Pass-Along Cards

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I just don’t get it… Has anyone ever sucessfully used these to proclaim the gospel? How do you hand it out? Do others accept it? What is is suppose to accomplish? I’ve asked this at church and our ward mission leader really doesn’t have an answer other than “well, you just hand them out”. What am I missing here?

28 thoughts on “Pass-Along Cards

  1. 1. When someone has a question about the Church I sometimes offer a card so they can get more information. If someone is interested in a Book of Mormon, or some specific topic such as family home evening, there are cards specially suited to their interests.

    2. When I have an encounter with someone, such as stopping to help him with a disabled car, I sometimes hand him a card as I leave, saying something like, “I’d like to offer you this.” If he chooses to follow up on it, he can. If not, at least he’ll have an experience associating LDS people with good works.

    3. When giving holiday gifts to neighbors, I have sometimes included a Christmas-related card. I’ve invited people to watch one of the Church’s Christmas videos as part of a small party at my home, and given them the chance to take a card allowing them to get their own copy if interested.

    4. I’ve done the same as #3 while Christmas caroling around a neighborhood. We finish a song, I walk up to the door and hand the neighbor a pass-along card with a Christmas theme.

  2. Thanks for sharing that. I’ve never heard a first hand experience in giving these out. It’s probably because the process is so obvious to everyone else.

  3. I’ve left small piles of them with my contact information in laundromats or other places where announcements are posted. Nobody ever personally contacted me, but the elders did say they had a small increase in media contacts when I did that. Who knows??

  4. I have yet to hear of any Canadian success stories regarding pass along cards. A few years ago, there was an article in the Ensign of success stories regarding pass along cards, but I believe they were all in the States. Which makes sense. Based on my proselytising experience in the States (as a FT missionary) and in Canada (as a WML on nightly splits with missionaries), Canadians are much more reserved with accepting the gospel and sharing it.

  5. I prefer business-card sized pass-along cards. That way I can always carry a few in my wallet. Giving out a “business card” is a tad smoother than a “proselyting” card.

    So when I have gospel conversations, or just when talking to strangers, I try to segue the conversation into the church or the Book of Mormon. It’s often suprisingly easy to make the seque. My most common way is to talk about the many immigrants in Indianapolis, the countries they are from, the languages they speak; and then mention something like “My church has free books in over 100 languages.”

    If I don’t give out an actual Book of Mormon, I try to give out my personal calling card (just name, phone # and email) and a business-card sized “home made” pass-along.

    You can see what I did here:
    http://indybooks.blogspot.com/2007/01/custom-pass-along-cards-business-card.html
    and here:
    http://indybooks.blogspot.com/2007/01/custom-pass-along-card-v2-cheaper.html

    These are actually cheaper (1.0 cent each) than the ones the church sells for 2.0 cents each.

  6. “…I try to segue the conversation into the church or the Book of Mormon”

    …and then the awkward non-investigator gets to try to tip-toe their way out of the situation.

    Do you have any idea how uncomfortable it is for a complete stranger to start asking you about your personal beliefs?

  7. Rick:

    I don’t ask people about their personal beliefs. I mainly offer and give out books; or if I don’t have any in the car, just a pass-along card and my personal calling card.

    My sound-bite in my previous comment doesn’t fully explain the various kinds of encounters I have. So the mental picture I created with my previous comment probably differs from what I actually do.

    My “gospel conversations” are usually limited to about 10 to 20 seconds, not counting the time it takes to retrieve a Book of Mormon in their language plus English from my car.

    My statements of LDS beliefs are usually limited to saying we believe in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, unless they ask for more info, or ask whether we believe such-and-such.

    I more or less _stumbled_ upon this technique of casually starting up conversations with store clerks, cashiers, people in line, people waiting on laundry at the coin-op, etc. It’s hard for me to fully explain it. It’s often hard for people to mentally picture it unless they go out to eat or go shopping or do laundry with me.

    As long as you have a legitimate need for being there, buying something, doing laundry, etc., most people are not afraid to make small talk.

    Asking the cashier or the person next to me in line where their family is from, or what languages they speak, is just as natural as commenting to them about the weather. Yeah, sometimes they ask why I want to know, so I just tell them “My church has free books in over 100 languages, and if I have one in your language, I’d like to give you a free copy, along with the English translation.”

