At the BYU Campus Education Week in August of last year, Elder David A. Bednar told Latter-day Saints that their efforts to communicate gospel messages through social media channels was a good beginning, but only a small trickle. “I now extend to you the invitation to help transform the trickle into a flood,” he said. “I exhort you to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth—messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy—and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood.”
In August, the Church’s Handbook 2 was updated to include the following: “Members are encouraged to use the Internet to flood the earth with testimonies of the Savior and His restored gospel. They should view blogs, social networks, and other Internet technologies as tools that allow them to amplify their voice in promoting the messages of peace, hope, and joy that accompany faith in Christ” (Chapter 21.1.22).
Here are eight practical things you can do now to hasten the work online:
1. Follow the prophet and apostles on social media
The prophet and apostles have accounts on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. You can follow their pages to see inspiring posts and photos about their teachings. You can like these posts and photos, leave comments, and share them so that your friends can be inspired as well.
2. Talk about the joys of the gospel
As you share your life with others on social media, be sure to let the light of the gospel shine through. Here are three simple ways to do it:
- What you learned at church. Talk about what you learned at church, in seminary or institute, or in your scripture study. Share what you learned and explain how it affected your life.
- Family Home Evening. Post what you did in family home evening. Mention what you discussed, any special insights you got from the topic, and how your children responded. Also, include a link to an online resource you used in preparing the lesson. Seeing families holding family home evening is a good example for nonmembers and an icebreaker for discussions about the family and how to teach children. It also provides continual encouragement to members to hold their family home evenings.
- Your calling. Don’t be shy about telling others about the calling you have in your ward. As you mention things you do for your calling, your nonmember friends may ask questions and learn more about the Church. Encourage comments and questions. Add a link in your post that explains your calling or the topic that you will be teaching or learning about next Sunday.
3. Participate in online gospel discussions
There are many ways to participate in gospel discussions online:
- Facebook groups and Google+ communities let you share things with people who have a common interest. Search for groups and communities where you can share your experiences and testimony with others. For example, you may choose a group of new converts who are still learning the gospel, or you could join a community of Latter-day Saints who share tips on teaching Primary classes. Join a group whose subject interests you. Note that some groups may be open to the public, while others are limited to just those who have been invited.
- Search gospel-related hashtags, such as #LDS and #Mormon, on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Flickr, and Tumblr. When you find information or photos that interest you, like them, leave comments, and share them so your friends can be inspired as well. See a list of popular hashtags at LDSMediaTalk.com/lds-hashtags. Also, look for hashtags that relate to holidays and special events hosted by the Church.
- Answer gospel questions. Many people ask questions every day in online forums, in comments on news articles, on social media, and even in comments on your posts. Write thoughtful answers that not only address the question but also state your belief in the truth of the doctrine. You can also find questions that other people have posted online at sites such as answers.com, yahoo.com, question.com, chacha.com, and wiki.answers.com.
If you don’t know an answer, remember that the Church provides online resources to help you understand and explain gospel topics. See topics.ds.org, Mormon.org/faq, MormonNewsroom.org/topics-and-background, MormonTopics.org, and eom.byu.edu.
4. Post a review of your meetinghouse and temple
Find your ward’s meetinghouse on Google maps and write a review about it.
Explain that everyone is welcome to attend—whether members of the Church or not. Mention the meeting times, what to expect, what to wear, and details about the Sunday meetings for children, youth, women, and men. You could also explain why mutual is a good youth group for any faith-based family.
Once you have written about your building, you could also post reviews about other wards you have attended. Occasionally, add a picture. These reviews will help the Church be found by people looking for a church.
After you submit the review on Google maps, click on it to go to the Google+ page for the meetinghouse and click the +1 button to like it.
If you use Foursquare, Yelp, or Facebook, you can also “check in” when you get to your meetinghouse on a Sunday or other day of the week. Make a brief comment about what you are doing there and what it means to you.
Don’t forget to write reviews of churches you visit when you travel. When you visit wards other than your own, you get a good feeling for how new people are treated and you can genuinely talk about it in your review.
Follow these same steps to write reviews of any temples you have visited.
