Google Productivity Pad: April 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Technology Quotes from General Conference: April 2015 Edition

Every six months after the LDS Church's General Conference, I compile together all the quotes I can find that talk about technology or social media. As a member of the Church I feel it is important to know what the leaders of the Church are saying about technology. My philosophy is, why have Prophets and Apostles, if we don't listen to them?

This conference I found nine speakers who reference technology or social media. There are quotes that tell about positive uses of technology as well as quotes that warn about misuse of it. There were a few quotes in particular about the misuse technology during church and sacrament meeting, which is something that I have blogged about before here.

As always, if you find that I missed any quotes from this conference please let me know in the comments below.

 Carole M. Stephens: The Family is of God
"We each belong to and are needed in the family of God. Earthly families all look different. And while we do the best we can to create strong traditional families, membership in the family of God is not contingent upon any kind of status—marital status, parental status, financial status, social status, or even the kind of status we post on social media."

 Dallin H. Oaks: The Parable of the Sower
"Young people, if that teaching seems too general, here is a specific example. If the emblems of the sacrament are being passed and you are texting or whispering or playing video games or doing anything else to deny yourself essential spiritual food, you are severing your spiritual roots and moving yourself toward stony ground. You are making yourself vulnerable to withering away when you encounter tribulation like isolation, intimidation, or ridicule. And that applies to adults also.

Another potential destroyer of spiritual roots—accelerated by current technology but not unique to it—is the keyhole view of the gospel or the Church. This limited view focuses on a particular doctrine or practice or perceived deficiency in a leader and ignores the grand panorama of the gospel plan and the personal and communal fruits of its harvest."

 L. Tom Perry: Why Marriage and Family Matter – Everywhere
"For whatever reasons, too much of our television, movies, music, and Internet present a classic case of a minority masquerading as a majority. Immorality and amorality, ranging from graphic violence to recreational sex, is portrayed as the norm and can cause those who have mainstream values to feel like we are out of date or from a bygone era. In such a media and Internet-dominated world, it has never been harder to raise responsible children and to keep marriages and families together."

"As a church, we want to assist in all that we can to create and support strong marriages and families... [That] is why we share our family-focused values in the media and on social media. It is why we share our genealogical and extended family records with all nations."

 M. Russel Ballard: The Greatest Generation of Young Adults
"Our young men and young women have many more distractions to sidetrack them in their preparations for both a mission and a future happy life. Technology has expanded, and almost everyone has access to handheld devices that can capture the attention of the human family of God for both great good and unconscionable ill."

"Fortunately the Lord has provided ways for us to reach out to you. For example, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve assigns every missionary to his or her mission. Although this is done without a traditional face-to-face interview, technology and revelation combine to provide an experience that is remarkably intimate and personal."

"Videoconferencing is another way that helps us reach out to Church leaders and members who live far away from Church headquarters."

"Are you mentally and spiritually clean? Do you avoid viewing pornography or looking at websites, magazines, movies, or apps, including Tinder and Snapchat photos, that would embarrass you if your parents, Church leaders, or the Savior Himself saw you?"

"Are you careful with your time—avoiding inappropriate technology and social media, including video games, which can dull your spiritual sensitivity?"

"Brethren, if you will set aside your cell phone and actually look around a little, you may even find your future companion at the institute... Don’t text her! Use your own voice to introduce yourself to the righteous daughters of God who are all around you. To actually hear a human voice will shock her—perhaps into saying yes."

 Ulisses Soares: Yes, We Can and Will Win!
"I know a very faithful young deacon who transformed himself into a modern Captain Moroni. Inasmuch as he has sought to follow the counsel of his parents and Church leaders, his faith and determination have been tested every day, even at his young age. He told me one day he was surprised by a very difficult and uncomfortable situation—his friends were accessing pornographic images on their cell phones. In that exact moment, this young man had to decide what was most important—his popularity or his righteousness. In the few seconds that followed, he was filled with courage and told his friends that what they were doing was not right. Moreover, he told them that they should stop what they were doing or they would become slaves to it. Most of his classmates ridiculed his counsel, saying that it was a part of life and that there was nothing wrong with it. However, there was one among them who listened to the counsel of that young man and decided to stop what he was doing."

