In a world full of cat memes, YouTube sensations, social media movements and all kinds of viral videos, missionary work is now going viral, making its mark on the social media world.
“The Church must adapt to a changing world,” Elder L. Tom Perry said in July during a special conference in which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that missionaries would use social media to share the gospel.
And now, LDS missionaries are doing just that, as missions are slowly providing elders and sisters with iPads and smartphones, allowing them to access Church apps and resources to aid their work in the field.
Missionaries can now conduct lessons with investigators via Facetime and Skype, and also have Facebook access where they can communicate with both members and investigators.
Destany Tabor, a returned missionary from Riverside, Calif., served in the London, England mission and returned home about a month ago. Both the London and London South missions were among the first to to embrace the social media surge.
“We were just at the beginning,” Tabor said. “We were trying to figure it out, and we could start seeing this take off.”
Tabor was serving in London’s Hyde Park ward when missionaries began using Facebook as a proselyting tool in April. At the time, six sisters and eight elders were serving in the area, and were only allowed to use social media at the Hyde Park chapel’s visitors center.
Tabor explained that she and her companion usually used Facebook as a first contact with potential investigators and then would try to set up a live appointment.
“We added people and chatted with them on Facebook,” Tabor said. “We are starting to see more investigators coming from Facebook. We have better retention of investigators we find online versus just finding them on the street. We can always contact them on Facebook.”
Tabor said she and her companion saw success using social media.
“We definitely had more progressing investigators because of this,” said Tabor. “People are more comfortable with social media.”
In addition, missionary area books, which provide details about lessons taught to the investigators, were previously kept in binder-form, but are now available online. These documents, along with missionary calendars, are available for mission leaders to view, allowing them to more easily coordinate teaching appointments between members and missionaries.
Missionaries can also access LDS tools from their iPads so they can show investigators videos and other information online.
The London and London South missions are among the few European missions that have implemented social media use.
“So far, there has been very little that has been done with social media by missionaries in Europe,” said Elder Jose Texeira, president of the Europe Area. “I am sure will be using those tools in the future.”
With the push for missionary social media use, the push for member missionary work also moves forward. Missionaries encourage members of the Church to create their own profiles on mormon.org.
Tabor explained that when members posted Mormon Messages on Facebook, missionaries were able to follow up with friends who “liked” or commented on the posts, thus allowing them to increase their missionary efforts.
With the use of social media, missionaries’ responsibilities are ever increasing, indicating that Church leaders and members alike trust missionaries to carry forth the gospel on multiple platforms.
“It’s great; I love it,” Tabor said. “The trust in missionaries is definitely going up.”
Sarah Pinnock, a missionary in the Tempe, Arizona mission is amongst the thousands of missionary using social media. Pinnock uses social media to connect investigators who don’t speak English with members of the Church who can communicate with them.
Her Facebook status currently reads, “We will be spending time on Facebook each day, strictly for proselyting purposes. Our proselyting area? THE WORLD!”