Google Productivity Pad: How to use, and not use, your iPhone or iPad at Church

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How to use, and not use, your iPhone or iPad at Church

So, with the recent devotionals from Elder Ballard and Elder Bednar on Technology and my own thoughts on the use of screens, the natural extension is to think about how those screens are being used or should be used at Church. Now these are just my own thoughts on the matter, they aren't doctrine, and they are aimed primarily at members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormons) since that is the church I am a member of.

I will break this up into two sections: how to use, and how not to use. The second section is the one likely to offend the most people, but the first one will offend some of the more paper centric crowed. I would ask whatever camp you fall into that you not actually get offend but that you take these ideas and see if they can help you live better.

How To:

Apps: The various uses of apps both official and unofficial can make your church experience better when used properly. I will list several here so you get the idea.

Gospel Library: I have reviewed several versions of this app in the past, and I assume that most of you have it on your iPhone or iPad. It is a powerful tool to have available to us and probably the most commonly used app at church. Elder Ballard said:

"I know that many of you have your scriptures and other Church resources on your phones and tablets. And I’ve even heard that some parents and Church leaders are concerned about this newest development, but I am not."
I think that is an important statement from an Apostle. He wants to put at ease the minds of leaders on the use of electronic scriptures and manuals at church. There is on place he asked us not to use them though:
" young people are reading your scriptures on smartphones or tablets—reading them as Jesus did when He was given an Isaiah scroll to read from in Nazareth. You too can “scroll”5—but please, do not “scroll” during the presentation of the sacrament. Surely, during those few minutes you can focus on the Atonement of the Savior as you seek the Spirit of the Lord to bless you for the coming week"
Unfortunately since that devotional I have not seen a decrease in the number of people using phones and tablets during that time. If you have trouble focusing during the Sacrament, you may want to bring paper scriptures to help you, but I would suggest you not use the electronic ones during that time.

Beyond the Sacrament, the Gospel Library app provides us with greater access to the scriptures, teaching of the prophets, and church materials than ever before. As a very early adopter of electronic scriptures (on the Palm IIIxe when I was 13) I have been promoting their use for years. The ability to carry more in a fraction of the space is amazing.

If you open the lesson you are studying in class that day you will have access to most of the references you will need to read straight from the hyperlinks, the back button will always bring you back to the lesson. And having multiple screens available has made sticking your fingers in various spots a thing of the past.

While I hope for improvements in the marking and taking notes portions of the app, they are still good options and very usefully sync to your church account if you are logged in.

LDS Tools: Another extremely useful app LDS tools puts the entire Stake and Ward directories in the palm of your hand. In a Married Student ward with high turnover I find myself using this constantly. I can check names, addresses, and pictures. I sometimes use it during church when I need to meet somebody and I want to make sure I have the person and name correct, but more often we use it in meetings prior to church. It is a staple app to the Ward Council and has made certain aspects of that meeting much easier.

LDS Music: I find that having the hymns is great because hymn books are sometimes in short supply. Primary books especially can be hard to find when needed. Something I have run into though is a loading problem in the music app. This problem seems to happen on my iPad but not on my iPhone.

Quite Book equivalents: There are numerous apps out there designed by LDS moms to help keep their children quiet and gospel focused during the talk portion of sacrament meeting. I am not opposed the these quiet book type of apps, such as puzzle, coloring, or picture apps, that focus on the scriptures or gospel principles. But when we pass into the realm of video games to keep children quiet I become concerned.

In the comments below please tell me about other apps that you find helpful at church.

Calendar and Reminders: I have never really used the Calendar section of LDS tools, but I do find that having the normal iOS calendar app, or whatever replacement app you use, at church is helpful so you can mark down any announcements or bulletin items with a date attached.

Having your todo list in some form is also helpful if you receive tasks at church that you need to preform for your calling.

Documents: Depending on your calling you may need access to any number of documents on a given day, such as agendas or home teaching assignments (in my case) I find that having these available on the iPhone or iPad saves me from carrying around a lot of paper that I am likely to lose.

Social Media: Both Elders Ballard and Bednar, as well as Sis. Burton, used their recent devotionals to encouraged us to use social media share the gospel. But at Church? Alright, here is the deal, you can use social media without become distracted by it. Here are two ways to use social media at Church:

1. From the Gospel Library app. Whenever you highlight something, and on every page, in the app you have the share option. Use this to share inspiring messages from the lessons you are studying that day. This does not take you into the social stream and does not distract you, but it does let you share goodness with others (by the way use the hashtag #sharegoodness).

