The typical responsibilities associated with the word "missionary" include young men and women spending days biking to appointments with members and investigators and long months away from home.
However, modern technology makes it possible for members who aren't serving missions to serve from their own homes. The LDS Church leaders invite members to share the gospel by sharing their talents through the "Create and Share your Media Talents" section on lds.org.
Create.lds.org and is a website dedicated to collecting media, such as photos, video content and music for use in church publications and by members. Media can be shared and downloaded by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for use in lessons, family home evenings, blogs and other non-commercial, gospel-sharing efforts.
The website was launched two years ago, but the demand for photos and other media is still high. "The biggest need is for photos and that's a constant need," according to Scott Olson, the product manager over member engagement at the LDS Church's headquarters. "We need pictures of people in front of temples. We need pictures of families, parents and children doing activities. We need people showing their culture and just international pictures are in high demand, to show that it's a worldwide church."
Everyone is welcome to share their media, but only high-quality media will be accepted for use. To help members build their skills, the website even offers a series of monthly training webinars on topics such as tips and tricks for taking photos. They also issue a photo challenge every two weeks in which they give a topic and members take and submit photos of what they consider to be relevant. There is also a downloadable list of current photo needs. Members can view the list and take photos to fill those needs. The newest list is available at create.lds.org and click on "Current Needs" in the left-hand list.
According to Olson, hundreds of member-submitted photos have been used for the church websites since create.lds.org launched. "Many of them have been used to illustrate talks by the First Presidency Many shots have been used by the temple department on the temple site pages. There's even been member-submitted music used, for example, in an exhibit in the temple visitors’ center in Washington, D.C."
Member-submitted photos have also appeared in several issues of church magazines. According to Olson, the December covers of the Ensign and the Liahona were both member-submitted photos, as well as the covers for the April New Era, Liahona and Ensign.
"They're starting to appear everywhere. There's one in the 'For the Strength of Youth' pamphlet, they're in posters, they're in videos, they're starting to appear in all different kinds of church products," said Olson.
In addition to photos, musical recordings are also accepted for submission. Both original compositions and recordings of "Hymns" and "Children's Songbook" songs are accepted, with or without vocal accompaniment. The website even provides guidelines on legal and copyright issues for each medium.
The following list highlights all of the areas in which church members can share their talents:
Photos: The LDS Church is seeking high-quality photos from professional or highly skilled photographers to help build a library that church members and designers can use to share the gospel. Members can upload photos using the "Helping in the Vineyard" website at vineyard.lds.org in the "Contribute Photos Activity."
Music: The church needs high-quality music from professional or highly skilled musicians to help build a library that church producers and members can use in projects to help spread the gospel. Music can be submitted through Dropbox or via email.
Video: Professional or highly skilled videographers can submit b-roll footage and complete videos. A list of ongoing church video needs is also available online. To submit videos, members can upload videos to YouTube or Vimeo and paste the link in the "online content submission agreement" found at www.create.lds.org.
Design: The call for design is only open temporarily based on current needs. Members can view the current needs on the "design" page of create.lds.org.
Casting: The Casting Office provides film and video casting services for the church. If you're wondering how to get involved in church videos as an actor or an extra, you can find information on create.lds.org. A list of current projects is also available.
Contests: The LDS Church occasionally posts information on photo contests and international art and video competitions in the "Contests" section of create.lds.org.
If you're lacking talent in any of the categories above, you can still participate in the effort. The website is in constant need of people to label photos with image search words. Members can sign in to the Vineyard website and spend time labeling the photos to make them more searchable. "About 15 people (label) each picture, so we're in great need of people helping us to add search words, because they can't be used by the designers until all the search words are added. Adding search words makes photos more searchable, more findable," said Olson.
Information on photo, music and video submissions and other service opportunities can be found at both create.lds.org and vineyard.lds.org. Members can download and use some of the accepted submissions for non-commercial purposes by visiting medialibrary.lds.org.