By Cecily Markland
Along with their ever-present scriptures and black and white nametags, fulltime missionaries in the Mesa Arizona Mission carry another important missionary tool—their own iPads.
The Mesa Mission is among only seven missions currently to be part of a pilot program to use iPads, Facebook, Skype and other tools for “online proselytizing.”
In the Church-wide broadcast, titled “Hastening the Work,” L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles introduced this idea saying that, for many people, their “main point of contact with others, even with close friends, is often via the Internet. The very nature of missionary work, therefore, must change if the Lord is to accomplish His work of gathering Israel ‘from the four corners of the earth.’”
Elder Perry explained, in order to accomplish this, “Access to the Internet by missionaries and the use of digital devices will be phased in over the next several months and into next year.”
He said missionaries would use the Internet … “to contact investigators and members, work with local priesthood leaders and mission leaders, receive and contact referrals, follow up on commitments, confirm appointments, and teach principles from Preach My Gospel using mormon.org, Facebook, blogs, email, and text messages.”
Sisters Kelci Fry and Alexandria White, both from Texas and serving in the Udall Ward of the Mesa Stake are excited to be involved in online proselytizing.
“I heard the broadcast a few weeks after I got my call, and I was so excited. The Internet has become one of Satan’s biggest tools, now the Lord is taking it back and using it for good,” Sister Fry says. “Now, we can reach the corners of the world. We don’t have to physically be there to take the gospel to someone anymore,”
“I knew having Facebook would make such a change in taking the gospel to my friends and family back home,” says Sister White.
The missionaries received training and “a whole packet” of instructions for using the Internet, including safeguards and measures to promote accountability.
The companions now spend an hour a day online.
“When we are online, our screens have to visible to our companion,” Sister White says, “and our companion has to proof our Facebook posts before we send them.”
Sister Fry adds, “We are Facebook friends with our Mission President and his wife, so they can see anytime, at any moment, what we post.”
As with any missionary efforts, the two feel accountable to the Lord for the way they spend their time online.
“This is a huge responsibility. This is massive,” Sister Fry says, adding, “To keep from spending countless time scrolling or doing nothing related to missionary work, I put a sticky note on my screen that says, ‘Is what I’m doing furthering my purpose?’”
The two have blogs, where they post regularly; and, through Facebook, they have been able to encourage friends who are considering serving missions, communicate with investigators and, “a less active friend and I read scriptures together and talk about them online every day,” Sister Fry says.
“We keep our Facebook posts short, simple and to the point, teaching so we can’t be misunderstood,” she adds, “and we do use hash tags, like #conference and #prophets.”
Another online tool, the Area Book Planner ap, has greatly simplified the tracking of investigators and reporting.
Some Mesa missionaries also serve in the Teaching Resource Center, making and answering calls in response to online inquiries and chatting with visitors to Mormon.org.
“Online proselytizing is really hastening the work,” Sister White says.
“It’s a marvelous work and a wonder, and it’s happening so fast.” Sister Fry says.
To learn how Church members can help, listen to “Hastening the Work” or read the text, at https://www.lds.org/training/wwlt/2013/hastening/special-broadcast