Elder Cook gave a CES Fireside a few weeks ago that caused me to take pause. I was live-tweeting the event with some of my Twitter friends, using the hash tag #CESFireside. It seemed like it was going to be a good fireside. And then Elder Cook started talking about anonymity. 

The tweet I wrote says, "Elder Cook tells us to avoid any pretext of anonymity. That strikes home. I'm anonymous." And it only began to outline the thoughts that raced through my mind.

Elder Cook's talk focused on how anonymity could give people a mask behind which they could hide their identity... a mask that falsifies their persona and makes it seem like "no one else will know." It's the mask of pornography, of online chat rooms, of nameless hook ups, and one night stands. A mask that turns people into demons. And, in order to combat the issue at hand, he asked us to unmask.

Within the hour, I saw his counsel begin to be applied in the social world. A handful of Twitter accounts changed names to be real ones instead of pseudonyms. Avatars changed to match real people. It's telling that I even noticed; I don't follow anyone on Twitter.

I found myself wondering what this talk meant for me, and, at large, for all of us. Elder Cook did say, "Don't wear your heart on your sleeve or be superficial," but I still found myself wondering if it meant I had to drop my anonymity, if only because I didn't want to be someone who rejects the words of the prophets simply because I don't think they apply.

Before I went to sleep that night, still somewhat distraught, I prayed for guidance... for the ability to understand what Elder Cook meant, and the Lord's will for me.

In doing so, I had to honestly take stock of my emotions. Would I be willing to open my heart and soul and name and family to the world? One part of me could see huge benefits in doing so. It would be far easier, at least if everyone knew... but there's the problem of having to tell people who didn't get it the first time. That's awkward. And being open with the world would make it easier to take a more visual stand for faith. There are a dozen things I can't do anonymously. I could use my experiences, and the faith and testimony I share here, to build my own family and those around me. The more I thought about it, the more I could see pieces making sense... and I realized that, even with the stress it would place on my family, I'd be willing to do it if God asked me to.

But there are also positives to staying anonymous. The ability to help people who've never met me and value anonymity. A better ability to relate to readers can put themselves in my shoes because they aren't distracted by my age, where I live, or what I do each day. Peace in my family's life. I already get enough hate mail; it's nice that I'm the only one who gets it. And the ability to leave my trials behind when I go through my day. I sometimes go days without thinking about this blog, even if I keep my email open to check if someone has a pressing question. And it's awesome that, in most cases, attraction doesn't cross my mind. And no one, obviously, ever brings it up.

I prayed for guidance, listened, and then fell asleep. I've been listening ever since, waiting for an answer to confirm or deny the decision that I made... to keep going forward with faith, in the same path the Lord had already made for me. And then, a few days later, I was listening to some music and "Because I Have Been Given Much" came on.

The words of the song are amazing. I can't quote the whole song here because of copyright issues, but this is the phrase that I had been waiting for:

I shall divide my gifts from Thee
With every brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.

My gifts from God comprise everything He has given me in life. God only gives gifts (only good fruit comes from a good tree, and good water from a good fountain), and He gives them with the intent that we will do good. But not just haphazardly... according to His design.

That was my answer. Who do I share my gifts with? With every brother that I see who has the need of help from me. I don't need to shout my trials and blessings from the mountaintops. At least not now. I just need to share them with the people I can touch, and God will do the rest.

Elder Cook was speaking to me, and warning me of the dangers of anonymity. Explaining the demons that anonymity could bring. And in the same tone, the Spirit affirmed that the mask that I have on is a different mask. It doesn't make me likely to do or say things I would regret among the people I know and love. I wouldn't cringe to share everything with the world or tie it to my name. And I feel confident that I'm at least trying my best.
Continue reading at the original source →