10 Year Anniversary of the Mission Prep Website

Summary: At the ten year anniversary of the Mission Prep website, I thought it was a good time to reflect on the history of the site, the blessings that have come to me and others through the site, and what the future may hold. 

10 years of mission prep site design evolution
It was March 1, 2009, 10 years ago from my writing today, that I launched the Mission Prep website. The idea to start this website actually came to me a year and a half prior to that. It was late 2007 and I was living in Memphis, Tennessee, and I had just accepted a job as the new Web Analytics Product Manager for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was to start my new job in January 2008 with the IT department of the Church and I was really looking forward to it. My new job would entail analyzing the data regarding traffic to all Church websites and making reports and recommendations for improvement.

As I was preparing to move to Utah, I wanted to hit the ground running in my new job and I spent a lot of time looking at the Church’s web presence. For some reason, it stood out to me at that time that there were little to no online resources specifically for young men and women preparing to serve a full-time mission.

As I contemplated what online resources could help future missionaries, my mind was drawn back to my own mission as a young man to Rosario, Argentina. I remembered fondly, and still do, my time as a missionary, and I felt my mission had been successful, both in terms of helping many people come unto Christ through the waters of baptism, as well as the blessings I personally received, temporally and spiritually. I felt like I had something to share to help future missionaries be better prepared to have a successful full-time mission. I began to feel a vision coming to my mind and heart of what a mission preparation website might contain, and I wondered if my new job at the Church might lead to opportunities to help build such a website for the Church.

With the craziness of moving my family across the country and starting a new job, I put the mission prep website toward the back of my mind. I did, though, keep my eye open for opportunities to pitch the idea to official Church website representatives during my first year of working for the Church. But when it was clear that nothing was going to develop along that front, in early 2009, I again felt urged by the Spirit of God that a mission preparation website needed to be created. The thought came to my mind that if the Church wasn’t going to build it, then I needed to do so. I acted on the prompting and immediately bought the domain name, MormonMissionPrep.com.

I had no idea if I could run a popular or successful website, but I thought I’d give it a try. And if nothing else, I thought, writing about my mission and documenting my missionary preparation advice could be of benefit to my children as they grew older and prepared to serve the Lord. The site, I thought, could also serve as a sort of sand box, or testing ground, for me to hone and improve my digital marketing, web analytics, and search engine optimization (SEO) skills.

I had tons of ideas of things to talk about on the website, and I looked forward to giving my advice and sharing the stories from my mission, particularly stories that led to the conversion of families to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. As a professional in the digital marketing and SEO field, I also started researching topics that could be discussed on the website by doing keyword research. I found people were searching for information on how to do missionary work, how to become an effective missionary, and what young people can do to be preparing for a mission now. So that’s what I wrote about.

As I operated the site in the first year, I got lots of comments and questions from visitors, and I realized that as much help youth needed in preparing spiritually, they wanted even more help navigating the temporal aspects of mission prep. I was flooded with questions about how much a mission costs, requirements to serve a mission, how to fill out a mission application form, the timeline for submitting the mission paperwork, and tons of other questions about the mission call process. Additionally, I got many questions from young people about the repentance process, how to get courage to confess sins to the bishop, and how to clear up past transgressions like law of chastity violations so they could be worthy to serve a mission.

So again, that’s what I wrote about. I added a social media presence for Mission Prep on YouTube, Facebook, and elsewhere. I posted videos, made infographics, and shared stories about missionaries. The site grew slowly but steadily. Within a year, I had several thousand people coming to the site each month. And a year after that, the site had doubled traffic again. So popular was the site that I tried my hand at writing a book on the topic of mission preparation. It was moderately successful and I hope to have time to make a revised edition of it some day.

The site reached it’s peak in traffic in late 2012 and 2013 after the announcement was made by the Church lowering the age requirement for missionaries. After that ground swell died down, the traffic leveled off to roughly were it is today–a popular destination for thousands of people a month, youth, parents, and leaders of future missionaries, to get practical tips on all things related to spiritual and temporal missionary preparation.

