Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

A Home where Mission is Part of Life

June 07th, 2016 by G.

They say that the main beneficiary of the mission is the missionary.  This is not always true.  But it is true enough.

In the same way, the Church’s missionary focus serves to keep the Church healthy and strong, even without the converts.

It is a Dominical paradox.  By looking to grow, you keep the members you already have strong.

I thank the Lord that we will always be a missionary church.

Our young men and women should be reared under the loving guidance and influence of a good home, a home where the blessing of a mission is part of each one’s life’s goal; a home where plans for his future mission become part of his life.

Hollywood would never be able to produce the thrilling stories, the real-life dramas, the diaries, the letters home, the testimonies locked in hearts that have resulted from following the Savior’s instruction

-thus Elder David B. Haight.  There is a sweet influence of the Spirit that is only unlocked when you are testifying to those who need to hear it.

I fear that some of us are not missionary-minded because there is a great gulf between where we are and actually seeing our friends and family convert in droves.  So be it.  The immediate object is not to deliver that kind of miracle of mass conversion, which anyhow only God can bring about it.  The immediate object is to live a missionary-minded life.  To have “a home where mission becomes part of life.”  That can be as simple as praying for your local full-time missionaries and an investigator or two by name.

It can be as simple as finding some good news to share.

In so doing, we ourselves will be kept in the way and made strong.



Comments (17)
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June 07th, 2016 07:30:19

Bruce Charlton
June 7, 2016

I have always been a bit worried by the strategy of LDS missionaries stopping people in the streets and knocking on their doors – at least, when done in Britain.

My impression is that it is not only ineffective, which it is, but counter-productive.

(A student of mine recently told me of having been stopped in the street and engaged in conversation (asking directions) by someone who *then* turned-out to be an LDS missionary; and she clearly found this deceptive and intrusive and bizarre (much like the hard sell of modern professional ‘charity’ collectors), and many English people would agree.

It would seem more rational (as well as respectful) to focus limited resources on responding to enquires and expressed interest – allowing the public to approach clearly-identified church members if and when they wanted to; and taking it from there.

(This is what the Jehovah’s Witnesses do where I live – they stand (looking well dressed and very ‘normal’) holding magazines beside a rack of their literature, and smile but don’t speak unless spoken to – and I think it creates an excellent impression. Whether it works in getting converts I don’t know.)

When, a few years ago, I was very keen to meet with missionaries (or a Bishop) to discuss my Mormon fertility research, I left messages all over the place – including national and even US web pages – but never once got a follow-up call or message. The messages (which were solicited by the web pages) seemed to have fallen into a void.

In other words, people who have already shown interest in the church are likely to be much more open to the message, than the current intrusive ‘cold-calling’.

Sorry to be harsh about this – but I feel it is a major error! (At least in the UK – but the cold calling tactics may well work in other cultures, where people are less reserved and defensive than here.)

Saviors in the Home
June 7, 2016

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June 7, 2016

I believe we have gotten better recently at having missionaries spend some of their time responding to web inquiries and such. One hopes, anyhow. Good intentions do not confer a charism of efficacy.

June 7, 2016

I’m inclined to agree with you Bruce, but in general I prefer an exclusive organization to an inclusive one and what you lay out would probably serve those ends. However, I think that as Elder Haight suggests, perhaps the prime benefit of missionary work is what it does to the existing members as opposed to attracting new ones.

It was actually a comment you (Bruce) made on your home blog a week or so ago about the relentless ‘proselytizing’ of the anti-christian left that got me thinking about our own efforts in the first place. Perhaps, under relentless pressure from without, it is not enough to fortify our walls and gather ourselves in. Instead we also need to be putting relentless pressure (perhaps zealous pressure?) outward as well; such as the equilibrium one finds in a bubble. The outward pressure is what stabilizes the church, and maybe, just maybe, if we lessen our tactics we simultaneously weaken our members.

Bruce Charlton
June 7, 2016

I don’t feel it is really my place to be too specific! – but I think (as Christians) we need to be careful about assuming that what works for destruction of Christianity (eg the a-c-l) will also work for building Christianity. The situation is assymetrical.