    I have about a 95% success rate in placing books with recent immigrants. Those who have been here longer, not as high.

    The recent immigrants are usually excited and enthusiastic about receiving bilingual material “even though” it’s religious and Christian.

    I don’t know the percentage, but my success rate in placing copies of the Bible and the Book of Mormon with English-only speaking American-born people is pretty high too. That’s probably because I rarely offer material to English-only speakers unless the Spirit indicates for me to do so. And since the Lord knows who’s ready to receive a seed, the latter cases naturally have a higher success rate.

    And other subjects can be sequed somehow to the church. Maybe someone is talking about giving up coffee or quiting smoking. That can segue into the church’s belief on coffee and tobacco.

    If someone mentions their church, then that can segue into offering them a free Bible (I keep inexpensive Bibles in my car to give out) either for themselves, one of their kids, or someone they know who doesn’t have a Bible. If they mention they go to, or belong to, a church, that segues into me saying what church I go to. That easily segues into asking “have you ever read or seen the Book of Mormon?” That segues into offering them a free one. (You need to say “free” otherwise they think you’re selling it.) And if they turn down my offer, I ask if I can give them a card for future reference.

    I’m sure I have room for improvement in my approaches. If anything, my main fault is in not recognizing that the person wants to know more, and I’m too shy to ask if they want missionaries to call them. So what I end up doing is encouraging them to call the local mission office, or the church’s toll-free number. I include that information on an “info flyer” I include with all the books, and on the custom-made pass-along cards.

  8. Bookslinger, if the intent of the pass-along cards is the eventual conversion of the recipient then you are speaking directly to the personal views of the person to whom you interact.

    It’s insulting for someone to tell you your personal beliefs are wrong, out of the blue and uninvited.

    That’s just my opinion, of course.

    Don’t you think it’s a little creepy steering every conversation into some sort of church discussion?

  9. Rick,
    I’m still trying to paint a picture of the nature and content of the encounters and very brief discussions that I have in public with strangers.

    It’s like the old saw “Do you still beat your wife, ‘yes’ or ‘no’?” When the truthful answer needs to first correct the false assumption inherent in the question.

    There is no “every” conversation. Out of the almost 800 encounters, I’ve only met a few people more than once, usually store owners/employees when I go back there to shop, and in those instances there is plenty of other things to talk about if they are not busy and available for chatting. And they always appreciate my business.

    I do sense awkwardness in a rare few situations when I offer material, and when that happens, I back off, and don’t press the issue. Those are rare. And they usually happen when someone (usually from China), who is already a member of another Christian church, sees the title of the Book of Mormon, and thinks Mormons aren’t Christians.

    That confusion results from the Chinese word for “book” that is used in the title of the Book of Mormon. Instead of a generic word for a generic “book,” the translator chose the word that means “holy book”, and that’s the same Chinese word used to translate “Bible”. So when a Chinese person sees the title of the Book of Mormon, they see/read/think “Mormon Bible.”

    And, if I’m not simultaneously presenting a Chinese Bible (to illustrate that we believe in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon), then a Chinese Christian would naturally assume “Ah, this guy is substituting another bible for the real Bible.”

    I’ve heard rumors that the Church translation department is working on a revision to the Chinese Book of Mormon. Maybe that issue will be addressed.

    In the meantime, my goal is to offer a Chinese Bible (NT or OT/NT) or a bilingual Chinese/English New Testament whenever I offer a Chinese/English pair of copies of the Book of Mormon. (And I’m offering them free. I’m paying for all this out of my own pocket.)

    Maybe there is an awkwardness in a few more situations that I’m just not picking up on. But I don’t think I should forego the 99 % of positive encounters if less than 1% are awkward.

    And, just because someone declines, that doesn’t mean it’s awkward. Many people can easily say “no thanks” without feeling bad.

    Yes, there is always room for improvement. I know I could be more sensitive. But if 1% of the encounters are awkward due to my ineptness, then in at least 10% of the encounters, my shortcoming lies in not recognizing their desire to know more, and not following up by asking if they want missionaries to visit, or asking their phone number to give to the missionaries.

