A new online missionary pilot program brought in seven baptisms for one YSA stake.
The program also resulted in 59 lessons taught with ward missionaries and 221 people invited to learn more about the gospel between mid-March to late July, according to YSA 8th Stake records.
Based on those statistics, one out of every four people invited accepted an online invitation to learn more from the missionaries and a friend.
Stake President Greg Palmer, president of the Rexburg YSA 8th Stake, said Elder Bradford C. Bowen, the Area Seventy over the BYU-Idaho stakes, announced last spring that students can teach their online friends alongside ward and campus missionaries via Skype, Facetime, Facebook Video Calling or similar tools.
Palmer said The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is testing this new program with Rexburg YSA Stakes.
Students are to invite their friends and family to learn more about the gospel and teach lessons online alongside the ward or full-time missionaries, according to a handout given to ward mission leaders in the YSA 2nd Stake.
“We only teach the first two lessons, the restoration and the plan of salvation, and then it gets handed over,” said Sister Mcintosh, a full-time missionary assigned to the BYU-I stakes.
Students should continue to encourage, answer questions and read with the investigator after the transition, according to the handout.
“Sharing the gospel this way allows our friends to feel our love and a sense of safety as they step outside their comfort zones,” said Joel Cook, a senior studying exercise physiology.
Cook said he taught a friend online alongside missionaries this semester.
He said the friend he taught is related to a family he taught six years ago as a missionary.
“Just before the Fourth of July, I received a text from this family letting me know their oldest son had just passed away very unexpectedly in an accident,” Cook said.
He said he felt impressed to visit them, and talked with the family about the plan of salvation and the Atonement.
He said the last night he was with them he arranged for his friend to take the lessons online with him and the campus missionaries, telling his friend that the lessons would help her feel more peace.
Cook said during the lesson his friend asked sincere questions and offered her true thoughts.
“She was so happy at the end of our visit,” Cook said. “She requested permission to invite her co-workers and friends to the lessons.”
Palmer said Bowen requested stakes to track and report key indicators of social media missionary work.
Christian Martinez, a ward mission leader in the YSA 2nd Stake and a freshman studying biology, said posting a selfie of your friends at the temple can be an invitation.
“It’s more of an interest starter,” Martinez said. “I was on Facebook the other day, and I found out I have 500-and-something friends and about 300 of them I don’t know,” Martinez said.
Mcintosh said students should prayerfully consider which online friends to invite.
“It was interesting to see the effect it had on people I did not expect it to effect,” said Cooper Rutan, a sophomore studying computer science.