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I think many members of the Church would agree that sharing the gospel is difficult; or rather sharing it in the manner the full-time missionaries want them to. Why is it difficult?

I think a large reason is that it is so artificial. We pick someone we know (of) and set a date by which time we will have shared the gospel with or invited them to church or whatever. The problem is that method is so transparent. The average person can see through false motives, especially in places in Utah and southern Alberta where they are familiar with the motives of Mormons.

Full-time missionaries seem to be convinced that simply opening our mouths (even to the grocery store clerk or the gas station attendant) is the best way to bring in the converts. They seem to be convinced that when members share the gospel how they share it does not seem to be as important as the fact that it is the members sharing it. They have this idea that as long as it is the members doing it, it will have this magical effect on people.

Unfortunately, it does not work that way. People need to know that you are befriending them because you sincerely like them and not because you have set a date with the missionaries. A friendship needs to continue and flourish despite whether or not the friends ever accept the gospel, and if they do, the friendship needs to go beyond the date of baptism.

It is easy for missionaries to talk about the gospel with everyone they meet. Everyone they meet expects it of them. Missionaries are artificial. They dress artificially, they live artificial lives, they try to build artificial relationships, everything about them is artificial.

Which is why when so many get home and become natural again, they have difficulty sharing the gospel as they did on their missions. The artificial uniform is gone, the artificial life is gone yet they are still using artificial methods to share the gospel.

The gospel is all about love. Showing love for others. Developing a Christ-like love. Nourishing an unconditional love. When people know we love them, they want to be close to us; they want to be with us. That is how the gospel is shared. More neighbours will be converted because of a Mormon who shovelled their walks. More coworkers will be converted because of Mormons who offer compliments each day. More friends will be converted because of Mormons who support them, strengthen them and encourage them.

It is less about telling someone about Jesus and more about showing someone what Jesus did.

40 thoughts on “Artificial

  1. I agree with your comments about love, but disagree about a lot of the rest.

    People are converted when they feel the spirit.

    Generally Missionaries are not artificial. They live a lifestyle that promotes a constant companionship of the spirit. I think when a missionary comes home they don’t have the spirit with them as strong or as often. It’s simple to become (the) natural (man) and lose the spirit when doing everyday activities such as watching television or working fulltime.

    I don’t think shoveling sidewalks will convert, but continued selfless service will. Why, because people can’t help but to feel the spirit when they are served as the savior would serve them.

    Your last sentence is right on the mark. We need to become more like Jesus, (especially me).

    Thanks for posting this and making me think.

  2. Amen, amen, amen! I feel so uncomfortable with the set-a-date challenges simply because I know how much I hate to be someone’s “project.”

    …Of course, being somewhat antisocial, I’m not good at interacting with my neighbors naturally, either. LOL. So I still have something to work at….

  3. Our ward missionaries came over the other night and asked if we had any missionary experiences to share with them. I ended up talking about a couple of people our family has influenced to start attending church. Not our church, but church. Not everyone is ready to accept the gospel. It cheered me to realize we were having a good influence on people spiritually.

  4. ok, just so you all know, Kim isn’t saying missionaries are FAKE, just that they are doing something, for a period of time that is not part of “reeal life”, if that makes sense. He is not doubting their sincerity in their work (obviously, since he was a full time missionary himself and loved every minute of it. well almost every minute of it).

  5. I do think hey are fake, just not in the sense that they are insincere or deceitful. Rather in the sense that they are created or man-made. Missionaries are completely different individuals during their two (or 1.5) years than they are any other time in their lives.

  6. Hugh, do you think that the Spirit is tied to whether someone reads the newspaper or watches TV or gets up at 6:30 or not?

  7. The question I’ve had for a number of years now is, why does the church continue to use missionaries in the same way? Door-to-door salesmen are few and far between these days, and if all you’re looking to do is spread the word, there are far better ways that tracting door-to-door or showing up at public events.

    Here’s an even better use of the missionaries: Have them go somewhere where they will be wanted and appreciated. Do you honestly believe that some affluent suburb in Utah is a reasonable place to send a missionary? Send these young men to Africa where they can do some good. Send them to New Orleans to spread the good word through good deeds. Send them to somewhere where there is no question that they will be able to make a real difference in the day-to-day survival of people.

    Allow them to come back to their native country for the last 3 months of the mission and fellowship people in another region, spreading news of all the good works they’ve done and showing members’ selflessness and reminding members of their own core beliefs.

    Stop making missionaries act like salesmen.
    Start allowing them to act like Christ.

    …and all this from a non-member, who’d have thunk it?

  8. I know I’m not Hugh, but…

    “Do you think that the Spirit is tied to whether someone reads the newspaper or watches TV or gets up at 6:30 or not?”

    Of course it is. One’s relationship to the Holy Ghost is always tied to one’s obedience. The Lord’s anointed leaders give the missionary some instructions. Is he going to follow the anointed leaders and obey the rules he’s given, or reject the leaders and the rules? His relationship to the Spirit is going to depend, in part, on that choice.

  9. If the lifestyle of a missionary promotes a ‘constant companionship of the spirit’, why don’t the seventy live the same lifestyles?

    Wouldn’t that make more sense?

    …or the prophet for that matter.

    ‘Sorry Gordon, you can’t read that newspaper – it could diminish your companionship of the spirit…and no more MoTab either’

  10. Kim,

    I think you are right on. I served a mission where the mission leadership was constantly teaching us “Open Your Mouth”, “Set A Date”, and a few other local ideas that, in retrospect, turned more people away than invited them in. It even occasionally alienated the members we were trying to inspire to do missionary work. What I learned (finally) was that you have to develop a sincere interest in and friendship with people of other faiths, without the ulterior motive (or motive down the road) of converting them. Yes, you can hope they convert, you can pray for them, but you have to respect and appreciate them as they are–and they have to know it.

