Mormons could soon spread the word in Cincinnati one text at a time

Church and new mission here look to social media

CINCINNATI - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' new Cincinnati Mission got a big influx of missionaries who arrived in Cincinnati Wednesday.

But that doesn’t necessarily increase your odds of having a pair of young missionaries knock on your door to talk with you about Jesus.

That’s because top church leaders announced in June that the church would soon start having missionaries use smart phones and i-Pads to find people to teach, rather than relying on door-to-door encounters in their ministries.

“The church must adapt to a changing world,” Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said during a worldwide broadcast from Salt Lake City on June 23.

Wednesday afternoon, a Delta flight from Salt Lake City arrived at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport bringing 28 fresh-scrubbed young men and women from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to serve as missionaries here. Another two missionaries arrived on a different flight an hour later.

The arrivals bring the total number of  Mormon missionaries in the newly formed Cincinnati Ohio Mission to 178. Roughly 110 of them will serve in the Tri-State, while the others cover territory in Dayton and Southeast Indiana, said Mission President John Porter.

And they just so happened to get here on Pioneer Day, the day that commemorates the Mormon pioneers passage into the Salt Lake Valley. Several of the young missionaries, in fact, began singing “Come Come Ye Saints” in the airport’s welcome area to mark the occasion.

Sharing The Word Online

The change from the on-your-doorstep conversations to typing out teachings on Twitter and Facebook made perfect sense to Sister Leanna Anderson, a 20-year-old from Riverside, Calif., who was part of the group to arrive in Cincinnati Wednesday.

“We already use social media to talk about things we like with our friends,” Anderson said. “It just seems natural.”

Exactly how and where those changes will take place remains undecided. But Porter said he expects the changes will help the young men and women in the Cincinnati Mission serve more effectively.

“That’s a situation where society’s changing, and we’re trying to keep up with it,” Porter said. Door-to-door work, he said, has become a smaller and smaller part of what missionaries do anyway.

Added his wife, Sister Connie Porter: “People live their lives on the Internet.”

The Porters moved to Cincinnati with their teenage son, Bryan, in late June to open the mission here July 1. In the weeks since, they’ve been working with other volunteers in the church to find housing and buy the food and supplies the growing mission needs.

The missionaries in their care have limited contact with their families and friends back home and sometimes lean on the Porters when problems arise.

Recently, one young male missionary sliced open his leg with a hatchet during a service project.

He told Sister Porter: “I broke the No. 1 rule: Don’t do something stupid.” Fortunately, he was fine after getting 15 stitches, she said.

Growing Number of Missionaries

The missionaries who arrived Wednesday are part of the growing number of young people serving the church.

The church announced last October that it was lowering its age requirements for missionaries. Now men can serve starting at age 18, and women can serve starting at age 19. The rule used to be age 19 for men and age 21 for women. Thanks to the change, the church has a record 70,000 people currently serving as missionaries around the world.

The change has made a big difference for young women, especially, because it gives them the opportunity to serve before they begin to think about getting married and starting families, said Celeste Jacobson, a graduate of Lakota East High School who just finished her freshman year at Brigham Young University – Hawaii.

Now 19, Jacobson will leave in October for training before she serves her mission in Salt Lake City.

“For us Mormons, we get married really young,” she said. “And I guess the mentality was, if I wasn’t married by the age of 21, I’ll go on a mission. I feel like now because it is more of an option, more girls are taking the opportunity.”

Jacobson said she hasn’t really thought about what she’ll get out of the experience for herself. Rather, she just wants to serve her church and the people of Salt Lake City in the best way she can.

Elder Tyler Jackson, who grew up in Utah and will be serving in Cincinnati, said he’s expecting the experience to help define who he is for the rest of his life.

“I know how happy this religion has made me,” he said. “If I can be that happy, I can share it with others.”  

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