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Yumpin’ Yiminy: Thoughts on the Social Media Fast

By Linda Hoffman Kimball

high yumpers

Some years ago I had dinner at the home of my great uncle in Stockholm. He told us about the wonderful assistant he had at his office. He said of her, “She is so good, dat ven I say ‘Yump!’ she asks ‘how high’?”

We all had a good chuckle about what an amazing employee he had, and I privately still smile when I hear his wonderful accent in my mind.

We want to be good followers of our God,  to yump when God says “Yump!” As disciples of Christ, our first priority is to follow God’s direction and counsel for us. We pray, we study, we weigh options, we seek peace and those quiet (or sometimes blatant) impressions that nudge or confirm to us where that Kindly Light would take us.

We also have promised to sustain our leaders. “Sustain” is a rich and juicy word. Like sustaining life, sustaining a garden or a plant, we provide sunlight, water and occasional fertilizer if needed to make sure that life/the garden/the plant is provided with all the nutrients necessary for its “filling the measure of its creation.” Sustaining in LDS conversations is sometimes rather unimaginatively understood as raising our hand in support of a person receiving a new church responsibility or calling. Sometimes it is interpreted as “promising to obey.”

Last weekend women of the Church listened to President Nelson extend an invitation to them to observe a 10 day fast from social media. Before the Women’s Conference was over, I had already begun receiving facebook farewell messages in my feed from LDS women friends announcing that they were taking a fast from social media.

These are the women who, when they hear an opportunity to support and sustain the prophet, will immediately metaphorically “yump” as fast as they can and as high as they can.

And good for them. If that’s a way that works for them and their relationship with God, then who am I to judge? We each need, as the song says, to “search, ponder and pray” about when we yump and how high is right for us in our circumstances.

However, with that immediate yumping can come sabotage from our human condition. Something in our ego-bound brains can send subtle, social messages that if other sisters don’t yump in exactly the same way, the same height, and at the same time, those women are somehow slackers or “less-than” or not fully with the program. This is human nature mucking things up. Judging the “righteousness” of others is not our job. We should all be minding our own spiritual bees’ wax.

Let’s examine what President Nelson said:

I invite you to participate in a 10-day fast from social media and from any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind. Pray to know which influences to remove during your fast. The effect of your 10-day fast may surprise you. What do you notice after taking a break from perspectives of the world that have been wounding your spirit? Is there a change in where you now want to spend your time and energy? Have any of your priorities shifted—even just a little? I urge you to record and follow through with each impression.

First, it’s an invitation. What is the answer to “when is an invitation not an invitation?” Some people apparently think that the answer to that is “whenever a General Authority offers an invitation. Then it’s a commandment.” This is likely to keep happening, but our task is to persevere in engaging individually with God about how we should respond. Judgers gonna judge. It’s part of the life as we know it.

Second, “social media” isn’t defined. It sounds like it may be in a category of “media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind.” We are expected to consider what sources (whether it is in fact social media or anything else) fall into the category of bringing “negative and impure thoughts to your mind.” For me, social media is a definite positive and a lifeline. I live 7 miles from my mailbox and 40 minutes away from the closest town of any size. We don’t get cell reception where I live. My cyber connections fend off isolation that might otherwise overtake me. I keep in healthy and robust contact with my facebook friends and groups. I am also involved very heavily in at least two internet-based major platforms that require keeping up to date on breaking news and developments.

It has been a rewarding exercise for me to suss out which areas I can provide as offerings to feel like I am both accepting Pres. Nelson’s invitation and the will of the Lord in my life.

Note that there was no time frame (beyond the 10 days) expected for the start of this social media fast. Could it be that President Nelson means what he has said in the past about our abilities to use our wisdom, our good minds, our common sense, and our abilities to judge our circumstances? If yumping right away is what you feel called to do, go for it. If yumping for you means a personalized juggle between work/life obligations or your travel schedule or the demands of the men and females under age 8 in your circles, go for that. In any case, none of us should be judging the decisions of others. That’s not our job.

