“Media Messages Boost Missionary Work,” Ensign, May 1989, 105–6
During the first three months of 1989, the Church-produced program Together Forever was broadcast, or scheduled for broadcast, in every U.S. city with a mission headquarters. The result: Increasing success for missionaries.
“Response to the program has been gratifying,” reports Elder Robert L. Backman of the Missionary Executive Committee. “This program is really a wonderful missionary tool for members and full-time missionaries, because the message of the gospel can have a powerful influence on the way people feel. And it’s the way people feel that leads them toward accepting the gospel.”
Together Forever, also available as a videocassette, is a half-hour program showing a series of vignettes about family relationships. Intended to introduce nonmembers to LDS values, it is just one part of a Church effort to use mass media to spread the gospel. In recent years the Church has produced an increasing number of broadcast programs and public-service announcements. One of them—the high-quality “Homefront” series—has been widely televised and recognized. Seasonal programming has included Mr. Krueger’s Christmas, The Other Wise Man, and The Last Leaf. In 1987, LDS-produced Christmas programs and public service announcements were viewed by more than 250 million people in twenty-five countries.
Church Missionary Department personnel estimate that some 60 million people have been introduced to direct gospel messages through the printed media and through film productions. Most of the gospel messages broadcast recently offer an audiotape of Our Heavenly Father’s Plan, a Church production also available on videotape. Viewers may request the audiotape through a toll-free telephone number, or, outside the United States and Canada, through local telephone numbers or post-office boxes.
When missionaries in the United States deliver the tapes to those who request them, nearly one in four deliveries results in an invitation to teach. In some South American countries, the missionaries who deliver the tapes are able to teach nearly three out of four times. In all countries, videos introduce many more people to the gospel than traditional tracting and contacting do, and missionary work is reaping great benefits.
“The media support is really having an impact on people,” says Dale L. Gardner, president of the Kentucky Louisville Mission. “Responses of viewers to the videos have been overwhelming, and this gives the missionaries great confidence and enthusiasm.”
In addition to television, the Church has increased its use of other media, such as radio and print. Radio announcements about the Book of Mormon have brought many responses. Half-page advertisements have been running in alternate issues of TV Guide in the United States and Canada; the ads offer a copy of the Book of Mormon and are bringing significant increases in missionary work, according to mission leaders. During 1988, advertisements were published in newspapers in Australia, Argentina, Brazil, England, and Scotland. More ads are planned for Europe and Asia in 1989.
In the Texas San Antonio Mission, President Dale J. Huntsman reports that the media support for missionary work “has taught our missionaries to be bold, challenging, and testifying missionaries. And it has built our member-missionary relationships. The members are excited, and they are helping us.”
These Church productions have received both high ratings and awards. Together Forever recently won the Catholic-sponsored Gabriel Award, and it also received a “very high” rating of eight (on a ten-point scale) in a Nielsen television survey.
President John W. Hardy of the Canada Toronto Mission reports that after the first two weeks of an ad campaign in Toronto, the mission received 600 referrals asking for Church representatives to deliver copies of the Book of Mormon. The mission also had requests for more than 2,700 copies of the Book of Mormon to be mailed after people saw Together Forever on television or read the TV Guide advertisement.
One respondent from Woodstock, Ontario, wrote President Hardy: “When we saw there was additional scripture, we were thrilled, for we always felt that there would be additional scripture to the Bible, and that if it came, it would testify of Jesus Christ.”
In Scarborough, Ontario, two sister missionaries spoke to a woman at the door of her home, but were about to leave because she was not interested. At that moment, her husband, who was watching the Church advertisement on television in the next room, called out, “Wait a minute!” The sister missionaries were then invited in, gave the family a Book of Mormon, and are now teaching them.
Members are encouraged to use the Together Forever broadcasts to introduce the gospel to their friends. In areas where the program is not televised, it has been suggested that members might purchase the video and show it to their friends.