Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2009, June 13

“Solutions to LDS/ Mormon Missionary Work Problems, Part 3” by grego

Solutions to LDS/ Mormon Missionary Work Problems, Part 3
by grego

Part 1

Part 2

So why do new members get stuck? I think it mostly has to do with the pre-baptismal situation.

Let’s first talk about an important part of this: MISSIONARY MYTHS.

Myths about Missionary Work

*”Don’t worry too much about the lack of success, don’t try to make a better program, don’t change the system, the Lord and the prophets and very wise men are in charge.”
—>It’s true that the Lord et. al. are in charge. Ammon wasn’t the prophet, but he was a much better missionary than most. Abish wasn’t a prophet, but without her, would the work have gone as well? Missionary work is full of miracles, but the Lord most always expects us to put in our part. Besides, why would we expect miracles to find and baptize people, but then not have miracles to retain them/ keep them active? And if we’re only at 20% retention, where are those miracles? If they aren’t happening, why is it? Is that the way God just wants a 20% retention rate? Maybe God is powerful and can work miracles to get them in, but not to keep them in? Is it because of our obedience or lack of knowledge and skills about how to do missionary work? Does God expect us to let bad situations remain bad, or does He expect us to make bad situations better? Do we need to be specifically commanded to do so, or should we look at 20% retention and decide it might be worth it to try for something higher? Do we keep a broken system? If we “have the Spirit”, will everything that we do succeed, or are we something of a factor, too? If we have the Spirit but aren’t succeeding, might it have to do with the quality of the program/ procedure?

*”The faster someone gets baptized, the better; otherwise, Satan will tempt them and we’ll lose them.”
We read of many examples in the scriptures of people who listen, pray, are converted, and get baptized—in one discussion, it seems! Well, as with other examples, real life for most people doesn’t always follow the same pattern, especially when the people don’t have the same understanding and especially desire and commitment to learn and live the gospel.
—Note that Alma the elder was required to listen to Abinadi and hear strong preaching by the Spirit, witnessed miracles over a few days, and was going to put him to death unless he chose to stand up right then.
—Alma the younger saw an angel and received some pretty strong words, was out of it for a few days, suffering sins to the point he couldn’t stand it any longer, cried for mercy, then had a vision of God.
—Zeezrom got caught lying a few times and got an incredible object lesson, and was responsible for Alma and Amulek’s problems, thinking they had died because of him. He had maybe a month or two to think about what he had done, too.
—Lamoni saw all the arms, heard the testimonies, was scared he was going to be killed, knew that Ammon knew his thoughts, thought Ammon was the Great Spirit, listened to Ammon and the scriptures for a long time, and prayed. Then he was out of it for three days, during which time he saw visions.
—Abish was converted because of the dream of her father, and she had remained faithful for years, among the Lamanites.
—Lamoni’s father had listened to his son’s conversion and everything around it, had his life threatened and then given back, was astonished at what had happened, had had a while to think it all over, listened to the discussions, prayed and asked to be converted, and been overcome.
—The three hundred Lamanites saw a miracle, heard a heavenly voice more than once, were scared, couldn’t escape due to trembling and darkness and fear, asked what to do, an inactive/ apostate Nephite told them to remember the words that had been preached to them long before, they prayed and prayed, and were converted.
Look, I haven’t had experiences like these! These converts, and others, truly show fruits worthy of baptism—I have no doubts about that. Are all quickly-baptized investigators having these types of experiences? Are all new members so strong in their commitment to live and share the gospel? If not, maybe they should wait until they show fruits worthy of baptism.
If it’s so easy for Satan to get them that you worry, are they really committed and ready? Have you no faith that the Lord’s sheep hear his voice, and will follow? Have you no faith that the Lord has power over Satan? Do you think that once a person is baptized, Satan will suddenly stop trying to overcome them? Or does this have to do with the next myth?

*”If we can just get them baptized, they will be much better off, because then they’ll have the Spirit, and it will be easier for them to feel the Spirit, learn, understand, know the truth, permanently change for the better, etc.”
If this were true, why do most of the people who get baptized go inactive—did the Spirit tell them to go inactive? Or did they fight the Spirit and its influence? Maybe neither? Does giving someone the gift of the Holy Ghost mean they’ll have the Holy Ghost? The results after years and years show that this thinking is WRONG. If investigators aren’t ready to be baptized but are baptized anyway, will it make things better or worse for them and others? While giving people time to develop might make a missionary see that this unripe fruit isn’t going to turn out to be a good fruit, picking it while it is still unripe because you’re scared it might be bad fruit makes it impossible to have good fruit anyway!! People need to make their *own* decisions. Getting people to accept the ordinances of baptism and the receiving of the gift of the Holy Ghost are not magical occurrences that will force people to feel the Spirit or His fruits.

*”The lower the standards, the more people will get baptized.”
Probably so, as one can see right now; the problem is with them staying around. Price/ value also plays a part in spiritual things, too. If people feel that baptism and living the commitments aren’t important, they will treat it all as something unimportant. What happened with Bro. Fang: nonchalantly going through the conversion process, conveniently deciding when he might get baptized, when someone told him he might not pass the interview or be ready. That really spurned him to do everything required and gave him the spirit of true conversion. (He was ready for his baptism.) Quickly ready for leadership!
“B and C” is another problem here. Many missionaries beg and coerce investigators. (I witnessed this by a vendor in a market the other day.) When investigators feel that (and they do feel it), it throws up many red flags, especially: if this is so good, why are they begging and coercing me to get baptized?

