(Photo: REUTERS/George Frey)
Members of the LDS Church have been given marching orders to do less door-to-door style recruiting and more social media networking, leaders of the Mormon faith announced at a meeting in Utah last weekend.
"The world has changed," said Mormon apostle L. Tom Perry, as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune covering the "historic" meeting Sunday. "The nature of missionary work must change if the Lord will accomplish his work."
Perry admitted that people are increasingly "less willing to let strangers into their homes. Their main points of contact with others is often via the Internet."
According to the Tribune, Perry said that LDS missionaries are now authorized to use the Web "during the less-productive times of day" and "chiefly in the mornings."
Using social media is nothing new to many Christian churches and pastors, who for the past several years, have shared the Gospel, announced church events, and engaged in theological discussions over Facebook and Twitter.
To be clear, Christian apologists say that though Mormons may use similar terms as evangelicals and Protestants when it comes to God, Jesus Christ and salvation, the LDS understanding of each of those terms differs greatly from historic Christian teaching.
Christians believe God is the infinite Creator of the entire universe who is always existent. The LDS Church teaches that God was literally a human being who was married and was raised to godhood and therefore created this world and populated it.
To Christians, Jesus Christ is the pre-existent, eternal, infinite God the Son and the second person of the Trinity. Mormons, meanwhile, believe Jesus was the physical firstborn son of God and his wife. There are many other distinct differences between Christianity and Mormonism.
Places of worship for Mormons that were normally closed during the week, will now be open so that LDS missionaries can offer tours to those interested and to use Wi-Fi to receive and contact interested "investigators," to confirm appointments and access social media tools, according to the Tribune.
"Access to the Internet by missionaries will be phased over several months and into the next years," Perry said. "Safety is paramount. We will monitor missionaries online to help them remain safe in all they do."
The meeting on Sunday featuring Perry and other speakers was for the 173 newly called LDS mission presidents, "the largest number ever to enter the global missionary force at one time, emphasized teamwork among the full-time missionaries and church members. The session also was open to all Mormons for the first time," the Tribune reported.
"What we as members are asked to do has not changed, but the way we fulfill these responsibilities must adapt to a changing world," Perry said.
Mormon 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."
According to the Tribune, the LDS Church has seen its missionary numbers skyrocket since October, when leaders reduced the age for full-time proselytizing service to 18 for men and 19 for women.