I guess one of the things I am most surprised at now is that after ten years, I haven’t run out of new things to post to the site and there doesn’t appear to be a shortage of new topics for the foreseeable future. I wish I had more time to write articles for the website, but I am super busy with a large family, full-time work, and Church callings. When I started the site, I had three kids and now I have six, which as it turns out is exponentially more work, not just double. 🙂 Of course I love my family and they are my top priority, which is why I am not able to write more often. I do, though, offer this site as a place for you in the community to offer your mission prep advice to the future generation. Go see my page of guest post opportunities on Mission Prep if you’d like to publish an article here.

As my kids get older and begin to leave the house, I hope to have more time to dedicate to this site. In the meantime, I’ll plug along posting articles, answering visitors’ questions, and making updates as often as I can. I have been richly blessed by running the website and by pondering frequently on one of our core duties as disciples of Jesus to share his gospel with the world. I had a prompting from the Spirit of God and I followed it. I didn’t realize at the time how it would affect my life so dramatically, consuming so much time and energy, but it has and I have grown from the experience.

Hopefully this website has also been a great benefit to the thousands of readers who have come across the Mission Prep site and will do so in the future. May God bless and be with you all as you prepare yourselves to go and serve the Lord and your fellow beings as full time missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

New Website Design 2017

New Website Design – 2017

I am please to announce that last week we released a new website design for MormonMissionPrep.com. I’ve stuck with the same logo we introduced in 2013, but the rest of the site design and layout is new. The site is dramatically cleaner–less cluttered, fewer side bar items, fewer ads, more white space, etc., but the biggest change is that the site is on a new server and loads much much faster than before. Hopefully you will find it easier to navigate and find and read the content you are looking for. We had a few technical hiccups when we launched the new site design last week, but I think we have all the bugs worked out now. If you notice any problems, though, or if you have any suggestions, let me know via the contact page. Thanks and God bless you in your mission preparation!

Virtual Mission Call Map

pins on world mapWhen I was a freshman at BYU, during the winter semester of 1995, most of the young men in my ward were submitting their mission papers and receiving their mission calls. Our ward, like many others then and now, had a map of the world on which they put a pin indicating where each young man was going to serve on his mission. I thought it was a wonderful way for us to celebrate together and recognize the world wide influence these young men were going to have in bringing the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to virtually every corner of the globe.

In 2009, when I launched the Mormon Mission Prep website, part of my vision was to have a virtual mission call map, where men and women, young and old, could put a pin representing where they served their mission. My first attempt at this was a manual process where people emailed me their information and I then put it on a Google Map. But that was simply too difficult for me to maintain. My second attempt, a few years latter, I called the mission farewell feature, which allowed people to submit their information through a form but it lacked a graphical map interface. Today I’m announcing a new mission call map feature that automates the data collection process, making it easy for me to maintain, through a form submission, and also has a graphical map where the pictures of the missionaries will automatically appear showing where they have been called to serve.
Add Your Mission Call to the Map Here View the Mission Call Map Here

mission call map launchThis new, virtual mission call map is for not only for young people just receiving their calls. I’d love it if missionaries, young and old, newly returned or long-time returned submitted their information. When you submit your information, you will be asked for your name, mission location, mission start date, hometown, and your testimony about your mission call. Your picture will appear on the world-wide map and clicking on your picture will take users to a separate page with a bigger picture and your testimony and other information. That individual detail page is easily shareable on social media so you can share your call with all your family and friends.

I’m excited about this new feature and look forward to receiving many submissions, seeing where people are called to serve the Lord, and reading your sincere testimonies. Thanks!

 

Missionary Farewell Feature is Back

pulpit in mormon chapelWe have big news today. The Missionary Farewell feature is back. This was a very popular feature years ago. But in 2013, when I revamped the site, the feature broke and I never got it working again, until now.

