In my ongoing effort to
suck all the fun out of find greater satisfaction and connection from lived Mormonism (Step 1 was axing all pointless debates about immovable rocks), I began an experiment 4 weeks ago designed to force myself into higher levels of sociability and participation during Sunday meetings.
I left my iPhone home.
Like many of you, I revel in the technology of today. We live in an age when there are gadgets and gizmos with direct and indirect application for virtually every walk of life, including religion. Between smartphones, netbooks and other portable computing devices, cheap memory, cameras, and an ever-increasing world of social media websites and services, it has become possible for the faithful Latter-day Saint to maintain a seemingly endless library of gospel-related information: scriptures, manuals, magazines, journals, eBooks, and, not unimportantly, other people.
The practicality and prevalence of social and mobile media is not lost on the Church, either–as evidenced by the development of mobile applications for handheld devices, mobile content libraries, and YouTube channels, and more social media functionality on every website.
Game developers have also capitalized on the growing LDS market for things like this. Yes, folks–it’s true: Someone created a game where you toggle Samuel the Lamanite back and forth and make him wave his hands as if he’s preaching, while tomatoes, axes, and arrows fall from the sky, and a convert-counter ticks upward for every soul you save.
In the middle of this vast sea of technology and connectivity, the well-equipped Latter-day Saint has everything at his or her fingertips. The well-equipped Latter-day Saint can also spend 3 hours every Sunday with his or her head in a monitor, reading blogs, Church news, and manuals without ever hearing a word or speaking to another soul. If that happens, connectivity begets disconnectivity.
So, as I mentioned at the outset, I conducted an experiment: I disconnected. I left my iPhone either home or in the glove box of my car. I took nothing with me into the meeting except my scriptures and the manual I needed to teach my lessons. And it was awesome.
The first Sunday I did this, at times I found myself constantly reaching for my phone in my suitcoat pocket–almost reflexively, even when I didn’t have any reason to look at it. However, there were also times during the block program when I sincerely wanted–and almost needed–my iPhone: I needed my calendar for some scheduling purposes. I desperately wanted to use a quote from a conference talk during a lesson. I wanted to store a new ward member’s contact information. I also wanted to cite something from a recent post at BCC during a lesson I had to teach.
Despite those few moments of frustration, I noticed something far more important by the time I got home and, after three and half hours, checked my email: I had engaged in more conversations with ward members and participated at a higher level in my meetings than I had in eons.
The second, third, and fourth weeks were easier, because I was better prepared. I brought a small notepad along for anything I would need to remember to input into my phone later, and I, you know, prepared my lessons more thoroughly ahead of time so that I wouldn’t be wishing I had access to LDS.org or KevinBarney.Rad just before class was starting. The social and participatory aspects of my meetings remained at a much higher level, and I felt increasingly connected to my family, my ward, and frankly, to the Lord during all of my meetings.
I stand by what I said earlier–the technological innovations which surround us can greatly enrich our gospel experience. However, the past month has demonstrated to me that there are times and places where I personally benefit from being disconnected. I plan on staying that way, at least until someone develops an iPhone app based on Ammon where I can chop the arms off of invading Lamanites.
Anyone care to take the experiment? It’s Friday afternoon, so you have a day or two to psych yourself up or do calisthenics. I challenge you to try it, and come back and report your experience on Monday.
 Why would stuff be falling from the sky on his head? Wasn’t Sam on a wall?