    My husband is a convert and none of his family are LDS. They also live a 4 hour flight away from us. It’s been very important to us that when we visit, when they visit, or when we correspond, that we focus on building the relationship first. And we have had some really great spiritual, “missionary” disucssions with some of them, but only as it came up. And it will come up if you’re not hiding your beliefs. You don’t have to carry them around on your Title of Liberty or anything, you just have to be yourself and be a sincere friend.

    BTW, in case you didn’t see it on fMh, I apologize for taking you to task. I meant to tease, but I guess my tone didn’t come across. Sorry.

  11. I knew you were teasing, artemis, and thanks for stopping by.

    You bring up some good points. The full-time missionaries in our ward recently came by and asked us (okay, it was actually more like pressured us) to set a date to do “missionary work” with specific people. The funny thing is that I’ve had at least two occasions that could be classified as missionary work (well, three if you count lunch with Rick ;) ) and neither of the individuals was on the list.

  12. Wait one minute!

    You mean I was being converted the whole time?

    …and here I thought we we just talking, you sly devil.


  13. rick

    well they do send missionaries on service missions too to africa and elsewhere.

    but there is SOME success in proselyting missions.

  14. Oh, there’s more than *some* success…in Mexico.

    Look, it shouldn’t be about bagging baptisms, it should be about expanding the faith, no?

    So if you baptise 400 and 12 continue to go to church, what are you really accomplishing?

    I maintain that it’s not a matter of access to information (i.e. not knowing about the church), it is a case of not just being a good example and having people inquire about these great people that are helping them out.

  15. Talking smack about southern Alberta Mormons is the newest missionary tool. I am surprised you didn’t know that, Rick.

  16. You know, I ought to tell you that I will be in S. Alberta next weekend visiting a former mission comp. (my first ever visit to Calgary that I remember) as an addendum to a business trip to Yellowknife. I don’t think she blogs and I haven’t mentioned my (ahem) secret blog life to her. But I will be breathing some of your Canadian air. Any recommendations of sites to see? Food to eat? Names to drop? Souvenirs or chocolate to buy?

  17. The new glass floor in the CN tower is a must see. You could also check out the Calgary Zoo. I haven’t been a tourist in Calgary yet, so others may know of more.

    You aren’t going to be coming down to Lehbridge by any chance are you. We could put together the first ever Canadian bloggersnacker if you are.

  18. hey come to Lethbridge! we will get together. you can all even come to our house, if you don’t mind that it is starting to looked packed in spite of the fact we don’t move for two months (yes i am getting antsy).

  19. How far away is Lethbridge from Calgary? Her parents live in Lethbridge. Only… how will I ever explain how I know you? And the fact that I don’t really ‘know’ you? Maybe I should just tell her. Hmmm. I would love to meet up with you, though, and learn how Canadians party. I hear you’re a wild bunch.

    D’ya wanna email me?

  20. I step away for a day and your comments go wild.

    …Hugh, do you think that the Spirit is tied to whether someone reads the newspaper or watches TV or gets up at 6:30 or not?

    For me personally? Yes! But in a smaller amount than reading the BoM, or fulfilling my calling, etc.

    My life is busy and sleeping in results in less meaningful scripture study. Watching TV does the same.

    Should mature couples or GAs be able to read a newspaper or watch TV? Yes. Comparing an average 20-year-old young man to President Hinckley is a silly argument.

  21. Ha, Mary! You and I have the same partying style, (though I prefer less healthy snacks with “Law and Order Criminal Intent”).

  22. By the way, I think Kim and Rick make some very good points here. I would be glad to see more emphasis on humanitarian aid and less pressuring of members to seek out contacts by a certain date. I also agree that spreading a Christlike example and influence would be more effective than rushing for maximum baptism numbers.

  23. :) I WOULD choose unhealthier snacks but they wreak havoc on my system (and my self control) Oh I like Law and Order too. So either or, lol.

    For Kim, it’s the Food Network, or While you were out or What Not to Wear.

  24. Most of the comments, including the original post, seem to view this question as a dichotomy: Either open your mouth or show more Christ-like love. Shouldn’t we do both?

  25. I don’t know why spontaneous speaking of the Gospel is more to be valued than deliberate speaking, but I certainly agree that it needs to go hand-in-hand with Christlike love.

  26. That’s true. I just didn’t think of “forced” being the opposite of “spontaneous.” I think people with Christlike love can deliberate and plan to say things to their friends, neighbors and acquaintances about the Gospel, without being forced (or “forcing” themselves).

  27. Being authentic is something I find great value in. When I was asked to “share the grove”, I hesitated. Instead, I promised to be a better neigbour. It might not count in some books but it was the most honest answer I could give.

  28. Nikki– You’ve hit on it. “Authentic” is a lot closer to what I was thinking of than “spontaneous.”

    I think we can be authentic whether we’re being spontaneous or deliberate in sharing the gospel.

  29. Oh no, I just mistyped my own moniker. I guess I’ll have to stop getting after Kim about it. :)

  30. “I think people with Christlike love can deliberate and plan to say things to their friends, neighbors and acquaintances about the Gospel”

    Perhaps. I’ve found, however, that my best missionary experiences have never been planned, but simply a matter of the evolution of our conversations.

  31. But we can still deliberately prepare ourselves to make the most of such opportunities when they come.

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