June 7, 2016

[My own mission was decades ago and in a relatively Christian area, and tracting seemed to actually be beneficial to the Church’s image, on balance. But I knew even then that the usual missionary approaches would have been a huge turnoff to me personally if I had not already been a member. A bit of a personal paradox of my own. Blogging has been the most comfortable approach to missionary work I’ve found — but not necessarily very productive.]

June 7, 2016

Bruce, there is a divine mandate to offer up the gospel in a pro-active manner. Not to force it on those who decline, but to at least make some sort of pro-active _approach_. Standing by the way with a sign is fine, I’ve done that. Recently even. But when you have The Truth, and a literal commission, there is some kind of imperative to approach people and say “Excuse me, sir/ma’am, would you like …..(to hear, to read, to visit, a free, … whatever). ”

Regarding lds bureaucartic inefficiency, yes, missionaries are unpaid, mainly untrained, immature, unprofessional volunteers.

Public-facing Church web sites prior to about 2008 were very unprofessional before the church put grown-ups in charge of them. Lost referrals were very common.

Friends of members have been the primary source of referrals and new members. The church appears to be late to the modern PR game. TV ads going back to the 70’s had no “call to action” or easy way of contact. Even today copies of the BoM and flyers/tracts/pamphlets have no contact points printed in them. (Some excptions). But mission offices keep moving, and they dont even bother keeping the same phone number. Meeting times are generally not posted on/near the doors of chapels in areas that I’m familiar with. Numbers in the local phone directory may be for a chapel hall phone or the bishop’s office, but those phones are rarely answered, and practically never during “business hours”. I’ve never seen an LDS chapel with an informational “church sign” that is typical of other denominations.

The church actually makes it hard for people to self-initiate contact with local congregations. I don’t know if that is intentional, or comes from a “Utah mindset” where members are the majority.

It was only four or so years ago that the church even tested _active_ advertising (as opposed to the older touch-feely fuzzy non-specific, no-contact-info-given tv spots) on TV, radio, billboards, and online ads.

If you do make a phone contact with a local mission office or a hall-phone in a chapel, you’re likely to get just an average joe who doesn’t know how to handle a referral (referrals come from Salt Lake City to the local mission offices via snail mail or email, the office staff in a local mission office are non-proselyting personnel, and would likely get flustered and feel like they are in over their head if someone actually called their office for information).

I once had dinner with a retired couple serving in a mission office, and when our waiter indicated interest in the church, all they wanted to do was hand him a card with a Salt Lake City number on it, for him to call. Proselyting just wasn’t their job. “Jobsworth” is the word I learned from The Daily Mail.

I honestly don’t know if the ineptitude I’ve seen is a “bug” or a “feature.” Maybe the Lord is hiding the church from people except those who are intently looking. Another point is that the retention rate of “unconnected” converts is so low, maybe the Lord (mainly) wants converts to come from that pool of people who are already friends/conncted with an LDS member. Unless you already know someone, it’s rare to find the church and join it and stay in the church.

But as I’ve said, there was a sea change about four years ago, as far as PR, advertising, web efforts, and overall efforts to get non-members to initiate contact with the church. Great strides have been made, but there is much progress yet to be made.

June 7, 2016

Twenty years ago, I had regular contact in a professional context with one of the Church’s software project managers. He was an extraordinarily capable man both as manager and as programming guru. The huge emphasis at that time was genealogy software.

That need continues, but I think some of the talent has moved to HTML and Website design. I suspect it started earlier than 2008, but it takes time for these things to bear fruit.

Bruce Charlton
June 7, 2016

Thanks to all who addressed comments to me.

@Books – the interestng thing is that the church appears to the outsider with slight knowledge to be the opposite to what you describe. The missionaries seem very keen and on-the-ball, Mormons are usually very efficient and busy people, the adverts etc have very high production values – it comes as a surprise to discover that perhaps the main thing for which Mormons are known is apparently so ‘unproductive’.

I may have mentioned that – in the period when wile I was away at Medical School – my mother used to invite some missionaries around. (From her perspective, this was because they were nice boys a long way from their homes – she also appreciated the teachings on the family. She did not take matters further.) My point is that I had assumed that this contact was made via dorstep calling, but I had forgotten (because I never met her) that our house cleaner was a Mormon – and I suspect that this personal contact is more likely to have been the reason.

Your depiction of the church spreading by personal contacts fits with Rodney Stark’s research on conversion, including specifcially the CJCLDS. He says the main (not only) way that any religion grows is via family and friends of adherents (including, in the first place, the founders) – and also by reproductive success – by raising large families, and retaining the members.

