I’ve been a little disappointed in the Church’s online presence lately. A little disappointed in General Conference, too. I don’t know. My Twitter feed is primarily political stuff, and so I see the conflicts going on, the poison, the arguments, the all-out wars between opposing ideologies and political parties. All the stuff leading to riots and protests and marches, the fuel for hatred and and division and dehumanization.
Then occasionally I get a tweet in there from LDS social media accounts. And it kind of feels…tone deaf. Like it’s not really aware of, or in sync with, the problems plaguing the world today. Almost like it’s trying to teach us primary lessons when the issues we’re dealing with are on a different scale, requiring greater complexity and involving compromises and complications. It all kind of sounds like that cliche General Conference voice, simplified and even a little condescending. (If you don’t know what I mean, listen to an Elder Holland talk for an example of the opposite, and how I wish more general authorities would speak.) The Church website is similar in how I feel it ignores the bigger problems in society today in exchange with gospel platitudes.
Last October I was disappointed in General Conference because it didn’t speak to the questions I had. The questions I’m sure MANY latter-day saints had. Essentially, what were we to do about this election? What were we to do about the country being in as awful a situation as it was in? We got mostly the same old talks. Yes, I’m sure each talk was needed by at least one person watching somewhere around the globe. But I, and others, needed direct advice on what we should do in these immensely troubled and unprecedented times.
Look, I get it. The Church doesn’t get political. I understand that, and appreciate it—in normal times. But this year almost felt like (and here I’m just speculating) they were using that fact as a shield so they didn’t have to directly address the problems facing our nation, which were, or seemed to be, the most substantial problems in our lives. There was no “This is what the members of the Church should do,” and I needed that. This past election was a time of great confusion, and I felt like I got no answers, or even any acknowledgments that the world was as bad as it was, even just confirmation that these are indeed the latter days and the decline has officially begun. Maybe I’m wrong; maybe I missed something in there, but it didn’t feel like the church was appreciating the scope of the problem as I saw/see it.
I got over it, forgot about it, but remembered it today at Church. Because today, that confusion and frustration was assuaged.
It was fast and testimony meeting for us (stake conference is next week). Apparently the youth just had a temple trip, because seven or eight kids got up, all by themselves, to bear their testimonies about their experiences. They were twelve and thirteen. But they got to the pulpit and shared how much they loved the temple, and how they felt the Spirit, and how grateful they were for it. Sprinkled in there were a couple of women who testified of genuine miracles in their lives, how they had recently come to know—not just believe, anymore, but know—that the Church was really true.
This meeting moved me deeply.
Why should it? The world is up in flames. We have chaos abroad and chaos here at home. The global order has been destabilized, the winds of disorder blowing out from the storm’s vortex in the middle east are causing nations to sway and lose their balance. Here at home Americans are hating each other in a way not seen since the Civil War. Families are breaking apart, furthering the instability. We hear about wars and rumors of wars, and Satan does not even need to be subtle anymore. Both masses and the very elect are being deceived and manipulated because of pride and ego and blind anger and general spinelessness. Fear and prejudice drives once good Christians to ignore the plight of refugees, to reject their pleas for help and sanctuary—much like the priest and Levite ignoring the man beaten by thieves. The very notions of good and evil are being cast aside in the pursuit of political power, with crowds raging and ranting with the frenzy of the mobs that persecuted the early Church. It is a frightening time, a perfect evidence of entropy at work on a global scale.
And yet what that testimony meeting told me today is that, in spite of all this—all these signs of the times and these flaming banners welcoming us into the last days—the work of God is quietly continuing on.
Those testimonies today struck me—this is the gospel. This is the work that God does. He works on us one by one. The nations of the world—including America—will fall, but individual souls do not have to. Individual families do not have to. This is the work God is focused on, and what matters most, even more so than temporal Church institutions, which Elder Neal A. Maxwell once pointed out will “fall away like so much scaffolding.” This is why LDS social media is ignoring the “big” stuff, and focusing on nurturing the individual rather than the national. Temple work is skyrocketing, and new generations of faithful young men and young women are ensuring that it will continue on as they grow older. New testimonies are forming, and old ones are deepening and missionary work is going on at every age level. It’s not loud. It’s not proclaimed with a trump. It is simply advancing, rolling forth as the world ignites all around it.
The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth. (Doctrine and Covenants 65:2)