Thursday, July 15, 2010

Online missionaries

Excerpts of Mormon missionary work moving online, Deseret news


ROCHESTER, N.Y. — For a dozen Mormon missionaries in upstate New York, the iconic tasks of "tracting" and knocking on doors are things of the past.

Instead, they're spreading the good word in high-tech fashion, posting on sites such as Blogger, WordPress and Facebook.

The church's missionary department is experimenting with its missionaries, using social networking to make contacts and create conversations with individuals who might be interested in the LDS faith.

Or, in social-networking terms, to get connected.

The preliminary test program — which is currently called "Missionaries on the Internet" — was started in late May in the LDS Church's New York Rochester Mission.

A companionship of two missionaries sits side-by-side at the computer, one safeguard being that they work in tandem in composing posts and reviewing responses.

Another security is what Wilson calls "community policing." All participating missionaries are Facebook "friends" with each other and the mission president, meaning all their Facebook activity is easily accessible by the others.

The online activity is a deviation from church policy for its missionaries, which restricts computer use to exchanging e-mails with home and accessing church Web resources and

The other exception is the "chat" missionaries — based at the Provo Missionary Training Center — who answer questions and queries at the LDS Church's website.

Wilson calls the Missionaries on the Internet program "a raw test" that could grow to other missions and other nations. But the missionary department will need to study it for much longer than its current existence of single-digit weeks.

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