America: A Googlenation, Obamanation, or Celebrination?

As a high school teacher at a Title 1 school, there are a lot of “never fails” each day: at least 10 students coming to class without a pencil, excuses for not doing homework, hearing 10 f-bombs per period, etc. But what’s been surprising to me is how many students say, “Miss, did you know..?” followed by some ludicrous fact. The latest two favorites of mine are: “Miss did you know that cat nip makes cats high?” and, “Miss, did you know Jay-Z and Beyonce are part of the Illuminati?”

Whenever I ask them where they heard such things, the answer is always one of three things: my friend told me, Facebook, or the internet. When I ask them where their friend heard it, what link it was on Facebook, or what internet site they saw it on, they can rarely tell me, and even if they do, they have no idea whether or not it’s a “trusted” source.

A couple of weeks ago I attended an Institute (a class where we study scriptures including the Bible) for my Church, with the New Testament, King James Version, being the focus of study for the year. We read a scripture in 2 Timothy 3:7, which says:

“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Nowadays, thanks to sites like chacha, ask.com, Wikipedia, and the most popular of them all, the search engine Google, information is available in literally seconds with just a few key strokes. It seems America has become less dependent upon the education system and most reliant on their own research and conclusions for knowledge. But what we find isn’t always truth, and it’s hard to know what’s true and what isn’t.

The teacher, Brother Hansen, held up a class member’s cell phone and said, “Welcome to your telestial seer stone!” The class burst into laughter, but most of you are probably going, “WTF? Mormon weirdos!” I promise it’s not that weird. A seer stone is an ancient thing, kinda like crystal balls or oracles, and telestial, speaking astronomically, is comparative to the stars, which are the lowest in brightness in glory compared to the sun, moon, and stars. Simply put, the teacher was just making a point that our cell phones are a means by which we can gain a lot of knowledge for good or ill and is not to be trusted as an all-knowing AI or anything.

The nerdy churchy part of me thought, “What I wouldn’t do for a celestial cell phone! I can’t even imagine what apps that would have!” But then another part of me was frightened. How do I know that the guy I’m dating, my future husband, and/or my children won’t pull up porn or other destructive materials in seconds? How can I trust that they won’t? Will I believe them when they say they aren’t? Will my kid come home one day and tell me, like my students do, that they saw a video on Facebook of a girl committing an act of bestiality with a dog? When I can’t answer a question they have, are they going to become more reliant on Google instead of me? When the future-mother-in-me stops panicking, I take a step back and realize that working at the school I do has been a good and bad thing that way – I don’t want to be too paranoid, but I do want to do everything I can do protect my loved ones and the relationship I have with them.

In the meantime, we all face the continual problem of trying to distinguish truth in knowledge, or knowing whether what you read about/learn is true or not. I have a really hard time convincing my students that just because you know something doesn’t make it true. They don’t realize that finding truth requires research, that it takes work to find credible sources written by someone who knows their stuff and doesn’t have an agenda to deceive you, etc.

I’m sure some of you have had teachers show you the tree octopus website, or maybe have even skimmed the headlines of magazine like People magazine, The National Enquirer, etc while standing in line at the grocery store. You’ve all seen the pictures of celebrities who supposedly have gained or lost a lot of weight, some girl’s picture who is supposedly carrying some celebrity’s baby, etc. My students certainly believe a lot of paparazzi – yes, even Perez Hilton, because they’re famous. They can’t distinguish between fame and truth – to them, they’re one in the same, and who can blame them when it’s all they’ve known? Thanks to the media’s propaganda and their commercials with celebrity testimonials, society counts them as “credible”. You’ve all seen those Proactive commercials with celebrities like Katy Perry, Jessica Simpson, Julianne Hough, etc, or for men, Gatorade commercials with Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, etc. It’s kinda scary how much some people want a celebrity life.

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So how do we recognize truth and not find ourselves throwing away hundreds of dollars on products that don’t work and becoming prey to media’s traps? We need help from someone with no agenda, no ploy to get money, someone/something unbiased. And quite frankly, to get that, you’ve got to look heavenward. As a Latter-day Saint, that help comes on a spiritual level. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that the Godhead is made up of three separate beings: God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. And we believe that the Holy Ghost was given to Christ’s disciples and baptized members as our distinguisher of truth, or as he is called in scripture, the Comforter: In St John 14:16-17, the Savior speaks to some of his disciples:

16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you; and shall be in you.

(Also see Acts 19:2-7, 1 Corinthians 6:19, etc)

Later in Chapter 16 verse 15, He promises:

15 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.

Some of you may be saying, “I ain’t becoming no Mormon”. Sad, but it’s ok. You’re not alone. We all have a conscience, represented in our society most often by a devil and angel sitting on either shoulder or the Disney version, Pinocchio’s Jiminy Cricket. I always remember one line Pinnochio sings: “and always let your conscience be your guide!” I hope you won’t forget it!

Give a little whistle
From “Pinocchio”
Music and lyrics by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington

When you get in trouble and you don’t know right from wrong
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle!
When you meet temptation and the urge is very strong
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle!

Not just a little squeak, pucker up and blow
And if your whistle’s weak, yell Jiminy Cricket
Right!

Take the straight and narrow path
And if you start to slide
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle!
And always let your conscience be your guide

Take the straight and narrow path
And if you start to slide
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle!
And always let your conscience be your guide
And always let your conscience be your guide

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