Your Missionary Troll

BCC’s John F. wrote a powerful and prescriptive post on the challenges facing the Church’s missionary program. With younger ages and a world gone digital, some of these appear formidable. Craig Harline’s recent delightfully funny book Way Below the Angels, has shown that missionary work has always been daunting even before these challenges appeared, but now with more missionaries, these concerns become even more fraught. Recently Elder Bednar charged the saints to spread the message online and to create a flood of interweb memes and messages that share the gospel and let the world know what our beliefs mean to us. With missionaries spending more time online, how can their time be better used and with more effect?

I have an idea.

Imagine a gathering of family and friends crowded around a young woman sitting in a chair. Video cameras are rolling, several computers with Skype connections have brought in distant grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The young lady is smiling but nervous as she begins to tear open the large white envelope revealing the location of where she will serve for 18 months of her life. Will it be France or Ohio? Cameroon or Berlin? Honolulu or Cheyenne? She starts to read. No one is breathing. She hurries through the preliminaries until she reaches the heart of the matter. She says, her voice shaking, “You have been called to the Kalimdoor, South World of WarCraft mission where you will play a Troll.” Cheers erupt! She smiles at her mother, “I told you I was inspired to become a level 60 Horde Blood Elf!” Her mother gives her a kiss, and says, “I trusted you. That’s why I kept paying your monthly fee.”

These massive online games put you into contact with thousands of people. Sure most of the time you are questing, fighting, and hunting for things you need, but there is still time for conversation and chat. Why not use this opportunity for missionaries to interact in a meaningful way?

I picture it something along these lines. With the church’s large resources each missionary could be outfitted by buying online through vendors the necessary gear to be a level 90 player with massive weapons, spells, shields and whatever. But here is the kicker, the missionaries would go around helping people. Talking to them. Say you rescue a level 30 Tauran from a level 50 Undead who is about to kill the character and take their gear. Then you could say “I suppose you are wondering what makes me such a compassionate Elf? Well, let me tell you . . . “

"You are probably wondering why I'm such a compassionate Elf."

“You are probably wondering why I’m such a compassionate Elf.”

The missionary companions could travel together through the world, helping those in need, stopping at pubs and chatting up the players found there. Asking them if they are happy, then following with, “I bet you thought being a Wargon was going to bring you more joy than you’re getting. Can I tell you why I’m such a happy Orc? It’s because of the teachings of a book I’ve come to believe has the power to bring me more joy than I thought possible. Let’s chat out-game IRL and I’ll tell you about it.” Doors are opened. Alliance creatures are touched. Lives are changed.
"Come with me on a quest that will forever change your life."

“Come with me on a quest that will forever change your life.”

I see first discussions being taught over an ale at a local pub (I suppose virtual ale does not violate the Word of Wisdom, but something might need to be added to the Handbook of Instructions to clarify this).

"Do you have a moment that we could speak in a pub about somethings that have changed my life?"

“Do you have a moment that we could speak in a pub about somethings that have changed my life?”

District meetings could be conducted online prior to a raid covering individual goals for the day, objectives, number of golden questions asked, etc. The WoW mission president could even gather the entire mission in a lonely valley for conferences.

Because WofW is played worldwide missionaries could still learn foreign languages and speak to other players in their own tongue. Thus, maintaining the strong cadre of foreign language speakers among the LDS.

Rumors would spread throughout the game, “I was in Shadowprey Valley when a swarm of super powerful Draenei passed through, they swept through some really obnoxious Warriors then asked us to meet them in the glade. They told us to love each other, to strive for peace, and to look in the real-world for a book that spoke of Nephi and then they were gone.”

"Behold, my real power lies not with sword or magic but by the power of a book I've discovered in real life!"

“Behold, my real power lies not with sword or magic but by the power of a book I’ve discovered in real life!”

I think too much game playing might do the missionaries harm if they come home addicted to gaming, so these missionaries should serve in isolated outposts in the country where the language they’ve been called to learn is spoken. Only play the game four or so hours a day (likely between 1-4am prime gaming time) and then spend time serving among their people or exploring nature and its delights.

Second Life might also be profitably explored for missionary work as well.

I think this will be particularly important in the future as online worlds become more and more important in people’s lives. As games begin to mimic real life in the level of details and complexity people will likely spend more and more time in massively multiplayer games. One does not have to read too much science fiction to understand that the future will be digital (see my short story here). It seems if missionaries can get an early start in proselytizing virtually, we will have so much the advantage when people interact in virtual worlds almost exclusively–sorting out what works and what doesn’t in the world of digital proselytizing.

This might be particularly effective because it might already be happening. It is an open question as to whether we are already living in a simulation. There are tantalizing hints coming from physics suggesting the world might be a two-dimensional hologram. Futurist Neal Bostrom gives some reasoned arguments as to why he suspects that we are in fact in a simulation. It may be that we are already missionaries in a massive online player game. Winning points for the team!

I can almost hear an alien voice saying, “Steven take off your virtual interface, you’ve played EarthLife long enough. It’s time for dinner.”
. Thanks to Nate Peck for the images!


  1. Kevin Barney says:
  2. Genius. I suspect you are equipped with a Radiant Fruit of the Spirit, which adds +10 charisma.

  3. Oh, SteveP, I love your twisted mind. Makes me smile every time (ok, except when it screws with my dreams for days afterward).

  4. The lovely and perhaps obvious satire here is: thousands of missionaries are already doing this. I even had a term for them-“WoW Missionaries.” They’re just not quite as innovative yet… or able to channel their addictions

  5. I see a lot of potential for roll playing different scenes from the Book of Mormon. Captain Moroni could be a key and legendary character in WoW, constantly leaving disclaimers reading, “read more about this battle in the Book of Mormon.”

