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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Hubbub Over Missionary Blogs


Quite a bit of controversy has arisen over missionary blogs. There is even a big campaign right now about making them all private so that anyone who wants to read them has to ask the moderator for permission.

What?! Making missionary blogs private just seems so counterintuitive. From what I understood, there was supposed to be an increase in missionary activity online. Not less.

There is so much good that these young people are doing. To make these blogs less accessible on the Internet would greatly decrease the evidence of some of the greatest good that is going on in this world today. I'm sure you'd agree that we can all use every bit of good we can find.

The argument for private blogs is completely valid. Missionary safety is the biggest concern.

It is so great that a missionary's family members and/or friends will jump in to help record a missionaries experiences, but as a moderator for a missionary blog, if you have limited blogging experience, you may not be aware of the concerns or the safety issues. There are definitely some Internet etiquette and safety rules that need to be shared.

The fact of the matter is that in this day and age, you can't just throw every nitty gritty fact out to the world and expect everyone to be kind and courteous with it--let's think pigs and pearls, shall we? As members of the Church, we like to think that everyone out there is basing their lives on faith, hope, and charity and is trying to better themselves, but to be real, most people are not. There are people out there with questionable motives. Think: Seek "that all men might be miserable like unto [themselves]" (2 Nephi 2:27).

I have seen family blogs where the sidebar contains beautiful pictures of each of the family's children. Under each photo is the child's full name and date of birth. I just cringe when I see this knowing that ANYONE could do really evil things with just that information alone.

This is the kind of thing I'm talking about. We just must be wise.

In order to help you avoid some potentially bad things, let me give you a quick crash course....

First, let me state, just like the safety of your home, if someone desperately wants to get to you, they will find a way. You do all that you can and take every precaution available and then trust that everything will be fine. 


Here are a few precautions (I know there are more, so if you have found something additional that works, I hope you'll leave a comment so we can all benefit from what you've learned):

  1. Write as if you're writing to the most depraved person that walks the earth. Never let your guard down, and never put too much information out there. If you have your doubts and wonder if what you're writing might not be appropriate, take that as your warning and cut it out.
  2. Never use names. Of course, the name of the missionary will be obvious, but protecting the
    identity of other missionaries, investigators, family members, etc. is of utmost importance. Instead, use a first initial or some kind of descriptor for the person you're referring to.
  3. Never, under any circumstance, speak ill of ANYONE (from companion to governmental system and everyone in between). This is one of those "Hmm....should I include this in the blog?" kind of questions. If you question it, delete it. So what if the post ends up being three words long? You just don't do it no matter how truthful it may be. It is just too damaging in the long run.
  4. If you must place a mailing address, only include the address of the mission home. The current address is not a good idea for two reasons. First, it obviously makes a missionary more accessible to anyone who might want to harm him/her. Second, these addresses change frequently, so mailing to them just isn't the best idea. People can send mail through the mission home. It may take a few extra days for a missionary to get whatever it might be, but it's just better to preserve the missionary's safety.
  5. Never put a map of the area where a missionary is serving on a blog. I actually think I have one of my daughter's first area. I was so excited about her first assignment that I was sure the rest of the world would be too. In hindsight, that was super dumb of me. I will never do it again. No matter how excited I may be.
  6. Be SUPER careful about the photos you post. Either the missionary needs to ask the permission of those who appear in the photo to put it on the Internet, or photos need to be limited to the missionary whose blog it is and possibly his/her companion.


But the the question arises....what about preserving the actual record? When you've cut it all apart, what will you have left? Here are a couple of thoughts.....

  • Before you post anything on the Internet, make sure to copy and paste the original email somewhere--a word document is great. Then print it and place it in a page protector in a binder.
  • Here's what I do....I have created an additional private blog. I have invited no one else to view it. Each week, when my family writes to our daughter/sister, I copy and paste these into posts on this blog. When my daughter writes, I copy and paste those as well--unedited. The pictures she sends are also placed there. The plan is that one day, shortly after she returns home, we will upload this blog to a book-making site and format it to be printed into a nice book for her.


Oh, I have one additional comment to blog overseers....
image: chaseartist.com
One of my friends once said that in the comments of anything online is where the "Trolls lurk." This isn't always the case, but there just might be times when a troll happens along and writes a negative comment. This being the case you don't just want that showing up on your blog. So, please make sure that in the blog settings you have it set so that comments always go through you first. How do you do this? Let me show you.....

Log into the blog
Click on "Design" then "Settings" then "Posts and Comments."
Where you see "Comment Moderation," click "Always" and type in an email address.
.....And voila! You're good to go.

After you've done this, all comments will show up in two places--your email inbox and the "Comments" section after you've clicked on "Design."


So go ahead and write your missionary blog. Share it with the world, and while you're at it, take a little perusal of  Matthew 5:14-16. Just beware, the fierce winds are blowing. We must do what we can to not only keep the flame burning through our protection of it but see that this flame grows to the point of filling the earth.

2 comments:

Patricia Morse said...

Well said, Julie. I think you are so smart and right on the mark with your advice. Good job,

lpelon said...

That is great common sense advice, thank you! The only thing I would say is that my little brother's mission in Texas has specifically asked friends and family to send mail directly to the missionary's location NOT the mission home. But I know that is different from mission to mission.

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