    So if I were to categorize my shortcomings, my major screw-up would be not being bold enough in those situations where the person is sending signals that they want to know more, and would welcome a visit from the missioanries. Those outnumber 10-to-1 the cases where I’m being too bold.

    I’m intentionly being deferential to them by NOT asking for their name/number, specifically so as NOT to be creepy. I’m relying on them to call the local mission office number, or the church’s 888 number and initiate contact; when in fact, most people are not bold enough to do that, and those who do want more info would prefer that missionaries call them. But by not asking them for their phone #, I’m not giving them that particular opportunity.

    The majority of the foreign language encounters, well over 50%, the other person is happy, eager, and enthusiastic to receive material. And another 40% to 45% of those foreign language encounters, the person still accepts my offer and without apparent awkwardness.

    Maybe I’m stupid, but if 90 to 95 of foreign-language-speaking people accept my offer for a free book out of the trunk of my car, I’m failing to see how that is creepy.

    Most people start flipping through the material right there. And at restaurants, many times the staff starts actually reading the Book of Mormon when they have a free moment.

    The additional discernment I seek is to be able to tell, among those situations where the immigrant person is enthusiastic and eager, whether their enthusiasm is about the bilingual aspect, or whether they are eager to learn about our religion.

    My default is to assume they are eager about the bilingual aspect, not the religion aspect; and I make that assumption in order _not_ to be creepy.

    My conversations with an English-only speaking person, come about from one of two prompts: 1) the Spirit indicates to initiate a conversation (which means it’s okay) and 2) the person says something which is a natural opening (not “steering”) or almost invites a mention of the church or the Book of Mormon.

    I can’t remember ever having an awkward moment by starting a conversation with “I like to give out free Bibles. Do you need, or would you like, a free Bible?” Every single time I’ve used that conversation starter at the prompting of the Spirit, either the person to whom I’m talking, or someone else in earshot enthusiastically says yes.

    The majority of those English-only-speaking people who accept a Bible, also accept a Book of Mormon. If anything is creepy there, it’s the sense of awe and wonder I have towards God for telling me via the Spirit who is willing or ready to receive scriptures.

    If anything is creepy, it’s the other person’s awe and wonder about how some stranger offered them a Bible out of the blue, maybe wondering if God sent that person, because they needed a Bible.

    It flabbergasted me the first time I was prompted of the Spirit to offer something to an English-only speaking person. That first happened about three months after I started giving out bilingual material to immigrants. The impression of offering a Book of Mormon to the cashier came to me as I paid for a soda at a gas station, but I brushed it off. The impression grew into a strong prompting, and as I sat in my car trembling, I knew I had to go back inside and offer the cashier a Book of Mormon. And it was amazing to me that she politely accepted it. I shouldn’t have been so surprised; God knows what he’s doing.

    After I drove off, I received an outpouring of the Spirit, confirming I had done the right thing. And as I drove home pondering what happened, and its meaning, the Spirit gave me further instructions.

    You wrote: “It’s insulting for someone to tell you your personal beliefs are wrong, out of the blue and uninvited.

    I subsribe to what President Hinckley has said, I don’t want to take anything away from anyone, but only to give them more truth.

    Offering to share additional information, or bilingual material, with people is not the same as telling them their personal beliefs are wrong. People, especially the many people from all over the world whom I’ve met, are a lot more open-minded than to take that offer to share as an insult.

    And even among English-only-speakers, maybe it’s a Hoosier (Indiana) thing. Hoosier cashiers, clerks, and people standing next to you in line don’t seem that scared to talk to strangers as long as you’re polite and friendly.

  10. Oops. That last (long) anonymous comment is mine, the one that starts with “Rick, I’m still trying to paint “, and ends with “as long as you’re polite and friendly.”.

    I hit ENTER at the wrong time.

  11. I don’t want to bludgeon this deceased equine quadruped anymore but I’d like you to reflect on these phrases:

    “foreign-language-speaking people accept my offer for a free book out of the trunk of my car, I’m failing to see how that is creepy.”

    “Maybe there is an awkwardness in a few more situations that I’m just not picking up on.”