 José A. Teixeira: Seeking the Lord
"In 2014, the National Geographic photo contest received more than 9,200 submissions by professional photographers and enthusiasts from over 150 countries. The winning photo depicts a woman in the center of a train filled with passengers. The light coming from her mobile phone illuminates her face. She relays a clear message to the other passengers: despite being physically present, she is not truly there.

Mobile data, smartphones, and social networks have profoundly changed our way of being in the world and how we communicate with others.

In this digital era, we can so rapidly transport ourselves to places and activities that can quickly remove us from what is essential for a life filled with lasting joy.

This networked life can, if left unchecked, give precedence to relationships with people whom we don’t know or have never met rather than with the people we live with—our own family!

On the other hand, we all know that we are blessed with excellent online resources, including those developed by the Church, such as text and audio versions of the holy scriptures and general conference, video productions of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, apps to record our family history, and opportunities to listen to inspiring music.

The choices and priorities we make with our time online are decisive. They can determine our spiritual progress and maturity in the gospel and our desire to contribute to a better world and to live a more productive life.

For these reasons, today I would like to mention three simple habits that will establish healthy online activity. These habits will generate the daily self-reflections that are necessary for us to grow closer to the teachings of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Habit Number 1: Visit the Church’s Official Websites for Resources
Often visits during the week to these resources will help us to always be sensitive to the teachings of the gospel and encourage our family and friends to think and reflect on what matters most.

Habit Number 2: Subscribe to the Church’s Official Social Networks
This choice will bring to your screen the content that is essential to deepen your searching and seeking of the Lord and His teachings, and it will strengthen your desire to understand the gospel. More important, this will help you remember what Christ expects of each of us.

Just as “there is no good soil without a good farmer,” likewise will there be no good online harvest unless we prioritize from the very beginning that which is accessible to our fingers and our minds.

Habit Number 3: Make Time to Set Aside Your Mobile Devices
It is refreshing to put aside our electronic devices for a while and instead turn the pages of the scriptures or take time to converse with family and friends. Especially on the Lord’s day, experience the peace of participating in a sacrament meeting without the constant urge to see if you have a new message or a new post.

The habit of setting aside your mobile device for a time will enrich and broaden your view of life, for life is not confined to a four-inch (10-cm) screen."

 Dieter F. Uchtdorf: The Gift of Grace
"Are we like Simon? Are we confident and comfortable in our good deeds, trusting in our own righteousness? Are we perhaps a little impatient with those who are not living up to our standards? Are we on autopilot, going through the motions, attending our meetings, yawning through Gospel Doctrine class, and perhaps checking our cell phones during sacrament service?"

 Kevin W. Pearson: Stay by the Tree
"To heed is to give careful attention. Heeding those who do not believe in Christ will not help you find Him. Searching #spaciousbuilding for knowledge will not lead you to truth. It’s not posted there. Only the Savior has “the words of eternal life.” Everything else is just words. The large and spacious building symbolizes the “vain imaginations and the pride” of the world—in other words, distraction and deception. It’s filled with well-dressed people who seem to have everything. But they mock the Savior and those who follow Him. They are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” They may be politically correct, but they are spiritually lost."

"To all missionaries past and present: Elders and sisters, you simply cannot return from your mission, do a swan dive back into Babylon, and spend endless hours scoring meaningless points on pointless video games without falling into a deep spiritual sleep. Nor can you indulge in online pornography and ignore virtue and chastity without dire spiritual consequences. If you lose the Spirit, you are lost. Don’t be distracted and deceived."

 Russell M. Nelson: The Sabbath is a Delight
"When I ponder this counsel, I almost wish I were a young father once again. Now parents have such wonderful resources available to help them make family time more meaningful, on the Sabbath and other days as well. They have,, the Bible videos, the Mormon Channel, the Media Library, the Friend, the New Era, the Ensign, the Liahona, and more—much more. These resources are so very helpful to parents in discharging their sacred duty to teach their children. No other work transcends that of righteous, intentional parenting!"

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What was talked about most at General Conference?

