Social media can be a fun way to share beliefs, gather ideas, and connect with friends and family. However, using this creative outlet also means we are bound to see posts, comments, and ideas that contradict or even attack our faith, which could leave us feeling defensive and offended.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught, “Defend your beliefs with courtesy and with compassion, but defend them.”1 This can be a daunting task—especially considering that some people on the internet are just looking to pick a fight.
While there is no definite answer for how and when to defend our beliefs, it is important to remember the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ. When His teachings were questioned, He answered with love and conviction. He lived in a way that demonstrated His beliefs. (See John 5:2–12; John 8:1–11.)
So before we start to feverishly type up a response to a frustrating or troubling social media post, here are eight questions we can ask ourselves to help us know how (and if) we should respond:
What would I hope to accomplish by responding? In our online interactions, we can seek to share things pertaining to “the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) instead of tearing others down or egging them on.
Am I feeling too emotionally charged? Don’t forget that each person has a right to his or her own opinions. Rather than seeking to forcefully make a point, we can strive to increase understanding and have our “hearts knit together in unity” (Mosiah 18:21).
If someone has posted false information, is it possible that he or she is honestly misinformed? Instead of attacking those who post false information, consider inviting them to “come and see” (John 1:39) what the gospel is really about by sharing a video or an article from the Church.
Does it seem like the author of the post wrote it with the intent to mock or bully? It is important to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44), but if you choose to respond, proceed with caution. Someone looking for a fight will rarely be willing to have a civil conversation.
Does it matter if I respond quickly? Can it wait? Sometimes it’s best to “study it out in your mind” (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8) before deciding how to respond. This will allow you to take time to see if your response feels appropriate when you are no longer in the heat of the moment.
Is this a discussion that should be held in public or in private? Even the Savior at times “turned him unto his disciples, and [spoke] privately” (Luke 10:23). Sometimes it is best to discuss things one-on-one. And, if you do decide to post a response publicly, you can always reevaluate and transition to a private conversation later.
Do I feel the Spirit while writing my response? The Spirit helps us feel “the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5; see also Doctrine and Covenants 84:46). His presence or absence is a powerful indication of whether our words are uplifting or harmful.
How does my response testify of my beliefs? We are to be “an example of the believers” (1 Timothy 4:12) in all that we do. When you share your beliefs in an appropriate way with others, you are “glorify[ing] your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
As you consider these questions, it may be helpful to remember that while Heavenly Father wants us to stand up for truth, He also wants us to use our best judgment (see Jacob 6:12; Doctrine and Covenants 58:28). There may be times when a conversation becomes unproductive. In those instances, it can be best to end the conversation by thanking the other person for sharing their thoughts, letting them know that continuing the conversation won’t be beneficial for either of you, and perhaps directing them to a reputable resource that has helped you learn more about the topic at hand. It is also all right to unfollow people if following them on social media brings you down.
It is not necessary to engage with every false or offending statement you see online. The timing may simply not be right. Consider Abish from the Book of Mormon—she waited for years for the right moment to share her testimony!2
Prayer is one of our best tools for knowing when to speak up and what to say when defending the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the Savior taught, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). As you do so, you will find opportunities to share the light of the Savior with others.
If you need more help formulating your thoughts or ideas on how to respond to gospel questions, visit ComeUntoChrist.org/common-questions.