Just about the time I had given up on being a member missionary, the missionaries showed up at my neighbors’ door. On November 3, we had discussed the gospel with our neighbors who seemed interested, and then, on Election Day, the missionaries just happened to track their door. A few weeks later, they attended church services with us, and they were so impressed by the discussion of tithing and fast offerings that they donated a fast offering to the ward. The next week, they asked me for a copy of D&C, because they already read The Book of Mormon, but were now eager to defend our faith to a non-member who chided them for attending our ward and told them to watch out for what is in D&C. I don’t know where their spiritual journey will take them — they already exemplify the qualities of Christ and defend our faith. But I do know that this opportunity to engage in missionary work has changed me.
Most of my life I have been fearful about what non-members think of our religious beliefs. And I have been at times critical of church programs that I felt diminished me and of how members present themselves to the world-at-large. But when I went to church with my neighbors, I scrutinized intensely every thing that past at church, wondering how it would appear to my neighbors. As I looked at the church with the eyes of my neighbors, I was pleasantly amazed by what I saw. The members were exceptionally gracious and welcoming. The lessons that sometimes don’t speak to me were absolutely perfect for meeting very specific needs that I knew my neighbor had. In short, I felt incredibly moved as I realized the immense capacity of our church to benefit people from many perspectives and backgrounds. As I looked at the church through the eyes of an outsider, I didn’t see a frightening, insular, and closed organization. I saw an organization that provided remarkable resources and benefits to a diverse membership that other people could desire.
I’m not currently a good member missionary. I’m uneasy with claims to “truth,” and with the social discomfort inherent in the idea of believing that you have more of it than others. In the past, I tried to more actively share the gospel, but nothing ever panned out. But, now, despite my reluctance, I can see how God used me, because people I knew wanted to learn about the church. Missionary work was ultimately something I accomplished not because but in spite of my lack of effort, because it happened on God’s time table. And, perhaps, the real convert in this experience is me.