By early 2015, Mormon church leaders expect 32000 missionaries to be using iPad Minis to help proselytize. The announcement follows a successful pilot program with 6,500 missionaries in Japan and the U.S.
The devices help missionaries as communication tools and a convenient replacement for printed materials.
“We’ve learned that they’re [iPad Minis] very effective tools for planning, for communicating with local leaders, for communicating with their mission president, and for keeping in contact with the investigators that are currently being taught [and] former investigators that they may have taught, either in the same area or some earlier place,” according to Elder David F. Evans, executive director of the Church’s Missionary Department.
The Minis come with an app called the Area Book Planner, which replaces printed resources like the Missionary Daily Planner and the Area Book. But the most useful app maybe the Gospel Library, which includes manuals, magazines, scriptures, and other teaching resources.
The catch for many missionaries is the cost. Like with bicycles and plane tickets overseas, the missionaries will have to buy the iPad Minis themselves. Those that cannot afford the devices will be offered assistance.
The iPad Minis will cost about $400.
The Mormon church is also branching out into online proselytizing in Canada, United States, Japa,n and western Europe.
The experiment began in 2008, Provo, Utah, with the first “online-only” mission. It was executed call centre-style, answering basic questions about the church and helping missionaries in need with injuries or other problems. Going any further in the conversion process was considered too important for a simple chatroom. So the workers at the Provo mission were instructed to refer potential converts to brick and mortar facilities.
They ended up losing potential converts who might prefer the safety of internet anonymity. The story of L’Espérance is an excellent example.
Last June, Mormon leaders announced that internet resources, such as blogs, social media, and email, would no longer be banned from missionary work. (The ban was meant to protect missionaries from worldly entertainment.)
Now the church has a full service website, complete with social media connections and online profiles, that allows curious prospective converts the chance to meet and speak to Mormons about whatever religious questions they may have.
With the addition of iPad Minis, the Latter Day Saints appear to have completed their journey to electronic religion.
For many young men and women in the Church of Latter Day Saints, missionary service abroad is both a rite of passage and an amazing life-changing experience. Now for Mormon missionaries it can be all those things, plus playing Angry Birds on an iPad Mini.
[Image Credit: Antoine Taveneaux/Wikimedia Commons]