Archive for December, 2007

Learning About Mormonism on the Internet

December 15th, 2007  |  Published in Mormonism

Welcome to Above Yourself, a blog about self-improvement and faith. If you're new here, you may want to subscribe in a reader or subscribe by email. Many of the topics here are related to my faith in Jesus Christ and Mormonism, but all are welcome to share their own beliefs. Thanks for visiting!

My primary reason for starting this blog was because I wanted to have a place where I could share my own personal feelings about gospel topics with the world. My hope is that some of these words will reach those who don’t know much about Mormons and Mormonism, but who want to know more. I know that there are many, many places for learning online, but I feel the same way as Elder Ballard, a leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormon church) who described the potential of this new medium in a commencement speech he gave today at BYU-Hawaii. In this speech, he describes how members of the church can use the Internet and other “new media” to spread the message of the church. It is certainly true that political events have people talking more and more about the Mormons, and as Elder Ballard said, “conversations about the Church would take place whether or not Church members decided to participate in them.” It is our opportunity to join in on this discussion.

Today we have a modern equivalent of the printing press in the Internet and all that it means. The Internet allows everyone to be a publisher, to have their voice heard, and it is revolutionizing society. Before the Internet, there were great barriers to printing. It took money, power, or influence and a great amount of time to publish. But today, because of the emergence of what some call New Media, made possible by the Internet, many of those barriers have been removed. New Media consists of tools on the Internet that make it possible for nearly anyone to publish or broadcast to either a large or a niche audience. I have mentioned some of these tools already, and I know you are familiar with them. The emergence of New Media is facilitating a world-wide conversation on almost every subject including religion, and nearly everyone can participate. This modern equivalent of the printing press is not reserved only for the elite.

–M. Russell Ballard, Using New Media to Support the Work of the Church, Brigham Young University-Hawaii’s graduation ceremony, 15 December 2007.

In my personal view, the Internet is becoming an ever-increasing resource for learning things. It’s an ever-increasing trend for blogs to give better coverage than traditional media on all kinds of topics, from local sports teams to personal finance and beyond. As they continue writing about these topics, bloggers tend to gain a view of their topic that is in many ways unique; for example, sportscasters don’t often interact directly with fans as part of their daily routine, so a sports blogger can provide commentary in their own way. Opinions are more easily shared, and interaction between writers and readers is encouraged from the start.

There are many ways to share the gospel online. For more ideas, you can visit the More Good Foundation Blog and Know Your Neighbor, which both have many excellent resources and ideas. You can also read a summary of Elder Ballard’s speech, or the full transcript. Do you have your own ideas or experiences on how to share your thoughts on Mormonism? Let us know in the comments.

Learning as a Foundation for Experience

December 14th, 2007  |  Published in Preparedness

My personal background is in the ever-changing field of technology, but I don’t think I gained most of my skills from college courses. Does that mean I regret going to college? Definitely not. I view my experience there as a foundation for everything I have done since then. It’s more about learning how to learn - developing good habits that will lead you on a path that you can use to take advantage of the future experience that you will have.

A friend once asked me for advice to give to her younger brother, who wanted to go directly to work after high school because he thought he could make more money that way. He was a computer guy, so he cited examples like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Michael Dell as rich computer billionaires who didn’t have college degrees.

I’ve thought about that question a lot since then. Why should anyone go to college? I think it’s more fundamental than just getting a degree- it’s about learning how to learn, developing the habits that can lead you to be more successful and live a meaningful life. Education unlocks the potential of experience because it provides a foundation upon which that experience is organized and built. It teaches problem-solving skills that can later be applied to larger decisions. My professors at college realized this, and they said that part of the reason they would even teach technology skills in such a structured environment with regular assignments and lessons was so that we could just pick up a manual in the future to learn how to use a technology.

Our current prophet Gordon B. Hinckley has always stressed the importance of education. A recent article in the New Era gives a lot of insight into the importance of education:

You have the potential to become anything to which you set your mind. You have a mind and a body and a spirit. With these three working together, you can walk the high road that leads to achievement and happiness. But this will require effort and sacrifice and faith.

You must get all of the education that you possibly can. Life has become so complex and competitive. You cannot assume that you have entitlements due you. You will be expected to put forth great effort and to use your best talents to make your way to the most wonderful future of which you are capable. Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world. That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.

You have a mandate from the Lord to educate your minds and your hearts and your hands. The Lord has said, “Teach ye diligently … of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—that ye may be prepared in all things” (D&C 88:78–80).

Gordon B. Hinckley, “Words of the Prophet: Seek Learning,”
New Era, Sep 2007, 2–5

Education helps us use our experience for good. I am extremely grateful for the chance I had to go to college, and I echo President Hinckley’s words: “sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world.” I have had many personal examples of people who have taken this advice to heart, and their lives have been greatly blessed for it.