Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Analysis of LDS Mission and Missionary Sites

It is maddening to try to find information about each of the missions of the LDS Church since there is not one primary site that includes every aspect of mission work. The closest to a comprehensive mission site is the LDS Mission Network. The LDS Mission Network is the primary aggregator for most missions but some missions have individual websites which complicates finding all of them in one place. I don't understand why a few mavericks don't incorporate their individual sites under the LDS Mission Network umbrella since the aggregator encourages individual web administration by missionaries from each mission.

The LDS Mission Network has been a labor or love on the part of the those who have kept their mission sites alive for many years without much help. In terms of style there is not a professional stylized look that you find on many aggregators today. Although 80% of the mission sites use a template a few done prior to stylization have sites with different looks that aren't modern looking or very stylized giving the overall affect a kind of ragged appearance that distracts the viewer.

The picture sections on many mission sites are also full of after mission pictures which though they serve to keep missionaries up on their friends don't do much for the missionary zeal. I think there should be a mission section and after mission section for pictures. Also the story section is rather sparse and doesn't include many mission president recollections. This is unfortunate since mission presidents aren't participating in the sites and are losing the mission history and not helping raise up a new generation of mission presidents since much of the culture is lost. I think the lack of mission president literature is a serious deficiency and most sites are only one-dimensional in their treatment of a mission. A few try to include member information but most only focus on the missionaries themselves. The LDS Mission Network has a great potential if missionaries, members, and mission presidents all contributed even a little bit of information.

There are three other sites that draw on the LDS Mission Network for much of their content but have different views for finding information. I guess they prefer a different arrangement. These sites are LDS Missions.Com, Deseret News Mormon Times--Mission Life and YSite LDS Missionaries Around the Globe. I think mostly they want to drive hits to their sites before going on to the aggregator. There are three websites that cater to individual missionary information, which are LDS Mission.Com, Dear Elder and Mission Site Net.

Dave Stewart on the Cumorah website has some unique general information about membership in missions and various countries. He draws heavily from the CIA Factbook and Marc Schindler's International LDS Atlas as well as updates from the Church Almanac since Brother Schindler's death in 2003. In a Festschrift publication in Richard Lloyd Anderson's honor, David J. Whitaker outlines the significant published literature on LDS missions and their history in Mormon Missiology: An Introduction and Guide to the Sources.

The closest to a comprehensive website is the LDS Mission Network, which has been a labor of love since 1996 as many former alumni have kept track of their mission sites. Even though they list every mission some missions have independent sites which complicates there being an all-in-one site. The LDS Mission Network cites the LDS Newsroom that there are 350 missions in 162 countries. There are 209,772 alumni from the missions registered on the site. The 350 current missions are searchable from a world map divided into the following regions: Pacific, North America, Mexico & Central America, Caribbean, South America, South America, UK & Ireland, Europe, Africa, Russia Asia, Southeast Asia, Japan, Philippines, and Pacific. The site gives information about all 669 LDS Missions that have ever existed.

Another site of note is LDS Missions.com that organizes mission content slightly different but draws on the LDS Mission Network for specific mission links. Its contribution is the brief information about each missionary. The site adds the ability to Search by A Missionary, Find Missionaries that Served In..., Search for a Mission, Select A Mission. You can also search the site by country flag, by area, by country, or by a world map. There is no unique information about any mission but is organized by specific missionaries or the LDS Mission Network mission sites. Specific missionaries' directory has some interesting content in that a few missionaries have more recent photographs with their wives and kids etc. This area of the site is divided by Search for a Missionary, Find Missionaries That Served In..., Last Thirty Registered Missionaries, View Missionaries with Photos, View Recently Registered Missionaries, View Missionaries That Served in Multiple Mission, and LDS News, When you look at specific missions it is organized by missionaries. related missions, mission websites. It gives basic information about each missionary, which includes missionary name, an email link, mission, president(s), and missionaries that also served during this time. I don't like the commercial ads which are distracting that is why I prefer the LDS Mission Network. It also gives Yahoo maps to see the mission in geographic context. There are 21, 373 missionaries registered on the site,which is one tenth of the LDS Mission Network.

I actually like the Deseret News Mormon Times Mission Life section which has news stories and links to mission sites. They have an email link for missionaries to share their stories which are featured in boxes in the Mission Life section. On the left side of the page there is a survey of featured stories for 20 August 2008 included: New Albany News: Teen ready to pursue 'call' in Brazil; Mormon missionaries find rewards at home and abroad; In a silent world, seeking new souls; Inner-city mission taught love of neighbor; Missionary fought lupus to complete mission ;Men on a mission: Far from Utah, Mormons bring their faith home to Vermont. The main section has an exclusive article A Mormon Linebacker Tackles Las Vegas.

The site rearranges the content from The LDS Mission Network differently by arranging missions by continent in a section called Mission Journal. The six continents are North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.

They have each continent divided by country with all the missions under the country. A nice enhancement is you can see at a glance the alumni website, stories, and pictures. It really makes it helpful for me in doing slide shows to see the missionaries in pictorial action.

Since none of these sites have comprehensively list every mission site nor missionary site in one comprehensive place I have determined that I would attempt to put together a simplistic comprehensive listing that includes mission sites, missionary sites, pictures, stories, presidents, blogs and LDS articles about the missions from all the existing ones. This is a vast undertaking that might take me a few weeks so check my blog in a couple of weeks for possible information. I won't really solve the branding problem since the best I can do is a utilitarian listing which won't be too attractive.

I do have a criticism that the LDS Church has not provided an official site for one comprehensive attractive mission aggregator with stylized mission templates and sites and I suggest they create just such a section on their official site. I can't see that it would be much of a strain on the IT department under Joel Dehlin to create one. He can create mission systems with scenarios. A great deal of LDS history is being lost by the lack of support for missionary sites. If active sites existed mission reunion information could be kept updated as well as a documentary history of the missions with information from missionaries, mission presidents, members and even non-member investigators. I wonder if they lack of support contributes to many missionary reunions pettering out because there is little visible support within a few years of going home. There is also no consistency among mission presidents and their groups with the current system as some get involved and others just do nothing. If there was a little support officially we would have a stronger mission culture so more people would want to join the band of missionaries highlighted on the pages of the official site.

Wickipedia has a good general a nice general piece on Mission (LDS Church). The LDS Public Affairs Department Newsroom has several missionary related features, which include: Book of Mormon Reaches 140 Million Milestone
; Missionary Service Is a Family Affair;
We're Here to Serve; Missionaries Help Save Lives; Missionaries Fill Sandbags as Mississippi Rises; Helping Is Their Mission; Missionaries Help Neighbors Save Homes from Fires;Missionaries Help Protect Flooded Communities; First Latter-day Missionary Born 200 Years Today;Mormon Missions Have Lifelong Impact.

Although there are only a handful of articles each month the Newsroom tries to keep the missionary program in the minds of the media. With M. Russell Ballard wearing both hats as head of the Executive Missionary Committee and over Public Affairs it is easy to see why the theme is kept in the forefront.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Forget Yahoo Maps. They have stopped investing into it, and it shows. Use Google Maps instead.