, Mormon Prophets and Apostles
Slate magazine's annual list of the nation's most powerful people over 80 years old ranked the Mormon Prophet Thomas S. Monson as number 1.
"The top spot this year goes to 82-year-old Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the only person on the list to rule over millions of people as a prophet of God." (See 80 Over 80)
The placement of Thomas S. Monson at the top of the list is definitively a recognition of the importance and influence for good of a prophet of God. However, the article uses words that may mislead people into thinking that a true prophet of God “rules” over people or that he seeks for “power”.
This could not be farther from the truth. Thomas S. Monson served for many years in the Church before becoming its president, and differently from many politicians who get elected to public offices, he was not elected on the basis of a “new platform” or after a campaign in which he violently criticized is predecessor. On the contrary, he was chosen by God to continue what his predecessors did, in harmony with the will of God.
His power come from righteous influence and he does not “rule” over millions as a king or president, but he serves millions of people. He is not even the real head of the Church, because in spite of millions reverencing him as a prophet of God, he is the first to remember that the real head of the Church, and the real King, is the Saviour.
According to an article in the Daily Herald) were "coming fast and furious" during the recent LDS general conference. In spite of thousands of members stuffing the LDS conference center in Salt Lake City and hundreds of thousands more watching the conference broadcast, other members were pushing the event to the forefront of social media. The search term "#ldsconf" remained among the most popular on Twitter over the weekend.
There were tweets almost about every topic, but Elder Jeffery R. Holland’s direct and emotional testimony about the veracity of the church's Book of Mormon was followed by thousands of tweets about how powerful it was.
The article on the Daily Herald ends by stating that
even as the church's members streamed, tweeted, IM'd, listened and watched conference on every piece of media at their disposal, Elder Russell M. Nelson said the best kind of communication doesn't come with a cost. 'Even more amazing that modern technology is our opportunity to access information directly from heaven, without hardware, software or monthly service fees,' he said.
I recognize that it is a nice way of closing an article, but it may leave us with a false impression about using the Internet to spread the Gospel. Elder Nelson was trying to direct our attention to the importance of prayer, but if prayer is a great form of communication with God, it is someway limited when we try to talk to mortals. In fact, in spite of the fact that missionaries usually prepare themselves for their service through fervent prayer and fasting, and that prayer may open doors, missionaries still need to communicate directly with the people, if they want to make an effect. Angelic visitations as a consequence of prayers, such in the case of Alma praying for his son Alma the Younger, usually only come after the missionaries, or the parents, have done all they could to communicate with the people they were trying to reach.
Filed under: Internet & Media, Mormon Missionaries
This is the introduction of a very good article on the last Ensign, October 2009, about sharing our beliefs online by Michelle Stocking of the Church Magazines (link to the full article).
After years of harboring bitterness and anger, Derick Fitch of Indiana felt as though he had hit a dead end. He decided he had enough and wanted to change. That decision led him to do something he had never done before: search for God.
So Derick did what he typically did when he wanted to find information: he went to the Internet. Not only would that give him quick, easy access to information, it would also allow him to conduct his search privately, without making any commitments. Derick decided to begin his Internet search by looking for information on "the Mormon Church" because of a television commercial he remembered from his teenage years.
“My search led me to an LDS-related site that had exactly what I was looking for--a message board where I could confidentially post questions about the Church," Derick says. He took a deep breath and registered with the site.
Using the site's message board, Derick received answers to his questions from Latter-day Saints and learned that he could read the Book of Mormon online by clicking on a link at www.mormon.org. "The words in 1 Nephi penetrated the cold, hard shell around my heart," he says. "I started to think about my life and my relationship with God."
Soon Derick obtained a printed copy of the Book of Mormon from the local missionaries and agreed to attend church services. Less than four months after Derick had decided to search online for information about religion, he was baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"I am so thankful that I was able to start reading the Book of Mormon online," he says. "I am thankful that I was able to find LDS Web sites, ask questions about the Church, and receive wonderful answers."