2. Before church, during the breaks, or after church, use social media to contact those you notice are missing from church that day through private messaging. This is a great way to let others know that you miss them when they don't come to church.

How Not To:

Apps: There are some great apps for church as noted above, but there are also hundreds of thousand of apps that have no place being used during times of worship. When someone, especially an adult, has to play a game during the time they should be worshiping God, then I believe it has passed into both the realms of addiction and idolatry. If that is the case it is probably time to get help. Unfortunately I have seen this in almost every ward I have been to in the last few years, and I find it very disturbing.

It is time we learned to be adults. To take control of ourselves and show respect both to God and those around us. A great test for if an app should be used is the same as my test for if a screen should be used. Will it enhance or detract from the situation you intend to be in? I don't think very many of us would say that we go to church because we intend to play angry birds or candy crush, and yet we so easily end up doing just that.

Elder Ballard had this to say:
"Handheld devices, such as smartphones, are a blessing, but they can also distract us from hearing the “still, small voice.” They need to be our servants, not our masters."

Social Media: Many people were probably taken aback when I said to use social media at church. The funny thing about that is they were probably surprised to see me say it, but they probably already do it, just not in the positive ways I suggested. So if that is you, you should probably stop.

Here is what Elder Ballard had to say:
"I also worry that some of you check your email, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts or send text messages during the most important gathering in the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—our sacred sacrament meeting. In this important meeting we should be focusing on the Lord through praying, singing hymns, and partaking the emblems of His body and blood instead of hooking up to our multimedia devices."
When an Apostle of the Lord says something worries him, I sit up and take notice. Stop using social media to distract you spiritual focus, and instead use it in the ways I suggested above during appropriate times.

Sports: Now it is time for me to make people mad by pointing out something that everyone is pretending to ignore, at least in the wards I have recently attended. That is that the single biggest distraction from the Spirit during priesthood meetings is the checking of sports scores and stats.

I am sorry to make people angry, but that is inappropriate. Once again, this replacement of worship time with other activities leads us into modern day idolatry. Sunday is for the Lord, so grow up act like an adult and use the tool the tool for good. If you can't deal with the temptation than leave your phone and tablet at home and bring your paper scriptures and manuals.

Notifications: Even if we don't open up our phones to do something inappropriate for church, notifications can often derail us.

Elder Ballard made this suggestion:
"Consider putting your smartphone or your tablet in airplane mode for the entire Sunday block. You will still have your scriptures, general conference talks, hymnbook, and manuals, but you will not be distracted by incoming text messages or push notifications."
Now that would work, provided you have the appropriate items already downloaded. It will, however, stop you from sharing good things to social media through Gospel Library, and stop you from updating LDS tools or being able to view pictures in it. It will also cause your calendars not to sync, which means that you and your spouse may both add the same item to the shared calendar :)

An alternative to Air Plane mode on the iPhone and iPad is Do Not Disturb. Located in the settings app. You can turn this on when you get to church, unless you are the executive secretary, in which case you should probably make sure you get phone calls and text messages.

Photography and Video Recording: It is important to note here that even though we all now have cameras on our phones and tablets, it is against LDS Church policy to take photos or video in the chapel. Handbook 2 states in section 2.2.10:
"Taking photographs or making video recordings in chapels is not permitted. Meetings and other events that are held in the chapel may not be broadcast over the Internet or by any other means"
This includes when your very cute children are singing with the primary, you will have to video them some other time.

A note on Internet in church buildings: The internet in LDS church buildings can be very unreliable depending on how many wards meet at a given time and how many of those members bring electronic devices that jump on the WiFi. For this reason if you need something for church it is best to make sure it is downloaded before hand.

It is also worth noting that Youtube is still blocked on LDS church networks so if you need a video from Youtube for a lesson you will need to find a way to download it or use cellular data to access it.

Well, I hope you have found this post helpful in learning how to use your iPad and iPhone at church. If you have other apps or ideas that could be helpful please let me know by writing a comment below. Let others know about this post by sharing it on your favorite social network.

That's all for now, but remember, live better.

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