The reaction to yesterday’s two-hour Worldwide Leadership Broadcast on missionary work has been mixed. Given the pre-broadcast hype, some viewers were undewhelmed; others were impressed. Our friends at BCC live-blogged the event with reader comments ranging from cynically dismissive to excited and energized. Below I’ll give links to media and LDS coverage, offer my own summary, then add some commentary.
Given that one theme of the new broadcast was that missionaries will now be given increased access to computers, iPads, online social networks, email, and the Internet, it seems right to list links to online coverage of the broadcast.
- At the Deseret News, “Innovations announced in missionary work at LDS worldwide broadcast,” noting “innovative approaches to missionary work, including the use of the Internet by full-time missionaries in their work and the opening of local meetinghouses to guided tours.”
- At Meridian Magazine, “Mormon Leaders Emphasize Missionary Work at Worldwide Broadcast,” summarizing Elder Perry’s remarks: “[M]issionaries will use the Internet and digital devices in their ministry, Elder Perry said. He noted that missionaries will use ‘mormon.org, Facebook, blogs, email, text messages’ and other platforms to reach out to people. ‘The Church must adapt to a changing world,’ Elder Perry said.”
- At KSL, “Missionaries to begin using social media,” stating that “LDS missionaries across the world will soon start using the Internet and social media to find investigators of their faith. … They will also spend a portion of their time in LDS chapels, giving tours and answering questions from people who may be interested in their faith.”
- At the Salt Lake Tribune, “Mormon missions: Door-to-door approach is out; Internet is in.” That about sums it up: tracting is dead; long live Facebook, blogs, and the Internet.
- The LDS Newsroom offers its own coverage, “Mormon Leaders Emphasize Missionary Work at Worldwide Broadcast,” adding additional information from an earlier session: “Speaking earlier in the day to new mission presidents, Church leaders said that missionary use of the Internet and digital devices such as iPads will begin in phases and only in designated missions for the rest of this year. The Church anticipates these tools will be available to missionaries throughout the world sometime next year.”
- The broadcast is available at the new Hastening the Work of Salvation website, which also provides pages and short video clips directed specifically to priesthood leaders, ward councils, ward mission leaders, and member missionaries.
A Few Additional Points
As noted in the media stories, full-time missionaries will soon be given greater access to computers and iPads to communicate with ward members and investigator contacts as well as to use social networks and the Mormon.org chat function to proselyte and teach online. This will be rolled out over the next year and a half. What else was covered in the meeting? From my notes:
- LDS chapels and stake centers will now be unlocked during the week, with missionaries giving tours to interested parties. Missionaries will be spending more time in LDS chapels, studying and using online tools for communication and teaching.
- Members were directed to become Facebook friends with local missionaries. Sounds like each missionary will have a personal Facebook page, which raises some interesting issues.
- With increased emphasis on member missionary effort, the Ward Mission Leaders get more attention, although they do not hold any keys. The bishop holds the missionary work key. Which doesn’t mean the work of the Ward Mission Leader is any less important or detracts in any way from his mandate to accomplish the tasks assigned, but it’s just very important to note that he doesn’t hold any keys.
- Elder Packer encouraged members to live in such a way that you can depart from the script and follow the Spirit when you teach. Gospel Doctrine teachers, take note.
- President Monson, appearing by video, cited the Great Commission in Matthew, adopted David O. McKay’s “every member a missionary” motto, and announced that now is the time for members and missionaries to come together. Come together, right now. One and one and one is three.
Some people have been underwhelmed by the broadcast and thought it was overhyped, but it was obviously a very effective way to draw everyone’s attention to the broadcast and to highlight a renewed appeal to members to reach out and support the growing LDS missionary corps. Hey, we’re all talking about it, and it is getting wide media coverage. In terms of getting people’s attention and getting the message to the intended audience, this was an A+.
I have argued before that labor/capital mix of the LDS missionary operation has too much labor and not enough capital. If you want to make them effective, give every missionary team a vehicle, an office, and communication tools like cell phones and computers. The changes just announced are a significant step in that direction: missionaries will get iPads, use email, and use LDS chapels something like offices. The result should be that the productivity of missionary labor will go up. This seems like a real step forward.
It is said that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. The same holds true for this new missionary plan: as it is rolled out, there will be some modifications. Some things will work well, some not so well, and one or two things might work out rather badly. It seems like we’re expecting additional maturity and discipline from our full-time missionaries as they are given new freedom to use email, social networks, and the Internet — while at the same time we are now sending out younger missionaries. Consider, for example, that some new missionaries will be younger than some of the high school seniors in the wards they are assigned to work with. Risky as some of these changes may be, there really is no other way to move forward. As Elder Perry said: “The Church must adapt to a changing world.” We’re adapting.