Amy Petersen Jensen, chair of the BYU Department of Theatre and Media Arts, gave students "Some Hopeful Words on Media and Agency" in the Marriott Center Tuesday.
In praising the students and their generation, she also acknowledged the challenges that are inherent, namely, the efforts to focus their attention when technology is so easily available.
Jensen drew upon Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s 1988 devotional “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments,” in connection with the opportunities and challenges presented by technology.
“I believe that two doctrines that he spoke of that day, the doctrine of the soul and the doctrine of the sacrament, have profound implications for our mediated interactions with the world,” she said.
Jensen quoted Elder Holland, who taught that we “must understand the revealed, restored Latter-day Saint doctrine of the soul, and the high and inextricable part the body plays in that doctrine.” In support of that statement he cited Doctrine and Covenants, section 88, verse 15 which says, “the spirit and the body are the soul of man.”
Jensen said communication technologies allow us to project our bodies (or our souls) across vast geographies.
“My texting or emailing before and even during a devotional has an effect on my presence here,” she said. “My iPhone enables me to divide my presence. While I might be seated here, part of my attention, part of my soul, is back at the office where the concerns of the email I am reading are properly housed, and another part of my soul is in the company of the person I am texting, inevitably miles away from the location of my ears. Such a disbursement of my soul has prevented me on occasion from participating in the devotional with my complete presence, and I have learned that receiving a message through the spirit is dependent upon my willingness to listen to that message with my whole soul.”
Jensen said that perhaps the reason Elder Holland’s talk had such a lasting impact on her life is because she experienced it with her whole soul.
“The physical impact of those words went far beyond the sounds that entered my ears,” she said. “The language of the spirit is partly a physical language, or in other words, a true and native language of the soul.”
Jensen said the language of the soul is not necessarily hindered by the existence of technologies, and reminded students that the Church has enthusiastically embraced the opportunities that communication technologies have provided.
However, she said, “we should acknowledge that our cell phones and laptops carry no secret powers that will push us towards one side or the other of the war that began in Heaven—they are simply tools that amplify the choices we make through our own agency. . . . Indeed, I believe that our agency has been enhanced by technology, allowing us at every moment to choose the better parts of our world. . . . Each time we choose light, truth, and righteousness we are becoming more like our Heavenly Father and we develop some of his most important characteristics—we expand our knowledge, we increase our capacities, we grow in our compassion and love for others, we build our testimonies.”
Jensen had five recommendations for the way we interact with media:
- Choose to be a record keeper: it will build your faith and the faith of those around you.
- Choose to engage in active media conversations and avoid passive media consumption.
- Choose to consecrate your everyday—your thoughts, your communications, and your actions.
- Choose to look outward in service to others for answers to your own prayers.
- Choose to find ways and go to places and create circumstances where you can unite symbolically with our Father, and gain access to his power to help you navigate through the choices and challenges of your generation.
To hear the rest of Jensen’s devotional, visit BYUtv.org or speeches.byu.edu.