Sunday, November 14, 2010

LDS MTC Referral Center Online Missionaries Deal With Some Bizarre Requests On Mormon.Org; N.I.M. Buster Uses Chat To Harass Missionaries

Those of you who think that those LDS missionaries assigned to the Referral Center at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah to perform online missionary duty on the chatline have "cake duty" may be surprised at what they have to deal with. Sometimes they get some rather strange and downright bizarre requests.

While does not publicize transcripts of the online missionaries' chats with the public, a person who posts on N.I.M. Busters deliberately called the chat as part of a harassment campaign against a ham radio operator named Mark Morgan. N.I.M. Busters bills itself as "serving the mentally ill since 2002™", and is primarily suitable only for people with an unconventional sense of humor. It contains language as well as descriptions of physiological processes which are highly inconsistent with the standards of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In short, if you visit N.I.M. Busters, expect to see profanity, obscenity, blasphemy, and graphic descriptions of sexual activity, much of it unnatural. Use discretion; this is definitely NOT suitable for kids.

On this N.I.M. Busters thread, a person brags about an encounter on the chatline in which the person is using the encounter to defame Mark Morgan and to harass the missionaries (I have cropped out the more objectionable parts of the graphic):

Although the online missionaries are undoubtedly aware that they're having their chains pulled, they keep their cool and respond professionally.

The point is, this is probably not an isolated incident. The online missionaries most likely have to deal with dozens of such bizarre communications each day. For a missionary who comes from a relatively sheltered background in a small town in the LDS heartland of Utah and southern Idaho, it can be a very distasteful experience. Many would undoubtedly prefer to be tracting the streets and having doors slammed in their faces rather than read the stuff presented above. The online missionaries are no less valuable and valiant spiritual warriors than those who tract on the street.

There are currently around 10 missionaries assigned to the MTC Provo Referral Center; there've been as many as 30 in the past. All of them are either injured or disabled. Some served time in the field but suffered injury or illness; others have cancer, cystic fibrosis, MS, and other handicaps. Yet they get the same opportunity to share the Gospel as conventional full-time missionaries. A consultant to the Referral Center describes them as some of the sharpest people he's ever dealt with. They are not in the Provo mission, but serve under President Ralph W. Smith of the MTC and more directly under President John Allen, who presides over their branch. Not long ago the branch was made into the Referral Center Mission, though its position in the MTC keeps it from being entirely independent.

One way to become an online missionary is to partner up with the online missionaries at the MTC Referral Center. The online missionaries are looking for volunteers to help them engage in the online process. They solicit help through the use of a Facebook page to find possible people to help them gain ideas. Then they have you give them your Skype name so they can call you on a weekly audio Skype chat to discuss ways of doing this or soliciting ideas on ways they can improve the online missionary process.

But you don't need a formal mission call to be an online missionary. You can set up a website or blog or otherwise participate in the online conversation about the Church and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, just like I do here. I like to use current events stories about Mormons; I then expand upon the media stories, providing more background and links to LDS resources as a missionary tool. So get out there, share your beliefs, try to reach people and touch their hearts. In the process you will become an online member missionary, and do great things to move the work of the Lord forward.

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