Powerful media messages open doors to teaching

Making more and more teaching opportunities for the nearly 60,000 missionaries currently serving is one great challenge for the Church and its members, Elder M. Russell Ballard said May 2.

"How do we get them exposed to more teaching opportunities, so their time is spent teaching the gospel and not spent trying to find someone to teach."Elder Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke - during the LDS Public Relations Professionals annual conference in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building - of the increasingly positive effect direct media messages are having on the Church's missionary work.

"Today many of the discussions taught in the United States and Canada are the result of media referrals," said Elder Ballard, explaining that people see a Church media spot and then call a 1-800 number seeking more information.

"The media is powerful," he said, "and it has the power to touch lives. I think we are learning how to use it better."

Elder Ballard explained that more and more condominiums, apartments and neighborhoods are closed to proselyting missionaries. Only by invitation from residents can missionaries gain admittance.

Much good comes from media spots that reach the homes in areas that missionaries can not, he said. But with that good also comes bad, he added. "We haven't brought the members along at the same pace," said Elder Ballard, explaining that members are not helping full-time missionaries as they should. "The members are drifting away from being

memberT missionaries. Some of them think the media referrals and the full-time missionaries are going to take care of their missionary work for them."

Elder Ballard noted that the trend to use 1-800 numbers with missionary work started in the mid1980s. He recalled the Church's first direct media message, which showed the image of a child's hand turning into Christ's hand. Then the words, "Is there nothing more written of Him?" appeared with a Book of Mormon and a Bible shown together.

Included with the message was a 1-800 number for those who wanted to receive a free copy of the Book of Mormon. So many people responded to the message that the telephones could not handle the volume, Elder Ballard said.

Today missionaries at the Missionary Training Center in Provo answer inbound calls generated by Church-produced media spots. The missionaries talk to the interested parties, set up appointments and send information via E-mail into the mission field - where other missionaries deliver the Church's gift and offer to share the gospel.

Elder Ballard told the public affairs professionals that their work is very important. "Watch for every opportunity to lift the Church out of obscurity," he said. "You can do it."

He reminded the group that the worth of one soul is precious in the sight of the Lord. "Today there are [58,000] young men and young women doing everything they know how to bring forth the Church out of obscurity," he concluded. "Every member of the Church needs to help them. We must use every resource available to build up the Church."

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed