Macy Sorensen was sitting with the youth in her stake center in Enumclaw, Washington, when she heard President Russell M. Nelson issue the invitation for youth to take a “seven-day break from the fake” and abstain from social media for a week.
“I acknowledge that there are positives about social media,” President Nelson said during the Worldwide Youth Devotional. “But if you are paying more attention to feeds from social media than you are to the whisperings of the Spirit, then you are putting yourself at spiritual risk, as well as the risk of experiencing intense loneliness and depression.”
Sorensen — the stake Young Women president — felt an outpouring of peace as she listened to the prophet’s words and watched as several youth along the pew in front of her immediately took out their phones and started deleting their social media apps.
“I thought, ‘Wow! If they can do it, I can do it too,’ ” Sorensen said.
Almost immediately, she felt “like I had more space in my brain to think and felt the promptings of the Holy Ghost nearly continually.”
One “odd” prompting she received was to do her ironing — one of her least favorite chores. Still, unable to shake the nagging feeling, she set up her ironing board and got to work on a pile of linen shirts.
“There was something about that physical, repetitive task that emptied my mind and the sound of the spray starch reminded me of my mom, who ironed every Monday of my growing up years,” Sorensen recalled.
Soon her thoughts also turned to her father, who had died several years prior. Sorensen joined the Church when she was 19; her mother joined nearly 15 years later as she cared for her husband who was bedridden from a stroke. He passed away without accepting the gospel.
As Sorensen was ironing and thinking about her father, “I got the real distinct impression that he was there and felt him say ‘Don’t forget about me.’ ” That thought was soon followed by “I haven’t been sealed to your mother.”
“I was floored,” Sorensen said. She immediately put down the iron and called the temple to get an appointment to have her parents sealed.
Since President Nelson issued the challenge on June 3, thousands of Latter-day Saint teenagers have responded. But, like Sorensen, the prophet’s invitation has been accepted by more than just youth.
Jim Jacobs, a member of the Reunion Ward, Brighton Colorado Stake, decided to participate in the social media fast as an example to his five children — two young adults and three teenagers. “I hoped to claim the blessings the prophet promised even though I am far from being a youth,” he said.
For Miriam Garcia, President Nelson’s challenge seemed “quite bold.” The young single adult from the Springwood Ward in the Eight Mile Plains Australia Stake admittedly spends time on social media on a daily basis. Still, Garcia said, she also felt a strong sense of purpose in President Nelson’s remarks “that I was part of something bigger in the gathering of Israel.” So she decided to participate.
As bishop of the Ephraim 2nd Ward in Ephraim, Utah, David Parrish attended the youth devotional with his wife. He not only decided to participate in the week-long fast, but also invited his children and his ward members to join him. “Just because we are adults does not mean that we are exempt or are no longer challenged by the same temptations,” Bishop Parrish said.
But there was a reason the fast was issued as “a challenge.” Jacobs was surprised by how hard it was. “I found myself missing it,” he said.
Even though Garcia said she had more time, “I didn’t know what to do with it, but then I remembered the challenge to increase participation in the gathering of Israel.”
She spent time working on her FamilySearch account with an aunt and ended up performing the initiatory and endowment ordinances for her great-grandma’s sisters.
In the past she would have said she doesn’t have the time or capability for those kinds of things. “But I realized there are things I can do, and it’s just about what I choose to prioritize,” Garcia said.
For Danica McGary, a member of the Kouhoku Ward, Yokohama Japan Stake, the fast not only brought a greater awareness of habits but also an added blessing of peace. Instead of turning to social media when she had an empty moment, the new mom learned “it’s so important to spend my time with my baby and social media steals that time.”
Participating in the fast also strengthened her testimony in the prophet, she said. “I continue to feel stronger confirmation that President Nelson is a true prophet of God, and I am grateful to have hearkened to his counsel and followed his invitation.”
Jacobs said he felt such a difference, he extended the social media fast for another week. “I do not want to live a distracted life,” he said, and in hindsight “this challenge blessed me with more time, more productive work days, feeling better about myself and a greater desire to do more good.”
Most important, he can testify to children. “I can testify with conviction that media is distracting and even more I can testify to the truth of the prophet’s words,” Jacobs said.
On Saturday, June 23, Sorensen’s mother was sealed to her father and she was sealed to her parents in the Seattle Washington Temple. “I’m 53 now, and I just felt such profound joy,” Sorensen said of the experience.
She now knows more than ever that, regardless of age, “there are blessings that come when we are obedient to the prophet in the small things,” she said.