Becoming Missionaries

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David A. Bednar, in priesthood session of the October 2005 General Conference:

The issue is not going on a mission; rather, the issue is becoming a missionary and serving throughout our entire life with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength. It is possible for a young man to go on a mission and not become a missionary, and this is not what the Lord requires or what the Church needs.

The problem is that virtually all missions of the world continue to use tracting as a way to keep missionaries busy, and tracting is arguably the one thing least likely to help someone become a missionary.

27 thoughts on “Becoming Missionaries

  1. “…and tracting is arguably the one thing least likely to help someone become a missionary.”

    …or to convert anyone, these days.

  2. “arguably the worst…” Yes, it is arguable. For example, sitting around the apartment all day is even less likely to help.

    My wife’s parents were taught and baptized by missionaries who found them while tracting. So were most of the people I taught on my own mission.

    The experience of tracting is like most others: You can get out of it what you put into it. It can help you to become a missionary, in the sense that Elder Bednar is discussing, if you let it. It can be done spiritually, humbly and genuinely. It can build the testimony of the missionary as well as those he/she finds.

  3. “My wife’s parents were taught and baptized by missionaries who found them while tracting. So were most of the people I taught on my own mission.”

    My parents were taught and baptized by missionaries who were referred to them by members of the Church (as were about a dozen other fmailies on our street). So were most of the people I taught on my own mission.

  4. Kim: I don’t know if you’re trying to make a point by contrasting our mission experiences. If you are, let me know.

  5. The point is that anecdotal evidence establishes nothing. You know people who came to the church because of tracting. I know people who didn’t. That in and of itself does not make tracting good or bad. All such examples illustrate is that persons join the church through different methods.

  6. I wasn’t saying that tracting was the most effective or best method. I was just saying that it can work. It can bring both missionaries and those they teach closer to Christ. It can and does (sometimes) help people to be better missionaries. It’s not the most effective method, but it works. It is far from being “the one thing least likely to help someone become a missionary.”

  7. “It can bring both missionaries and those they teach closer to Christ.”

    Will you elaborate on this, please? How does knocking on doors bring missionaries closer to Christ?

  8. Tracting is done by missionaries, I think, because it is the EASY way out. Wait, please let me explain.

    On your mission you are taught that idleness is of the devil and if you’re obedient and work hard, success will come. Well, working hard is one thing, working smart is another. A missionary that tracts his/her entire area is working hard, but not very smart. But because of their “hard work” they feel good, and feel as though they are accomplishing a lot.. I’m not saying tracting is easy–it sucks. But it’s the best (easiest) way to APPEAR as though you are working as hard as possible.

    It’s hard for many missionaries to sit down with a member, build a relationship with them, and (gulp) ask for references. The first thing I did when I got to any area, was I went to every single members’ home to introduce myself and get to know them. Most “righteous” missionaries would see this as wasting time, but I knew what I was doing.

    Another problem is that most missionaries aren’t taught how to do this effectively.

    I only went tracting a handful of times on my mission and did baptize an entire family (my only tracting baptisms). But finding them was more of the inspired “GO KNOCK ON THAT DOOR!” type. It was not a random coincidence.

    I absolutely do not believe in knocking on doors, though it is necessary in many areas where members are scarce or useless.

    Tim J.

  9. Of course tracting can work, but I don’t think it is as effective as other methods and it takes up a LOT of time. Perhaps inspirational tracting would be more effective, aas I have seen that work before.

  10. The question here is how you’re defining ‘effective’.

    Is it only effective if they baptise someone?

    What if all they do is help someone and then the person decides not to be baptised?

    Was that time wasted?

    If they weren’t mishies, you’d probably say no…but they are so their MP says they could be doing more ‘effective’ things.

    …to get more baptisms.

    Body counts are inherently un-christlike.

