While reading through the comments on Kris’ post detailing her encounter with The Member Missionary Promise, I ran accross one comment which noted: “Ward Mission Plans aren’t simply in the Zeitgeist–they’re part of the Preach My Gospel program that has been introduced to all the missions in the past few months.” Now this caught my attention. This is not something I really want to have to deal with in church next Sunday (or any Sunday). So I cracked open my new copy of Preach My Gospel to do a little threat assessment. I have some good news to report!
The first piece of good news (based on my admittedly brief tour through the book) is that PMG seems like a balanced piece of work, moderate in tone and understandable to any reader. This was not a CES production (although, as is the case with most official LDS materials these days, there is not a single word indicating who wrote it, what their assignment was, who approved it, etc.). I won’t make extended comments until I’ve actually read it, but my personal reaction was surprisingly positive. I think it should do a lot to help young and inexperienced missionaries approach task-oriented missionary work with a better sense of how to work with people (fellow missionaries, investigators, ward members) in a productive, friendly, and supportive manner.
The second piece of good news is that the Ward Mission Plan discussion (on page 220) does not contain The Promise; in fact, no such thing is even mentioned. Here are the two short text paragraphs given in that section:
Many wards have found that developing a ward mission plan promotes ward missionary work. Such a plan may include goals, initiatives, and activities to help ward members invite people to hear the gospel. Individuals and families also benefit from developing such a plan to guide their missionary efforts.
Members should use every honorable means to find people who are willing to listen to the message of the Restoration. They should emphasize finding fathers, mothers, and children who will come into the Church as families.
Then follows a bullet-point list of 13 suggestions, including things like praying about specific people you know, taking advantage of opportunities to reach out to other people, inviting neighbors to ward activities, improving the quality of ward meetings so members aren’t afraid to invite their friends to attend, visiting new neighbors, and working with part-member families. It sounds pretty much like what most engaged members and wards have been doing all along. Nothing like The Promise appears therein.
So informed, you can now defend yourself against The Promise. That sort of coercion and spiritual demagoguery isn’t part of the official guidance and is out of place in an LDS ward. You can, depending on your personality, safely ignore it or gently denounce it. Or even forcefully denounce it.