[The following is a letter from the Church Missionary Department dated Jan. 23, 2015 to Parents and Leaders of missionaries – current and future]
As parents and leaders, you can help missionaries use technology wisely. Below are some principles and information that can help you do so.
1. How Are Missionaries Using Technology?
The rapid growth of technology is leading to necessary changes in missionary work. Elder L. Tom Perry explained: “When I was a young missionary, we were able to speak with contacts on the street and knock on doors to share the gospel. The world has changed since that time. . . .People are involved in the busyness of their lives. . . . 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” (“Missionary Work in the Digital Age” [worldwide leadership training meeting, June 2013]; lds.org/broadcasts).
As part of this change, missionaries in approved missions can use technology, including mobile devices, in their work. Mobile devices and the Internet are intended to assist missionaries in applying the principles taught in Preach My Gospel. Missionaries in approved missions can use approved apps and websites, including Gospel Library, Mormon.org, Facebook, Skype, and others. Over time, there may be adjustments to the approved resources missionaries can use.
As guided by the mission president, missionaries use technology to:
• Plan: Special digital planning tools help with goals, schedules, lessons, and reporting.
• Learn: The Gospel Library and other apps help a missionary spiritually prepare to teach.
• Find: Facebook and blogs help in finding and communication efforts.
• Teach: Messaging and videoconferencing apps, such as Facebook Messenger and Skype, help a missionary teach when in-person interaction is not possible.
• Communicate: Email and other apps help missionaries coordinate with leaders, follow up effectively with investigators, and maintain long-term contact with recent converts.
2. How Can Missionaries Safely Use Technology?
Church leaders have set policies, training programs, and filters to help keep missionaries safe and develop righteous habits while using technology. Before receiving a device or proselyting online, every missionary must complete special training and pass an Internet safety course. In this training, missionaries are taught to follow these principles:
1. Focus on the missionary purpose.
2. Ensure your safety.
3. Focus on your assigned area.
4. Follow the principles of Preach My Gospel.
5. Be accountable.
These principles are taught and reinforced during a missionary’s service. Missionaries will account to their mission president, who can monitor device usage through special reports.
Authorized mobile devices that missionaries purchase will have filters intended to prevent accidental exposure to inappropriate content. However, a missionary’s heart and mind will ultimately determine how he or she uses technology. Sister Linda S. Reeves of the Relief Society general presidency taught, “Filters are useful tools, but the greatest filter in the world, the only one that will ultimately work, is the personal internal filter that comes from a deep and abiding testimony of our Heavenly Father’s love and our Savior’s atoning sacrifice for each one of us” (“Protection from Pornography—a Christ-Focused Home,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 16).
You will have a positive impact on current and future missionaries as you reinforce the principle that their hearts and minds are the best filters.
3. How Should Parents and Leaders Support the Use of Technology?
Parents and Leaders of Current Missionaries
As you support missionaries from home, you have a tremendous influence on the way they use technology. Remember that mission presidents hold priesthood keys to direct the work of their missionaries. As the mission president changes approved apps, sites, and uses of technology, be sensitive to and support both the adjustments and the mission president.
If your missionary is currently serving, use the following guidelines to help him or her focus on—not be distracted from—the missionary purpose:
• Continue your regular communication on preparation day through postal mail or your
missionary’s MyLDSMail account. These communications are a great opportunity to
encourage missionaries to maintain focus on their purpose.
• You may “friend” or “follow” a missionary on Facebook; however, communicate with the missionary only through weekly letters or emails.
• You may become “friends” with a missionary’s investigators on Facebook and provide
support by offering encouragement or answering questions.
• Be cautious about what you post on blogs or personal Facebook pages. Do not post emails from a missionary that contain personal details about investigators, comments that are intended only for the family, or other information not intended for public distribution.
Parents and Leaders of Prospective Missionaries
The habits missionaries form while using technology before their missions will deeply affect their service. As you work with prospective missionaries, consider how you can encourage them to do the following:
• Develop habits using technology that are purposeful, disciplined, and safe.
• Explore the Church’s resources for sharing the gospel using technology (see, for example, “Sharing the Gospel Online”; lds.org/church/share).
• Use social media, email, or other messaging apps as missionary tools.
Refer to the following resources for additional information:
• M. Russell Ballard, “Be Still, and Know That I Am God” (Church Educational System
devotional, May 4, 2014); lds.org/broadcasts.
• David A. Bednar, “To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood” (Brigham Young University
Campus Education Week address, Aug. 19, 2014); lds.org/prophets-and-apostles.
• Quentin L. Cook, “Choose Wisely,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 46–49.
• L. Tom Perry, “Missionary Work in the Digital Age” (worldwide leadership training
meeting, June 2013); lds.org/broadcasts.
• Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “A Matter of a Few Degrees,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 57–60