What is Required?
As missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we believe that our Heavenly Father is always preparing people to receive His message of the restored gospel. The challenge of each missionary is to reach out and find those prepared to receive this special message. It delights a missionary's heart when almost immediately their message is well received. We call these contacts “golden” investigators. In many instances they have been waiting and waiting for the missionaries to come into their lives.
Perhaps, they have heard the missionaries message before, but were not at the proper place and time in their lives where they needed to be, to make the important changes necessary to embrace the gospel message and move forward.
An Exercise in Faith!
But we do believe through exercising our faith in our Heavenly Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ, as missionaries we will be led to those who are seeking a message that can bring great joy, peace and comfort into their lives.
One of the most important ways missionaries can find those who are seeking the gospel is to build and strengthen their relationships with the current members of the Church in their areas. Almost everyone has a neighbor, a friend, an acquaintance from work, brothers, sisters or parents who need the gospel to bless their lives.
According to the statistics that the Church keeps, newly baptized converts are more likely to stay active in the Church if they are already acquainted with current members and are taught the gospel within the homes of the members.
Gathering all the Right Ingredients -
But just the act of teaching a lesson in a member’s home is not the only necessary ingredient in bringing someone into full activity in the restored gospel. Of course, it would be wonderful if people could join the Church and stay active regardless of whether or not they felt welcomed into the wards in their areas, regardless of whether they discovered new lasting friendships, regardless if they receive callings to reach out and be of service to their wards and branches. But it doesn’t often work out that way.
The words of President Gordon B. Hinckley have proven to be true when he said -
"Every convert needs “a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing
with ‘the good word of God."
And Indeed, we are hopeful that a great effort will be made throughout the Church, throughout the world, to retain every convert who comes into the Church. We try as missionaries to make this happen as frequently as possible by following up with new members, helping them receive callings in the Church, encouraging visiting the temple, getting them involved in preparing names for the temple through the family history centers.
"And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith" --
New converts are human beings after all, just like the rest of us, who long for company and acceptance. It’s difficult for new members of the church to give up old habits, old friendships who would discourage their activity in the Church. When someone commits to changing their life, developing new habits, accepting the gospel, that is when they most need the company of others to surround them, to share their faith, to reassure them they have a place in the gospel family.
How DO we get to that point?
How DO we get to that point, where the missionaries meet those prepared to receive the message, helping and leading them to a testimony of the restored gospel principles, baptism and full activity into the Church, surrounded by a ward family who nurtures them through this gigantic change in their lifestyle? That is the big question!
As the Mission Presidents wife, and surrogate mother to hundreds of adopted missionary sons and daughters I feel like I am on both sides of the coin, sometimes reaching out to others, sharing a short gospel message, teaching brief principles to others I come in contact throughout my day, leaving them with pass-along cards, pamphlets, perhaps a Book of Mormon. If at all possible I try to get a phone number for the missionaries to follow up with them.
Stepping away from my position for a moment . . . to members of the Church, as they desire to share the gospel with others, these referrals are their friends, acquaintances, they feel a responsibility for how well they will be introduced to the gospel. What kind of example will they see in the missionaries and members that will surround them? After all, we will be asking them to change their lives. Whether they join the Church or not, these are our friends and acquaintances, and we want them to remain so. So naturally, we are perhaps too careful about how we introduce them to the gospel.
We want the missionaries who will introduce them to the gospel to have the most sincere motives. We want the BEST of the BEST when we trust our friends and acquaintances to someone with a powerful life changing message.
To missionaries everywhere . . .
ARE YOU THE BEST YOU CAN BE?
If not? How can you get to that point? How can you arrive at the point where members, neighbors, bishops, Relief Society Presidents will be falling all over themselves trying to find people for you to come teach??
As a missionary if you have been observed being lazy, lounging around the homes of members, watching TV (a no no for missionaries! MM pg 25), playing games, (outside of Preparation Day) spending the evening with member and investigator families . . . if you are not familiar with the lessons and scriptures found in Preach my Gospel, if you are not making an effort to reach out in love and service to those who surround you each day . . . you can be sure others will not waste what may be their only opportunity to introduce a friend to the gospel by showing them this kind of missionary!
They will wait (perhaps indefinitely) for the kind of missionary who loves the gospel! Who loves the people! They will wait for missionaries who know the gospel and are excited about what it takes to become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one who has experienced the atonement in their lives, and can testify with power and authority of it’s blessings.
Missionaries . . . so before you question the motives and dedication of the members in your area . . . you have to ask yourself -
AM I THE BEST I CAN BE?
Am I the kind of missionary I would trust my best friend too? Would I refer my favorite and precious family members to a missionary like myself?
If you have some work to do . . . and for certain, we ALL do! I am going to explore some thoughts in my next blog post that will help us arrive at that point.
I think of the fruit trees back home in my garden. Each tree is precious and has the potential to bring forth much fruit. Yet each one requires care to bring forth the abundance of fruit that is possible. They must be nurtured, tilled about, fed the proper balance of nutrients and water. Each one is precious to me!
Each one of our Heavenly Father’s children is precious to Him. He is preparing their hearts for a great change in their lives. He wants to entrust these precious souls to the very best of the best. One that will lead them and guide them along a difficult pathway.
As missionaries we can be the best! I will share my thoughts and observations as I have seen missionaries become some of the very best at bringing souls to Christ.
We all have much to learn from each other. I am humbled to have learned from some wonderful examples in my life! Missionaries who have taught me powerful principles of the atonement!
For my Yoke is Easy, and my Burden is Light -
One of the greatest blessings we as a Mission President and wife experience in the mission field is seeing the change of heart that comes about through receiving the gospel message, gaining a testimony of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. How it blesses and changes lives and family.
Sometimes the greatest change we see is in the life of a missionary as he finally understands what his true potential is not just here in the mission field, but for life forever more. It gives them a new outlook on their purpose as a missionary. It brings a perspective they have never felt before. It raises their thoughts and expectations to a divine and higher level of thinking. They look to Christ, and understand the true potential that Savior brings to each one of our lives.
And that is what makes everything worthwhile . . .
"Come unto me, all For my yoke easy, and my burden is light." that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
-- Matthew 11:30