For Derick and many others who have questions about the Church, the natural place to turn is the Internet. There, Derick received answers to his questions from everyday Latter-day Saints--and those answers touched his heart.
It is interesting how one thing led to another, but the Internet was a very important step in Derick’s research and conversion process. The message board he found was not an official website of the church, however, but a members’ initiative. It is an important thing for members to share their beliefs online and not be shy, to take the initiative and not to wait for some formal calling coming from the church.
I have found a link today to the video Did you Know, the official update to the original "Shift Happens" video. This completely new Fall 2009 version includes facts and stats focusing on the changing media landscape, including convergence and technology, and was developed in partnership with The Economist. However, I went back to take a look at the version 3.0 and I still prefer that one and I have included it below.
Filed under: Internet & Media, Mormon Church
The Church is gathering feedback from some of the youth about what kind of web site they should build that would bring them closer to the Savior and help them feel more connected to the Gospel and to the Church.
If you have Facebook, you can join this Facebook site and enter the discussion. They want your feedback.
The Church also created a web site where they link to some things they are thinking about. It's called Labs. You can check out some prototypes on Labs. Use the ID "youthtester" and the password "helaman2000."
They are accepting a limited number of people to have a more personalized experience on Labs. To apply, sign up for an LDS Account. You'll need your member number, which you can get from the ward clerk, and your birth date. Then send your LDS Account name to email@example.com. They are accepting as many as they can until the servers get overloaded.
Once you send the email and they get back to you, you'll be able to log into Labs with your own LDS Account and you'll be able to view your own ward directory online and record your thoughts and feelings about General Conference and recall them later.
In addition, you'll be able to use your LDS Acccount for other web sites the Church is currently working on that will come out this year.
It looks like a great initiative from the Church trying to use the Internet for good. Share it with others.
Filed under: Internet & Media, Mormon Missionaries
This is not my idea, and it is not a reality yet, and it may never become a reality. However, for those who have some knowledge of a Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints it may seem like a possible complement, even if may never become a complete alternative. After all, as Elder Bednar recently remembered us, we are on this earth to experience life with a body, and we cannot substitute certain experiences with a complete virtual life.
On the other hand, however, if we really want to preach the gospel to every creature on earth, we need to find a fast track, Mormon missionaries are “only” 52,000 right now and with the current reduction in birth rate facing Utah 9and other areas of the world), I do not think we will see that number grow too much in the next years. And how many hours do missionaries spend (or waste) walking or driving from place to place, getting discouraged, to reach a few people who are interested in the Gospel?
Obviously, being tired and discouraged is part of mortal experience, so there is some good to it. If the purpose is to strenghten their character, it may be good, but if the purpose is to reach every creature under the sun, then we need to find better avenues.
Naturally, if we as member of the Church learn to use the Internet as suggested by Elder Ballard we will see a great improvement in positive and successfull member-missionary work, and more true seekers found by members and missionaries.
But why we cannot include, as part of this faster reaching out to the world, online missions to our current structure, organized more or less like a normal mission, with mission presidents and so on? I am sure there is a lot involved that I am not considering right now, to create something that works, and at the same time follows Church‘s principles. But still, with Skype and all the rest, a lot more could be done to save trips and costs, by having at least a few online missions, staffed with missionaries that perhaps could not afford the cost, or the intensity of a “normal” mission.
As President Kimbal taught us many and many years ago,
When we’ve used the satellite and related discoveries to their greatest potential…then and not until then shall we approach the insistence of our Lord and Master to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
I think that online missions may become a reality in the future. As with everything in the Church, they will become a reality if this is what the Lord wants, and He will do it through his authorized servants, the prophets.
However, we are entitled to our opinions and to the prompting of the Spirit of God, and I think that in the future we may see something like online missions, or we may see more online activities in normal missions. We will see.