  11. No. When I say effective, I mean being able to make a differnec in someone’s life. Leaving a good impression, helping, what have you. However, the missionaries are out there to teach and baptise. However, I don’t believe that baptisms are more important than sharing the Gospel and showing love and service. I don’t believe a missionary is more “successful” because he has had more baptisms than another. I believe if s/he has been obedient, followed the Spirit and served his/her fellow beings, s/he has served a successful mission.

  12. “Will you elaborate on this, please? How does knocking on doors bring missionaries closer to Christ?”

    First, by giving the missionaries the opportunity to testify bravely of Christ. By giving the missionaries the opportunity to show their devotion to Christ by simple hard work. By finding people who are ready to receive the Gospel and allowing them to be taught. And so on…

  13. “That in and of itself does not make tracting good or bad.”

    Actually, the fact that it resulted in these people receiving the Gospel and making eternal covenants with God does make it good.

  14. “First, by giving the missionaries the opportunity to testify bravely of Christ.”

    That’s not specific to tracting. There are other methods available if misisonarie want opportunities to testify of Jesus.

    “By giving the missionaries the opportunity to show their devotion to Christ by simple hard work.”

    I think there are few people who would agree with the statement that tracting is hard work. Boring. Yes? Monotonous? Yes. Hard? Not really.

    That being said, again, there are other ways for missionaries to work hard. I would even go so far as to say that there are ways for missionaries to work even harder. Would that mean they would show their devotion to Christ more the harder they work? Is their devotion tied to the amount of work (or its intensity) they perform?

    “By finding people who are ready to receive the Gospel and allowing them to be taught.”

    This could be said of any method currently being used to find people.

    If coming closer to Christ is the issue, then certainly there are better ways to do so than simply going from door to door over and over again.

    “the fact that it resulted in these people receiving the Gospel and making eternal covenants with God does make it good.”

    It makes it good in those instances, not absolutely. Again, tracting is neither good nor bad inherently. It just is. It is one tool (though arguably a very ineffective one) one could us to bring about good results, but it itself is not good.

  15. “There are other methods available if misisonarie want opportunities to testify of Jesus.”

    True. How does this prove that tracting is the one thing least likely to help someone to become a missionary?

    “This could be said of any method currently being used to find people.”

    True. How does this prove that tracting is the one thing least likely to help someone to become a missionary?

    “If coming closer to Christ is the issue, then certainly there are better ways to do so than simply going from door to door over and over again.”

    Probably true. How does this prove that tracting is the one thing least likely to help someone to become a missionary?

    “tracting is neither good nor bad inherently.”

    Then what makes it the one thing least likely to help someone become a missionary?

    Let me give a short list of things that are LESS likely than tracting to help one become a missionary:

    1. Watching Gilligan’s Island
    2. Reading comic books
    3. Playing the recorder
    4. Picking one’s nose
    5. Smoking marijuana
    6. Doing a crossword puzzle
    7. Robbing a bank
    8. Playing Tetris
    9. Listening to Glass Tiger
    10. Eating a chocolate bar.

    Want more? I got ’em.

    I know this is silly. I’m still trying to point out that your original statement–that tracting is arguably (and I’m glad you at least added the “arguably”) THE ONE THING LEAST LIKELY to help someone become a missionary–is also silly.

  16. “How does this prove that tracting is the one thing least likely to help someone to become a missionary?”

    Because of all the ways to introduce people to the gospel, let alone to help them get converted, this is the least effective. Surely you have seen statistics on this. If you haven’t, let me know, and I will do my best to dig some up for you.

    There is nothing involved with tracting that makes it more likely than any other missionary-oriented activity to bring people to Jesus.

  17. “There is nothing involved with tracting that makes it more likely than any other missionary-oriented activity to bring people to Jesus.”

    True. How does this prove that tracting is THE ONE THING LEAST LIKELY to help someone become a missionary?

    Perhaps you should have said, or should say now, “Tracting is, arguably, the least effective of the methods commonly used by missionaries for finding people to teach.” That would make sense, unlike the statement you are still bizarrely sticking to.

  18. “How does this prove that tracting is THE ONE THING LEAST LIKELY to help someone become a missionary?”

