Church-Hacker #5: Missionary Moment 2.0

This week’s Church-Hacker idea comes from BCC’s own Kevin Barney:

My ward has a tradition that every Fast Sunday, the conducting bishopric member reads excerpts from letters sent home by the missionaries from our ward out serving in the field.  This might not be practicable in a Utah ward with a dozen people serving, but we’ve never had more than three so it works for us.  I love it.  It helps us remain connected to our young people so far away, and when we hear the things they are going through it gives us a greater appreciation for their sacrifices.  And this is far superior to some strained “missionary moment” in priesthood opening exercises.

Think this would work in your own ward? Already tried it? Let us know in the comments.

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Comments

  1. “And this is far superior…”
    Really, why put down something else in order to make what you propose better? I think what you say is a great idea. I think it’s also good if the brotherhood in priesthood or the sisterhood in relief society felt more united in seeking for opportunities to share various “moments” where we can be missionaries.

    I think people get far too worked up on the concept of a missionary moment and clam up. It’s a missionary “moment” not a dramatic conversion experience.

  2. I like this idea. And not what I expected from the title. When I was WML, we abandoned “Missionary Moments” in PH opening exercises mostly because it was the same two people every time. We tried assigning BofMs to hand out, but that was always a bit confrontational (and the volunteers who took them were those same two people…). Our HPGL is the father of one of two missionaries serving from our ward, so he often shares what his son is up to, either in opening exercises or in our group meeting. We hear much less about the other one.

  3. You learn something new every day, we never knew that you share “missionary moments” in priesthood. Reading letters from missionaries serving away from the ward sounds like a great idea. But if the point is to have the ward members share what they have been doing that month to share the Gospel and encourage those who did not to do so, it would seem that you would still want to hear from the ward members too.

  4. OK then, follow-up question: Does your ward have good “missionary moments”? My experience is in line with Kevin’s–they’re strained–so let’s hear your successful case studies

  5. Our ward did this for several years. Missionary letters “dear mom and dad, . . . ” were read every week by moms, dads and siblings (even primary kids). We only had between 2-4 serving at a time. With vacations and holidays it wasn’t uncommon to hear from the same family for 4 weeks in a row. It was 85% successful. The ward enjoyed hearing about the homegrown missionaries and it connected us to the work. Missionaries and families who needed support got it. Some of the stories were truly miraculous and uplifiting and really needed to be shared.

    On the down side, after a while the pride monster snuck into the families who frequently reported on Elder or Sister “Wonderful”. As a missionary who expected my letters to be shared most weeks, I felt that the ‘fishbowl’ took away from some of the authentic support and communication. The ward felt that ‘trials were part of the glorius story’ and unfortunately everyone chuckled at reading things like “please send acne rx, anti-diharreal rx, super absorbancy tampax, and de-worming pills. Also, my companion is psycho, please tell me anything you know about bipolar mania.” I know, I know. Face-palm.

  6. Like the Sistas, I didn’t know this was a regular feature of priesthood meeting, either. It sounds like a wonderful idea.

    If the purpose is to encourage missionary work by quorum members, or even to keep it as a possibility constantly in view, then sections of letters that addressed actual missionary teaching or finding or bearing testimony would probably be most applicable. If there is a larger goal of fostering quorum brotherhood, of remembering these elders and keeping their seats warm for them when they come back, then almost any selection from a letter, even about P-Day activities or discouragements, could be on target. (In case the latter is the real goal, I’d like hearing the same selections read in RS. If there are sister missionaries serving from a ward, this should probably be a regular feature of RS anyway.)

    Reports of real experiences, as opposed to contrived, theoretical preaching, always works best for me. Our stake high councilman this past Sunday spoke about missionary work, for instance, but never got beyond telling us that we should be “sharing the gospel with our friends, neighbors, and associates,” that we must “interest ourselves in the lives of our friends, neighbors, and associates,” that we must “join with our friends, neighbors, and associates in improving our community” — without, however, giving one single blessed example of what to do or how to do it. Just telling us “accomplish this goal” ain’t gonna work. A single example from a missionary letter illustrating how a missionary companionship made a friend or got involved in a community would be worth a hundred lectures like the one we got.

  7. But Ardis, it’s easy – simply focus on your friends, neighbors and associates… ;-)

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    They only read selected extracts from letters with missionary experiences, not personal things like “please send me more zit cream.”. And it’s one extract per month (on Fast Sunday), so usuallly there is something good to choose from.

    The missionary moment comment was a throw-away line; if you like them and find them useful as opposed to awkward, then by all means keep them in the mix as well.

  9. HokieKate says:

    It sounds like a great idea. Unfortunately, our ward does not currently have any missionaries.

