Hastening the Work

Elder Dallin H Oaks
image from lds.org

Elder Oaks shared some powerful keys to making missionary work more authentic and helpful for both the investigator and the member who is sharing. Here they are from the notes that we took.

1. People learn when they are ready to learn not when we are ready to teach them

Others typically want the results of the doctrine, not the doctrine itself. People are open when they are seeking more happiness or a change in their life.

2. As we speak to others, we need to remember that an invitation to speak more about Jesus Christ and his gospel is better than an invitation to learn about the Church.

The point of going to Church is not to simply be there. It is to partake of the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. This should be what we center our missionary work around. Not getting people to learn about the Church, but about Jesus Christ. Like the Book of Mormon says: “…hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.” (2 Ne 33:10)

3. When we seek to introduce people to the gospel, we should do this in ways that are authentic in loving concern for the person

We should only share it with people when we have sincerely sought to find ways in which aspects of the gospel will truly help that individual with specific needs that they have and not force the gospel on someone because they won’t be saved without it.

4. Our efforts to share the gospel shouldn’t be limited to just the people we know.

Elder Oaks shared a great example this with the cab driving missionary in Rio.

We can share with anyone around us. Not just those we know. We might even be in a better position to share as a stranger than as a close friend or relative.

5. Ward bishoprics plan a special sacrament meeting for visitors.

That way the church is represented well in a meeting specifically catered to visitors being able to understand simply and feel welcomed and uplifted.

6. There are many natural opportunities to share the gospel that we can be proactive with if we just think about it more often

There will always be opportunities to share the gospel if we seek after them. If we are ready and we ask the Lord to help us to share, the opportunity will arise and we will be able to speak to people naturally about the gospel.

7. Young peoples’ expertise with social media gives them a unique opportunity to share the gospel

Elder Oaks jokingly reinterpreted a scripture about loosing our tongues that they can utter. He said it might now say “loose their thumbs that they can utter.” And then he added “Go to it youth!”

There are incredible opportunities to share the gospel using social media and this was another apostolic endorsement that it is not only possible, but should be used.

This talk was given by an apostle, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, and was likely (as he mentioned in the talk) based on many of the similar principles that have been taught by Clayton Christensen in his book The Power of Everyday Missionaries. 

4 ways to prepare for hard questions on your mission

By Andy Proctor

As a missionary, you’ll encounter thousands of questions and doubts from the people you serve. Many of these questions will be things you may have never considered. How can you best prepare for these questions? If you are the parent or friend of a preparing missionary, how can you help your missionary prepare for the hard questions? Here are four ways to prepare that have helped me as I have considered the most difficult questions about the Church.  

1. Don’t be afraid of inoculation in an environment of love and openness

Remember what Dante said: “the arrow seen before cometh less rudely.” This is true when it comes to missions as well. If you see what is coming, you’ll be more prepared, even if you don’t know the answer. At least you have heard the question before and it doesn’t come as a surprise to you.

The controversial questions that pop up during your mission will likely be determined by where you end up serving, but it’s good to be familiar with the most common ones because the Internet has globalized almost every country in which you could serve. The time to prepare to answer these questions is before you leave on your mission.

A great list of the most common questions that may arise is found in the Gospel Topics Essays produced by the Church under the direction of the first presidency. Don’t be afraid to read and become familiar with them.

Another great resource is a new book compiled by Laura Harris Hales, in which gospel scholars address the honest questions that many have wanted to ask. A Reason for Faith: Navigating LDS Doctrine and Church History is a collection of short essays on 17 controversial topics ranging from Joseph Smith and his years as a money digger to his practice of polygamy to homosexuality and the gospel to the relationship between religion and science.

One day Sister Hales was sightseeing in a metropolitan city in Europe. As part of her travels, she toured the temple site. While there she was approached by the Assistants to the President for the mission. When they found out that she and her husband write and speak about the past practice of polygamy in the Church, one of the missionaries asked: “Is it true that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy?” He followed, “It doesn’t affect my faith. I am just curious.”

Never worry about asking too many questions. Serious inquiry doesn’t need to be viewed as an expression of doubt. We need to destigmatize the questioning process and instead capitalize on its ability to lead us to a place where we can increase in learning. After all, wasn’t it a question that sent Joseph Smith, a world-class seeker, to a grove of trees almost two hundred years ago? Make studying these topics part of your preparation for your mission and share what you learn with your family.

 

2. Understand how to recognize authoritative sources

Something else that is really important is to learn how you can recognize what is an authoritative source and what is not. To do this, it is good to have a few questions by which you can filter the things you learn.

Here are a few examples of great questions you can use:

  • What are the credentials of the author?
  • When was it written?
  • In what cultural/historical/social context was it written?
  • Has this article or book been peer reviewed?
  • What were the motivations of the author in writing it?
  • Have you asked God to help you understand it?
  • Have you asked God if this is a good source?

