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Church's Chat - Social Media, a missionary tool

As the world of social networking has made sweeping changes to the way we communicate, has adapted to embrace those changes.
The religious website, dedicated to informing the public about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has added a chat feature that enables those curious about the Church to have their questions answered online with the help of missionaries around the world.

Elder L. Tom Perry, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church, recently said in a worldwide broadcast to mission presidents, “The way in which we fulfill our responsibility to share the gospel must adapt to a changing world.”  He mentioned the use of social media, blogs, emails, text messages and the Church’s website as forms of reaching out to others. This embrace on technology is already proving a success in the lives of those interested in the Church.

Jayne’s Story

Jayne, from the Sherman, Texas area, first came across the Church’s website while searching for information on how to survive during a period of shortage and unrest. She said the hype surrounding the Mayan calendar led her to seek out material online. While Jayne did not personally believe December 2012 would be the end of the world, she said she was concerned for the panic that would be stimulated by the media. Jayne soon became enthralled with all the information she found available on the Church’s website.  “I read and I watched the videos that were available,” Jayne said. “I went to the Meet the Mormons link and read people’s stories of how they knew the Book of Mormon and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was true. The more I read, the more interested I became, and the more interested I became, the more I wanted to learn.”

Jayne went back daily to the website to soak in more information about the Church. It was during one of these daily searches when she noticed the chat button located atop the webpage. A bit cautious, she did not immediately initiate a chat that day, but as the desire to find out more increased, Jayne came back the next day to chat with Sister Virginie Cardona, a full-time missionary serving at the London LDS Temple’s Visitors’ Centre. “The Holy Ghost must have taken over because I cannot tell you what I wrote,” Jayne said. “I did write, and it may have been incoherent babble, but the Holy Ghost was translating so Virginie knew exactly what I was saying and she knew exactly what to say to me. I made a friend, and we talk weekly still.”

After their chat, Cardona asked if Jayne would be comfortable being contacted by missionaries in her area. Jayne agreed and soon met with sister missionaries who invited her to church with them, to which she accepted. The night before attending, though, Jayne said she was struggling to find sleep and had terrible dreams. She said she even contemplated not attending the meetings. As soon as she pulled up to the building, Jayne said she was greeted by a crowd of smiling faces, including those of the sister missionaries, and felt at ease.

“I felt in my heart that I was in the right place, that this is where I needed to be. This was where Heavenly Father wants me,” Jayne said.  The nights following her attendance proved to be challenging as well, as Jayne said she continued to have bad dreams and unrest. She then turned to prayer and the scriptures. She said she asked the Lord to give her peace, faith and trust.  “That night, there was sleep,” Jayne said. “No bad dreams, no questions and yes, there was peace, a peace that comes when you are in the presence of the Holy Ghost. I knew that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was true, I know that the gospel that the Church teaches is true and complete and most of all, I know that I do belong here. I am at peace here. I feel Heavenly Father’s love here and it is radiated through every member of the Church.”

Gary’s Story

Gary Vahey, from the Staines area, first became interested in the Church after watching an episode of South Park, an American animated sitcom that displays a negative view of the Church. Curious, Vahey went online to to find out more information about the Church. It was there that he began chatting with Sister Amanda Wilkinson, a missionary serving in the Palmyra visitors’ centre located in New York. “The only thing I knew [about the Church] was what I had seen on South Park, and I was in disbelief that anyone could believe it,” Vahey said. “My initial question was just to ask them about this guy who dug up golden plates and to ask if they honestly believe that. It was a surreal experience because after an hour of chatting, I was quite stunned and taken aback. My intention was to just have a bit of fun and ask how they could believe that, and after an hour I made a promise I would read the Book of Mormon.”

Vahey and Wilkinson remained in contact for four months emailing back and forth as he learned about the Church. At the end of the four-month period, Vahey agreed to meet with the missionaries.  A few months later, Vahey committed to baptism and invited Wilkinson to attend.  “I told Amanda I set a date to be baptized and I invited her to attend,” Vahey said. “I didn’t think she’d actually be able to come. If it were not for the passion and the dedication she had for the Church, I would have lost interest a long time ago. I believe that if it were anyone else or someone less enthusiastic than her, I don’t think I would have stayed. She put a personal touch on it when she taught me. Because everyone is different, some people just need to be made aware how much relevance the gospel has to them and their particular circumstances. There’s not just a one size fits all when it comes to teaching people the gospel.”

Vahey was baptized in January 2013. He said the missionary chat on provided him the answers to the questions he may have never asked.  “I am convinced there are a lot of people who, like me, might not even realize they have questions and who may not be prepared to ask a missionary questions face-to-face,” Vahey said. “The missionary chat provides a way of getting started on that path without being too invasive. A lot of people are nervous about putting themselves out there and don’t want to ask questions because they perceive that as a weakness, and the chat helps them to keep a low profile.”

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