Is it normal to post the favorite quotes from the manual (e.g. “Teachings of the Presidents of the Church”) during the meeting on Facebook?
Many of us are still neophytes in the modern digital landscape and are still learning proper etiquette – especially when the online world butts against real life. Parents and leaders should help youth navigate this world, providing rules and expectations until they learn to balance the underlying principles of courtesy, respect, efficiency, and recreation. An example that springs to my mind is my local elders quorum. The bishop has invited them to periodically administer the Sacrament to give recent converts and returning brethren the opportunity to exercise the Aaronic priesthood. The first time they did it, their president emailed the assignments, routes, and other instructions to the quorum. More recently, I noticed the routes were printed on a piece of paper that they would refer to. I asked the president why they took a technological step backwards. He replied that the youth leadership were teaching the youth reverence for the Sabbath and the sacrament, and including the etiquette of abstaining from digital devices during the administration of the sacred ordinance. Although the elders were only using their phones to review their instructions, they opted instead to use a more old-fashioned way to capture that information so it didn’t appear to be a double standard and to support their youth and the other leaders.
Your case is different. Based on the manual, your class is one that involves only adults. They are expected to have the discipline and life experience to behave like adults in the grown-up world. That also means that where they do not have life experience they are expected to learn like an adult in the grown-up world. It was not that long ago that I myself transitioned from a tote bag that held scriptures, manuals, and binders, to a single device that held the digital equivalent. I had to make this transition as an adult and I’m sure I made many a faux pas along the way. I have learned a few principles that may help you or others win the approval of a modern Miss Manners.
- Digital devices are really useful – even in church! I would still be lugging my tote bag if I didn’t believe this. It’s easier to carry more material, including manuals, scriptures, media, and notes (thanks Gospel Library app!). Elder Jose Teixeira twice notes how blessed we are to have these online and electronic resources so readily available. This is remarkably handy for student and teacher alike. Also, any notes I make during a meeting on Sunday are easily accessible (and easy to stumble upon later) if I need to review it during the week (and invariably I do, otherwise I wouldn’t have written it down). Some people use local electronic text pads to record such notes, while others use social media sites like Facebook. They not only record some inspiration for themselves but also for others outside their class.
- Digital devices are really distracting – even in church! Recent conference addresses have taken on Sabbath worship and reverence and noted that we sometimes plug in and tune out the Holy Spirit that is delivered to us in Sunday sermons, ordinances, and lessons. Elder Ballard shared that family councils, requiring the participation of all in that council, should be free of online distractions. Our classes should also be free of distractions as each member should be engaged and thus prepared to be edified. Elder Ballard further asked saints to “consider putting your smartphone or tablet in airplane mode for the entire Sunday block. You know you will still have your scriptures, general conference talks, hymnbook, and manuals but will not be distracted by incoming text messages or push notifications”. In this regard, posting to social media and awaiting peer response during church service is a foolishness best outgrown. Elder Teixeira says it’s an “experience [of] peace” and “refreshing” to sit through a meeting “without the constant urge to see if you have a new message or a new post.”
- Counsel from early leaders are sagely and timeless. John Taylor shared Joseph Smith’s secret of leading by persuasion and righteousness: “Some years ago, in Nauvoo, a gentleman … asked Joseph Smith how it was that he was enabled to govern so many people, and to preserve such perfect order…. Mr. Smith replied, ‘I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves’.” If you are a class president or instructor, you may wish to meet individually with those few members who are distracted or distracting during the meeting. Or if the entire class culture needs to change you may wish to set aside an entire meeting to discuss how to ensure a learning environment so the class is beneficial to those in attendance. The Kirtland temple’s “rules and regulations” is a good example for how to behave in a house of worship (including a prohibition on recreation). Even as a student you can meet individually with a fellow-student who is proving a distraction. But if it’s just another person being distracted, then it’s probably best to follow the Mormon Creed as printed on the masthead of John Taylor’s newspaper: “Mind your own business.” Concern yourself with what you are getting out of the lesson and how you are contributing to it (including whether your own devices are a help or a hindrance) and let the Spirit work on your classmates.