Wednesday, February 23, 2011

LDS Church Approved Blogging Missionaries: New York Rochester Mission First Pilot Program

This week I was contacted by one of officially approved blogging missionaries from the New York Rochester Mission who is involved in a pilot program for the LDS Church. Sister Michele Watts, a senior couples missionary, came across my missionary aggregator Mormon Mission World and was perplexed why there were so many missionary blogs. She told me that it was against missionary instructions for missionaries to blog and where did all these mission blogs I have come from.I informed her that missionaries do not officially blog but their parents, siblings, girl friends or boy friends post the missionary's weekly email on such blogs. She then informed me that she was one of the only officially sanctioned missionaries that were assigned on their mission to use the Internet to contact investigators through the use of either a Word Press or Blogger blog and a Facebook page.

Sister Watts told me that the New York Rochester Mission president Michael Hemmingway had completed his three yer term and was now headed to work at the LDS Church Missionary Department to head up a section devoted to missionaries blogging officially throughout the world. In addition she told me that Hemingway would be working with five other mission presidents to pilot the program in their missions and it might even eventually become a worldwide program. She said that she and her fellow missionaries were linked together from her page.

That intrigued me and perplexed me since I had not come across one single blog from the New York Rochester Mission in my hunt for missionary blogs and believe me if it is out there I normally would find it. Not even my ultimate tool Blog Pulse had spidered them nor Google so I was baffled. Finally I resorted to my best trick of ferreting out hard to find blogs and I clicked on her followers. There were three or four missionaries following her from her mission. I went to their profiles and found the rest of the missionaries. I thought to myself she needed to use the blogger feature of adding a Blog List to feature the Rochester missionaries.

I read briefly about the program when Scott Taylor of the Deseret News wrote about it in July 2010 but I didn't see any real activity until now.  Taylor described how the missionaries would use Facebook:

But the church's missionary department is experimenting with its missionaries, using social networking to make contacts and create conversations with individuals who might be interested in the LDS faith.

Or, in social-networking terms, to get connected.

"We felt that this is where the world is, this is the new 'town square,' " said Ron Wilson, the department's manager of Internet and marketing. "The only way to find out is to test it."

The preliminary test program — which is currently called "Missionaries on the Internet" — was started in late May in the LDS Church's New York Rochester Mission.

Its guiding principle is simple: The missionaries selected to participate can go online if they don't have any effort more productive, such as teaching, following up on previous contacts, checking out referrals or meeting or working with members.

And this e-contacting is expected to be more productive than tracting, so the missionaries are allowed to go to the keyboard before going door-to-door.

Participating missionaries use Internet-linked computers at a local meetinghouse or a visitor center adjacent to one of the several LDS historical sites in the Rochester Mission.

A companionship of two missionaries sits side-by-side at the computer, one safeguard being that they work in tandem in composing posts and reviewing responses.

Another security is what Wilson calls "community policing." All participating missionaries are Facebook "friends" with each other and the mission president, meaning all their Facebook activity is easily accessible by the others.

The online activity is a deviation from church policy for its missionaries, which restricts computer use to exchanging e-mails with home and accessing church Web resources and

The other exception is the "chat" missionaries — based at the Provo Missionary Training Center — who answer questions and queries at the LDS Church's website.
There really wasn't one accessible place to find them so I decide to put this post together. I don't know who the original twelve were.

The following list of New York Rochester missionaries and their blogs are online and officially blogging:

(returned home)

585.905.9896 (Mobile)
(Facebook page defunct, returned home)

(returned home)

 Elder Tyler Southam (Facebook)
"Go Ye Into All The World" (Blogspot)

 Elder Jace Stoker (Facebook)
Understanding Who You Are (Blogspot)

 Sister Morgan Stoker (Facebook)
Repent. Change. Move On. (Blogspot)

 Sister Katelyn Stone (Facebook)
On A Candlestick (Word Press)

  Elder Nathan Sutterfield (Facebook)
Come and See (Blogspot)

 Elder Ryan Swaner (Facebook)
Messenger of Christ (Blogspot)

 Elder Niles Tanner (Facebook)
Thoughts of a Traveling Missionary (Blogspot)

 Elder Zebadiah Teichert (Facebook)
Truth from Heaven (Blogspot)

Sister Deborah Teuscher (Facebook)
My Life and My Light (Blogspot)

I contacted Michael Hemingway by email to let him know I was willing to help out in any way with the program.  A few of the blogs could use enhancing so I was willing to give them a few pointers from my experience and help them redesign their blogs. The former mission president probably doesn't think he needs any help since he lists himself as being a former newspaper, radio and television executive.  It is not the same thing to have a top blog nor to drive traffic to a blog.  I am not sure just because you handled one form of media that they are the same.

The missionaries are using Facebook more effectively to get their message out in my opinion.  Their blogs don't have too many comments.  But the truth is I believe they need both since many people will not befriend a Mormon missionary on Facebook but might very well comment anonymously on a blog.  I like their two-pronged approach and hope they give it sufficient time to see on the next round.

The missionaries seem to favor Facebook since it is a slicker looking interface and doesn't take as much work as Blogger or Word Press.  The only problem with Facebook is that people have to confirm you as a friend and it is more difficult to just drop in and it requires people confirming you.  I noticed that the blogs weren't getting too many comments so I suggested to Sister Watts that they comment on each others posts to get a discussion going.

