Maybe we’re going about member missionary work all wrong

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We spent about an hour in Priesthood Executive Committee this morning discussing the work of our ward and full-time missionaries. For part of the meeting, we talked about how we might be able to get the ward members more involved in sharing the gospel. Some of the ideas passed around were:

  • have members invite friends into their homes
  • have members invite friends to church when they give a talk
  • have members participate in missionary discussions

These ideas seemed to be pretty standard in other wards I have attended (and I have been in over 100), as well as things like having joint priesthood–Relief Society meetings and special talks in Sacrament.

I wonder if we’re going about it the wrong way though.

Consider this famous missionary scripture (1 Nep 8:10–13):

And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.

And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.

And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.

Normally, missionaries (both full-time and ward) use this scripture to support the idea that because we have the gospel, we have a responsibility to share it with others. I don’t really have a problem with the idea that we should share with others what we have, but that scripture actually doesn’t say that.

Ignoring the fact that the fruit actually represents eternal life and not specifically the gospel, Lehi didn’t share the gospel with his family simply because he had received it.

Lehi wanted to share the fruit because of the following:

  • It filled his soul with exceedingly great joy.
  • It was the sweetest thing he ever tasted.
  • He desired to share it with his family.

Do I desire to share the gospel with my family? Sure. Is it the sweetest thing I have ever tasted? I doubt it. Has it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy? No. Sure it makes me happy and brings me peace, but I can honestly say I don’t think it has ever filled my soul (even just halfway) with exceeding great joy). And I wonder how many others in my ward feel the same way.

It seems to me that we focus our efforts on trying to increase the number of contacts members make with non-members (inviting them into their home, giving them a Book of Mormon, inviting them to an activity, inviting them to church, etc). I wonder though if we would see better results if we focused on what 1 Ne 8 actually states.

What would missionary efforts be like if everyone in my ward viewed the gospel as being the sweetest thing s/he had ever tasted? What would such efforts be like if everyone in my ward felt like their souls were completely filled with exceedingly great joy?

Maybe instead of playing the odds by having lots of member–nonmember contact to get a few discussions, we should be trying to work with members to help them have inspiring spiritual experiences, experiences that change their lives.

The funny thing is I bet a lot of our other concerns (low home teaching, poor temple attendance, etc) would disappear.

3 thoughts on “Maybe we’re going about member missionary work all wrong

  1. Well, even with Lehi feeling that way about the fruit, he didn’t have stellar success, even within his own family.

    As a church, we need to lower our expectation about conversion rates. We have something to offer, but acceptance of that offer is something we cannot control. We’re just messengers. The conversion is between the individual and God.

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