In the current COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, many missionaries are being forced to stay in their homes and apartments, and do what they can digitally to find and teach and invite people to follow the Savior Jesus Christ. This has been a struggle for many missionaries, so much so that the Church announced in Spring 2020 that some missionaries will be given the option to be reassigned with their original mission end date OR they can temporarily suspend their mission and return to service within 12–18 months with a new end date.
For those missionaries choosing to stay and work digitally for the next for weeks or months, I want to share what some other missionaries are doing in this situation as well as some other advice and tips. The first two reactions are from my nephews who are serving full-time missions and the next two sections are advice from old people, a friend who works at the MTC and myself. Scroll to keep reading or click the link to jump to each person’s advice.
- Reaction from Nicholas Smith, serving in the Layton Utah mission
- Reaction from Thomas Smith, formerly of the Concepción Chile mission, now awaiting reassignment
- Ideas from my friend who works at the MTC
- Ideas for missionaries working digitally from me, Jimmy Smith
Nicholas Smith Email – March 23, 2020
“WOW this COVID-19 has gotten crazy! So Monday and Tuesday were pretty normal missionary days. We found two new people to teach and Tuesday night we went on exchanges. Then 10:22pm hits and bam! Bombshell = dropped. We got an email from the mission president saying that we are to use technology as our only means of interact with the outside world effective immediately. So yes I’m quarantined now.
“We’ve been having a lot of lessons over Zoom. We’ve also been working on finding effective ways to use Facebook to find new people to teach. With all the changes the church is putting out a lot of the missionaries here are going home including my greeny, Elder _____. He has asthma and so they’re making him go home. It sad to see him go.
“COVID-19 has really changed up the way that missionary work works. We have almost daily updates on what to do to keep ourselves safe and healthy. Despite all the obstacles we currently face as missionaries I’m just excited. I’m starting to understand even more why I was called to be a missionary to this place at this time. I know I was sent here for a reason and that God needs my talents at this time to help hasten his work. There’s nothing that can stop the work of the Lord. I know this and I hope everyone knows this. I can’t wait to see what the next couple months bring!”
Nicholas Smith Email – March 30, 2020
“It’s been a crazy week guys, the missionaries here keep dropping like flies. Don’t be too worried, none of them are actually sick but the church is being extremely cautious when it comes to the safety of their missionaries. One of our best missionaries in the district returned home this week. It was sad to see him go. On a happier note work is really starting to pick up here! We’re figuring out how missionary work “works” under the new quarantine rules. I’ve had to actually learn how to use Facebook (can’t wait for Corona to go away so I can delete it again). I still haven’t seen much success come from it but we’re still in our trial and error phases of Facebook.
“The greatest success we’re seeing is member work. Yes, you heard that right folks, actually working with members. How does that work you ask. Well, let me tell you. We set up some lessons with members, we share a 20ish minute lesson with them and set up a return appointment with the members in a week. At the end of our lesson we say “Is there anyone that you know that really could use a message of peace through Christ right now? Do you think that you could invite them to join our call next week?” and just like that we turned the members into missionaries.”
It doesn’t necessarily come through in his email, but Nick’s mom says he’s going stir crazy, trying to keep busy and productive while staying at home and to please keep him in your prayers!
Nicholas Smith Email – April 27, 2020
“Today we are having a baptism for our friend _____! We’re really excited for her. We have only been able to teach her over Zoom (digital video conferencing) and it’s incredible to me that we’re able to help people come closer to Christ without ever meeting with them face to face. I know that the work of the Lord won’t and can’t be frustrated by anything. Not an earthquake, some virus or anything else that tries to get in the way. The Lord has given us the tools we have for this specific time to accomplish the work He asked us to help him with. I plan on doing all that I can to help the Lord with his work. Yes there are many set backs and new things to figure out but with the Lord, all things are possible.”
