The More Good Foundation offers members the chance to spread the gospel online.
An Orem woman posted a video of her testimony on YouTube. A man in another state watched it four times and emailed, asking for a copy of the Book of Mormon.
A man in Vegas wrote on his blog that he was grateful for the law of tithing. A questioning reader asked him why Mormons like commandments. After several online conversations, the missionaries began meeting with the man.
Blogging about a conversion story or about a favorite scripture may seem strange. However, there are an increasing number of members going online to share their beliefs. The More Good Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Orem, Utah helps members do just that.
Jim Engebretsen, assistant dean of Corporate Relations at the BYU Marriott School, was serving as a mission president in Oklahoma from 1998 to 2001. Missionaries told him they were being turned down after investigators searched about Mormons on the Internet and found anti-Mormon websites. Engebretsen decided that something needed to be done and two and a half years ago, the More Good Foundation was started.
The foundation receives its name from Joseph Smith, who stated that Mormon meant "more good." The goal is to provide a non-authoritative voice that promotes LDS beliefs and encourages members to share their beliefs with the world.
Richard Miller, executive vice president and BYU business graduate, said people often don't want to believe leaders or authorities but they will believe regular people.
"I think members can provide that non-authoritative voice," Miller said. "I think the church membership can add a lot of credibility for the church by speaking about what they believe."
The More Good Foundation decided that the Internet was a prime way to encourage discussion and to improve the image of the church. The foundation already has 80 different Web sites online; some of them are major projects.
Lds.net, started about three months ago, is one of the foundation's premiere sites and already has nine thousand members, Miller said. This online network combines blogs, chats, forums, photos, and videos. Richard Miller said it is similar to myspace.com but isn't trying to compete with it.
Rusty Curtis, the president of the Missionary Prep Club, worked in the BYU Ad Lab and helped with lds.net's construction. The network is like an online community, he said. Curtis was surprised after the site started when a number of nonmembers joined.
Curtis, who is on lds.net and has his own blog, said he thinks the web is an easier venue for members to share the gospel. Even students can be sharing the gospel, he said, even though most of the people they live with are already members. With the web, students can reach out to people everywhere.
"People don't go to their neighbors like they used to," Curtis said.
Instead, people google things, Curtis said. The Internet is where many people will go to find answers to religious questions as well.
"I've had a handful of people that have started asking me questions," he said.
One woman found Curtis online and the two began conversing about the gospel. She had been converted when she was younger but went inactive after her mother disapproved. That testimony in her never left, Curtis said. After a while, she began attending church and took her family as well.
Another important project that the foundation is working on is Christ.org. This site will be solely about the man from Galilee, his life, ministry and doctrines about his importance.
"We want it to be the number one site about Jesus Christ," Miller said.
Richard Holzapfel, a BYU professor of Church History, is aiding the More Good Foundation in a number of websites and especially Christ.org. The idea, Holzapfel said, is that the site will meet the needs of a wide spectrum of people. If a new Christian in Nigeria wants to learn about Christ he can go to the site, he said. The site will be for Christians and non-Christians.
"If you want to know something about Jesus and his world this is the site you'll go to," Holzapfel said. "We see it as a missionary tool and also as an informational tool."
The site will answer 250 of the most frequently asked questions about Christ through google. The site will also quote authorities of other faiths and not just LDS leaders. Holzapfel said he hopes that this will be a thoughtful and reliable site. Those who are hostile toward the church may also become neutral when they see what the site is about, he said.
Holzapfel said that the way the gospel is being spread has changed. Missionaries used to go to islands by boat, he said. Today, things are completely different.
"One of the ways they're going to come to the gospel is thru the internet," he said.
Many professors speak in conferences and write books, Holzapfel said. However, that only reaches a few thousand people. Through the Internet and with More Good's help, books, speeches and articles can be translated into other languages and can be accessed by hundreds of thousands of people.
Holzapfel praised the foundation's work.
"You have to give these people all kinds of credit," he said. " They've chosen to help get the message out."
The More Good Foundation also hosts Mormonwiki.com, the free online encyclopedia for people to read about the LDS church and find answers to questions. The site already has over one thousand articles in English and has hundreds translated into Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and other languages. This site is a dot com and not a dot org because mormonwiki.org is an anti-Mormon website.
The More Good Foundation also sponsored the LDS Facebook application and over 20 thousand people have already added it. With this application, members can share their testimony, favorite scriptures, and also check up on the latest in church news.
While the More Good Foundation started working with the Internet years ago, recently, several apostles of the church have encouraged members to use online media.
Elder Russell M. Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve encouraged BYU-Hawaii students in December to use new media to promote discussion of the church.
"May I ask that you join conversation by participating on the Internet, particularly the new media, to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration," Elder Ballard said. "Most of you already know that if you have access to the Internet you can start a blog in minutes and begin sharing what you know to be true."