Sharing thoughts and feelings on the Internet is a hobby for Leslie Hansen, a stay-at-home mom living in Rexburg, Idaho. Blogging, which is creating personal Web sites filled with photos and personal thoughts, is a new way to document family lives, journal thoughts and share daily happenings via the Internet.
But for Sister Hansen, time spent documenting her family's memories and her thoughts has become more than just a hobby — it has become a way to do missionary work.
"I was so excited when I found that the Church was at least endorsing some kind of messages I could use for personal inspiration and also to include on my blog," She said. "I realized that these short clips in this format really can touch and inspire someone who isn't a member of the Church."
Mormon Messages are video segments produced by the Church that are then posted to the Internet through the video sharing Web site YouTube. The segments tend to be three or four minutes long and contain the Church's basic beliefs, inspiring stories and messages of hope.
"The technology has changed so much in the last few years," said Elder John B. Dickson of the Seventy. "With the Mormon Messages, we can send the message that the Brethren want to send out to the membership of the Church and to the world."
The messages, which include videos, images, music and inspiring words from the General Authorities and others, are available through the Web site mormonmessages.org and on the Church's Web page, lds.org. These messages are created in an effort to boost the testimonies of members and share the gospel.
"Our hope would be that the Church members would first be inspired by these messages," said David Nielson, managing director of the audiovisual department of the Church. "Secondly, that they would desire to share these messages with friends and family, both member and nonmember, through the various media channels that are now available."
For many viewers, Mormon Messages can be a quick spiritual boost over a lunch break and for others a spiritual strength during a rough time in life.
"I have talked to a few individuals that have been troubled with something and the message they viewed just happened to fit them very well," said Elder Dickson, who has worked with the the Church's audiovisual department on the project. "Whether it be spiritual, unemployment or whatever they are needing, these Mormon Messages come out in a timely way. Somebody out there is blessed by every one of them."
Not only are the messages intended to boost Church members, but are also intended and created for sharing with people of other faiths.
"We are finding that when members of the Church see a message that strikes them as something they can share with those that aren't members of the Church they do it, all in an easy, timely manner," said Elder Dickson. "There's no pressure and it is so easy for them to send it on."
Through social networking and other Web sites, Mormon Messages are being shared with people all over the world — even quicker than by word of mouth.
For Brooke Eddington, a young single adult from the Tulsa University Branch, Tulsa Oklahoma East Stake, viewing a Mormon Message titled "Sunday Will Come," by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, former member of the Quorum of the Twelve, not only strengthened her but also encouraged her to share her beliefs with many of her friends through her personal profile on Facebook, a social networking Web site.
"I posted it to my Facebook [account] as opposed to somewhere else because I knew it would get the most views of nonmembers," she said. "And I could really relate to this [video]."
Through sites such as Facebook and Twitter, Mormon Messages become available for member distribution, allowing friends and family members to view the messages on their own computer, on their own time and on their own terms.
This makes spreading the gospel less intimidating for many members as they share with their friends their beliefs and open the door to future gospel discussion.
"I hope that members of the Church who see a Mormon Message that's particularly touching to them would feel very inclined to share it with those that may not know and understand us," Elder Dickson said. "As the messages get out to a lot of people who aren't members of the Church, they will have a different perception of what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is. I think hearts will be changed and it will be a blessing to many, many people all across the globe."
Over the Easter weekend in early April this year, a short video produced by the Church containing an Easter message from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve became the top "viral" video on the Internet, according to the Viral Video Chart.
That means that for a period of time, the 4½-minute message was the most shared video on the Internet across the globe.
"As members share these messages, the videos themselves get viewed to the point that they become very popular on [the Internet]," said Brother Nielson. "At that point, many people start viewing the video simply because they are popular, and that's when things really take off in terms of viewership. …
"It is an example of when you have a powerful message the members are willing to share. It is a powerful thing and requires the members to get involved for that kind of an outcome to occur. It's easy. It's convenient. Come participate and get involved. As we do, we can really have a tremendous impact in getting the gospel message out in a way we have never been able to do before."
The first Mormon Messages were released in August 2008. Since then, hundreds of thousands of viewers have seen the videos and look forward to new messages released every two weeks. Mormon Messages are produced under the direction of the General Authorities by the audiovisual department of the Church. Currently, there are 40 available in English and Spanish. Production takes anywhere from a week to three weeks.
Video content usually comes from talks given by General Authorities and auxiliary leaders. Topics vary from week to week in speaker and content.
Some examples include a message titled "Counsel to Youth," from President Boyd K. Packer, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, that teaches youth to find happiness through family, thrift, education, purity, good friends and faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Another message titled "The Women in Our Lives," from President Gordon B. Hinckley, former president of the Church, honors the divine gifts possessed by women and testifies of their value in God's plan.
"Marriage and Divorce" is a message from Elder Dallin H. Oaks that teaches of the healing from pain and difficulty sometimes felt in marriage, and the blessings of rebuilding lives through humility and the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
The most current video, "Finding Hope," had more than 100,000 views only six days after its release on Sept. 4, 2009. The video shares the experience of a man whose life changed drastically after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack in New York City.
Through watching and sharing the short videos, people throughout the world are receiving counsel from Priesthood leaders, gaining spiritual strength and sharing their testimonies with friends and family.
"It is absolutely a great strength for members, not only those that live close to Church headquarters but for those across the world," Elder Dickson said. "Not enough of the membership across the globe knows about it. When they do, it will be a tremendous blessing to the Church and to the growth of the kingdom."
To access Mormon Messages visit the Web sites: