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Facebook Missionaries

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While I love that more missions have opened up to using facebook for missionary outreach, I have to confess some of it seems less than genuine.

I've noticed an uptick in friend requests from missionaries who have served in my stake/area, but who have never worked with me, and some who have never even met me!  They probably just see a double digit of mutual friends and go for the add.  While that rolls my eyes, I usually decline the request and go about my day. 

Recently, I was added to a local history group on facebook.  I'm not from the area I currently live in, so it's been kind of neat to see some of the posts there.  A few weeks ago, I saw a post from someone saying they were new to the area, interested in history, and asked for some places to visit.  After seeing the OP's responses to some of the suggestions, I became curious and checked out their profile.  Yep, it was a missionary.  And, I don't know why, but suddenly I felt that the OP had "baited" people into a discussion about history.  I was left with the impression that they would immediately respond to anyone who reached them with a PM about Church history in the area and it all felt....disingenuous. 

I know if someone did that to me, got me talking about something I was interested in, only to have the other party slam me into something only marginally related, it wouldn't leave me with a favorable taste for the second topic. 

That said, I'm loving the area missionary pages and the interactions they're having with local members.  Virtual tours, highlighting talents and testimonies of members and missionaries alike, it's all very uplifting.

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Our church has around a decade or so worth of efforts to have missionaries be effective online.  They've met with limited success, and produced more than a few, call it, less-effective efforts.   It's about being genuine, and also being relevant.  Miss one, and it doesn't really matter how much the other is working, your efforts will be lacking.

A failed experiment from years ago, a stake president somewhere started sending his missionaries here to this forum.  They were genuine, but struggled with relevance.  They started sending private messages to random posters, would show up in threads about topics with a bunch of "Hi I'm a missionary do you have any questions".  We eventually had to ban some of the Lord's annointed because they wouldn't stop violating forum rules.  The decision went up to a General Authority if I remember correctly.

So yeah, the struggle to be effective online is real.   

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Like all other venues, sincerity and respecting people really matter on the virtual venue too.

For recent years, there's been a trend (at least in the USA) that it's easier to talk super private things online, where you have the anonymous and option to leave completely at any point.  So a lot of people are actually more comfortable talking faith online rather than having a physical person in their house.  COVID has completely ramped that up to the extreme.

You can have really good ones: like there's a missionary who serves in my ward whom I've never met who's very active poster, putting out really high quality spiritual and slice-of-life stuff.  He posts on his personal page and also the ward page, and I see a lot of it that way and through my ward friends "liking" things.  

And then you have the lame spammers too.

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Back in the 2000s, my local and stake priesthood leadership were largely of the opinion that the internet was comprised of e-mail, the church website, and porn. If a person wasn't doing e-mail or the church website, they were likely up to no good. Thus, parents needed to be hyper-vigilant and question everything. 

I was, so near as I can tell, literally the only person in the stake using the internet to talk with people about the church. 

At the time, merely self-identifying as a member of the church could bring death threats. That's how overtly hostile the internet was to the church, and there were precious few resources we could use to counter this hatred. The church website was barely functional even on a good day, and apologetics websites were few and far between. Those of us who were members had to quickly find each other, band together, and brace for onslaught, as we were on our own. 

I think you can understand why I have to bite my tongue whenever I see people nowadays going on and on about how great and awesome the internet is and how the Bloggernacle just magically appeared out of nowhere as a symbol of power. 

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23 hours ago, Ironhold said:

Back in the 2000s, my local and stake priesthood leadership were largely of the opinion that the internet was comprised of e-mail, the church website, and porn. If a person wasn't doing e-mail or the church website, they were likely up to no good. Thus, parents needed to be hyper-vigilant and question everything. 

I had a similar experience in 2008.  I met a handful of people who formed a group that built each other's testimonies, but we were all online.  One of the members of our stake presidency said, from the pulpit at conference, that facebook was bad news and anyone considering serving a mission should delete their account.  We had an Institute lesson one night, I forget what about, exactly, but it prompted me to email the instructor (who was on the stake high council) about my experience with online friends.  He thanked me for sharing my experience with him, and asked if he could share it with the stake presidency.  I of course agreed and now that same (now released) member of the stake presidency is very active on facebook.  It's all about responsible internet use.

There was also a girl in my YSA ward who found the Church and was baptized because of discussions she had with missionaries on mormon.org back when that was a thing.  So, it's not like it's an impossible thing to do.  Just have to be genuine about your reasons for forming the relationships.  If you meet someone, in person or online, with the sole purpose of getting them baptized, it usually doesn't lead to a lasting conversion.  Whereas, if you meet someone with the hope that your relationship with them will bring them closer to Christ, you're more likely to see those results stick.

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