    Sincerely, no offense but I think you hit the nail on the head.

    It’s a wee little bit creepy. Once again, just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

  12. I try to keep our stake presidency, the local mission president, and my ward leaders informed about what I’ve been doing. They haven’t told me to stop. I’ve taken ward mission leaders, member friends and missionaries to restaurants, and shopping at stores where I’ve done this, and they’ve only given me positive comments.

    So hopefully, my mileage is varying.

  13. For me I seem to be having a problem reconciling D&C 88:81 and AoF 11. They almost seem to be mutually exclusive, although the Venn diagram would probably show a little overlap.

    For the sake of arguement, I’ll make the assumption that the doctrine of the LDS church is true. If that is the case, then it would be only fair to allow everyone the chance to hear about the gospel and make an informed decision.

    But, what do we value more, free will or education? Does the right to act independent of one’s self outweigh the need to properly educate the uninformed?

    I’d say that free will trumps all. If Joe is standing in a burning building, unaware of the fire and the danger he’s in, do I have the right to take him out of the building or to just tell him he needs to get out? If I tell him and he doesn’t want to get out, should that be his choice?

    If Rick feels he doesn’t want any more conversion efforts being shoved down his throat, there should be a way for us (LDS) to keep track of that and leave him alone. His right to believe what he feels is right does not outweigh our perceived need to ‘save his soul’.

    By the amount of time / money / resources we invest in missionary efforts, you would think that we would also be interested in keeping track of people’s choices. It seems the best we can come up with is an area book binder that gets managed no better than a 7th grader’s math notes. I think we have the ‘active’ methods down. Perhaps it’s time we focused on more ‘passive’ methods of sharing the gospel.

    Which is why I don’t really understand the pass-along-card. I mean, I get it at face value, but from a doctrinal / principle perspective, I don’t know were we are headed with it. It’s a fence-sitter for me and I don’t like that. It has the illusion of being passive, and gives a false sense of active. No way to track them. Hard to follow up on. In fact, I think it’s just a more cost effective way of leaving a book of Mormon on a park bench, hoping that Vincenzo di Francesca will find it.

    Do we have the right to share our message with others? In most countries yes. Should we try? Yes. Should we respect their beliefs above our need to convert them? Definitely.

    Even God realizes that the primary purpose of earth life is to gain a physical body. The post-earth-life is for tying up all loose ends. Let’s not assume that we fail if people reject our message. Let’s let them enjoy the free will that lets us believe what we do and so dearly cherish.

    Who really cares what my missionary efforts are? The only people that really care are the person I have enlightened / bothered, God, and me. It’s none of the ward mission leaders business. There is no pressing need to tell the bishop or sp. All that does is feed their false need to develop a program to track numbers to make them feel like they are doing something. The only time they need to know is when there is going to be a baptism in their ward / stake.

    I’m glad the pass along card helps some people feel like they are doing missionary work. But, from me the cards get a failing grade.

  14. JM, I don’t think that there is any friction between free will versus offering someone religious information.

    I see no contradiction or friction between DC 88:81 and AoF 11.

    To warn people or to offer to share with them or teach them, is not disallowing them to worship how, where or what they may.

    An offer to educate someone about what we believe in no way tramples on their rights, as long as there is no coercion or manipulation.

    When you’re in a public place, or a place of public accomodation, the vast majority of people don’t see a casual offer of a free book or a pass-along card as “shoving religion down their throat.”

    We get hit up all the time for businesses wanting to teach us about their products. We’re almost constantly bombarded with advertisements on radio, TV, billboards, and print media.

    Advertising is a form of education. No one claims that advertising infringes anyones rights of agency.

    It may annoy us. Like the cashier who is instructed to ask the customer if they want to donate to that business’s sponsored charity. But such questions (“would you like to donate to…?”) or invitations are not denying privileges to anyone.

    Something about our modern politically correct society has perverted the meaning of freedom of speech so that it no longer includes religious speech.

    “You can try to sell me laundry soap, but, by golly, don’t try to talk to me about your religion!”

  15. “…as long as there is no coercion or manipulation.”

    So I’m sure it says on the bottom of your pass along cards,”Be prepared to give up 10% of your life earnings to this church.”

