“Using Mormon.org to Share the Gospel,” Ensign, Feb. 2006, 77–79
Using Church materials online provides another way for members to help friends and acquaintances learn about the Church and at the same time build members’ confidence in their ability to share gospel principles with others.
The Church’s Web sites can be grouped by purpose into three categories. www.lds.org and www.providentliving.org, which are available in various languages, help teach, strengthen, and perfect members. www.familysearch.org, available in English, allows visitors to search for their kindred dead. Mormon.org, available in 23 languages, seeks to proclaim the gospel to the world. The principal Web site for members to use when sharing the gospel online is www.mormon.org.
Mormon.org assists members sharing the gospel with friends who have various levels of understanding about the Church. Members can use this site to introduce friends to the gospel, help them better understand Church doctrine and lifestyle, and invite them to attend Church meetings.
Since its launch in October 2001, more than 8.3 million visitors have visited the Web site. These visitors have requested more than 200,000 media items, such as DVDs or copies of the Book of Mormon. More than 40,000 site visitors wanted to learn more and were referred to missionaries.
Introducing the Gospel
Mormon.org’s 411 doctrinal pages, written in simple terms for those unfamiliar with the Church, explain the Church’s basic beliefs, the plan of salvation, the importance of families, and the purpose of life. Each page contains several hyperlinks to topics related to the page being viewed, offering visitors thousands of unique ways to navigate the site. The five most viewed page titles are (1) Welcome (2) Frequently asked questions (3) Find information (4) Is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a Christian church? and (5) Frequently asked questions—beliefs and doctrines.
“This site is a great way for investigators to learn more about what your church is all about without talking to anyone one-on-one. Sometimes, people must take this first step [investigating on the Internet] before they are able to ask a member or attend worship. [Mormon.org] has been a continual guide for me as I search for truth,” said Tiffany, a site visitor.
A popular page with investigators and visitors is the Frequently Asked Questions page. Previous visitors have submitted some of the questions listed on this page. When mormon.org was originally launched, this page included 67 questions; since then 23 more questions have been added. Hyperlinks divide the questions into the following general categories: requesting media items or missionary visits, beliefs and doctrines, social issues, Church practices, and member lifestyles.
Each week Web site administrators compile a list of the top 25 questions submitted to the site. They then check the questions against those currently posted. If a question is frequently asked but not included on the page, the question is posed to the Brethren, who decide whether the question and its answer should be added to the site.
The following questions are from the top 10 most frequently asked questions from 2004: “How can I obtain more information about the Mormon faith and beliefs?” “What do you believe about heaven, hell, salvation, and eternal life?” “Please explain the Word of Wisdom. What is it that is bad? Is it caffeine or hot drinks? What about decaf, hot chocolate, iced tea, herbal teas, or caffeinated soft drinks?” “How does the Mormon Church currently view polygamy, and how does it explain its previous association with polygamy?” “What are your standards on tattoos, body piercing, dancing, dating, abstinence, etc.?”
Jason, a new member of the Church, said: “This site gave me the information that helped to open my heart to the Spirit and filled me with a desire to be baptized. I just wanted to give my thanks. … It was an awesome tool in my conversion.”
Inviting Friends to Hear More
One of the most popular ways members are accessing and referring the site to others is with electronic cards. Mormon.org offers 10 different English greeting card categories including electronic pass-along cards. Card categories are inspiration, gratitude, birthday, sympathy, special occasions, families, seasonal, humor, temple, and baptism. Within each category, visitors can match one of several photos to a selection of quotations from a Church leader or historic figure, or insert their own quotation.
E-card senders can attach a link to almost any page on the site, presenting a personalized introduction for friends to hear more about a gospel subject that interests them most. E-card introductions are private and personal because they are sent from the sender’s own e-mail account. Last year visitors sent 196,099 e-cards from mormon.org.
“I was recently baptized, … and it was the best thing I have done in my life. I found this Web site to be very helpful. … I have family in America and I just sent them a card using the site. Well done on a great Web site!” said Lynn, a new member of the Church.
Mormon.org content is available in 23 languages. These languages allow mormon.org to reach over 95 percent of the world’s Internet users.
Translating the Web page into additional languages is an ongoing process. Web site administrators regularly track the city and country from which all users connect to the site. When visitor requests or traffic increases from an area that uses a language not available on the site, a translation is considered in that language. After approval is granted, most of mormon.org’s pages are translated. E-greeting cards and most of the free-media-request pages are not translated. However, visitors on international sites can still send greeting cards even though the site can be viewed only in English. In 2004, the site was translated into 11 languages, bringing the total to 22. Pass-along cards referring members to mormon.org have been translated into 28 languages.
Besides pass-along cards and member referrals, Internet search engines such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, and others bring up an advertised link to mormon.org when a Web user searches with key words like “Holy Bible” or “Book of Mormon.” In 2004, 750,733 visitors found mormon.org through a search-engine-sponsored link.
“This is a great site. … I shared this with a friend at school and now she is investigating the Church and will be baptized in two weeks. … Thank you to everyone who helped with this excellent site!” said Jenny, a site visitor.
Helping to Improve Understanding
Mormon.org is an informal yet effective way to share the gospel with friends. For many in the world, the Web site has proven to be what Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Presidency of the Seventy said he hoped mormon.org would become when it was launched in 2001.
“I hope people will see mormon.org as an introductory source of information about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and a way to gain an improved understanding of our faith,” Elder Andersen said.
We invite you to send suggestions or success stories about how you have used Church Web sites as a resource for sharing the gospel to email@example.com.