  10. “our ward does not currently have any missionaries”

    David O. McKay would be ticked at you…

  11. I believe we’re having a missionary return sometime this month. So chances are he’ll be asked to give a lesson full of missionary opportunities.

    Would it be easier if the “missionary moments” were focus on things you’ve done to help share the gospel throughout your life instead of just that week (or month)? I could see people being more inclined if the time frame was wider. When we have them in RS there’s always a comment about sharing the gospel with their children, which is likely a common occurrence in the lives of those who are currently raising munchkins as there are weeks the only adults seen are those at church.

  12. Out in the wild this is a great idea. Once domesticated, It would get weird to see missionaries calling the ward to repentance or the like with a few weird apples. But you don’t have to read everyones, right? Some letters can stay private.

    But I really like this. Just… take it easy when first implementing…

  13. I like it if it is selected passages that are teaching-related and inspirational. The whole letter? Not so much. I want my son to feel free to include anything, and I know I would have edited my letters extensively if I knew they were going to be read to the entire ward.

    My experience with formal missionary moments and Book of Mormon sharing also is that they felt contrived, awkward and, in the end, negative. When expereinces are shared naturally in the course of a lesson or talk, they are more often uplifting, ime.

  14. Coffinberry says:

    Meh. That’s why missionary letters get posted online, so that people who want to read them can read them, and people who don’t, don’t. See, e.g., http://www.missionsite.net, or the facebook page I keep up for my missionary son. I am pretty sure that people would get tired of it. Then there’s the problem of comparing letters, and has already been mentioned, the occasional nutcases. Makes problems stand out in sharp relief.

  15. Missionary Moments???

    I’m nearly 40, been a life long member, rarely miss a meeting. I was EQP for 3 years and have held various other priesthood positions including Ward ML. I’ve lived in major cities in Ut including Provo, lived for a while in Ca, I currently live in Idaho. Been in about a dozen wards in my adult life (not counting my mission). I have Never heard of MISSIONARY MOMENTS or even witnessed a related practice.

    I have seen a handful of times where maybe a paragrah was read from a missionary letter during a talk, and I was in one ward where they gave some space to the missionaries in the ward newsletter, but I have never witnessed one of these Missionary Moments.

  16. Stephanie says:

    Our RS just added “missionary moments” (in addition to sharing “good news”). Just shoot me now, please.

  17. I’m still not sold on the idea. Like Josh B., I can see a danger that missionaries will become (even more) myopic and pompous in their letters if they know that they’re speaking to an audience. And as a ward member, and particularly as one who did that whole mission thing, hearing the same experiences and clichés over and over becomes tiresome. That’s not to say that the experiences of these missionaries aren’t genuine or that they aren’t significant, but rather that it’s significant/genuine/spiritual for them, not for me. Of course, I also tend to be more than a bit of a curmudgeon about missions, missionary work, etc so the prospect of getting yet another helping of it strikes me as just a bit short of repugnant.

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    The bishopric counselor is the one who chooses what extract to read. In my experience the extracts have always been appropriate and uplifting. I haven’t seen the phenomenon of missionaries playing to an audience that some are concerned with.

  19. When I wrote letters home, I knew my parents were probably sharing them, or parts of them, with my grandmother, the bishop, Mom’s visiting teachers, and perhaps others. That didn’t affect my letters at all — I trusted Mom to know what to share and what to keep private. The only audience I ever played to was my parents, in that I sometimes tried to sound more upbeat than I felt, and I didn’t tell them things that I knew would frighten them. I usually had so many stories I did want to tell, and so little time to write it — all by hand, of course — that I wouldn’t have wasted the time on pontificating to a ward audience even if it had occurred to me. Writer’s cramp hurts!

    Those who are afraid of missionaries playing to a ward audience — did you do that? Why? And if not, why suspect everyone else of doing that?

  20. I was thinking about my mission. My parents lived in Lagos, Nigeria, far away from our home ward in Pittsburgh. No one in the ward ever wrote to me, and I never wrote to them. My parents got very few of my letters. My sister was doing a “family” letter at the time and sometimes she’d include one of my letters there (for our mostly non-LDS extended family).

    As i read the OP, I assumed just what #18 KB describes: the counselor selects excerpts to share as appropriate. I can’t imagine a weekly reading of entire letters. Yikes.

    #15 — the missionary moment thing has been spotty as we’ve moved around the world. It’s kind of popular in my Michigan stake now, but we don’t do it on our ward (though our new WML might start it up again, I suppose). But we haven’t done it consistently in any of the areas we’ve lived.

  21. I certainly don’t want to overstate my concern re: missionaries playing to an audience. As I said before, I can see a danger there but I’m in no position to argue for anything more substantial than that.

