When Mindy Wright, a member of the Spokane East Stake Public Affairs committee, saw “The Book of Mormon” musical in the lineup for “Best of Broadway” in Spokane, she immediately recognized a great opportunity to “have our voice included in the conversation around the musical.”
Because the show was a hit throughout the country, it could be expected that people from Spokane would choose to see it – and they did.
With the expectation that many members of the Church would have friends, neighbors and co-workers talking about the play, local priesthood leaders and area public affairs representatives began discussing the best way to be a part of the conversation.
An initiative with three objectives was planned for the weeks surrounding the run of the musical. According to Regional Public Affairs Director Troy McCombs these objectives were to “hasten the work of salvation by sharing the gospel using social media and traditional media, strengthening members and building stronger relationships with members and missionaries.”
The musical ran in Spokane Aug. 12-17. During the month of August, the local print and television media graciously included the voice of our missionaries in the conversation about the play. Two television stations and four area newspapers ran stories about the missionaries from the Spokane, Washington Mission.
Shawn Chitnis of KREM interviewed eight full-time missionaries, some of whom were serving in Spokane from as far away as mainland China and New Zealand. In their two-minute spot KREM used footage of a missionary holding both the Bible and the Book of Mormon side by side and showed over 40 missionaries singing “Called to Serve.” The KREM link can be viewed here.
KHQ conducted a 20-minute interview with two missionaries, concluding afterward that the appeal of the musical was likely due to the fact that it was based on the “good work done by Mormon missionaries.” The photojournalist from KHQ did a masterful job of mixing visual images that emphasized the central message of Jesus Christ in everything the missionaries do. He highlighted the full name of the Church on the side of a local chapel as a reporter shared the reason missionaries choose to serve, namely to share a message about Jesus Christ. The KHQ link can be viewed here.
The Deer Park Tribune and Deer Park Gazette highlighted sister missionaries while the Spokesman- Review sent a reporter and cameraman to spend two days with elders and sisters giving church tours, teaching investigators and serving local residents who needed help moving. The Spokesman-Review article, highlighting the full-time missionaries, appeared on the front page. The S-R link can be viewed here.
Some local residents who are not members of the Church, but who have Mormon friends, expressed their disappointment in the play which includes profanity and a less-than-complimentary portrayal of LDS missionaries. One such sentiment appeared among the Spokesman-Review’s letters to the editor last month.
Local media coverage was complemented by social media activity throughout the 12 stakes in the region. Each congregation selected five individuals to accompany their local full-time missionaries on Saturday Aug. 16, recording the good work they do and sharing on social media. A total of 406 member exchanges took place where 352 lessons were taught with a member present. Hundreds of hours of service were performed and more than three dozen investigators set their baptismal date during this day-long effort to support the full-time missionaries.
Members who shadowed the missionaries posted to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (349 photos), sharing the good feelings that came from being with the full -time missionaries. The effort featured many of the characteristics of the social media campaign recently announced by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who has encouraged Church members “to share simple messages of goodness and truth.” Read more here.
Niki Ely, who had the chance to shadow full time missionaries, shared, “I loved meeting up with the missionaries. It was a very uplifting experience and I felt that it opened the doors for communication with some non-members.”
In all the local media coverage, Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area residents had a chance to hear and see the goodness of real Mormon missionaries. Due to the musical, the news coverage, and the social media sharing, many conversations ensued.
Stephanie Brown, a young adult who works as a leasing manager in Spokane, talked with a co-worker who had tickets to the show.
“I chatted with him and told him once he’d seen the show, if he wanted to learn more about real Mormon missionaries, I would love to talk to him,” Stephanie said. “We talked about missionaries for about an hour.”
“It was amazing to see members and missionaries in action,” said Jeff Whittle who lives in Deer Park and serves on the High Council in the Colville Stake. “We had seven baptisms in our stake that day. One good thing that I see coming from this is the increased interaction between members and full-time missionaries. This will have a long lasting effect on the work.”