*Numbers and especially baptisms are all about faith and righteousness; low numbers = low faith and righteousness of the missionaries.*
So in other words, do whatever you can to baptize people and rack up numbers, otherwise your colleagues and leaders will think you don’t have faith and love the Lord! This is called pride; don’t be proud. If your colleagues and leaders can’t handle it, don’t worry, it’s their problem, not yours. You’re not on a mission to “get numbers” or “get baptisms” any way you can. You won’t ever find that “doctrine” anywhere in the standard works, because it’s not a gospel doctrine, it never has been, and it never will be. Missionaries are to preach, teach, convert, baptize, etc., that is correct; but it must be done in the right way! How can you expect the help of the Lord to do His work, if you use Satan’s methods to try to do His work??
What do the scriptures say, about numbers in general?
What numbers did Adam have? Noah? Moses? Peter? Paul? Nephi? Alma? Ammon? Can you find anyone, anywhere, talking about “baptismal goals”?
We read that while Ammon had great success, Aaron didn’t; but it was likely due to reasons other than faith (Alma 20:30).
When Ammon and the others went to preach to the missionaries, they weren’t expecting many to convert (Alma 17:9, 16; 26:26, 30). They did, however, have a great desire to share the gospel, and they opened their mouths, and they met fear with faith and with giving it their their best.
Are missionaries still setting incorrect “numbers” goals, years after a talk saying not to (see Elder Oaks’ article on “Timing”)?

*”We missionaries are to teach and baptize investigators. After that, they’re your (the members’) problem.”
First of all, reread that last sentence. I’ve essentially heard that statement many times from missionaries. What is that telling? “Problem”? First, are new members seen as “problems”? Then, why do they have so many problems after having just been taught by the missionaries and baptized?
The Book of Mormon says this about Ammon:
Alma 21:23 And Ammon did preach unto the people of king Lamoni; and it came to pass that he did *teach them all things concerning things pertaining to righteousness*. And he did *exhort them daily*, with all diligence; and they gave heed unto his word, and they were zealous for keeping the commandments of God.
Alma 22:1 Now, as Ammon was thus teaching the people of Lamoni *continually*, we will return to the account of Aaron and his brethren…
Ammon, *after* baptizing the investigators, taught them all about the gospel, and he taught them daily, and continually. He did not worry that there were thousands of other Lamanites who hadn’t been baptized yet and maybe he wouldn’t make zone leader if he didn’t rush; he concentrated on strengthening his converts so they would stay. Interestingly, the result of this was that more and more Lamanites joined–sometimes even miraculously. Ammon understood that the goal for the people he was teaching the gospel to was eternal life, not baptism.
Luckily, “Proclaim the Gospel” clears this myth up by basically saying missionaries are to teach five new member discussions and see that the new members receive all their ordinances; does that include TEMPLE ordinances?

*”I can’t change the way I do missionary work because I need to obey my leaders.”
Brigham Young was a great example of obedience to the commandments of God and especially to the prophet, and yet he was a great thinker, too. It took him two years to study the gospel and join the church. Without his brain power (and body power and spirit power), the Saints would have had many more trials and problems of greater proportion than they had getting to Utah and establishing the Church and themselves as a people. Remember, the Lord gave you a brain to not only obey with, but to think with, too. Most leaders don’t have much to say about these myths, and in fact, I don’t know of any leaders that have said otherwise. It seems more or less to be a culture, a tradition, a carry-over from years back, a mindset that actually conflicts largely with what the scriptures say. If you see anything here that seems to tell you do disobey your leaders, I would wonder, “Have you asked your leader?” Are you really doing missionary work in this way to obey your leader, or for the selfish reason of racking up baptisms?

*If a new member goes inactive, it’s because the members didn’t do their part.
I think most new members with a decent testimony will at least come for a few weeks or months, even if they don’t know many people or don’t feel really comfortable. When the majority of new members stop coming within one week or one or two months at most, it’s likely that they never were really committed, much less converted. They likely showed few if any fruits for baptism.
And if it’s the members fault, what did they do, or not? Is it that they didn’t friendship the new members? Or is it that the new members didn’t really know anyone before they got baptized? True, if they don’t, it’s the unit’s problem—partly. Haven’t talks, manuals, and standards mentioned the need for investigators to meet members and have friends in the church—*before* they are baptized? Does this responsibility of meeting and friendshipping just lie with the members? Are the missionaries introducing the investigators to church members? If you tell the Elder Quorum president that someone will get baptized this week, how likely is it that the new member will have a home teacher?

*Commitment is the key.
Unfortunately, most “commitment” for the missionaries is little more than pressuring and compulsion, and as such, it is *not* the key to quality conversion; in fact, it’s the key to why people get baptized and never show up again, or why a missionary moves and the new member immediately cuts contact with the church.
Do you see any place in the Book of Mormon where someone makes a baptismal/ spiritual commitment unnaturally at someone’s behest? Investigators/ uncommitted people in the Book of Mormon who are desirous to receive the blessings of the gospel, willingly and naturally commit, often without invitation. Not all investigators will have this faith; commitments and invitations are still very useful and even needed.
I know many investigators who have quit an addiction for *one day* and still get baptized. Is that enough time to see commitment, to see the fruits of repentance? I don’t think so.

*If a new member goes inactive, it’s because they didn’t have faith.
Maybe so. But if that were the case, why were they baptized in the first place? Did they have faith enough to covenant baptism, then a week later, lose faith to come to church and believe?
Many times, though, it could be:
–they weren’t taught well,
–they didn’t understand what was really going on,
–they were pressured into doing something they weren’t ready to do,
–they didn’t have the habits,
–their concerns weren’t resolved,
–it was too much too fast and the change couldn’t last,
–it could have been the missionaries or the members, etc.
In other words, there was no fruit worthy of baptism. And it wasn’t really their fault many times, let’s face it.

On to Part 4.

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