5. Share general conference with your friends
General conference may be one of the best ways to introduce your friends to the Church. There are many easy ways to invite your friends to watch conference. If you are not comfortable inviting them to your home or to your meetinghouse to watch it, tell them about all the ways they can watch it in their home on TV, radio, the Internet, mobile apps, and social media. (See conference.lds.org for details.)
The following are easy ways you can invite your friends (member and nonmember alike) to participate in general conference:
- Use the general conference events on Facebook and Google+ to invite your friends to watch the conference.
- The week before conference, change your Facebook or Google+ cover photo to an image about conference. You can get them on the “Invite Others” page at conference.lds.org.
- If you have a blog or website, embed a streaming video of the conference there. You can get the embed code from the video player on the Facebook general conference event page or from conference.lds.org.
- Members with websites can also put a banner on their sites inviting people to watch conference. See the “Invite Others” page at conference.lds.org or get banners from the Church’s Facebook page.
The following are ways you can share messages from general conference during and after the conference:
- Share media-based messages. The Church publishes social media messages during general conference on the Church’s Facebook page (facebook.com/LDS) and Twitter account (twitter.com/LDSchurch). Around conference time, the Church consolidates all the social media links for the talks, picture quotes (memes), and highlight videos on a page at conference.lds.org. You can easily share these by clicking on the links and buttons on the page.
- Use hashtags. You can help general conference become popular on social media by using common hashtags (subject tags). Even if you don’t post or tweet quotes from conference yourself, you can reshare and retweet those posted by others. For example, when the hashtag #LDSconf is used a lot over a short period of time, it appears in a list of “trending” hashtags and causes more people to notice it.
- Share and like the talks on LDS.org. When the talks are posted at conference.lds.org on the Tuesday after conference, click the share and like buttons on your favorite talks. Post your favorite quotes and stories from general conference on your social media accounts. Use the hashtags #inspiredby and #LDSconf. You may also want to use the hashtag #next6months when you share your plans for how you want your life to change because of what you learned at general conference.
Sharing general conference messages with others can change their lives for eternity—and it has never been easier.
6. Connect with the world online
Beyond using social media to connect with your local friends and neighbors, use the internet to make new friends and connect with people around the world.
If you know another language, put those skills to work by blogging or posting in that language.
Keep in touch with people you met on your mission, whether or not they are members of the Church. You can be a strength and support to them.
Consider creating a Facebook group or Google+ community of fellow missionaries and people you know in the areas where you served.
7. Become Facebook friends with missionaries
In June 2013, Elder L. Tom Perry said, “As missionaries enter this new age where they will use computers in the work of the Lord, we invite the young and the old, the adults, the young adults, the youth, and the children everywhere to join with us in this exciting new work by becoming Facebook friends with the missionaries in your area on your own computers and sharing their gospel messages online and by becoming involved in missionary work yourselves.” As you follow their posts, like them and share them with others. Also, post comments to reinforce their message and add your testimony. Notice who else comments on the posts. If a nonmember in your neighborhood comments, you can be aware of the questions they may have and follow up with them either online or in person.
Also, when missionaries from your ward serve missions in other areas, you could follow their missionary profiles on social media and provide likes, shares, and comments to encourage them.
8. Set up your own Mormon.org profile
You can create your own profile on Mormon.org where you can share your stories and testimony. This lets visitors to Mormon.org learn more about Latter-day Saints who come from diverse backgrounds but share a deep commitment to Jesus Christ and to each other.
Go to Mormon.org/create to get started. After you create a profile, it will be reviewed before it appears online. Once approved, you can promote your profile by doing the following:
- Share a link to your profile with your friends by email or by posting it on your social media pages and your blog, if you have one.
- Add a link to your Mormon.org profile on your profile pages for Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media sites.
- Get images (blog buttons) to put on your blog or website, if you have one.
- Link your Mormon.org profile to your other profiles on social media.
LARRY RICHMAN is a writer, blogger, and online content marketer. He has worked for the Church directing LDS.org, social media, project management, product management, and publishing. Follow his blog at LDSMediaTalk.com or find more ideas in his book 101 Ways to Hasten the Work Online at Deseret Book.