Thomas Smith Email – March 30, 2020
“Good morning all of you beautiful people. Elder Smith here is back in Illinois safe and sound after roughly three days of traveling through airports. It’s cool being home, although it is a bit strange. I am still trying to do missionary work, although that definitely doesn’t look the same as I am under quarantine. I’m going to try to keep my Facebook page updated with uplifting messages or something while I’m here.
“If anyone here wants me to teach them about Jesus and the Book of Mormon, feel free to let me know, because I can’t really do much else. That includes people that are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints too. I would love the chance to talk to you guys again and share some sort of message. I’m allowed to do so through video calls.”
I asked Thomas to give me more details on how he is coping as well as any tips he has for other missionaries that have to find and teach people digitally. Once he sends me those, I’ll post them here.
Tips from My Friend Who Works at the MTC
I have been having an email dialog with a friend that works at the MTC and he had some good thoughts I wanted to share. First, he said to remember that regular mission rules are still in effect for missionaries in quarantine, unless their mission president has given specific exceptions. Missionaries should still follow their prescribed daily schedule, except, of course, the part that says to leave the apartment at a specific time. Here are some of his ideas for missionaries to productively pass the time:
- Hold relevant virtual meetings with ward specialists like the emergency preparedness leader(s)
- Have online meetings with the ward members, and encourage them to invite their friends, on topics such as what the scriptures teach about the days before The Second Coming of Christ
- Find a psychologist to give a 30 minute presentation on how to be mentally healthy while quarantined–invite members to join the presentation and ask them to invite friends
- Invite a financial planner to give an online seminar on budgeting–invite members and ask them to invite friends
- Create and post positive memes on social media
- Post videos of your testimony or other appropriate gospel subjects
- Paint a picture of your favorite gospel story or create another appropriate art or craft project
- Sew or crotchet ties, dresses, or other such items
My (Jimmy’s) Ideas for Missionaries Having to Work Digitally
Last but not least, below are my ideas. And again, if you are a missionary reading this, please get your mission president’s permission before doing these things:
Be Active on Social Media: If you haven’t done so, start by making sure your Facebook/Instagram profile makes it clear that you are a missionary for the Church. I would then recommend trying to post helpful, interesting, and engaging things, gospel related or service oriented. As appropriate I would invite people to learn more about the gospel through impromptu video chats and set video conferencing appointments. You may also want to try to find locally based Facebook groups to join–your ward and stake groups, if they exist, but also neighborhood or city based groups. Perhaps also follow local community organizations and participate in conversions as appropriate.
Participate in Local Newspaper and Community Websites: Look online for local community based websites, perhaps the local newspaper, and get involved on that website if it allows comments. Search for articles related to faith or serving our fellow man and make comments and engage in the online conversation. Submit letters to the editor, if possible, and find other ways to contribute user generated content that the local news site accepts.
Contribute to Mormon Wiki. The Mormon Wiki is a Wikipedia-like site sponsored by a faithful group called the More Good Foundation with content all about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Add content and sources to the articles on the Mormon Wiki. Online research to find those sources would likely be required, but that’s something right up the alley of many young missionaries.
Write on a Personal Website or Blog. If you have a website or blog, write articles about your mission, your testimony, and other gospel subjects. Use the platform to share what you are learning in your daily scripture study and, of course, amplify the distribution of those articles by sharing them on social media.
Conduct Open Webinars for Missionary Lessons. Usually, the missionary lessons are taught to one investigator or one family, but I don’t think there is any reason not to set a time to teach the lessons online and invite as many people as want to attend. You can advertise the virtual lesson/webinar on social media and you can encourage members of your ward to attend and invite their friends to watch and learn. If a large number of people attend, you might need to take steps to keep viewer participation organized, such as having questions or comments being submitted in writing in the call’s chat box. If you make note of attendees who want to learn more, this could be a great way to generate leads for the missionaries to follow up on with individuals and individual families.
Family History Work. Finally, I have heard of missionaries working on family history projects and I think that is a great thing for them to do. For example, in one mission, the missionaries are taking pictures of grave markers and posting the images to the billiongraves.com database so people can discover their genealogy.