The Who, What, and How of Area Technical Senior Missionaries Print E-mail
Written by Barbara Gardner   
Thursday, 15 August 2013

Howes sitting in front of Computers

After working for 13 years with the Church's Information and Communication Services (ICS) department, Ralph Howes was looking forward to turning the free time of retirement into full-time service. It wasn’t long before he began filling out papers for a full-time mission. At the same time the Africa Southeast Area Office in Johannesburg was asking for a replacement for their ICS technology specialist missionary. Because his skills were just what Johannesburg needed, a match was made. The Howes entered the MTC in August and were welcomed in Johannesburg by the beginning of September.

Elder Howes found himself in the middle of many ongoing projects including Internet connectivity in meetinghouses, rolling out opportunities to use webcasting, and identifying and supporting Stake Technology Specialists. But in Africa many areas are still too remote to connect to the Internet, and some members were too economically challenged to travel to a central location. Finding solutions to these needs required both high- and low-tech components and ingenuity.

First, media players were installed in remote locations. General conference sessions and other broadcasts were then recorded, downloaded onto thumb drives, copied, and distributed to meetinghouses on foot via “sneaker net” to the entire stake, allowing everyone to hear the voice of prophets and leaders.

Elder Howes helped in a pilot project to make computers more accessible to members in South Africa, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With training, members are now able to prepare lessons, do schoolwork, perform research, do temple and family history work, and search out employment. These computers also help overcome the challenge faced by many African families who have a missionary in the field. With no reliable postal service, weekly letters home are unheard of, but with meetinghouse computers and a few lessons on email, families are staying connected!

After eighteen months in Africa, Elder Howes is currently serving as a Church-service missionary in the Church’s Temple Department. Does he enjoy using his technical training in the service of the Lord? Yes. He is in the process of filling out papers looking for another full-time missionary opportunity.

For Africa to request an ICS missionary replacement at the exact same time that a 13-year information technology veteran is filling out mission papers can only testify of matches being made in heaven. To ensure that this process can happen again and again, Anna Butler, Field Communications Analyst in the ICS department, is willing to be another hand in the Lord’s work.

“Full-time senior missionaries serving technical missions is fairly new,” Sister Butler said. On the same day that Elder Howes was filling out paperwork for a new mission, Sister Butler was participating in a bi-monthly phone conference with the 14 worldwide area offices, requesting each office to define which ICS needs could be fulfilled by senior missionaries. These area offices are located in Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, South Africa, Russia, Germany, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Japan.

Clarifying the role of full-time senior technical missionaries, Sister Butler said, “These missionaries will focus on serving as technology specialists. Just as any area in need uses welfare or family history missionaries, these areas will utilize the technology experience of retired professionals.”

It is one thing to have Church-wide technology needs identified and defined, and a totally separate thing to find qualified professionals to fill those needs as full-time missionaries. Brother Gary and Sister Marilyn Peterson are committed to fulfilling this effort. Having already served full-time missions in Denmark and Nauvoo, the Petersons were excited by the unique opportunity to be pioneers in the technology world of the Church.

Petersons standing side by side in front of their global map for senior missionaries

One of the first obstacles they addressed was a training program specific to each worldwide area office. Their solution involves a technical training that lasts between three and five days in addition to the traditional training the missionaries receive at the MTC in Provo. “We hope this specific training will help them feel confident as they do the work the Lord needs them to do,” Sister Peterson explained.

The Petersons will be instrumental in helping recruit missionaries. One effort to get the word out was during this summer’s Education Week on the BYU Provo Campus. As attendees discovered what full-time opportunities are available, Elder and Sister Peterson answered questions. Dozens of potential missionaries passed their contact information to the Petersons, and now the process begins for matching the right missionaries to the right corner of the vineyard!

The worldwide technology needs of the Church are varied and suggest exciting opportunities for couple missionaries. While Sister Butler gathers information on the "where" and "what" that needs to be done, and as the Petersons search out "who" is willing to do it, it is hundreds of "Elder Howes" that the Lord needs now.

Stay tuned for more information about these technical opportunities and more for senior missionaries.

LDSTech Missionary Form

 
LDSTech Broadcast: New Record-Keeping and Technology Support Site on LDS.org Print E-mail
Written by Justin Krebs   
Monday, 01 October 2012

The next LDSTech broadcast, scheduled for Friday, October 5, at 12:00pm MDT, will focus on the Record-Keeping and Technology Support site on LDS.org.

This new Record-Keeping and Technology Support site will give priesthood leaders and clerks a centralized location to access training and support for the following topics:

  • Membership
  • Finance (including Financial Auditing)
  • Meetinghouse Technology

This LDSTech broadcast provides an opportunity for you to learn more about this new site and how it can help you get training and support.

