Who’s Your Constant Companion?

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We often refer to the Holy Ghost as our  “constant companion” (see Doctrine and Covenants 121:46). But you might also have an unwitting constant companion: Your smartphone.

These two companions have some interesting similarities:

  • They may be constantly with you.
  • You consult them often.
  • You look to them for guidance and direction.
  • They provide answers to pressing questions.
  • You may pay more attention to them than the people around you.

After the priesthood ordinance of confirmation is performed, through devotion, obedience, and spiritual preparation, we can have the Holy Ghost near us day and night. If we pay our monthly bill, we can keep you cell service on.

We can listen for the Spirit’s still small voice by quieting our minds and being attentive to His promptings. Or we may be watching or listening to notifications on our phones, and checking for new posts or email, perhaps constantly

We can lean on the Holy Ghost for guidance and direction during times of spiritual trial, or rather we may be using Google Maps for driving directions when we’re lost, or looking to the Pinterest app for how-to solutions.

After prayer, we may listen for answers to come by the Spirit, or we might take our questions to friends on Facebook or post queries on Quora.

A smartphone might be so distracting that we pay closer attention to it that the people around us. Or we might regard the guidance of the Holy Ghost higher than the opinions of those around us.

One might be a constant companion while the other is only a companion. One is going to win out. But at times, the chatter of our phones and social media can drown out the quiet comfort and peace we seek from a higher source.

I’m not saying we don’t need our phones. I’m saying they may be distracting us from something better.

Why I Gave Up My Smartphone

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My erstwhile iPhone 5S. Adios.

For several important reasons—to me—I sold my smartphone in May.

First off, the organization I work for was paying the monthly bill (though I owned the phone). I didn’t feel like I was using it according to “company” policy. I was mostly listening to books on Audible or YouTube, texting family and friends, and had more personal calls than “company” calls. It didn’t feel right. That’s the first reason I gave it up.

More importantly, I realized that I was letting my phone captivate my attention to the point that I was preoccupied with it, which felt disrespectful to others. (I wrote about this last fall.)

What really got me to let it go was when I realized it was affecting my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I wasn’t doing anything unsavory with my phone—I was just doing less of the good things I should have been doing, such as having more time to think deeply, talk more soulfully, and pray from the heart, undistracted and uninterrupted.

And it’s working. I’ve gained renewed strength. My connection to God is stronger. And how I need that connection now.  He’s talking to a lot more. Or maybe I am just listening more.

I don’t see this as a permanent thing. I am getting by with a flip phone right now, but I plan to get a another smartphone after my little technology fast.

A smartphone is pretty cool thing to have, but really distracting to me. You may be stronger than I am. If so, awesome. I am not judging anyone else’s use of a smartphone. For right now, I’ve traded my smartphone for a better relationship with myself and a healthier relationship with God. It’s worth it.

P.S. I was able to buy a treadmill just a few days ago for the same amount I sold my phone for. A fair trade. And something I really need. But that’s another story.

 

Be Still, Know Peace, and Know God

I’m fond of stillness. I need a sweet slice of it every day. Without it, I feel empty and lost.

Sometimes I’ll sit in my home office and simply observe my thoughts and be present (though at times I listen and take notes). Sometimes I just quietly absorb the Infinite, trying to not put meaning on anything, letting negativity and judgment drift away. It’s like meditation, but not textbook. It’s a place where a scattered mind can regroup.

Be still, and know that I am God. —Psalms 46:10

It’s not easy to do nothing, but like nothing else, quiet heals. It reorders a disordered heart and mind.

Sometimes I find stillness in the car with the radio and smartphone off. The autonomic nervous system takes over the wheel and my mind is free to be.

Sometimes in the small hours, before my wife and the world are awake, I lie still on our bed, alone with God. He has a lot to say if we’ll listen.

I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. —Psalms 63:6

I love time in nature too. Fortunately we are near miles of nature trails where I run in the warmer, snowless months. A recent study found that a 90-minute nature walk reduced rumination or “repetitive thought focused on negative aspects of the self,” a known mental health risk factor. I’ve experienced that reduced rumination and I’m sure you have as well. (A 90-minute walk in an urban setting, by the way, produced no such benefit.)

The key for me is to turn away from distraction, especially media via technology. Distraction is a modern blight that seems bent on suffocating the world. I have found that nothing unsettles me like modern media, including social media. I need quiet to sort the world out.

Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. —Psalms 107:30

If quiet seems foreign to you, dive in. For me, it’s a survival skill.

Find a quiet place in the house with a comfortable chair—it might have to be before anyone else is awake or after everyone is in bed—and leave your smartphone in the other room. Or find a path in a forest or an open field. Then take a swim in the quiet. Observe and feel.

Give yourself 10 or 15 minutes, at least. Be open and trusting. In time, if you’re patient, your peace can flow like a river (see Isaiah 48:18).