Online Mormon missionaries outperform traditional proselytizers

THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE

Published: April 9, 2014 05:57PM
Updated: April 9, 2014 03:29PM
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Kim Raff | The Salt Lake Tribune LDS missionaries Elders Tyler McCord, left, and Devin Duke sit by the reflecting pool at Temple Square during the 183rd General Conference of the LDS Church in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Oct. 7, 2012. The day before, church President Thomas S. Monson had announced lower age limits for Mormon missionaries — 18 (down from 19) for men and 19 (down from 21) for women.

Online Mormon missionaries, often discussing their faith with anonymous seekers and trolls, have five times the success of traditional LDS proselytizers.

“Whereas traditional Mormon missionaries convert, on average, six people during their 18- to 24-month service, the online apostles in Provo have averaged around 30 converts per missionary per year,” Gideon Burton, a professor at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University, told The Huffington Post. “And these people stick around. Ninety-five percent of the Internet converts “have kept active, a retention rate more than triple the norm.”

Those are impressive numbers, Burton told Huffington. These online missionary statistics were “equal to the highest-baptizing missions that are out there.”

The program, called “Chat with a Mormon,” began in 2008, with a handful of missionaries specifically called to the Referral Center Mission at Provo’s Missionary Training Center.

The online missionaries draw on LDS scripture, speeches by church authorities and other official publications to provide answers to the questions posed, according to an earlier story in The Salt Lake Tribune. If a person is interested, the missionary can lead him or her through a whole series of doctrinal discussions, follow up at a future time and even set a baptism date.

Now online missionaries have been added in the United Kingdom, Mexico and New Zealand, the Huffington story reported, so that “anyone can instantly reach a missionary whenever the urge strikes, and in a two-dimensional format many already know and love.”

The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the story said, “is doing for religion what Amazon did for stuff: embracing the Web to make shopping for a new faith easy, convenient and accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”