  6. Leroy Jenkins was my companion. Oh the stories.

  7. It’s posts and comments like these that make me like y’all.

  8. Don’t forget the Call of Duty mission exception:

    Getting past the humor though, the online gaming world really is a social space filled with real people. The internet has really broken down the barriers of time and distance and games can generate their own cultures. So yes, maybe in the future we will need WoW missionaries.

  9. This made this non-gamer’s day. Well, I am a Tetris master, but not sure that counts.

  10. My kids are finally going to want to serve a mission!

  11. Brilliant. Sometimes a good leader just sees where the crowd is headed and gets out in front.

  12. Heh. Said ironically, I think. SteveP once again gives us a glimpse of the future peppered with a little sugar to make it go down. Perhaps heaven is virtual.

  13. Excellent post. I hereby recommend that Sam Brunson pick up this theme and post on the tithing implications of virtual increase. Should you tithe on increases to gear and commodities, or just gold? Should you net out necessarily business and living expenses? And most importantly, how can we best engage the deacon’s quorum to gather virtual fast offerings? I sense a real win-win-win there. Fast sunday will go from worst to first for my boys.

  14. Some groundwork has already been laid for this with “Mormons of the Wasteland”:

    Clearly the most significant Mormon character in the Fallout universe is Joshua Graham, also known as Malpais Legate and The Burned Man.

    For those who don’t know the lore, Joshua Graham was a Mormon missionary sent from New Canaan (post-apocalyptic Ogden, Utah) to preach to the tribes of Arizona. Like most real-life Mormon missionaries, Graham had to learn a new language in order to preach to the Arizona tribals and, like most real-life Mormon missionaries, was able to do so. . . .

    In the game, it appears that Graham’s linguistic abilities may have been pivotal in the formation of Caesar’s Legion. Graham had been sent from New Canaan to preach to the tribes of Arizona and had managed to master a number of the tribal dialects. Meanwhile, The Followers of the Apocalypse dispatched a research party from California to study the tribal languages that were emerging in the east. They met Graham along their way and enlisted his help as a translator.

    Shortly thereafter, Graham and the Followers were captured by the Blackfoot tribe, one of the weakest of eight warring tribes in the region. Fearing they would be killed along with their captors, a Follower named Edward Sallow determined that to survive they needed to remake the tribals into a capable fighting force. With his knowledge of ancient Rome, Sallow enlisted Graham’s linguistic talents to help him train the Blackfoot tribe in the ways of total war.

    Sallow and Graham went on to lead the tribe in conquest after conquest, with both men ultimately forgetting or abandoning their humble and humanitarian beginnings and getting caught up in the violent rise to power of their new nation. . . .

    After failing at the first battle of Hoover Dam, Caesar has Graham covered in pitch, set on fire, and thrown into the Grand Canyon. Graham, already renowned for his resilience as much as for his cruelty, survives. Stripped of power, title, and purpose, he returns to New Canaan filled with remorse for what he had become and for the shame he brought to his people.

    Here again, Obsidian avoids the lazy cliché of religious people being hypocritically unforgiving and intolerant and has the Mormons of New Canaan forgiving the penitent Graham, embracing him as a returning prodigal.

    And more of the same:

  15. Can you just imagine missionaries wearing oculus (es?, oculi?) as they walk down the street?

  16. Also, any chance that the church will accept temples that my kids and I build on minecraft? I can’t think of a better way to pass sunday afternoon that building a replica of Solomon’s temple and then, during FHE, demonstrating the appropriate sacrifices of oxen (cows) and turtle-doves (chickens). Maybe that’s why they never call me into primary.

  17. They ought to start a pilot using senior missionaries….

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    Three words: Carlos the Dwarf.

  19. The Other Clark says:

    “peppered with a little sugar” ?

    I think this is called a mixed metaphor.

  20. Everyone knows that missionaries who are called to serve in Alliance territories are more righteous.

  21. I don’t mean to intrude into this stream of comments–enjoying it as it is–but I just wanted to include a true story I know of personally. There’s a middle-aged guy in our ward who was introduced to the church by a 12 year old LDS gamer (can’t remember in what virtual world) a few years ago. He and his daughter subsequently joined the church; his wife joined sometime later, and recently another family that used to go to their old church has joined, encouraged by them and another family in the ward. He enjoys telling the story.

  22. Lori, that’s great! (and why we need to take the lead in online religion).

    Dave K, see there are so many things that need working out!

  23. I once had a dream that the church opened up a sign language mission to teach the gospel to chimps and gorillas…kind of the same, right? Also, it was a musical…

  24. Jashleyfryer, please oh please turn that into a real musical.

  25. Though … Tauren and Undead are the same faction, dead characters don’t drop gear (unlike, say Diablo 1) so it is pretty hard to steal gear.

    “It may be that we are already missionaries in a massive online player game. Winning points for the team! “

  26. Sandy Petersen of Call of Cthulhu fame is an LDS gamer, btw.

  27. I’m sure I’m not the only non-gamer in the world, so missionaries would have a hard time converting us. We wouldn’t understand what on earth (or off) they were talking abut.

  28. Um, there’s already a Mormon region in Second Life with a museum explaining the Book of Mormon, a family history center, a large model of the London Temple, a reconstruction of a typical LDS meetinghouse, and a Christus. It’s called Adam-ondi-Ahman.

  29. Stephen! You KNOW these things. Thanks for the clarification.

  30. Bryce Spencer says:

    Another fun question would be how would a ward be organized in a game like Wow or Second Life. Would there be an Ordain Women demanding priesthood ordination? This is an interesting post.

  31. haha hooray for this post

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