Technology, the Latter-day way

The Mormon community can rightfully boast a long association with technological advancement, from th

Whether you’re a technophobe or a technophile, it’s hard to argue against the merits of technological advances; although our heads may well be spinning at their pace.

Designer and architect R Buckminster Fuller’s remark that “humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons” may motivate some to want to slow down the ride. But humankind’s drive for knowledge is ultimately inspiration-driven, from a loving Creator to His children.

Many people of faith would accept Freeman Dyson's philosophy that “technology is a gift of God”. 

The application of know-how can, of course, be used for good or evil. But we rejoice in the God-given attribute for us to progress.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (known as ‘Mormons’ or Latter-day Saints) see this as a vital part of an eternal journey by which we glorify God.

Along with people of all faiths, Latter-day Saints have made their mark in science and technology.

Most Brits have never heard of Philo Taylor Farnsworth (you’d be forgiven for that). The invention of the first electronic TV is attributed to this Mormon farm boy from Idaho (although many other, more feted scientists worked on other aspects of television). As a youngster, he was captivated by electricity and the electron and talked his science teacher, Justin Tolman, into giving him special lessons. Eventually Philo had his eureka moment.

Harvey Fletcher, a prominent physicist and a devout Mormon, is regarded as the father of stereo sound – he was the first to demonstrate stereophonic transmission and stereophonic recording. And he did a lot to pioneer hearing aids too.

Technology is a great servant for the well-balanced individual. The Internet has helped bring about what we now call the democratisation of knowledge and that knowledge has mushroomed when it comes to us discovering our personal heritage.

I attended a Family History day in Cambridge the other week, in one of our Latter-day Saint churches. Hundreds of members of the public turned up to see Nick Barratt (from the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? TV series). We were enthralled by his talk.

Our church is happy to facilitate people tracing their roots; it’s a deep human need to know where we came from and who we are. Family history is part of all that and the Mormons' FamilySearch website is now the largest genealogy organisation in the world.

Over one billion names can be found within the cyber walls of the www.familysearch.org database.

Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. Users freely access resources and services online or through over 4,500 family history centres in 70 countries.

We believe that families are meant to be central to our lives and that family relationships are intended to continue beyond this life. Because interest in family history is not limited by culture, ethnicity, or religious faith, we welcome all who wish to discover more about their family and their heritage.

Technology's rapid development doesn't need to pass us by at break-neck speed. In all its forms, technology can inform and enrich our communities in real, tangible ways.

Yes, Mormons embrace technological progress and we want to use the Internet to help families too.

Malcolm Adcock is Assistant Area Director - Europe Public Affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which runs the Family Search website

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Why Angela Merkel's comments about the UK and US shouldn't be given too much weight

The Chancellor's comments are aimed at a domestic and European audience, and she won't be abandoning Anglo-German relationships just yet.

Angela Merkel’s latest remarks do not seem well-judged but should not be given undue significance. Speaking as part of a rally in Munich for her sister party, the CSU, the German Chancellor claimed “we Europeans must really take our own fate into our hands”.

The comments should be read in the context of September's German elections and Merkel’s determination to restrain the fortune of her main political rival, Martin Schulz – obviously a strong Europhile and a committed Trump critic. Sigmar Gabriel - previously seen as a candidate to lead the left-wing SPD - has for some time been pressing for Germany and Europe to have “enough self-confidence” to stand up to Trump. He called for a “self-confident position, not just on behalf of us Germans but all Europeans”. Merkel is in part responding to this pressure.

Her words were well received by her audience. The beer hall crowd erupted into sustained applause. But taking an implicit pop at Donald Trump is hardly likely to be a divisive tactic at such a gathering. Criticising the UK post-Brexit and the US under Trump is the sort of virtue signalling guaranteed to ensure a good clap.

It’s not clear that the comments represent that much of a new departure, as she herself has since claimed. She said something similar earlier this year. In January, after the publication of Donald Trump’s interview with The Times and Bild, she said that “we Europeans have our fate in our own hands”.

At one level what Merkel said is something of a truism: in two year’s time Britain will no longer be directly deciding the fate of the EU. In future no British Prime Minister will attend the European Council, and British MEPs will leave the Parliament at the next round of European elections in 2019. Yet Merkel’s words “we Europeans”, conflate Europe and the EU, something she has previously rejected. Back in July last year, at a joint press conference with Theresa May, she said: “the UK after all remains part of Europe, if not of the Union”.

At the same press conference, Merkel also confirmed that the EU and the UK would need to continue to work together. At that time she even used the first person plural to include Britain, saying “we have certain missions also to fulfil with the rest of the world” – there the ‘we’ meant Britain and the EU, now the 'we' excludes Britain.

Her comments surely also mark a frustration born of difficulties at the G7 summit over climate change, but Britain and Germany agreed at the meeting in Sicily on the Paris Accord. More broadly, the next few months will be crucial for determining the future relationship between Britain and the EU. There will be many difficult negotiations ahead.

Merkel is widely expected to remain the German Chancellor after this autumn’s election. As the single most powerful individual in the EU27, she is the most crucial person in determining future relations between the UK and the EU. Indeed, to some extent, it was her intransigence during Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’ which precipitated Brexit itself. She also needs to watch with care growing irritation across the EU at the (perceived) extent of German influence and control over the institutions and direction of the European project. Recent reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which suggested a Merkel plan for Jens Weidmann of the Bundesbank to succeed Mario Draghi at the ECB have not gone down well across southern Europe. For those critics, the hands controlling the fate of Europe are Merkel’s.

Brexit remains a crucial challenge for the EU. How the issue is handled will shape the future of the Union. Many across Europe’s capitals are worried that Brussels risks driving Britain further away than Brexit will require; they are worried lest the Channel becomes metaphorically wider and Britain turns its back on the continent. On the UK side, Theresa May has accepted the EU, and particularly Merkel’s, insistence, that there can be no cherry picking, and therefore she has committed to leaving the single market as well as the EU. May has offered a “deep and special” partnership and a comprehensive free trading arrangement. Merkel should welcome Britain’s clarity. She must work with new French President Emmanuel Macron and others to lead the EU towards a new relationship with Britain – a close partnership which protects free trade, security and the other forms of cooperation which benefit all Europeans.

Henry Newman is the director of Open Europe. He tweets @henrynewman.

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