On the first weekend in June, President Nelson held a youth worldwide devotional. Highlights were tweeted as follows:

  1. Disengage from a constant reliance on social media by holding a seven-day fast from social media.

  2. For three weeks, give up something you like to do and use that time to help gather Israel.

  3. Do a thorough life assessment with the Lord, and perhaps with your parents and your bishop.

  4. Pray daily that all of God’s children might receive the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  5. Stand out and be different from the world.

Of course, since all the LDS Youth were on a social media fast, none of them saw the tweet. Just a little joke, one several others were making on Twitter:

And another.

But this wasn’t just another old codger knocking these darn kids and their new trends:

Or as another Tweeter put it:

First of all, this kind of devotional is something that we haven’t had for a long time because we’ve had a mostly incapacitated Church President for a while. Also, President Nelson included his wife in the devotional, which feels like a first. Let’s drill down a bit into the five bits of advice for the youth to see what’s going on here.

Disengage from a constant reliance on social media by holding a seven-day fast from social media.

This is an interesting one. On the one hand, there are several great reasons to do this, and it sounds like President Nelson understands it better than some of my fellow ward members who think all social media is evil and will bring the downfall of human civilization. [1] Here are a few reasons I can easily list:

  1. Social media can be, particularly for youth, very competitive in nature and lead to a falsely undermined self-confidence. There’s a lot of social anxiety that coincides with the use of social media. This appears to be the main reason for the recommendation.
  2. How is anyone supposed to endure an 18 or 24 month mission without social media? This can be good practice.
  3. Fasting practices, like Lent, in which people give up something they use without thinking and experience life without it are inherently spiritually valuable exercises.
  4. When I think about how boring our lives were back in the 80s before cell phones, when we were all ignoramuses because we didn’t carry the entire world of knowledge in our pocket, and when we had to watch TV shows without playing games on our phones, I realize that OK maybe we are just a little too digital these days. My kids (who also think climbing trees is dangerous) have never experienced that world.

For three weeks, give up something you like to do and use that time to help gather Israel.

OK, so that’s a long time, but again, like the Lent idea, it’s a good spiritual practice. Repurposing that time to do something else is an interesting idea, although it probably depends what you are giving up how much time that will give you. My first thought was “what do they mean by help gather Israel” because I always think of the Jews, like they are lost somewhere, and we are herding them like cats. It’s such a Biblical euphemism. Which reminds me of one of my favorite Mormon stories:

I’m not a fan of all this euphemistic referring to ourselves as the House of Israel, but there was a clarification.

Here’s another use of the “Israel” concept:

LOLWUT?! I’m starting to think I know who’s trying to make this phrase the Next Big Thing.

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Let’s move on to the next one.

Do a thorough life assessment with the Lord, and perhaps with your parents and your bishop.

Here’s another one that seems incredibly broad, but there was clarification given that this was about where you are on “the covenant path.” That’s a phrasing that sounds like it was lifted out of an Evangelical preacher’s mouth if ever I heard one. No shocker than in our increasingly right-wing church we’ve been adopting the phrases of our worst critics who happen to vote similarly to the majority of Mormons. If they try to start Purity Balls for the YW, I’m outta here. But I suppose it’s just another euphemistic phrase.[3] What they mean is progressing through the Mormon Milestones: baptism, temple, mission, marriage, kids, death, creating your own worlds, etc. They’ve thrown the bishop into the mix in case you have anything you might want to *cough* confess.

Pray daily that all of God’s children might receive the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Hmmm, I’m starting to think this woman’s tweet was right!

Stand out and be different from the world.

Well, that should be easy enough if our youth exit social media. As they well know, they will miss seven days of connection, inside jokes, who’s dating whom, what shows everyone is binge watching, etc. But that could be a good thing.

The only other thing I noted that was interesting about the Youth Devotional was the suggestion that YM and YW hand out the FTSOY pamphlets to their friends. Wow, someone has a whole lot of confidence in that little booklet. [2] That will for sure help Mormon kids stand out. Way out.

A(n adult) friend of mine did the 7 day social media fast and reported back on her findings:

After seven days away from Facebook, I can tell you with clarity why I am here and what this experience isn’t for me:
– I am here to see the important events in your lives. I care to know if you had a surgery, a child’s mission call or graduation, or birthday.
– I am here to have occasional deep discussions. I love to hear your thoughts about meaningful issues.
– I don’t care about videos, shared links, or “hot button topics.” Didn’t miss them at all. I also didn’t miss ads.

What did you think of the Youth Devotional?

  • Will the youth take up these challenges?
  • Are these good challenges for the youth?
  • Are you going to try it? Do you think it’s valuable for adults? More or less than for youth?

Discuss.

[1] One woman ranted that Facebook was terrible because people could post whatever they wanted anonymously. I pointed out that, no, your face is attached to what you post–it’s literally called Facebook! It’s not anonymous!

[2] Unwarranted confidence.

[3] Ugh. I already heard it used repeatedly this week at church. Gross.