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BYU Daily Universe Article

LDS mission pages on the Web increase contact among alumni

By Marissa Thompson
Religion Editor
15 November 1995

Reprinted by permission.

When Matthew Hammond, a junior majoring in electrical engineering from McKinney, Texas, returned from the Taiwan T'aichung mission a year ago, he used the Internet to maintain ties with former companions and with his mission president.

This correspondence through e-mail became the basis for an idea--an idea that has been repeated 38 times in the last 10 months--creation of the first LDS mission alumni home page on the World Wide Web.

For Hammond, creating the page was a way "to link together mission alumni who are spread across the country and around the globe."

And the response has been enormous.

"I was not really expecting the kind of response that I received," Hammond said. "To this day, I have about three letters a week from random people around the world that see the page. About half of them are old missionaries that served in the mission, and others are people who are just curious."

One of Hammond's main objectives in creating the page, "to strengthen the sense of community among mission alumni," has been achieved, as former missionary companions are being reunited, missionary reunions are being planned and mission alumni are sending in and sharing their experiences and comments.

Craig Harman, the creator of France Paris Mission's home page, said his page has experienced sustained growth since it appeared on the WWW on May 31.

"We have had five people adding their e-mail addresses to the page each week," he said. These entries have increased the index for the France Paris Mission page, so that it now has a list of e-mail addresses for 85 returned missionaries.

Since the major audience of the mission pages are returned missionaries, Harman thinks the most important feature of a mission page is its index of mission alumni, which enables missionaries to correspond with each other.

In addition to an index, Harman said most mission pages list the mission's song, the mission's history and the mission's jargon. Some also contain photographs and mission stories that have been submitted.

Lee Choquette, creator of the Sweden Stockholm mission page, said when he created his pages, "he wanted to include a taste of what it was like to serve in the mission bring fond memories back to people."

"An easy way of doing this," he continued, "was to write up a list of mission slang, such as I had seen on one of the French mission pages. A harder way would be to scan some photos, which I keep reminding myself to get to."

New mission pages are added to the WWW at a rate of three or four every two weeks, said Harman, who also created one of the indexes for the mission pages. About 12 percent of the LDS missions are now represented on the WWW, he added.

While the mission pages maintain ties among companions, they also allow returned missionaries to keep in touch with former investigators.

Harman said one returned missionary inquired about a certain investigator whom he had taught and was able to find out that the man had been baptized, married in the temple and was now serving as patriarch in the Paris stake.

The France Paris Mission home page is also linked to a student at a French university, through whom the page is given access to the French telephone directory. Harman said this access will enable missionaries to maintain contact with former investigators.

Prospective missionaries also benefit from the mission home pages.

"Although it (looking at the pages) isn't enough to let them know exactly what their mission's going to be like, it can get them excited about their mission," Harman said.

Harman said this current mission information available to prospective missionaries is drastically different from the information he had available to him when he entered the Paris, France Mission in 1992.

"The most recent source of information I had about my mission was a book that was out in the late '60s called "So You're Going on a Mission."

The book talked about house maids, which haven't existed for missionaries in the France Paris Mission for years, Harman said. It also said a missionary could expect to pay about $60 a month, he added.

Harman said mission pages can also "increase missionary fervor" for returned missionaries, who are now member missionaries.

"The pages serve as a reminder of the mission experiences that we've had," he said. "They can boost enthusiasm for later on."

Although some of the pages' creators are BYU students, Harman said most of them aren't. They are just people who take the time to create the pages because they love their missions, he said.

Hammond said the time spent in creating and maintaining the Taiwan T'aichung Mission page has been gratifying.

"Although it takes a lot of time for me and my friends to maintain the Web page, it is definitely worth the sacrifice for what we gain in terms of technological expertise and renewed relationships."

Printed in the Daily Universe: November 15, 1995