    In response to Ardis, I also wrote my mission letters with my parents in mind, making similar edits/redactions. I have, however, been on the receiving end of many missionary letters (those addressed to “the family” or to the home ward, institute class, etc) that have been somewhat… painful. These are the letters where the missionary exhorts the readers to take notes at general conference, challenges them to share a Book of Mormon with a friend, etc. Now, it is certainly possible that many people view these kinds of things as innocuous or even laudable efforts to motivate the family/ward/class/whatever. In fact, both of my two examples were (purposefully) good things. Personally though, I find this to be obnoxious. And what I fear is being subjected to those kinds of letters on a more regular basis.

    Of course, it is entirely possible that I’m being a bit of an alarmist here. After all, I agree that having a bishopric intermediary can go a long way in staving off the kinds of things I’m concerned about. But whenever it’s time for “mission stories”, regardless of speaker or forum, I die a little inside.

  22. Ugh. It never occurred to me to do that, Drew. I’d find it just as obnoxious as you do!

    Some people just don’t know how to write letters, I guess. Even though I had a hard time, there were always funny things happening, or things that could be written about in a funny way (missing the train, a fist fight between your bus driver and a taxi driver), or novel things you saw, or foods you tasted, or what your apartment looked like. I wrote about the things I would have liked to have read in a letter to me — I would have found preachy letters too boring to write, much less read. My family was lucky, I suppose. :-)

  23. Jacob M says:

    My experience with missionary moments lead me to conclude that it is a mixed blessing at best. One time a member of our stake presidency berated us for not sharing experiences. Most of my letters home were consciously faith promoting. I would rather hear those than the usual awkward silence of elders quorum.

  24. andrewh,

    you can’t be serious?!

  25. Cynthia L. says:

    Stephanie: we discontinued Good News minute in out ward and the RS prez said that was on orders from Salt Lake. Not sure if that is true or not. This was like 2 or 3 years ago.

  26. Jessie T. says:

    We have Missionary Moment each Sunday. We have like 12 missionaries out from our ward, including Senior Missionaries, so the parents/siblings/grandparents have two months worth of letters to pick and choose the best stories.

    I do think the letter reading can go on a little long, though. Some families take 3 minutes and sit, like they’re supposed to. Some families turn it into a 10 minute “talk” with a sheaf of letters.

    It can get tiresome. I’d rather they do away with it and actually finish Sacrament Meeting on time. Instead, they have Missionary Moment, 4 speakers, and a performance piece. I can’t remember the last time we ended at “5 after the hour”.

  27. Steve Evans says:

    What #24 said. Andrewh sets a new bar for just not paying attention in church.

  28. Jennifer says:

    I’m actually with andrewh. I’ve been a lifelong Mormon, BYU grad, attend meetings, etc. and I have never heard of missionary moments either. From the comments I’ve read, I’m glad I haven’t.

  29. Steve Evans says:

    Et tu, Jennifer!

  30. andrewh says:

    Allen, yes I’m serious, Steve, I am going to assume that you are teasing me and not judging me.

    I’m quite well known in my ward (okay my last wad, I just moved) for bringing my journal to church and taking notes. I also frequently write thank you notes and give them to the speakers with comments on points from their talks and why or how they helped me personally. Is that paying enough attention for you?

    I was in callings that kept me on the ward PEC for most of the last 8 years and never in any of this time (or in anytime since coming home from my mission 20 years ago) have I been in a ward where we had or discussed having “official” “missionary moments”. Again, on a handful of occasions a parent or ward member would read an excerpt or tell of a family members eperience in a talk, and in the Ward where I was EQP the brother that was serving as HPGL at the same time would occassionally share stories or quotes in Priesthood opening excercises from his two sons, one of whom was on a mission and the other in the military serving in the Middle East. He did this of his own accord, it was unofficial, unscheduled, fairly rare, and done without seeking the permission of the Bishop (all though the Bishop never corrected him or asked him to stop).

    That’s it. About a dozen wards, over 20 years in 3 states, no “missionary moments”.

  31. Anonymous For Now (AFN) says:

    Gonna have to agree with Jennifer and andrewh here. Been in my current midwest ward for 4 years, 2 Florida wards for 3 years before that, a WVC UT ward for 4 years before that, a married student U of U ward for 4 years before that, and a Portland OR ward for 2 years before that. Not a Missionary Moment have I heard.

  32. Jacob M says:

    I don’t know whether to laugh at these people or cry that I never had such luck.

  33. When I had the responsibility for choosing sacrament speakers for a few years, I would periodically have parents of missionaries read exerpts from their kid’s letters and then talk about how having their kids on missions impacted the family. Those were great missionary moments.

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