    I think your statement is impossible given the context.

    co·erce
    1. to compel by force, intimidation, or authority, esp. without regard for individual desire or volition;
    2. to bring about through the use of force or other forms of compulsion;
    3. to dominate or control, esp. by exploiting fear, anxiety, etc.

    So when you invoke God as the head of your church you are invoking authority, fear and anxiety.

    It’s impossible to discuss the change of someone else’s faith without using coercion. There is almost always some sort of call to authority (or morality).

    If you doubt that this scenario (a call to authority) is coercive consider the ‘wait until your father gets home’ tone of telling someone that their version of God is wrong and your version of God is the correct one.

  16. Rick:

    1. It’s insulting for you to tell Bookslinger his personal beliefs are wrong, out of the blue and uninvited.

    2. If offering our message is “coercion” then why do you discuss LDS beliefs with others? Why are you coercing us?

  17. ltbugaf, both Bookslinger and I are engaging in a discussion in a forum where such discussion is expected and encouraged.

    It is completely different than participation in the discussed activities in the public space.

  18. I can rule out any sort of casual contact with another member of society as an appropriate venue for the discussion of personal beliefs.

    If you know the person and are already well acquainted enough to have a personal discussion, then MAYBE you may be okay with talking religion.

  19. BS said:

    “JM, I don’t think that there is any friction between free will versus offering someone religious information.

    I see no contradiction or friction between DC 88:81 and AoF 11. ”

    I don’t recall using the word friction. Nor did I say they were contradictory. But I do see the overlap being minimal. And I do see most members of the church as seeing them as more mutually inclusive than they really are.

  20. I have to admit that I am uncomfortable with bringing up religion out of the blue with strangers or new aquaintances.

    In my experience, people you work with or play with or attend school with etc. will naturally figure out that you are a Mormon pretty quickly with their own line of questioning. Then, more often than not, they start asking plenty of questions on their own ( if they are not already familiar with the LDS church that is).

    I suppose it depends on the particular situation, but bringing up religion with strangers or people I don’t know well seems a little Amway salesman-ish to me.

  21. Nermal,
    If you have time, read my blog. I generally don’t discuss religion with strangers, unless they ask. I don’t discuss personal beliefs, unless they ask. I offer them books, sometimes the Bible, in their language, along with the corresponding English edition. I do mention that the book is _from_ my church, and it’s called “The Book of Mormon”, and it’s Christian.

    I feel so misunderstood.

    But people still don’t get it even when I explain it face to face. They have to literally see it in action to understand the approach, the interaction, and the reaction.

    It makes so many people happy to be given a free book in their language, along with the English edition. And they like it “even though” it is religious.

    People from other cultures are not as religion-phobic as most North Americans and Europeans.

    Rick: “So when you invoke God as the head of your church you are invoking authority, fear and anxiety.”

    You seem to like putting a negative spin on things.

    I happen to think God being the head of LDS church is a _good_ thing. I don’t think I could respect a church that doesn’t believe God is at the head of their church.

  22. “You seem to like putting a negative spin on things.”

    No, I prefer to put a truthy spin on things (thank-you Mr. Colbert).

    I didn’t say that God being the head of your church was a *bad* thing, I said that you can’t claim to not be acting coercively *while* proclaiming God to be the head of your church.

  23. The other day I was walking out of a Sam’s Club and this man had a card table sit up selling religious trinkets. He asked if I would like to buy one and I said no and and continued walking and then he wanted me to pray and I said no that I did not believe and then he followed me using a loud voice for all to hear that I was going to hell.

    If you are forcing a pass along card onto others, are you really any different than the trinket seller?

    When I was a missionary, we were supposed to sell X number of BOM’s each week. It was really hard to sell them. We used to leave copies on buses and bicycle seats and count them as a placement.

    Do you get to count each pass along card that is tacked to a cubicle as a placement?

  24. Thanks for spelling out exactly what I may and may not do, rick. It’s comforting to have your guidance as the self-appointed arbiter of what is and isn’t rude.

  25. No problem ltbugaf. I feel like it’s my obligation to point out when people exhibit antisocial behaviour.

    If I help you to avoid insulting just one person, it’ll all be worth it.

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