We spoke to the Edi Mormons about how they’ve adapted to social distancing
Latter Day Saints? More like Twitter Day Saints!
Let’s set the scene. You’re running late to your 11am. You’re power-walking down South Bridge and onto Nicolson Street. On the horizon you see two men wearing black trousers and anoraks outside Surgeon’s Hall – it’s the Mormons.
‘Oh no!’ you think as you turn your music onto full blast and put your head down. All the while you’re mentally rehearsing your politest, “Not today, thank you.”
From the first time you heard the cheery, “Do you have a moment for me to brighten your day?” to giggling about the fit one you saw the other day, getting accosted by the Mormons is an unavoidable part of an Edinburgh student’s life.
If you’re missing these interactions, I have news for you!
The Edinburgh-based Mormons are bringing their mission online! You’ve possibly seen them posting on The Meadows Share in recent weeks, and there have also been screenshots of them DMing Edinburgh-based individuals. One interaction on The Meadows Share even drew significant criticism of the Mormon church’s views on LGBTQ+ rights.
So, The Edinburgh Tab reached out to Elder Josh Hales – a Mormon currently on his mission here in Edinburgh – to ask him some questions about their new strategy.
How have you adapted to being unable to approach people in person? And have initiatives been encouraged by the church centrally or have you as individual missionaries come up with your own ideas?
“It’s been a process. When we were first put into lockdown, there was a lot of wonder as to what we could do. However with time and a lot of prayer, I feel that we have been able to reach out to people in a new and great way. As far as initiatives go, our focus is still to invite everyone to come closer to Jesus Christ. We have been given guidelines and ideas for what we can do, but each missionary team plans and makes there own decisions on what they feel will be best in their respective area.”
What methods have you been using to spread your message digitally?
“Many missionaries have been striving to reach out to people in personal and meaningful ways using Facebook. A lot of the missionaries here have unique talents and characteristics. Using that, we’ve made many posts, groups, comments, etc. to teach and testify of Jesus Christ. This has proven to be a great way to invite others to come and see what and why we believe.
“When we are not on social media, we have done our best to reach out to those who have met with us in the past and see if there is anyway that we can help them. The focus of all these efforts is still the same as it was before.”
When you approach people online, do they tend to be more responsive than when you approach them in person?
“It depends on the approach I think – same as it would in person. There are some who are more receptive in person and others who are more comfortable online. Overall, the responsiveness online has been very positive. There have been some pretty amazing miracles! When lockdown regulations start to loosen up, I believe we will continue to do a lot of online work.”
Have you got any success stories?? I.e. managing to convert someone completely online?
“Unfortunately, for the moment, we cannot baptize anyone due to lockdown restrictions. Other than that, yes there have been success stories! I have been able to meet with a bunch of people using video chat and even just voice call in some cases.
“We had a cool experience with a really kind lady we met right before the lockdown started. She was kind enough to listen to our message but had no intention of embracing what we share. However, when we met with her the first time she was shocked to realize how many beliefs we shared. When lockdown happened, we continued to teach her over voice call and send her scriptures from the Bible and Book of Mormon to support and encourage her. We work with people where they are at.
“So even if individuals choose not to be baptized, we are happy that we have helped them come closer to Christ even a little bit. We hope that something we shared might help them to embrace what we teach at a future date.”
Although it seems not all methods have been equally successful. Did you expect to get such a pushback when posting on The Meadows Share?
“I was more surprised to see how quickly people responded! We actually got a lot of request for copies of the Book of Mormon, which is great! Sadly there are people who don’t like what we do, but that is okay. The invitation to come and see is open to all.”
I was mainly wondering about how you respond to people concerned about the Mormon church’s sometimes questionable attitude to LGBT+ individuals?
Jesus taught us to love everyone, and that is what I strive to do. So I would respond the same way I would with anyone: with love.
One final question: how do you choose who to DM?
“Anyone and everyone! We believe the message we share can benefit everyone who is willing to listen. The choice is always up to the individual though.”
So, whether a Mormon sliding into your DMs at any moment sounds exciting or horrifying, this is a PSA to keep your wits about you. The Mormons have moved from stopping you on your way to a seminar to social media, and it doesn’t look like this will be reversed any time soon.