(Video clip from Habitat for Humanity, http://www.habitat.org)
For the last couple of weeks, our ward has been announcing a worldwide leadership training meeting that will be held on the afternoon of Sunday, June 23, 2013 in BYU’s Marriott Center. The meeting is being billed as a very big deal. Church leaders have requested local units to even modify their meeting times if they conflict with the 4:00 pm meeting time (which will be the case for us). If I understand correctly, the meeting is technically part of the mission presidents training but, unusually, all members of ward and stake councils and their spouses and all other members of the Church who are interested are invited to attend. My understanding is that all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles will be in attendance. The upshot is that they have an important message to deliver, presumably about missionary work.
With such fanfare, it is worth wondering whether Church leaders are planning a big announcement as part of this training meeting, hence extending the broad invitation.
My best guess* about the content of the announcement corresponds to what I think would be the most effective way to adjust the missionary program to accommodate the greater number of missionaries, both enriching the experience for them and providing greater benefit to the communities where they are assigned (and, I firmly believe, resulting in a greater number of baptisms of committed converts worldwide).
I hope that Church leaders will announce that the missionary program will be modified to more directly account for the Church’s relatively recently announced “Fourth Mission of the Church” — caring for the poor and needy. Missionaries would spend daytime hours primarily involved in full time service in activities and venues that provide permanent, reliable succor to the poor and needy worldwide. Companionships will be directed to join locally strong and established charities as volunteer workers, some working on Habitat for Humanity crews, others with the Salvation Army in homeless shelters, others with Red Cross or Red Crescent, OxFam, or other disaster relief organizations. Some will be nested in national or supra-national organizations around the world focused on providing clean water, vaccinations, clean-up, or other charitable services. Some will work as volunteer support staff for Doctors without Borders, Operation Smile, or such services. Some will support the work of microlending organizations aggregated through and represented by such services as Kiva, Five Talents, or other similar organizations.
This will be their work on business days from approx. 9am to 5pm (normal working hours). Their focus will be to serve in these capacities as directed by mission leaders without ulterior motive of winning converts but rather service for the sake of the service itself based on the inherent dignity of those receiving the service. For this full time charitable service, missionaries (both men and women) will wear a uniform consisting of a clean and tidy polo shirt with Church logo on it and khaki shorts or trousers, possibly tidy jeans, context permitting.
At the end of this hopefully fulfilling and exhausting workday, missionaries will make full use of the traditional “prime proselyting time” to find and teach investigators. Ideally, the missionaries’ efforts during this time will focus on the teaching part of proselytizing, provided that through their behavior and Christian living they have been able to build a relationship of trust with local ward members so that those members trust the missionaries enough to help them find people to teach during their allotted teaching time each day. Missionaries might be required to put on the “traditional” missionary uniform of white shirt, tie, and dress slacks for men and “Sunday clothes” for women at the discretion of the local mission president during this prime proselyting time. Either way, traditional name tags will still be worn during the tracting hours from 5 pm to 10 pm (yes, I would extend prime proselyting time to 10 pm as part of this change).
P-Day will be a week day so that missionaries can spend the full day Saturday finding and teaching people about the Gospel. Sunday will be devoted to Church and having a real day of rest, teaching occasionally if “the ox is in the mire” and an investigator has not been able to schedule a different time, but in the main NOT proselytizing.
This means that missionaries, in an ideal situation, will gain the experience of working a full time job for various charities during their two years or 18 months in full time missionary service (though the job will only be four days a week instead of five because one of the weekdays is P-Day). They will also probably teach just as much as missionaries have traditionally done, though without the innumerable “blank” hours of ineffective tracting.
Because this will be systematized on a mission by mission basis, the missionaries will form a corp of reliable charitable volunteer workers in the charities in which they are embedded. (Meaning that the charities will be able to rely on obtaining volunteer workers from the Church, enabling them to expand and serve more of the poor and needy.) The missionaries will bring Christian values and LDS resourcefulness, work-ethic, and even standards into those organizations merely by virtue of their presence there. And the communities will benefit greatly. Zion will begin to form in innumerable places around the globe. And I predict that missionary success will be far greater, and missions will be far more fulfilling for the missionaries as well.
Next Most Likely Guess
Perhaps Church leaders are not anticipating this kind of large-scale reformulation of the content of missionary work for full-time missionaries.
The next most realistic guess that I would put forward is to speculate that Church leaders will announce that all missionaries in North America will be issued iPads and required to work a certain number of hours per day as part of the “internet mission” effort.
Alternatively, I think there is a real possibility that despite the relative fanfare and importance of this meeting signaled by having such a gathering with all of the Twelve in attendance, the announcement will be an appeal for more donations to fund the greater number of missionaries now preparing to serve and a relatively standard renewal of the long-standing invitation/mandate to provide missionaries with referrals of people whom they can teach.
Any other guesses of what the announcement might entail?
* My guesses here are not based on any kind of insider knowledge — pure speculation. My “best guess” is, as mentioned, simply giving effect to my own thoughts/desires about how the missionary program could be changed to be more effective and fulfilling.