A Brief Analysis of “To Sweep the Earth as With a Flood”
David A. Bednar gave a speech titled “To Sweep the Earth as With a Flood”, to college students in 2014. He began by talking about the dispensation. How incredible it was, how many blessed the youth were, and how many tools that youth now had access to such as technology. Technology is a powerful force that influences the lives of every human being in the US. It adapts so that it can be used in any aspect of an individual’s day. His focus soon narrowed to talking about the internet and it’s wide variety of uses. In doing so, he set the stage for the topic of his speech, which was using technology to further the work of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Bednar has established himself as a wise counselor for youth. Throughout his past speeches in General conference, he has addressed the youth using lingo that is applicable to them, and does the same in this speech. He pairs his knowledge of lingo with a calm demeanor and a plain way of speaking. All of these factors combined make his speeches very easy to understand. By being easy to understand, it makes his argument far more persuasive. An example of this would be a section of his speech where he breaks down five of the most popular social media channels, a few being, “YouTube is a platform through which videos can be distributed, viewed, rated, and shared — and has approximately one billion average monthly users. Twitter is a means of sending and receiving short, quick text messages and images called tweets — and has approximately 250 million average monthly users. Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board used to collect and share content and images from around the web — and has approximately 70 million average monthly users.” By proving that he has a clear understanding of these tools, he can then proceed to present the idea of how to use these tools to bring the gospel into everyday life, as well as use these tools to do missionary work. He then proceeds to give examples of social media advertisement for the church such as Book of Mormon 365, an Instagram account that took off earlier that year. These examples were important because they further proved his point that sharing the gospel didn’t have to be a time consuming task, it’s a simple one that most people already do everyday.
Bednar then addresses a very serious issue in today’s society: time. Society is changing. Everything and everyone quickly dashes from one thing to the next. Everything is tied to efficiency. How quickly can I do this? How long will this take? Will I have time to…? Lives become scheduled as tightly as possible, and days become a matter of efficiency. Bednar states that as a church, we must adapt if we are going to touch the lives of those who are fast-paced. A nonmember may not stop to talk to a missionary on the street, but perhaps they will look at a post on Facebook or spend a few minutes here and there reading an article or a conference talk that their friend posted. Sharing the gospel through social media is something can be done very efficiently when social media channels are used.
Social media advertisement is very effective. It’s the new and exciting form of advertisement. How many videos, quotes, and pictures are liked, shared, and downloaded in the average workday? Bednar pointed out that “the very nature of missionary work, therefore, must change if the Lord is to accomplish His work of gathering Israel ‘from the four corners of the earth”. It is difficult to walk up to a stranger and ask them if they would like to hear about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, name tag on or not. But is it really so difficult to share an empowering quote from one of the leaders or a picture of Christ or a loved scripture on Facebook? Technology has made what would normally be a potentially painfully awkward conversation as simple as hitting a “share” button.
Bednar addresses the two things people fear most: an awkward conversation and a serious time commitment. By demonstrating to his audience that social media is the simple solution to both of these problems, he supports his overall message that missionary work should be incorporated into everyday life. It is a common thought that acting, or not acting because of fear is a hindrance to character. The general response can be summarized by a quote from John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” However, this is not the approach that was taken. Bednar sought to put to rest the fears associated with sharing the gospel, rather than asking his audience to “man up”. This sweet and gentle way of teaching made him likable as a speaker. It also helped his audience take his message to heart.
Bednar then defines that the heart of missionary work is love. On the internet, it’s popular to “troll” people, belittle them, or try and start an argument rather than take a moment to listen and understand the other person’s point of view. Messages meant to share the gospel should uplift others. Bednar proclaimed that “we and our messages should seek to edify and uplift rather than argue, debate, condemn, or belittle.” The church has adopted the mentality that religion should be more than a suit worn once a week. Bednar clearly states that this mentality applies to internet interactions just as it would any other aspect of our lives. By defining the overall goal, or the spirit of missionary, Bednar appeals to the emotions of his audience. The targeted audience are Christians who seek to show love for those around them. Social media can and should be used to uplift others and show them the love that Christ has for them.
Further into the speech, Bednar challenges his audience to become better member-missionaries and gives them a call to action. He says, “According to our desires and circumstances, each of us can contribute consistently to the growing flood of truth and righteousness. We should press forward using the Lord’s pattern of “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little”. This section was worded so that the listeners felt a sense of importance, that efforts that they made would contribute to a bigger whole that would ultimately bring joy to others. The second half of this quote is especially powerful, enforcing the idea that by doing a little good often, great change can come about. The phrase was cleverly crafted so that it applied to the stereo typical means of doing good, as well as the new revolutionary idea he is trying to propose.
Although most of the talk focuses on the good of technology in both spiritual growth and as a missionary aid, Bednar also issues a caution by stating that “too much time can be wasted, too many relationships can be harmed or destroyed, and precious patterns of righteousness can be disrupted when technology is used improperly.” It is important to understand the dangers of technology. The talk was not meant to suggest that it is appropriate for an individual to spend all of their time on social media. He merely stated that it could be used to further spread the gospel, but, as said in 2 Nephi 2:11, there must be opposition in all things. While social media can be used for good, it can also used as a destructive force that weakens relationships and has an overall negative effect. By making his audience aware of the potential dangers, he furthers the spirit of his cause, preparing his audience to accomplish the goals he has offered them.
Overall, the speech not only empowered its listeners to see technology in a new light, but also gave them an understanding of the spirit of missionary work. Missionary work can be a incorporated into all aspects of anyone’s life through the help of technology. Then he sought to empower his audience by showing how these very small efforts could bring to pass great change, and could bring joy to many people. However, Bednar not only appealed to the emotions of his listeners, he also persuaded them with a logical argument. Social media makes sharing the gospel simple and efficient. He proves to his listeners that they don’t have a reason NOT to be everyday missionaries. Bednar succeeded in convincing the audience of the importance and practicality of his cause. However, as with all good speeches he eludes to more. Towards the end of his speech he leaves the students with the sentiment that this is the beginning of a great and marvelous work. Technology is merely a means to an end. There is so much more that needs to be accomplished in bringing forth the gospel in this dispensation.