Record Keeping and Technology Support

To view the Record-Keeping and Technology Support site, go to clerksupport.lds.org.

Note that although the site is live, there's still a lot of content being added to the site. Most likely the content rollout will be complete around the beginning of November. What you see currently on the site is only part of the content.

 
Incorporating Responsive Design into Mormon.org Print E-mail
Written by Rob Goates   
Wednesday, 29 August 2012

In October of last year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ran a media campaign right in the heart of New York City, in Manhattan, to raise awareness of Mormonism and encourage those who were curious to visit Mormon.org. What the Church found was quite interesting.

“Because our advertising ran entirely in out of home placements, we noticed that a significant number of Mormon.org visitors were viewing the site on mobile devices,” said Ron Wilson, senior manager of Internet and advertising in the Missionary Department. “This information was used to present a plan to the Missionary Executive Council who approved the development of an engaging mobile solution.”

The engaging mobile solution that ICS and Bonneville Communications came up with redirected mobile users to a new Mormon.org website. But when they realized it wasn’t optimized to fulfill the need they were looking for, ICS recommended responsive design for the best user experience.

Responsive design is an approach to web design in which a site is crafted to provide an optimal viewing experience – such as easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling – across a wide range of devices from desktop computer monitors to tablets to mobile phones.

“Mormon.org’s ultimate goal is to provide content to everyone, everywhere, regardless of the device they may be using,” said Katrina Kennedy Archibald, a front-end developer of the website. “We want people to have the best experience possible when they are accessing our website content. We found the best way to do that was through responsive design.”

 Mormon.org responsive design

Left – Mormon.org on the desktop; Right – Mormon.org on a mobile device. There’s just one site, but responsive design allows the site to display in optimal ways according to the device. Note that the responsive design shown here is not live yet -- it will be released in October. 

 
LDSTech Broadcast on Duty to God, Personal Progress, and LDS Music Websites -- Friday, Sept. 7 Print E-mail
Written by Tom Johnson   
Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The next LDSTech broadcast, scheduled for Friday, September 7, at 12:00pm MDT, will focus on the Personal Progress, Duty to God, and LDS Music websites.

You can attend the broadcast either online or in person at the Riverton Office Building. Jeff Hutchings, a quality assurance lead in ICS, will give the broadcast.

Personal Progress and Duty to God

The Personal Progress and Duty to God programs are designed to help youth strengthen their testimonies and overcome the challenges they are facing. Each program has a dedicated website that allows anyone with an LDS Account to participate in these programs. Each website allows the user to create, edit, and save journal entries and experiences as well as track their progress.

Young Women Personal Progress site

Duty to God

Over the last several months, significant changes have been made to these websites, and several new enhancements will be coming in the near future. Jeff Hutchings has been an integral part of those changes and will be walking through the changes and discussing the upcoming upgrades.

 
Transitioning from Classic Stake and Ward Websites to the New Tools on LDS.org Print E-mail
Written by Tom Johnson   
Friday, 14 September 2012

If you're still using the Stake and Ward Websites on Classic.LDS.org (pictured below), be advised that Stake and Ward Websites will be retired at the end of 2012, possibly earlier. You will need to use the new tools on LDS.org beginning in 2013.

Stake and Ward Websites will be discontinued at the end of 2012.

For many of you, this is welcome information, because closing the door on Stake and Ward Websites means one less point of confusion for members. Members will no longer wonder whether the ward uses the Classic website or the new tools on LDS.org.

Beyond just avoiding confusion, though, the complete transition to the new LDS.org tools opens up better technology for members in your wards and stakes. The tools now available on LDS.org far outperform the previous Stake and Ward Websites solution on Classic.lds.org (which was built more than a decade ago).

The new LDS.org tools offer more personalized experiences for members, provide publishing solutions for all organization and groups in your ward or stake, and offer functionality that is more robust and scalable to meet the demands of a growing, global church.

Major Differences Between Stake and Ward Websites and the New LDS.org Tools

Several months ago, we published a post titled From Local Unit Websites to a Suite of Tools. This post explained the gradual shift from an all-in-one website to a suite of tools.

The new tools on LDS.org aren't compiled into one single website, as with Stake and Ward Websites, but instead are independent tools. They function more like Microsoft Office's suite of tools, with independent, separate applications that are more specialized and functional than any all-in-one solution.

