When The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints fully implements its new online missionaryprogram, it will - if nothing else - at least minimize the occasions in which a firearm is brandished to ward off a pair of Mormons.
Elder Joshua Limb and Elder Beaver Ho Chinghave some experience with that.
Both missionaries, who have served Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana for the past two years, have looked down the barrel of a shotgun while out spreading the word about the Mormon church. But those days may soon be over.
Officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints announced late last month that the practice of sending its young missionaries door-to-door should come to an end.
Missionaries have started incorporating the use of social media and the website Mormon.org to communicate with people who are interested in learning more about Mormonism. One mission in Houston, a test group, stopped going door-to-door last year, said Don Davis, a leader in aBeaumont Mormon church.
The move effectively ends the era of sending young men and women into neighborhoods where they might meet some unsavory characters.
"Believe it or not, we don't meet the nicest people," Ho Ching, 21, said.
Ho Ching and Limb encountered a shotgun-wielding man who demanded they leave his property when they visited the house of a church member who had not attended service in a while. No shots were fired that time.
Limb, 20, was not as lucky before he came to Beaumont. In Cleveland, he stumbled across a man who fired an AK-47 assault rifle to scare him off. He was not harmed.
Those two occurrences did not deter the young men from continuing their missions. Ho Ching said the only option in a situation like that was to turn the other cheek. Limb said there was a reason for what happened - other than having a good story to tell later.
"It comes down to your belief in God," he said.
Limb and Ho Ching still go door-to-door, but they recognize it is the least effective tool in their mission toolboxes.
"The world in general is not the same," Ho Ching said. "People aren't as trusting as they used to be. They're not as willing to let two strangers into their homes."
The best method is to build a relationship with non-members, he said. Missionaries receive referrals of people who are interested in learning more about the Mormon faith from members and Mormon.org, where people can fill out a form to find a local church or request a Bible. Then missionaries might go knock on their doors.
It is this hybridization of legwork and web-work that Limb thought was best for reaching folks, he said. Missionaries would use the Internet to contact people during the early part of the day when most people are at work and seek out people in the late afternoon and evening.
Most likely, this is the approach more missionaries will take in a year. Missionaries will use social media, blogs, email, text messages and the church's website in their ministry, but the details have not been determined yet, according to an announcement on the church's website.
"It's a way for non-members to feel comfortable on their own terms," Ho Ching said.
The announcement comes at a time the church is deploying the most missionaries around the world in history, according to the church's website. The number of missionaries surged from 52,000 to an unprecedented 70,000 since last October's announcement that the minimum age for missionaries would be lowered from 19 to 18 for men and 21 to 19 for women.
"Someone once told me that a mission is not just the best two years of your life but the best two years for your life," Limb said.
"It shows you who you are," Ho Ching added.