If you find something that creates doubt, run the authority of it through the questions above before you accept it. Be careful what you accept as truth. Form a mental gatekeeper of truth for yourself before you let things in. Ask God for help with this. Seek to develop the gift of discernment. This will help you as you filter teachings from outside and yes even inside the Church. As Elder Christofferson has said: “Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine.”1 And the second prophet of this dispensation, President Brigham Young, even said:

“I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves…I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful that they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of the leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God.”2

Just as important as it is to do this with our own leaders, it is equally important to know for ourselves concerning contradictory teachings coming from outside the Church.

3. Be okay with uncertainty

If you grow up in the culture of the Church, you have probably heard these phrases: “I know with every fiber of my being” or “I know without a shadow of a doubt.” There very well may be those who know with this kind of certainty. If you do, I commend you. However, these kinds of phrases might make those who may not have that kind of certainty feel sheepish when talking about what they do and don’t know. This is where I would suggest that we become more comfortable with uncertainty. It is okay to say “I don’t know.” Indeed there are many who may say: “I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet” or “I know that the Book of Mormon is true” because they have simply heard this phrase repeated thousands of times over the years at the pulpit and they don’t actually know this. But to say “I don’t know” would be socially awkward in the Church culture. I think this needs to change. Not to encourage people to doubt what is true or good, but to encourage every single member to seek truth independent of anyone else.

There are some things that we will never know until after this life. (D&C 101:32-34) And some of us are followed by these of “shadows of doubt” all our lives. The scriptures speak of saints of great faith who never received the promise in this life (Hebrews 11:39). To be human is to desire closure and certainty, but mortality implies uncertainty. That is okay. As a missionary, you can still have questions. You don’t have to be perfect to lead others to Christ.

We cannot know all things that we need to know before serving, and that’s okay. It’s okay to not know. And it’s okay to be wrong sometimes. Be open to correction. We are all constantly growing in spiritual maturity. As a missionary of the Church, I felt like I was supposed to be right all the time, but the most powerful teaching opportunities I experienced were the ones where those who I taught experienced my authentic humanity and imperfection. Then they could relate to my authenticity and love. They could not relate to flawless knowledge and unbreakable intellect. I believe righteous missionaries who love authentically will bring more people to the message of the gospel than missionaries who are always right.

4. Don’t abandon the truth you have found

Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

The doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really is beautiful. Don’t abandon the truth you do have because of things you do not understand.

You have likely had an experience where you connected to something greater than yourself and saw further than human eyes could see. Maybe you were lifted and given strength beyond your own. Maybe you have experienced a miracle that you cannot explain. Maybe you have had pure intelligence flowing into your mind that was not there before. Perhaps you have or will experience the gift of tongues. These are all very real. Don’t throw out these experiences because of doubts, concerns or uncertainty. Keep them safe. Don’t cast them away. Let them strengthen you as you find your way and seek further light and knowledge. Start with the light of faith as you step into uncertainty.

photo credit DeseretNews.com

Elder Quentin L. Cook said Latter-day Saints rejoice that a door has been opened for religious activities in Vietnam, under the laws of Vietnam.

During a historic ceremony on May 31, government leaders in Vietnam granted official recognition to the Church in Vietnam.

“On behalf of the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members here in Vietnam and across the world, we express gratitude and appreciation for the official full recognition of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and its Representative Committee in Vietnam,” said Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the recognition event held in Hanoi, Vietnam, on May 31.

Vietnam grants full recognition of Mormon Church
A group of members gather in Hanoi on May 31 for a historic event during which government officials in Vietnam granted the Church full and official recognition. (Photo credit: IRI via DeseretNews.com)

The historic event was attended by Mr. Bui Thanh Ha, Vice Chairman of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs; Honorable Le Ba Trinh, Vice President of the Fatherland Front; and other distinguished officials and friends of the Church. In addition to Elder Cook, Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Presidency of the Seventy represented the Church at the event.

READ FULL STORY AT DESERET NEWS.

 

James the Mormon
image via JamesTheMormon facebook

On May 23rd, James The Mormon posted a video that he and LDS.net collaborated on called “6 things you’ve always wondered about Mormon Missionaries” With just shy of one million views, it could be the most viewed informational video about Mormon missionaries. We thought that it was noteworthy and wanted to post about it here.

What are the 6 things?

Well, you’ll have to watch the video to find out, but we can tell you that this is a very non-Mormon friendly video that you could share with any of your friends who may have had questions about Mormon missionaries. You might just share it to your social media accounts because you never know who might have had these questions of your friends.

Here is the video:

 

Watch this incredible video of returned missionaries speaking more than 50 languages!

This video is a compilation from the Prepare to Serve series, where returned missionaries share mission stories, cultural/travel advice, testimony, etc.

Image via wikimedia commons

For as long as Mormonism has existed, people have questioned whether the faith is Christian. Of course, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are quick to point detractors to their first Article of Faith, which says, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” In addition, the Church recently addressed the issue in their Gospel Topics Essays on LDS.org.

“Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unequivocally affirm themselves to be Christians,” the Church’s essay states. “They worship God the Eternal Father in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Interestingly, though the Christianity of Mormons has been called into question for nearly two centuries, a Pew survey shows members of the Church score highest of all religions on knowledge about Christianity.* On 12 questions about the world’s largest faith, including many questions about the Bible, Mormons answered an average of 7.9 correctly. White evangelical Protestants (7.3 correct on average) were second.