There is not one way to yump. There is not one height to yump. There is not one time to yump. Would President Nelson want it any other way? Channeling prescience he’d heard from President Spencer W. Kimball and adding his own garnish, President Nelson said:

We, your brethren, need your strength, your conversion, your conviction, your ability to lead, your wisdom, and your voices. The kingdom of God is not and cannot be complete without women who make sacred covenants and then keep them, women who can speak with the power and authority of God! (“A Plea to My Sisters” October Conference 2015)

Somehow the whole episode of the 10 day social media fast has become fraught for many women. That’s not really surprising. Large forces were at work in the country and the world when it was announced. It came on the heels of a particularly dysfunctional political process with flagrant flaws from both parties regarding the confirmation of a new judge to the Supreme Court. It came also in the thick of the #MeToo movement where women around the world were at last speaking up about sexual abuse and positively altering the business and social cultures of our country and others, although there is much more work to do. I wish the timing had been different.

Journalists and others pounced on the bad timing and framed President Nelson’s invitation as a misogynist ploy to silence women. All of this was awkward and unfortunate, and, for many, painfully bitter and symbolic. My impulses have been to “assume good will” coupled with “mourn with those that mourn.” Life is complicated, and we and our Church do not exist in a vacuum. Perhaps being sensitive to those external factors should shape our yumping plans.

Note a previous example of a “suggestion” given by a General Authority in a General Conference:

May I suggest that wherever possible a white shirt be worn by the deacons, teachers, and priests who handle the sacrament. For sacred ordinances in the Church we often use ceremonial clothing, and a white shirt could be seen as a gentle reminder of the white clothing you wore in the baptismal font and an anticipation of the white shirt you will soon wear into the temple and onto your missions. That simple suggestion is not intended to be pharisaic or formalistic. We do not want deacons or priests in uniforms or unduly concerned about anything but the purity of their lives. But how our young people dress can teach a holy principle to us all, and it certainly can convey sanctity. (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, October General Conference 1995)

The words “that simple suggestion is not intended to be pharisaic or formalistic” had hardly fallen from Elder Holland’s lips  when some quick-trigger yumpers did exactly what Elder Holland cautioned against. White shirts and ties did become the mandate – the uniform. Violation of that dress code hit hard in the urban ward we lived in then, especially for deacons, teachers and priests who didn’t own or couldn’t afford white shirts. Why did institutional “hyper-yumping” matter more than “the purity of their lives”? Wherever there are humans at work, the impulse to force conformity into white shirts or whited sepulchers seems to take hold.

This is not how I believe God wants us to respond to counsel from leaders. While I have heard stake visitors plead for our ward to “be like sheep and just obey” (yes, an actual quote), I want to engage with God when I yump. I want to honor God’s (and our leaders’) invitations, suggestions, counsel, and – when they come – commandments. With God’s help I can consider, assess, and sense when, where and how high He will lift me.

About Linda Hoffman Kimball

Linda Hoffman Kimball is an artist, writer, photographer, and poet who grew up as a faithful Christian near Chicago, & joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1971 while at Wellesley College near Boston. Early on she assumed that all Latter-day Saints were articulate, inquisitive, faithful, and socially engaged since her role models in the University wards in Cambridge, MA., were. Her husband says she is “fluent, but not native” in Mormon-ese. She is a founding member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government.

13 thoughts on “Yumpin’ Yiminy: Thoughts on the Social Media Fast”

  1. I love this post and couldn't agree more. My life is my life and how I choose to live it is nobody else's business. I actually don't understand why people have to put up a post saying they are going to be off Facebook for 10 days; when we fast we don't tell the world, when we do service we don't tell the world. Also, I haven't noticed posts from women saying that they are intending to read the whole of the Book of Mormon by Christmas, or that they are increasing their temple attendance. The whole 10 day fast is just thing that was mentioned by the prophet and yet it seems to have become the only thing that is remembered. I will follow the prophet but how or when I do so is none of your beeswax. x

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  2. Kay and others who have made this same observation. I chose to post a notification on Twitter and Facebook that I am not on Facebook so that people would not misinterpret my silence. I have many connections who are not LDS, and if in the 10 days that I'm less present on social media, what if they announce a move, an illness, a new job (or heaven forbid) a death in the family. What if they go to my page and ask me a question or send me a DM, and I do not apply for 10 days? What if they say, "Hey, I'm going to be in your town, contact me." But I'm not checking FB. If they see this, they know to contact me by email or by my telephone number. I work online, and typically, I respond to FB posts within an hour (during work day hours). And it's just ODD for me to be unresponsive. Hence the announcement.

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  3. This reflects my own ideas. I used social media to stay connected with my family and ward family. Cutting it off wholesale would have a negative effect on my own church activity and family involvement.

