Today, the LDS Church held a historic broadcast to announce some bold new changes in its missionary program. The best part is the announcement that missionaries would be spending time on social media networks in an effort to improve missionary work.
Elder (L. Tom) Perry also announced changes Sunday in how missionaries will spend their time finding people to teach. Because many people prefer to connect online, missionaries will use the Internet and digital devices in their ministry, Elder Perry said. He noted that missionaries will use “mormon.org, Facebook, blogs, email, … text messages” and other platforms to reach out to people. “The Church must adapt to a changing world,” Elder Perry said.
Speaking earlier in the day to new mission presidents, Church leaders said that missionary use of the Internet and digital devices such as iPads will begin in phases and only in designated missions for the rest of this year. The Church anticipates these tools will be available to missionaries throughout the world sometime next year.
For me, this announcement should have been made a long time ago. I served as a Sign Language Missionary in the New York Rochester Mission from 2000-2002. The reason why this policy would have been helpful to me as a ASL missionary is because Deaf people communicate using different social media sites and other electronic communications devices. Most Deaf people I knew in Rochester communicated via text messages, e-mail, or used a number of social media sites to communicate. They also used videophones to contact one another. But we couldn't use any of these methods of communication which made it difficult to set appointments or get referrals or talk to them about Church related issues.
While many people are excited about this policy, I believe that American Sign Language missionaries will benefit the most from this program. When I got back from my mission, I continued to do missionary work with the ASL missionaries in San Diego and Anaheim. I frequently met with the Mission Presidents to advise them on how to improve the missionary work for Deaf missionaries. I also met with Church leaders in Salt Lake City to discuss way to improve the missionary work nation wide. One of the recommendations that I consistently suggested was allowing ASL missionaries to have access to the Internet and to be allowed to do missionary work online.
I believe that ASL missionaries are the most creative and innovative missionaries the Church has. We are constantly looking for new ways to share the gospel and for new ways to improve our lessons so that the Deaf people who investigate our religion will truly understand what they are learning. We constantly think out of the box. However, in my experience as an ASL missionary and in working with other ASL missionaries after my mission, other missionaries and Mission Presidents had difficulty in accepting the unique ways we tried to share the gospelrc. Now, with this new policy, I think it will be much easier for ASL missionaries to proselyte among the Deaf and to really let our creativity and passion for the work explode.
In addition to the new policy in allowing missionaries to use the Internet, the LDS Church is making a renewed efforts to get everyone in on doing missionary work and doing in on a united front. The LDS Church has been working hard to get members involved in the work. The Church has encourage members to join in on the missionary work online and unvieled new pass along cards for members to use that has a QR code that will link them to a website if the person scans the code on their smart phone or tablet.
I would like members invovled in the missionary work among the Deaf. We need your help. It is just as easy as doing regular missionary work online and you help out with the work internationally. I would like to recommend a few ways you can be invovled in helping share the gospel with Deaf people online. The LDS Church has great websites. Also, many members have already jumped in creating online material that you can suggest the Deaf people you meet to lean about the gospel. Below are some great sites:
- A website developed by a member of the LDS Church dedicated to helping Deaf people find their local LDS Church: http://www.deaflds.org/
- A facebook group for open for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, CODAs or people who communicate in some form of Sign Langague: LDS & ASL!!
- The LDS Church has made it so that Deaf people can attend institute online: https://studentview.ldschurch.org/Home.aspx/Home/64357
Although there are not too many websites dedicated to sharing the gospel to Deaf people, I think that with the new policy of allowing missionaries to use the Internet, more people will be involved in creating websites and social media sites to reach out to the Deaf.