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I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon, one you’ve probably noticed, too. Whenever we’re searching for something online– from a bathrobe to a refrigerator– we suddenly get a zillion pop-up ads because our searches are being tracked by advertisers. You could type in “history of Hawaii” and get on hotel and airline lists forever. A simple search for tennis shoes could launch a barrage of ads for tennis lessons, tennis rackets, even tickets to Wimbledon.
But guess what never yields this sudden attention? Searches for virtues. When we’re looking for a quote from one of our leaders, or even from an ancient philosopher, the internet is strangely quiet. You never see, “Get your humility right here!” or “Dive into righteousness today!”
Nope, there seems to be no money in character development or moral improvement. Well, except for a few books about it. But no one has figured out how to bottle courage, patience, love, faith, or even raw intelligence. Instead, we are treated to distractions from the course of action that would bring us the greatest happiness.
It’s not wrong to shop online. And it’s not wrong to try to peddle your wares to those who do. What’s sad is if all our energy is spent trying to purchase things, and we have no time left in our schedule for the kind of growth that brings us closer to God.
Our leaders have urged us to share our testimonies and faith online. Goodness knows there are countless exciting news stories about the worldwide humanitarian aid of LDS Charities, which are easy to share. President Russell M. Nelson enumerated several of these in the October General Conference. He and other leaders have also urged us to take breaks from screen time, to delve deeper into the scriptures, to ponder and pray with more fervency and purpose. These are the kinds of pursuits that will yield so much more than a trip, a new appliance, or new shoes. Following their counsel and really getting serious about overcoming our weaknesses will bring us the kind of happiness all mankind is actually seeking.
So, just for this week, let’s all try an experiment. Scroll through your online sites and make a note about the ads you’re seeing. Look at the list and see if this paints an accurate picture of your priorities. It probably won’t because, as I said, there are no ads for researching noble traits. But look at that list anyway, and see if it describes your interests and the things you care most about.
Now keep a log of the moments when you’ve studied scriptures, reviewed conference talks, or reached out in texts and postings to minister to others. At the end of each day, see which group honestly reflects the way you’ve been spending your time.
And here’s what I think you’ll discover: Your happiness will rise exactly in proportion to the “good” list, the list of moments when you’ve tried to reach out to the Savior, when you’ve tried to learn of him, when you’ve tried to follow his commandment to love and serve others.
Or, if you’re gloomy and unhappy, see if the scales have tipped the other way, and you’ve been coveting, overspending, or squandering time on the desire for superficial trappings. I think the graph lines will basically match.
Satan can keep us very busy doing good—but not great—things. He also nudges us over the line into the not-so-good area where we envy, compete, and seek adulation. We can start out justifying a little excess, then before we know it, we’re feeling self-pity. Life seems to shower others with so much, and us with so little.
Conversely, if we feel the thrill of spiritual closeness with our Heavenly Father, if we’re noticing the Holy Ghost giving us comfort or prompting us, if we’re praying for and receiving opportunities to share the gospel, suddenly it seems life is loaded with blessings! They virtually pour down from the sky as we focus upon helping our fellowman.
It’s an easy experiment to run—the components literally pop up into view. And now, instead of being at the mercy of advertisers, you’ll be making the ads work in your favor as you use them to monitor how much control you have over your own life, and how you’re truly using your time.
Hilton’s newest work, A Little Christmas Prayer, is destined to become a Christmas classic. This tale, for any reader of any faith, teaches us all the magic of gratitude. All her books and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.