The Missionary Farewell feature is designed to allow missionaries to tell us about their mission call. They simply fill out the mission farewell form with their name, name of the mission they are called to, their testimony and some other information. Then the information is posted on the Mormon Mission Prep site to share the good news with all site visitors.

[one_half last=”no”] Submit a Missionary Farewell[/one_half][one_half last=”yes”] Read Missionary Farewells[/one_half]

 

LDS Church Digital Universe

While I was creating the list of public LDS Church websites, mobile apps, and social media accounts, I thought it might help to visually represent this universe of LDS Church digital content. So here it is…
lds church digital universe
Go to the interactive graphic of the LDS Church Digital Universe

The above is a picture of an interactive graphic I created with Prezi. If you go to the Prezi file with the button above, you can zoom in and out to see detail or the big picture. All the website addresses in the interactive graphic are live, and if clicked will take you to the respective website.

Enjoy this interactive graphic. I hope it helps you make a little more sense of the LDS Church digital universe. And as with the list of websites, if you notice something is missing, please let me know and I will add it. Thanks.

List of Church Websites and Social Media

church universe of websites social media and mobile apps

In 2014, when I was serving as stake clerk and also working in internet technology at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints headquarters, my stake president asked me to put together a presentation on the Church’s use of technology including all the different official websites, mobile apps, and social media accounts. His fear, and I think it was accurate, was that many members don’t utilize all the digital content the Church has simply because they don’t know about them. I guess you could say there are many “who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12).

The LDS Church Use of Technology Presentation

I knew of no such resource, from official or non-official Church sources, and after an extensive search could not find one, therefore, I decided to create my own list. The list had close to 200 entries when I was done, and from almost the moment I published it, it was out dated due to the continual launch or new websites, mobile apps, and social media. And now, with the Church changing domain names from lds.org to churchofjesuschrist.org, nearly ever entry in my list has become out-dated. At this point in my life, six very busy kids, work, callings, etc., I just cannot maintain the list. If you are looking for such a list of digital properties from the Church, you may consider these options:

Arrival of Baby #6

I haven’t been posting lately because life has gotten really busy with the birth of our sixth baby a few weeks ago. This was my wife Heather’s sixth c-section. She is a brave woman of great faith and she did great throughout the trials of pregnancy, delivery, and recovery. We are so grateful for competent and caring doctors and nurses and the watchful care of the Lord over our family.

We named the baby Scotland Charles Smith. Scotland after my many Scottish ancestors, several of whom were pioneers in joining the Church. Charles is a family name on my wife’s side, and I just thought he looked like a Charles. We may be predestining him to serve a mission in Scotland some day, but that wouldn’t be so bad.

Mother and baby are both doing very well. Here are some pics.

scotty and daddy

scotty and mommy

smith family aug 2014

Guest Post Opportunities

Call for Guest Post Authors

hand and computer keyboardFor the first few years after starting this website in 2009, I made efforts to post a new article weekly. At times this has been difficult, especially with a growing young family, and demands from work and Church callings. I have long felt I should make efforts to get other people involved in this website, contributing to the content and helping in their unique ways to prepare youth (and those not so young) for missionary service. Therefore, I am sending out a call for help in contributing mission prep ideas, stories, inspiration, and testimonies by writing a guest post for the website.

Contact Me about Contributing a Guest Post

Guidelines for Writing a Guest Post

There are many reasons to contribute a guest post to this website, but I hope your number one motivation is to follow the Spirit of the Lord, build the Kingdom of God on earth, and be anxiously engaged in a good cause. In addition to the spiritual satisfaction, a guest post can be used secondarily to promote your missionary-related website, product, or service you many have. If you link to your website or promote for your product or service in your article, it should still be a substantive article related to missionary work or mission prep. If, rather than writing a guest post, you are more interested in simply advertising on the Mormon Mission Prep site, please use the contact form.