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  4. This is spot on, Linda! I remember the suggestion for boys to wear white shirts, and then two boys in my ward being forbidden from passing the sacrament because their shirts were pink and yellow. It's similar with this fast– it is a choice; it is a choice how much and when and so on. I've never been very good at sheep-like following, and your words have reminded me why. Many thanks for saying what I feel.

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  5. When President Nelson gave this challenge, I said “Seriously?” Because if the Prophet asks me to do something, I will do it. Even if it’s hard and I don’t want to. I’m on Day 6 of a social media fast, I did post about taking a break, inviting others to join me. If the Prophet asks me jump, I will jump, no questions asked.

    I realize this isn’t everyone’s response, and I respect that.

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  6. "I realize this isn’t everyone’s response, and I respect that."

    Good for you, M2theH. Some people don't respect others' decisions or timelines. It's been curious watching people be judgmental and critical about those (including the Mormon Newsroom) who haven't immediately changed all references to the Church, and don't realize how very difficult it is to change from using an easily recognizable and succinct adjective to … nothing?

    I read the press release and listened to conference and am still not entirely sure what is being proposed. If no one recommends an adjective to replace the one we've been using our whole lives, it makes it an immense effort to rework the entire way we talk and write and will take time and planning, especially for those who work in the field of (gasp; oh the horrors) Mormon studies.

    But this is a tangent. Perhaps those of us who have a more complicated involvement with social media — use it constantly in work or church callings or volunteer responsibilities or for keeping in touch with distant family and friends or whatever and can't turn it off without planning — can be patient with those who could turn it off immediately.

    And perhaps those who could turn it off immediately (or said they could) can be patient with those who are puzzled or at a loss and need time to work things through.

    After all, the entire migration of the Church to the Salt Lake Valley didn't happen in one season. It took decades and required careful planning and great effort and expense and involved some sad tragedies. If something is worth doing, it's worth doing right, with expert advice and an eye to minimizing the unintended negative consequences.

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  7. Wonderful insight. I really enjoyed your thoughts and feel a real connection to your words.

    One side note- I think you've got a small typo that really changes the intended meaning.

    "In any case, none of us should not be judging the decisions of others. That’s not our job."

    Just wanted you to know!

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  8. As someone who participated in the 10 day fast, I wanted to share my thoughts.

    It seems that this post is lumping all the "yumpers" into one conformed group as women who don't think for themselves, but instead does whatever is asked of them (based on the paragraph "These are the women who… "). I think that some (and probably many) of those women who appeared to "yump" into this challenge were people who already have thought a lot about how social media either took up too much of their time or introduced negative thoughts into their lives. They perhaps for some time (maybe even years) have even been thinking about taking a break but didn't feel strong enough to take the leap, or loved the positives that came from social media too much to leave it alone for a time. When the invitation came from the prophet they were ready to take this step quickly because they were already at a point of desperation and not being able to do it alone, felt encouragement from the prophet and from other women doing a similar thing with them.

    Social media and TV are a huge time sucker for me. I believe I am addicted to them (or at least have a uncontrollable habit of letting them take up much of my life) and I appreciated this invitation from the prophet. I loved being able to see the things that I could accomplish when I fasted from them. I was able to give more attention to my children and to my current job of running a household, as well as working my way through the Book of Mormon and having more quiet time to ponder.

    I think this invitation was valuable for people who are in a similar situation as mine, but I guess it may appear as not to those who don't have a problem with putting media above priorities that Heavenly Father would like us to have at the top.

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  9. I wanted to clarify my last line. When I said "problem" I am talking about women who don't have an addiction and are already able to control how much time they spend on media.

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  10. […] Yumpin’ Yiminy: Thoughts on the Social Media Fast via Segullah.  “‘Sustain’ is a rich and juicy word. Like sustaining life, sustaining a garden or a plant, we provide sunlight, water and occasional fertilizer if needed to make sure that life/the garden/the plant is provided with all the nutrients necessary for its ‘filling the measure of its creation.’ Sustaining in LDS conversations is sometimes rather unimaginatively understood as raising our hand in support of a person receiving a new church responsibility or calling. Sometimes it is interpreted as ‘promising to obey.'”  I appreciate voices that are giving voice to some of the hard questions I’ve had lately.  And on that note, also check out: […]

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