By Menachem Wecker, Religion News Service
For the past eight months, young Mormon missionaries have trekked to a busy corner of Via Rizzoli and Via Calzolerie [Bologna, Italy] each Sunday to draw in chalk.
At a time when “tracting,” or going door to door handing out church literature, is no longer seen as effective, Mormon missionaries are trying new methods of getting their message out.
[Anziano “Austin”] and his colleagues tend to draw representations of “gospel dispensation,” or stories from scripture about Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and LDS Church founder Joseph Smith. “Or,” he said, “we outline the phases of the plan of salvation, explaining our life with God before this life until what happens when we die.”
Some missionaries encourage passers-by to contribute their own writing and drawings.
As one might expect, Jensen and his colleagues get a range of responses. Some are disinterested; others hang around for in-depth conversations. Still others he said, add their own “vulgar or degrading material that distracts from or ruins our drawings.”
The chalk drawings are not unique to Bologna. Mormon missionaries have used the technique in New York and Colorado, said Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for the LDS Church in Salt Lake City.
And this sort of creative missionary approach is becoming increasingly popular, said Matthew Bowman, a history instructor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and author of the 2012 book “The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith.”
“Essentially, there’s been a growing decentralization of mission practices and an encouragement for local mission leaders to be more innovative,” Bowman said. “This is an attempt to find better strategies.”
Note: Other unique missionary experiences can be read here.