A glowing light in the middle of the night…
Cue dark foreboding mood music, fade from black to a solitary scene in a suburban neighborhood. It’s what most people consider the middle of the night. A bluish diffuse light illuminates a corner of the room…
It’s 2:00 a.m., and Jeff, a high school senior, is out of bed and logged into the family computer in the kitchen. His parents have been asleep for three hours. They have no idea why Jeff is so tired these days, or why he’s been moody and difficult to deal with recently. Jeff doesn’t seem to have a good spirit with him lately, and his parents have no idea what’s behind it. Maybe it’s just a phase and he’ll grow out of it, they tell themselves.
The reality is that Jeff has become addicted to Internet pornography and has been struggling for the past six months. He’s not sure that he’s addicted, so he hasn’t talked to anyone yet, but several nights a week he sneaks out of bed and logs into the family computer to surf the web alone. When he’s done visiting inappropriate sites, he’s careful to clean up after himself, deleting the browser history and covering his tracks. His parents have never followed his trail on the computer because, frankly, they don’t even know where to start.
I wish this were a rare and isolated incident, but it’s not, even in good LDS homes. The negative influence of the Internet is extremely strong, and it’s destroying more of our youth than we’d like to admit. It’s also destroying marriages and families, because mom and dad aren’t immune to its draw either.
What do you do with a force that’s so powerful and yet so potentially destructive? You’ve got a few options. You can pull the plug. Let’s be honest, that’s extremely satisfying at a certain level. But does it actually protect your kids? In your home, sure, but your house is only one of several points of access to the Internet for your family members. Besides, the Internet isn’t the only place technology intersects with your family life.
But one other critical factor deserves consideration when debating what to do with the Internet and digital devices—technology is doing good things as well! In fact, the Internet is facilitating some amazing spiritual and temporal blessings that are unprecedented in human history.
A bright light in the middle of the day…
Cue the tinkling of small hands on piano keys, soft sunlight streaming through the kitchen windows on a Sunday afternoon…
It’s 2:00 p.m., and Katie, a high school senior, is logged into the family computer in the kitchen. She sits staring at the screen. “Mom, can you come in here for a minute?”
“Sure.” Dana puts down her copy of the Ensign, walks into the kitchen, and pulls up a chair next to her daughter. “What’s up?”
“I think I found new information about Great-Grandma Jean’s family.”
Dana is surprised, and leans closer to the screen. “Really?”
“Yeah. I’m looking at the 1880 census in Ohio, and I’m pretty sure this them. See? That’s Jean and her parents. The dates look right. Oh wow, did you know she had a twin sister? See, right there—her name is Ruth!” Katie smiles with excitement, and happy tears begin to well in Dana’s eyes as she thinks of her beloved grandmother’s sister who had passed away at a young age and their opportunity to be reunited once again.
Two weeks later Katie is baptized in the temple for Ruth, and the following week Dana goes through the temple as proxy for the remaining ordinances.
This is an increasingly common experience in LDS homes. The positive impact of the Internet is profound, and it’s helping save spiritual lives both here and in the spirit world. Missionaries answer questions via online chat. Name extractors receive batches and submit extracted data via an Internet-based system. Teachers and leaders access lesson materials and Church resources online. Investigators learn more about the Church at www.mormon.org. The brethren consistently leverage technology to push forward the work of the kingdom.
Herein lies the fundamental struggle—a technological force powerful enough to dramatically accelerate the work of the Lord and at the same time facilitate the spiritual and temporal destruction of individuals and families.
Several years ago, Andrew Groff gave a commencement speech entitled, Renaissance of Kings. In it he talks about, in our hands we hold access to more knowledge than kings and queens of past eras or more self-destructive power than we can handle.
The choice is ours… Are we strong enough to use it for good or ill?