This seems to apply as much in the modern as in the ancient world. While the negative/ destructive ideology of secular Leftism is spread by the state bureaucracies and the mass media – in contrast, the growing religions still continue to be spread mainly by families through personal contacts and biology (which is probably related to the fact that all growing modern religions are – to modern eyes – ‘patriarchal’).

Which is pretty much the theme of G’s post…

Wm Jas
June 8, 2016

I live in Taiwan, where the LDS missionaries’ current modus operandi is to strike up conversations with motorcyclists waiting at traffic lights. I’m not sure how effective this is. On the one hand, they have a captive audience for a minute or two; on the other, as soon as the light turns green, the contactee has a perfect excuse for suddenly terminating the conversation without seeming rude.

June 8, 2016

I wonder if there isn’t two levels to this. Tracting is notoriously unproductive, but we did have a couple tracted out by the missionaries a few years ago in our ward who were baptized, and several of their relatives are now part of my ward. It seems a little like crystal nucleation; the nucleation event is quite improbable, but when it happens, there is rapid growth. Likewise, the great majority of converts come through networking, but you have to start the network somewhere.

Another aspect is building an image, a “brand”, apart from direct proselytizing. Tracting and TV spots serve this purpose. Oddly, derogatory Broadway musicals can also serve this purpose, especially when some genius at Church Headquarters hits on the absolutely brilliant ploy of placing a Church ad in the play bill with the title “The book is always better.”

Paul Mouritsen
June 8, 2016

Our ward has a small trickle of converts, 10 or 12 a year. Just about all of them are the spouses, children, parents, or siblings of members. Tracting is useful mainly for finding members who have lost contact with the church. And the missionaries do find quite a few of them.

June 8, 2016

Bruce, it’s a matter of public face versus behind-the-scenes, and a matter of narrow specialization, training, and authorization. A common misconception I find is that if someone hadn’t been “trained” in X, they honestly and deeply believe they aren’t authorized for X. It’s an overly narrow focus. Mormons are so organized, and conditioned to top-down authority, that there is little thinking outside of the box, nor an ability to imagine new things that are within the overall guidelines/authority, or new combinations of old things. (fer instance, very few people, not even full time missionaries, can comprehend my schtick of offering foreign language BoMs to immigrants who I casually encounter.)

Additionally, the Lord’s stated modus operandi -is- to use weak and despised people to confound the wise and powerful, and bring about His purposes. The Lord doesn,t want people converted by whizz-bang arguments or via ad campaigns, or glad-handling, or sales pitches. His modus operandi is to “pour out His spirit” when his authorized servants testify of the gospel to those who are _seeking_. All the rest: radio/tv ads, billboards, internet ads, print ads, signs, etc., are merely temporal tools that can be used to encourage people _to_ seek, or to garner the attention of those who are already seeking.

Members are under command of church leaders (and via scripture) to talk to _all_ their friends and neighbors about the gospel. Full time proselyting missionaries are under command to talk to all who will listen, but are specifically told to “follow the Spirit” wherever it takes them within their assigned geographical area. But again, most all F/T proselyting missionaries (there are full time missionaries who don’t proselyte) have tunnel vision and only proselyte in places and in manners in which they’ve been trained. For instance, when I treated some elders to dinner at the Kroger deli, they left their backpacks of flyers/BoMs in their car. One shouldn’t proselyte fellow customers at places of business, but if someone comes up and asks for something, or starts a conversation, one can respond, or at least hand out a card/flyer, saying “we aren’t supposed to proselyte here, so please call us at this number, or we can go outside and talk.”

June 8, 2016

Bruce, if you haven’t read it, please read “Preach My Gospel” the official manual for FT missionaries and members. Free online in HTML and PDF at lds.org.

G: Did I post a copy of Alvin Dyer’s “Challenging and Testifying Missionary” here, or is my memory playing tricks? Or was it just a link in a comment? I can’t find it at JrG.

Bruce, please read this talk/white paper by Alvin Dyer. It was unofficial scripture in my mission in the 80’s, our mission pres was a fan of it, and though now dated, still has some gems, and at least some things that fit in with PMG.

June 8, 2016

glad-handling = glad handing

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