Now that the General Conference transcripts are available I have taken all the text and created a word cloud to determine what was talked about the most. Here is the result:

Created using Jason Davies' Word Cloud Generator

This word cloud displays the top  50 words used in conference over all six sessions. Larger words were used more times.

There were not any big surprises to me here, but it may be interesting to those who doubt the Christianity of the Mormons. As you can easily see the largest word is God closely followed by Christ.
Other top words also include: Jesus, father, family, Savior, Lord, Church, President, and Marriage.

I would say looking at word frequency we can say that the emphasis of this conference was on:
1. God (Heavenly Father) and Jesus Christ
2. Home and Family

I would recommend that everyone either view or read General Conference you can do so here. It was a wonderful and inspiring weekend and one that encouraged me to remember to live better.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Movie Review: Freetown

Title: Freetown
Genre: Historical Drama
Rating: PG-13 (Thematic situations involving violence)
Stars: 4/5

Official Synopsis: Caught in the middle of a brutal civil war, six Liberian missionaries in Monrovia flee the widespread violence in their native country. Their destination: Freetown, Sierra Leone. With the help of local church member Phillip Abubakar (Henry Adofo), the missionaries make the difficult journey, only to have their troubles compounded by a rebel fighter bent on killing one of their own. Based on incredible true events, FREETOWN is a thrilling and inspiring story of hope and survival.

I will give you some overall information to help you decide if  you should see it before I get into spoilers.

My Reaction:
Normally my movie tastes shy away from the intense/scary side of things. So when I was asked to review Freetown I did not know how I would like it. It turns out that I loved it despite being on the edge of my seat tense for most of the film. I felt that the movie did an excellent job portraying how difficult it would have been to be in the position of these missionaries. It is important to remember though that I am coming to this movie having been a missionary myself, although I had no situations like those described in this film, I still have a special affinity for missionaries everywhere. Also on my mission I knew several Liberian refugees in Philadelphia who had come through the revolution, so I feel a personal connection to the situation in the film as well.

Who Is It For?
This film is not made to be exclusive to a Mormon audience, anyone of any religious background could come to this film and have a good experience. Just like I can watch Chariots of Fire and thoroughly enjoy it.

The movie is rated PG-13 because it does get very tense through most of the movie. There is very little actual violence on screen but it is still very scary and you can hear and know what is happening off screen. For this reason I would not suggest that young children watch this movie.

It can also be hard to understand at times, particularly if you do not have experience with Liberian accents. So if you have trouble hearing it may be nice to watch with subtitles.

I was extremely impressed with the level of cinematography in the film. Perhaps because I don't expect a high level from Mormon-made films, but I thought they did a really excellent job on this one. It is hard to make a really intense movie without good cinematography because what is shown and not shown is used to convey so much of the emotion.

It also appeared they had a new drone they liked to use because arial shots abounded throughout the film.

The sound track supported the movie, but was not something that I noticed in particular except when it was African chanting which would come on much louder than the dialogue. I can't speak for what this would be like in the theater, but at home it resulted in a lot of volume adjusting.

I give Freetown 4 out of 5 Stars. I would recommend that you go see it if you like intense movies about true stories. Particularly if you are a Mormon I think you will enjoy this movie. If you are anyone who likes to support good films in opposition to most of the garbage Hollywood spits out these days, then I would go see this film.

The film actually takes place over the course of just about 3 or 4 days, with the majority of it being just on the 2 days the missionaries and Phillip spend trying to escape Liberia.
The Elders are attempting to actively continue proselyting it Liberia despite the outbreak of civil war and the Rebel bands that run rampant through the jungle. But when things get so bad that they feel they can no longer preach, whether safely or not, the decide the will go to Sierra Leone and preach there.

This is a story of faith. The missionaries display complete faith in the idea that God will get them out of the country safely to where they can better serve Him. They are contrasted with Phillip, the Liberian member who is driving them. Phillip has trouble having as complete faith as the missionaries do, but even in his doubts he continues to show by his actions that he does have faith. He and six missionaries cram into a little red car, traversing the jungle and passing through rebel checkpoints on one miracle after another.

Disclosure: The makers of Freetown contacted me and gave me access to an early press screener so that I could write this review, but as you know I only ever give honest review.