There may be 300,000,000 people on Facebook but according to Blog Pulse there are  141,332,379 blogs so I wouldn't sell blogs short.  I believe the blog supports their Facebook page. I use Facebook personally to drive traffic to my personal blog Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.   The missionaries need to continue doing the same thing.  Just like a few of the missionaries I use the Network Blog application.  I also use Twitter Feed to Tweet my new blog posts.  I don't actually go on Twitter and Tweet I just use Twitter to put the word out that I have posted something.  I probably have four hundred followers.  Many who aren't even Mormon so the missionaries could find a few possible investigators the same way.

I hope by getting the word out that a few of us can support the effort and send our friends these missionaries way.  I think there is some real potential in taking on the world by these few dozen missionaries who will be officially blogging in the Lord's service.


Patmos Pete said...

Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

Anonymous said...

That's great news! It's definitely time. I hope they are able to make a positive impact.

Do you know how much time they are asked to blog a week? Any word on the logistics?

Ryan Murri said...

A few groups are doing this unofficially as well (Clayton Christensen, one of the San Diego Stakes, etc). There is more benefit to blogging about the church than just finding potential investigators. It also creates a digital footprint that ends up on Google's radar and starts ranking mormon-friendly sites higher than anti-mormon sites. That way when non-members google "mormon" or other key words or phrases out of curiosity, they are flooded with good content like this blog. Where can I find Michael Hemmingway's contact info? I would like to suggest some things.

Dr. B said...

President Hemingway's email is

Flavio said...


For Full Time Missionaries

Rhonda Cook said...

I am excited to find this site. I am the mom of Elder Danny Cook, one of the Elders who are approved to use facebook and blogs to move this work forward. Elder Cook has had success in finding and teaching people from his FB. I think he could use help with both FB and Blog. He has over 300 people on his Scripture Study group and that is going very well. Check it out and tell me what you think.!/group.php?gid=128817153806990&ref=mf
I am not s bloger but have one. But I want to help my son on this new adventure of Internet missionary work. I have been trying to get his blog "Out there" but really didn't know how. What is the best way to help these Elders out? They can go on every day depending on time. But their time is limited. Thanks for your help. Please do what you can to help. Thanksn

newellista said...

My son is serving in the Dominican Republic. I have created a blog for him as a way disseminating his emails to friends and families.

It hadn't occurred to me that his blog may be a way of furthering missionary work.

I'd be interested in a followup post discussing things we could do to enhance the blog and make it a more effective tool for spreading the Gospel and enhancing the Church's image.

Ryan Murri said...

@ Rhonda Cook and newellista: There are a couple of things you can do to increase the popularity of your blog. The first is to link your blog to all of your other sites (i.e. facebook, twitter, etc.).

The second is just to let all of your friends know.

The third takes more work. It includes reading and commenting on others' blogs. People like comments on their blogs. If you add value by commenting on their blogs then they may start reading yours and they may even share it with their followers via their rss feeder.

Anonymous said...

The More Good Foundation is a group independent of the Church which tries to monitor the LDS internet presence. They have lots of great resources to help people get involved and start blogging. Check it out!

Anonymous said...

Another unofficial effort to blog has been started in California. They've created a few different websites. Check out Escondido Mormons.

What really helps the effort is linking to blogs and posts and making comments on them. The more inbound links, the higher the Google Pagerank. Please get involved!

Sister Jones said...

I'm one of the missionaries working on this new effort. The best thing people can do for us is read our blogs, comment on our posts, get your friends to read our blogs, and help us find people to teach. After all, missionaries are supposed to be full-time teacher while the members should be full-time finders. Doesn't change even when we're online.

Rhonda Cook said...

Here is a comment about FaceBook from my sons last email.
So FACEBOOK! The latest and greatest thing to say about FB is that it’s working. It’s doing what the brethren hoped it would do. That is, to increase the work with whatever resource available. We are working hard on reporting our efforts. We submit a report of our activity everyone and a while. The biggest way it helps me is simply the easy constant daily connection to all my current investigators. I use it to schedule multiple appointments at a time and answer and ask them questions from the same location. It’s a missionary dream. Answer multiple questions to multiple investigators at the same time with,, videos, talks, and everything right at my fingertips. It’s amazing. And we still balance out being ZL's in a trio covering two areas at a very busy time in our mission, with the new president doing the new trainings.

gospelofjoy said...

Hey everyone! I'm one of the online missionaries in the New York Rochester Mission, and I can't tell you how excited I was to find this whole post about us!

Elder Nelson once said: "We are blessed to be living in such an exciting gospel dispensation. God is inspiring the minds of great people to create inventions taht further the work of the Lord in ways this world has never known."

How cool to see that on the internet!

--Sis. Meaders,

Paul H. Erwin said...

Thank you so much for advertizing our blogs and facebooks! This has really helped the online work we are striving to create!

Anonymous said...

Hi1 I just got my calling for the Rochester New York Mission and I am so excited to start! I was Surprised when I received an email from my Mission President saying that I would be an online missionary.I'm so Excited I report to the MTC in July!