 
New Functions Added to Clerk Resources Print E-mail
Written by Tom Johnson   
Monday, 10 September 2012

Clerk Resources has been updated with many new features, enhancements, fixes, and other improvements. Some of the updates include the following:

  • Local unit organizations have been modified or expanded to align with the Church Handbook of Instructions and priesthood council direction.
  • Boundary and Leadership Change Request forms in PDF format can now be downloaded by stake and district leaders.
  • Data privacy statements (which some countries require be posted in meetinghouses) are now available in Clerk Resources in addition to the Official Communications Library.
  • For units in the United States and Canada, a new “Order Office Supplies” link will be available on the Clerk Resources homepage.
  • Clerk Resources now supports the new LDS.org header menu structure released by LDS.org in late July 2012.
  • The “Members Moved In” report groups households together that moved in on the same date.

For more details about the release, see the Leader and Clerk Release Notes.

Clerk Resources

 
LDSTech Missionary and Long-Term Volunteer Spotlight: Elder Sorensen and Brother Downey Print E-mail
Written by Rob Goates   
Thursday, 27 September 2012

Church-service missionaries and long-term volunteers are an increasingly important part of the ICS Department. These hard-working men and women serve in various roles that save the Church valuable time and resources. The following stories present two good examples.

Elder Sorensen

Elder Joshua Sorensen, a Church-service missionary from South Jordan, UT, has been serving for six months. He is now considering extending another six months as he prepares to submit his mission papers to go full-time.

“I would love to go full-time after serving a Church-service mission,” Elder Sorensen said. “The experience of living the mission rules and getting the experience will benefit me as I prepare. Any way that I can serve in building up the Lord’s Kingdom is a privilege for me.”

Working specifically with the database for Church asset management, Elder Sorensen helps track and organize the machines and software in the Church’s possession. Thanks to his contribution, this provides a comprehensive list where someone can search for a specific machine or software.

“I feel closer to the Lord through my service and am grateful for the opportunity to save the Church valuable time and resources in assisting in Church resource management,” says Elder Sorensen. “I love to serve in any capacity that will move the Kingdom forward.”

 
Recommended Browsers for LDS.org Tools Print E-mail
Written by Tom Johnson   
Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Recent posts in the LDSTech Forum have highlighted some incompatibility problems for people using Internet Explorer 8 with LDS.org tools. The LDS.org directory, calendar, and other tools have various incompatibilities with Internet Explorer 7 and 8. Sometimes the tools function correctly but don't always display as intended. Other times, as with newsletter, functionality isn't the same (image uploads for the newsletter do not work in Internet Explorer 8 or 9).

About 67 percent of clerk computers are still running Windows XP, which is not compatible with Internet Explorer 9. So if Internet Explorer 7 or 8 is the only browser on your clerk computer, you won't have the best experience with many of the LDS.org tools.

To ensure the best browsing experience using the new tools on LDS.org, update to a newer supported browser such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. This will typically resolve most issues encountered.

Both Chrome and Firefox support a number of advantages. In addition to loading faster, these browsers support current features and technologies that project teams are starting to take advantage of, such as responsive design for mobile-friendly displays.

Safari (the default browser for Macs) works too, but most quality assurance testing in ICS is not done with Safari, so there may be unidentified issues with Safari.

 
New Opportunity to Test Family Sharing and Heritage Services Print E-mail
Written by Jim Ericson   
Friday, 28 September 2012

FamilySearch testing opportunity

A new opportunity to test online services based on common ancestry is now available. The services are designed to help Church members share information and media. No previous experience or specific expertise is required.

To participate, please complete a seven-question survey. You will then be qualified to test these new services and provide valuable feedback before the services are made generally available.

Upon completion of the survey, you will be added to our list of volunteers. You will periodically receive e-mail messages asking you to evaluate some aspect of an online experience designed for families. Examples may include uploading a photo, testing a registration process, starting a simple family tree, or completing a small survey. Each evaluation should take between 10 to 15 minutes. The frequency of requests should be less than once per week on average.

>> Volunteer to test online family sharing and heritage services.

 
New LDS.org Calendar Video Tutorials Print E-mail
Written by Tom Johnson   
Tuesday, 02 October 2012

New video tutorials are available for the LDS.org calendar. These video tutorials provide three-to-five minute movies showing various tasks and concepts with the calendar. The video tutorials cover the following topics:

  • Setting Up the Calendar
  • Understanding Calendar Views
  • Subscribed Calendars and Locations
  • Syncing the Calendar
  • Creating Calendars
  • Scheduling Events
  • Sending E-mail Reminders
  • Editing Repeating Events
  • Dealing with Event Conflicts
  • Reservations Versus Events
  • Creating Reservations

LDS.org Calendar Video Tutorials

To view the videos, first go to the calendar by going to LDS.org. Click Sign In/Tools and then select Calendar. In the calendar, click the gear icon (Settings) and then click Help. In the Help, click the Videos tab.

You can also go directly to the calendar help here.

 
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