Missionary work as we know it is changing--not only are we in the midst of experiencing a huge influx of young men and women who are willing to serve, but the way that missionaries are spreading the gospel is also being revolutionized: new technology is opening doors never before thought possible.
With so much still new about the work online missionaries do, we took the opportunity to exchange emails (what else?) with online proselyting missionary Elder Logan Hill from Kinston, North Carolina, who has been serving as a pilot missionary in an online capacity. Check out this Q&A that will help you better understand online missionary work.
Elder Hill's responses are personal and not given on behalf of the LDS Church.
Tell us a little bit about your mission call. Did you know you were going to be teaching online?
No, I did not. I was called to the Utah Salt Lake City West Mission, English speaking. We only cover Magna and West Valley City. My mission is a pilot mission for the Church. As such, we are responsible for testing and piloting certain programs and things for the missionary department.
When I got my mission call in April 2012, my mission wasn’t even created yet. It started on July 1, 2012--a very important, but unknown day in Church history. Hence, all of the new church tech hadn’t been released yet. In the Work of Salvation broadcast on June 23 of this year, Elder Perry announced the use of new church technology and programs. Our mission had already been using those tools for about a year when it was announced to the world. I was called to this mission, and I have been piloting the program since I came into the mission.
What sort of technology do you have in your mission, and how do you use it?
Lately we have been blessed with receiving iPads and other church technology to assist in the Work of Salvation. Other missions had tested these devices on select companionships, but our mission was the first to have every missionary have their own iPads. Each individual missionary in the mission has an iPad Mini, and it will stay with us until we leave our mission. Now, missions all over the country are receiving the “devices” as the people downtown SLC call them.
These devices have church produced apps that allow us to store our area books, teaching history, lessons taught, ward directories, maps, daily planners, and other useful tools to assist us in the Lord’s work. We have Facebook, Skype, iMessage, and other social media outlets that help us keep in contact with investigators, ward members, and local leaders more easily.
[Check out this video at 0:48 to see people using the iPads]
How do you feel missionary tasks online differ from traditional tracting, lessons, contacts, etc.?
Online assignments are not that different from traditional work. In the special online proselyting pilot programs, those missionaries have their own laptops which are given to them by the church. The laptops are to remain in the church building at all times.
How are online missionary assignments similar to traditional missions?
Of course, with any missionary assignment, we have to remember what our purpose is. In Doctrine and Covenants 50:13-14 we learn what we are called to do:
"Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained? To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth."
Whether the preaching we do as missionaries knocking doors and teaching in homes or sitting in a church building in front of laptops, our purpose is always the same. We are to preach the Lord’s gospel by the Spirit--to help others build and act on gospel principles, such as faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism and conversion, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
We still teach lessons, through Skype, Facebook, and other means to bring soul unto Christ. Missionaries will always be doing that.
Do you have any favorite stories from online proselyting?
Now don’t get me wrong-- sometimes we got people who clicked on the Mormon.org chat link to “troll” us. My favorite question the “trolls” asked was “How do magnets work?” The answer they were looking for is “miracles.” Those chats were always fun.
Although we got people who wanted to waste our time pretty often, we did have great successes. My favorite and most rewarding chat I had online was with a young woman who was an “active on paper” member of the church. She started out the chat by asking how I felt the Holy Ghost. I pulled scriptures about the Holy Ghost such as Galatians 5:22-23 and copy and pasted them from LDS.org. She said she didn’t want an answer from a book, she wanted an answer from me.
So I bore my testimony of how I felt the Holy Ghost. She told me she had never felt the Holy Ghost. The thought crossed my mind to ask her if she had done things in the past to stop her from feeling the Holy Ghost. She said she did, but that she had repented of it. The scripture mastery I had learned in Seminary came to my mind: “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:43)
I took this as a teaching opportunity. I asked her what it meant to her to repent. She said something along the lines of “Well, it’s when you feel bad about doing something so you stop and do it again.” I pasted the scripture into the chat box and told her repentance isn't just stopping doing what’s wrong--it’s also confessing your sins to a priesthood leader, if the severity of the sin was high enough. She said it was, but she couldn't repent because the bishop was her dad. At the time, I didn't think to tell her she could go to her stake president instead, but I testified and committed her to talking with her dad about what she had done. I asked her to add me on Facebook, as we did with most people we chat with, but I never heard from her again.
This young woman I chatted with online that day doesn’t know it, but that chat had a profound impact on my missionary service.
Elder Hill with one of his companions, Elder Minam Choe, who runs a missionary blog: AdventuresInUtahland.blogspot.com
What are the best ways members can help with online missionary work?
If your local missionaries have Facebook accounts for online activities, add them! Share their posts! Like and comment on their pictures, videos, etc. That is the biggest way members could help online missionaries.
I keep a missionary blog. You can read it at WakeUpAndDoSomethingMore.blogspot.com
I may not be able to add everyone who sends me a friend request, but feel free to follow me on Facebook.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell LDS Living readers?
Yes, I would like to give thanks to my Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ for calling me to be a part of this great work. I would also like to thank the members of the church for their love and support as we assist them in their missionary responsibilities as members of the church. We couldn't do it without them. Also, give the missionaries referrals. That would be great too!