Sharing the gospel was restricted to things like rotary telephones, letters or personal visits merely a few decades ago. Now, anyone can be a missionary to thousands of people from behind a laptop or through their smartphone.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been focusing on the use of online tools and social media, in particular, as an effective tool for missionary work, according to the LDS Church website.
“These social media platforms were developed for a reason and it wasn’t just for entertainment,” Bob Walz said, associate professor in the Department of Communications at BYU and a member of his stake’s presidency.
Walz said sharing the gospel with social media creates a “no pressure” environment for members and also for the people they reach out to. If someone is not interested, they can just decline without having to tell someone to their face, according to Walz.
Another online tool available for missionary work is personalized pass-along cards from Mormon.org. The LDS Church put out this new tool in November 2013 in an attempt to further aid LDS Church members in their efforts to share the gospel.
“We have a way for people to encourage their friends or family to come visit their Mormon.org pages and to learn why they are Mormon,” Ron Wilson said, senior manager of Internet and advertising for the LDS Church’s missionary department.
Wilson said a user can include their Mormon.org profile picture and invite someone to their profile page, where they have typed in their own words and feelings about the gospel. He said members can print out a few cards and carry them around. He said if someone asks them about the church during social interactions, they can share the card with them.
“It’s a pretty simple invitation,” Wilson said.
And this non-intrusive invitation can yield positive results. Walz said a recent study found there is about a 90 percent retention rate when people are approached online about the LDS Church.
“This is because people are having a spiritual experience based on what they are reading and they are not converted to the missionaries,” Walz said.
Walz said people are more converted to the doctrine and less likely to quit coming to church when the missionaries leave.
“A big advantage of social media is that it can be done at any time,” said Chris Brown, a BYU student and the ward mission leader in an LDS student ward piloting a program for online member missionary work.
Brown said social media is great because people are not limited to where they are located and they can contact anybody in the world about the LDS Church.
“Mormon.org is a great way to show how the gospel has influenced your life,” Mike Smith said, a sophomore at BYU. Smith said his mission president had missionaries create their own Mormon.org profiles to better share the gospel.
Smith said the site integrates the gospel into who people are and not just a label of being a Mormon.
“There is only one calling in the church and that is missionary work,” Walz said. “No matter if you are stake athletic director or a Sunday school teacher.”