On Sunday, June 23, 2013, LDS leaders announced changes to the LDS missionary program, with most of the new focus directed to decreasing door-to-door contacting, and instead shifting attention to conversations on and teaching through Facebook and missionary blogs. The shift is to unfold gradually worldwide, having been piloted the past couple of years in several missions, and eventually Mormon missionary companionships will also employ iPads, with the use of other technologies possibly also on the horizon. How will these changes translate into actual practice? What are the most compelling reasons for opening the use of social media and other technologies to LDS mission work? With the gains, are there also losses? Will proselytizing in this new way lessen opportunities for some of the “quintessential mission experiences” (doors slammed in faces, being threatened, finding the golden contact on the very last street after being exhausted from days or weeks of frustration)? Will it fundamentally change the way missionaries shape the stories they tell? With the move to more social media use, the Church is obviously putting powerful tools in the hands of its young people, trusting them more than in the past. Missions now also employ a new leadership structure, mission councils, that include sister missionaries as formal mission leaders. Likewise, the Church is also emphasizing stake and ward councils that feature greater involvement of women leaders. Do all of these things signal a new era for Mormonism–a less hands-on, top-down form of leadership?
In this episode, panelists Emilee Cluff, Derrick Clements, Stephen Carter, and Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon explore these and other questions. We learn a lot about Facebook and blogging (how it works, what are its main focuses, rules and restrictions, successes and cautions?) as missionary tools from Emilee, who served in the California Santa Rosa Mission, one of those in which the programs were piloted. All in all, this is a great conversation that features great common sense as well as fun speculations.