This article was written by Victoria Bulson
Students in Rexburg are taking hold of a new missionary work program and finding creative ways to get involved in different aspects of the Lord’s work.
The Vineyard program is an online service program that focuses on sharing the gospel through social media, translation efforts, photography and family history.
“The program has been growing,” said Brendan Baca, a manager in the program and a junior studying exercise physiology.
Hannah Smith, a member of the YSA 2nd stake and junior studying psychology, said one stake tracking their social media missionary work saw people getting baptized because of their efforts.
“I started with online missionary work,” Baca said. “It was cool and fulfilling to help people learn different ways to share the gospel on social media. It has opened my mind to different possibilities. The internet is such a big place, and there are a lot of people on it.”
Baca said the translation section of The Vineyard was added last year. Students who speak various languages help translate materials for the Church.
Baca said the program has become more consistent and more people have gotten involved in the last year.
Smith and Laura Singleton, a senior studying art education, both shared positive experiences from sharing gospel-related messages on social media.
Smith said her stake has been tracking the number of gospel-related messages members share on social media and the results that come from them.
“In the past year we had nine baptisms just through them seeing things on social media,” Smith said.
Singleton said her ward’s committee for sharing the gospel has also helped increase the missionary work going on in the ward.
“I’ve liked and used a lot of the videos — especially Elder Holland’s videos — they’re great,” Singleton said.
She said she also shares gospel related artwork, on social media, even if it is not done by an LDS artist.
“Whenever I share a piece of artwork, a lot of my nondenominational Christian friends relate to those,” Singleton said. “I feel like it helps reach out to them more. I’m from Frederick, Maryland, so 90 percent of my friends aren’t Mormon.”
These messages reach out to the students here as well as friends back home. Singleton said the last gospel-related social media post she saw was from a girl in her ward.
“It was one from President Hinckley, and it was about not giving up, and for me it was a good reminder with midterms, just seeing that quote with a picture,” Singleton said.
Smith recently came across a video about the atonement that comforted her after her mother’s death. She shared her story and her testimony on Facebook, along with the video.
“I got, like, 42 likes from non-members who were commenting because they all knew my mom,” Smith said.
Smith said the most meaningful comment on her post was from her “second grandma,” Don, a strong Presbyterian. Smith has been good friends with Grandma Don for years and is always excited to see her. Smith said Grandma don put a heart on her posts.
“We bond over anything like that,” Smith said.
Smith said she avoided continuing conversations about the post after she shared it, but she had a place to share these thoughts that she hoped would uplift others.
“With social media, I’ve found that people aren’t afraid to point out their opinions because with that, you don’t really have the repercussions of a normal conversation, whether that be good or bad,” Smith said. “So I feel like this is a good thing because people can be terrified to death, like, my heart races every time I want to share my testimony on Facebook, and I’m like, ‘People aren’t gonna like it,’ and I’m like, ‘If they don’t like it, they’re not gonna like me, so whatever,’ so I post it.”