    There is nothing involved with tracting that makes it more likely than any other missionary-oriented activity to bring people to Jesus.

  19. So your statement is now limited to “missionary-oriented” activities, unlike the original post? I hope so.

    I actually think a lot of the “missionary-oriented” activities I’ve seen engaged in were less likely than tracting to get anything accomplished, because in some of them, the missionaries never really opened their mouths about Christ or his message. But you’re certainly right about tracting being (statistically) one of the least time-effective things to do. It’s nearly always more effective than staying home, though.

  20. “Body counts are inherently un-christlike.”

    Trying to maximize the number of people who enter into covenants with Christ (including baptism) is very Christlike.

  21. I suppose I made the mistake of assuming everyone would understand the context of the original statement given the rest of the sentence.

    “The problem is that virtually all missions of the world continue to use tracting as a way to keep missionaries busy, and tracting is arguably the one thing least likely to help someone become a missionary.”

    That being said, I would be interested to know what methods you have seen used that are less effective than tracting. Naturally, I am interested in those methods that are less effective independent of the amount of effort the missionary puts into it.

  22. “Trying to maximize the number of people who enter into covenants with Christ (including baptism) is very Christlike.

    Wrong.

    Christ did not go around telling the apostles,”Hey guys we’ve got to keep those conversion rates up.”

    According to the Bible, He led by example and people were compelled to believe Him. Big Difference.

    Besides, count how many people He baptised. Done? Now do you feel like that number should be the goal of every missionary? I mean striving to be christ-like and all that…

  23. Hey Kim, here’s a method less effective.

    Continue to visit people who have been put on the ‘no contact’ list.

    I can not think of a less effective and more time intensive activity than having every new set of missionaries in a ward stop in ‘for a visit’ with people who have expressly stated that they want no more church contact.

    An exceptionally good activity for missionaries to participate in would be any community activity that involves service.

    Nursing home needs people to play games with retirees? Call the mishies.

    Donated presents need to be wrapped? Call the mishies.

    Single mother (sorry for the obvious ploy using sexism here) moving into/out of the ward? Call the mishies.

    University students need a walk-home service to feel safe at night? Call the mishies.

    You get the idea.
    Service first. If they convert, it’s cream.

  24. Rick,

    If they really do not want any more contact, I wish they’d remove themselves from the records. It would certainly make my job easier and less stressful.

    It would stop elders quorum and relief society presidents from phoning. They would stop receiving letters from the bishopric. Missionaries would stop coming by under false pretenses, and so forth.

  25. “Christ did not go around telling the apostles,’Hey guys we’ve got to keep those conversion rates up.’ “

    You’re right; those weren’t his words. The actual quote is, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matt. 28:18-20

  26. Kim: You and I are in agreeance on this topic. I think there is such a cultural stigma attached to resigning one’s membership, that the social and familial consequences are too daunting to consider. Although it certainly would remove many hurt feelings and misunderstandings – it may be the cause of a whole new group of woes.

    ltbugaf: So are you saying that the mishies should act as Philosopher Kings and regardless of how it’s accomplished, should do anything to get people baptised? Baseball baptisms are ok, soup kitchen baptisms are fine – anything to dunk the non-member is alright. The ends justify the means, and what do they know anyway? I mean, they’re gentiles, people.

    This is the problem: Currently, mishionaries are Sales People. Anthing to close the deal and give good numbers to the MP. That is a bad thing.

    Here’s a crazy idea. Work on methods that get people baptised and keep them attending. It’s not about numbers baptised, it’s about numbers of active members. Just look at what’s happening in South America if you need to understand my point.

  27. “So are you saying that the mishies should act as Philosopher Kings and regardless of how it’s accomplished, should do anything to get people baptised? Baseball baptisms are ok, soup kitchen baptisms are fine – anything to dunk the non-member is alright. The ends justify the means, and what do they know anyway? I mean, they’re gentiles, people.”

    Since I’ve never said any of the above, I suppose you may have me confused with someone else–such as yourself. Have fun arguing with your straw man.

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