Tools and Technology

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Elder Harold G. Hillam

Indeed, the signers (of a letter in a church time capsule put away in 1899) may have seen only dimly what the next 50 years would bring for the youth of Zion. During that time the communication methods of the late 19th century were totally replaced by tremendous advances in the dissemination of information. Even the typewriter used to prepare this 1899 document was at the time a recent novelty and was the cutting edge in communication! The first broadcast of the human voice was still two years away. The first radio network broadcast was 21 years in the future, and general conference would not be transmitted over radio for another 25 years.

Could the writers of this 1899 letter have imagined, even dimly, the technological advances—the radio, color television, computers, the Internet, or the programming—that are present today, they would have been astounded to learn that just one small computer disk would contain large collections of the greatest of books and talks known to mankind. They would have seen that with just a few keystrokes of the computer, one could open the scriptures and with ease cross-reference them with other great talks and writings of the prophets, and with the attending light and knowledge which comes from God.

Sadly, they also would have seen that the very same tools that teach light and truth can, with the same ease but with different strokes of the keys, bring to view some of the most vile, sordid, wicked, and immoral material.

Indeed, we have been blessed with magnificent tools and methods which can be used to assist in teaching, but as with all tools, they are to be used with wisdom and discretion if they are to bless and simplify our lives. Just as fire under control brings so many comforts and benefits, a fire improperly used or out of control wreaks havoc and destruction.

As we prepare for another 50 or 100 years, we might also see but dimly what lies ahead. We must learn to make wise use of the tools and technology that we have.

Wise use of our technology would include care in that which we invite into our homes by the way of television, videos, computers, including the Internet. There is much that is good and edifying in the media, but there is also much that is gross, immoral, and time-consuming, enticing us to be "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:7). During the Second World War when gasoline was in short supply and rationed, I remember signs saying, "Is this trip necessary?" Today, with ever-increasing demands on everyone and time in short supply, might we ask ourselves before we turn on the video game, the television, the computer, or access the many programs available, "Is this trip necessary?"

Perhaps every person who is listening might also ask these questions of himself or herself and expect an honest reply: "Is the information I am receiving from this tool of learning edifying, and adding truth into my life? Are the hours I am investing an effective use of my valuable time? Does this computer game assist me in fulfilling my responsibilities and goals?" If the answer is not a resounding yes, then we should have the courage and determination to click the off button and direct our lives to more important tasks.

Excerpts from Elder Harold G. Hillam's Conference address given Oct. 5, 1997