Ideas for Article Topics

At one time, early in the history of the Mormon Mission Prep website, I thought I would run out of ideas of things to talk about. In reality, I have found the opposite to be true. The longer I run the website, the more ideas I have and the further behind I feel I’m getting. I have dozens of ideas for mission prep articles but I simply do not have the time to write them all. If you need ideas for a guest post topic, please consider one of the following:

  • Information and helps on budgeting and saving money for a mission
  • Adjusting to missionary life (Home sickness, technology withdrawal, hard work, recognizing and following the spirit, the MTC, country specific tips, etc.)
  • Humility: The gospel is to be proclaimed by the weak and simple
  • Sacrifice is an essential part of missionary work
  • What you learned from your mission
  • Working with the ward mission leader
  • “It is not your job to convert that is the job of the Holy Ghost.” -Pres Dieter F. Uchtdorf
  • How helping other people makes you happy
  • Missionary work goes on in the spirit world
  • Preparing to receive the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood
  • Mission prep is life prep
  • Tips for getting along with companions
  • A list of mission prep scriptures (like a scripture mastery list)
  • Discerning the Will of the Lord for Me. I think this topic would help many young women, and some young men, who struggle to decide if they should go on a mission.
  • Member-missionary tips
  • Exercise tips
  • Information for Moms of future missionaries
  • Mission prep tips for primary aged children
  • Motivating teenagers to prepare for and serve a mission

Of course you are not limited to these topics, so if you have other ideas for posts that would help missionaries prepare, send it in. Just click on the button above and fill out the form to get started.

Thank you.

Jimmy Smith

New Site Design 2013

screen shot of new 2013 mmp site design - smallI am pleased to introduce a new design for the Mormon Mission Prep website. The site has a cool new look and feel, a new logo, a responsive (mobile friendly) design, a restructured menu for easier use, and other upgrades.

  • Responsive (mobile friendly) design: Mobile traffic to my site has doubled each year for the last few years to the point where mobile devices now account for 30% of the total traffic to the site. This new design detects the size of the user’s screen and customizes the layout of the site accordingly, so mobile phones and tablets get an experience more suited to their smaller screens. This will make browsing the website while you’re on the go much easier.
  • New Logo: Mormon Mission Prep never has really had a logo in the past, but I have felt recently that we need one. I reached out to my friend Alan Taylor to help create a logo for the site, and the star with the M embedded was a stroke of genius. Thanks so much Alan! Alan runs a website called 18nineteen.com which sells really cool Mormon missionary themed t-shirts. Be sure to check it out.

Mormon Mission Prep star logo blue

There were many other structural and technical upgrades I made to the site, but I won’t bore you with those details. Overall, I think you will find the site much improved from a functional and visual perspective. I believe I have most of the bugs worked out of the new site, but if you find any, let me know in the comments section.

Be sure to tell all of your friends about the new Mormon Mission Prep. Thanks!

Reminder of ways to connect with the Mormon Missionary Preparation site

Gaining a Desire to Serve a Mission Webinar

Gaining-a-Desire-to-Serve-a-Mission-Webinar3Gaining a Desire to Serve a Mission is the first of a series of webinars on LDS Missionary Preparation by Jimmy Smith of MormonMissionPrep.com. In this online seminar, we will discuss why every young man should serve a mission and some ways to get him motivated to do so. We will discuss the worth of souls in the sight of God, and why the Church needs many more missionaries. We will also talk about some of the blessings of missionary service.

You must register in order to attend the seminar. You can register right up until the starting time, but I recommend doing it early to make sure everything is working right on your computer. In fact, I recommend that you lo into the webinar 20 or 30 minutes early to make sure you can see and hear me.

The webinar will last for one hour. It will have a presentation lasting about 45 minutes, followed by Q&A (a question and answer session).

For more information and updates, visit the Mormon Mission Prep Webinar Series home page.