Read the full article at LDS Living.

As millions of Latter-day Saints around the world prepare for the 186th annual general conference of the Church, Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Seventy and executive director of the Missionary Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sat down for an interview in mid-February to reflect on the progress of the Church’s missionary program.

Media initiatives, the use of technology and the age requirement change have bolstered the missionary efforts of the Church in the past several years.

“We work regularly to make sure that people know about our church and understand what we believe,” said Elder Nielson.

Missionary Surge Subsides

There are currently about 75,000 full-time missionaries serving in more than 400 missions in many countries. Over the past five years, about 230,000 missionaries have completed their missions and 1.3 million have served since the Church was organized in 1830.

“At the beginning of this year, we had 418 missions in the Church,” reported Elder Nielson. “We’ve just created the Vietnam Mission, which is now officially in place, and by July we will have created two other new missions in Africa, which will give us a total of 421 missions.”

After the age requirement for young men and women was lowered in October 2012, the missionary force hit a record high of nearly 89,000 men, women and senior couples. Young men can now serve at age 18, and women can begin their service at age 19.

“As that surge passed, we’re now down to around 75,000 missionaries, which is where we think we’ll stay for a period of time as that gradually increases,” he said.

Many of the missionaries who were part of the surge have now returned home following their service, which is 18 months for women and two years for men.

“That stretched our resources; it stretched our mission presidents just to take care of that many missionaries, even though we had created 58 new missions to do that,” said Elder Nielson.

Read the full article at Meridian Magazine.

Image via Mormon Newsroom

On Sunday, 28 February, His Royal Highness Viliami ʻUnuaki-ʻo-Tonga Lalaka moʻe ʻEiki Tukuʻaho of Tonga, Prince ‘Ata, and over 100 members of the Nukuʻalofa Tonga North Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), undertook an historic journey together.

They travelled 10 kilometres by boat to the beautiful island of ‘Atata, off the coast of Tongatapu, to hold the first Sunday services of the Church ever to be held there.

Local Church leader, President Tu’ihalangingie, presided at the services. He thanked His Highness for allowing them to dedicate the home which has been renovated into a meetinghouse so members don’t have to travel back and forth to Tongatapu to attend religious services.

He also thanked the Town Officer and others for their help in preparing the meetinghouse.

The historic gathering provided an opportunity for President Tu’ihalangingie to bless the new Church facility as a gathering place for Latter-day Saints and others to worship on the island.

Read the full article at Mormon Newsroom.

So you embarrassed yourself on Facebook. Again. It’s alright, we’ve all done it—because while Facebook can be awesome, especially when used as a tool to share the gospel, there’s no denying it’s created a new breed of social faux pas, which, whether you’re new to Facebook or not, can be tricky to navigate.

Social media etiquette is the key. For those of you looking to share the gospel online, we’ve created a list of 6 Facebook Dos and Don’ts which, we hope, will make you a more effective “Facebook Missionary”—and a kinder, more considerate user of social media.

Alright, pinkies out! Let’s get to work!

1. Facebook Don’t: Engage in Arguments

You’re scrolling through Facebook when suddenly you see it: a heated debate on somebody’s profile. Looks like they’ve got a bone to pick with the Church, and their opposing viewpoint isn’t going to come quietly.

We’ve been taught to be tolerant and respectful of other people’s beliefs. On the other hand, we’ve also been taught to “stand as a witness of Christ in all times and in all things and in all places” (see Mosiah 18:9). Is this the place to apply the latter principle?

The answer is pretty much always a resounding “no.” No matter what your intentions may be, Facebook arguments almost always become personal. If someone you know makes a point you disagree with, personally attacking them—even with truth—in their comment box will just put everyone on the defense. Remember, as Facebook Missionaries, we’re defending the gospel, not offending with the gospel.

Read the full article at LDS.net.

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Image via "Angels Among Us" by Annie Henrie

The Prophet Joseph Smith declared that if we “live up to [our] privilege,” the angels will not be able to be restrained from being our associates.

Our “privilege” includes our covenants.

Our covenants are a privilege.

Therefore, as we live up to our covenants, the angels will not be able to be restrained from being our associates. We could also say it this way: As we keep our covenants, we can ask for angels to help us. Literally!

It was during Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s April 2010 general conference address that I first learned this truth. Elder Holland was giving counsel on how to guard against temptation. The one question I most needed to have answered at that time in my life, and which I took to that general conference, was not related to that subject, but part of Elder Holland’s prescription for success was exactly what I needed to hear.

He said, “Ask for angels to help you.”

He said it with such clarity, and yet he said it in a manner that implied this was something we all knew! But for me, it was an entirely new principle.

I wanted to call out, “Wait! Wait! What? You mean I could have been asking for angels to help me all this time?”

Without intending to sound too dramatic, I can say with all candor that Elder Holland’s six words changed my life: “Ask for angels to help you.”

That counsel changed my prayers. It changed my understanding of the very real help from heaven that is always available to us as we keep our covenants. I started to ask for assistance from those on the other side of the veil from that moment on!

Read the full article at LDSLiving.