Why not do it myself?

I recently read Preach My Gospel because I was asked to give a talk based on something in one chapter. What I found was what everyone had said about it: it is a concise, easy to follow guide to teaching people the teachings of the Church. Anyone with the desire to do so could carefully and prayerfully read the book and be prepared to tell a non-member what they need to know what the Church says they need to know in order to be baptized.

Which leads to this scenario:

Let’s say I have a friend who has seen my interaction with the church, and who I have talked to about my feelings about the gospel, and he says he would like to know more. Why would I call the missionaries?

  1. I am likely to understand my friend’s concerns and spiritual interests better than the missionaries.
  2. My life experience is probably closer to my friend’s than the missionaries, not only because we are closer in age, but because we are more likely to share a cultural background.
  3. The missionaries have other short-term interests and pressures that may not serve my friend and his spiritual interests.
  4. In some situations, I cannot rely upon the language skills of the missionaries.
  5. With Preach My Gospel, I have all of the same information they have, plus my own experience making the gospel work in the world in which my firend and I actually operate.

There are situations when missionaries might be quite useful — if the ‘sharing’ member were quite new, or shy, or there was some complication in the relationship. I also suppose that some people would prefer to have the missionaries do the teaching so that a rejection of the gospel doesn’t impact the friendship.But if I think about sharing the gospel with a willing friend, inviting twenty year-old strangers (in every sense of the word) over to do so seems like an odd move.


  1. Aaron R. says:

    I have been asked to teach people a few times but have always felt a little hesistant about it. But recent experience has taught me that I would probably do that in the future.

  2. It is procedural for the missionaries to be the integral teachers in a convert baptismal process. However, whilst I agree fervently with the six points above (especially no.3), not every friend of a potential convert will feel they possess the necessary ability to teach or the strength of the spirit that the missionaries may have.

    For myself I would much prefer to be doing the “teaching” myself for all the reasons you outlined.

  3. Aaron R. says:

    Deaco, that is a good point and actually in some ways I can see some benefit in someone coming from outside the situation to go through, in a formal way, the lessons. I think it more clearly emphasises interest over curiosity and also solidifies the notion of change.

  4. I have asked myself the same questions. While not wanting to boast…. well, actually, yeah, I guess it is because I want to boast. I am a dang good teacher. The full-time missionaries around here have very regularly called on me to help them teach an investigator with “hard questions” because they know I can answer them in such a way that a) the investigator won’t feel like he/she is being talked down to and b) the investigator will still want to learn more about the church.

    So if I am such a good teacher, and, if the record bears any truth, am probably a better teacher than some of the full-time missionaries, why can’t I just do the teaching? I know what needs to be taught. I can easily get the MP’s requirements for convert baptism (number of Sunday meetings being attended being the main one). And I am certain that I will be able to relate to my friends better than these still-wet-behind-the-ears farm boys from Utah.

    So, yeah, why can’t I just do it myself? Or is this actually the direction the church wants to go, anyway? Is this why missionary work is being put more and more into the hands of the local ward leaders? Is this why the Illinois Peoria Mission is being dissolved and divided up between the Iowa Des Moines, Missouri St. Louis, and Nebraska Omaha Missions?

  5. JT in Chicago says:

    Well, I guess my response would be: because the missionaries have been called of God to that locale to serve as teachers of the gospel. (See Elder Rasband’s conference talk of last month). They are called to teach. They have been set apart specifically for that purpose–not to eat with members or to knock on doors–but to teach.

    I don’t see any problem in answering questions or guiding a friend’s learning (and even using PMG as a resourse), but the Lord’s representatives (called and set apart) should play a role.

    Just my thoughts…

  6. good luck OP getting your local leaders to schedule out all of your baptisms

  7. I don’t think there’s any prohibition against teaching friends and neighbors the gospel, it just doesn’t count for fulfilling requirements for baptism. So if you feel so inclined, I don’t see any reason why you can’t teach your friend and then call on the missionaries if/when he’s ready for baptism.

  8. Norbert says:

    I have no problem having someone in the mission bureaucracy interview my friend.

  9. We had a lesson on missionary work once that I don’t remember anything about except:

    Members find
    Missionaries teach
    The Holy Ghost converts

    I agree with all the reasons why you might be more in line with your friend, but I also think calling in the missionaries at some point makes it move from friends talking about religion to someone actually interested in taking part in a formal conversion process. Why can’t you still do everything you would do, in addition to the formal discussions?

  10. Michael says:

    We are all called to teach the Gospel. The missionaries are just called to teach the Gospel full-time.

    I’d say teach them yourself, but let the missionaries know you’re going to be doing it. If they want to come, great, if not, fine, but let them know ahead of time that you’re going to be taking the lead.

    I had a Stake Patriarch call me one night and tell me he’d been waiting eleven years for the right missionaries to show up. He’d already done all the work – he just wanted to find somebody who wouldn’t mess it up with his good friends. If he’d felt like he could do it himself, he would have, and that couple would have been in the Church as much as ten years earlier.

  11. Having the missionaries teach adds a formality that changes the mindset of the one being taught. There’s a dynamic there which aids a potential investigator to actually consider a life-changing decision to join the church. If a potential investigator feels they’re just “discussing” religion with a friend, that dynamic will be missing. I don’t think all investigators need that, but I think most do.

  12. philomytha says:

    I knew a guy in high school who basically converted himself, learned everything from talking to friends and reading, and wanted his close friend to baptize him. He had had nothing to do with the missionaries and didn’t know them, but was pressured to let the missionaries baptize him. For the mission numbers, I assume. 20 years later he still deeply regrets giving in to that pressure and wishes his friend had baptized him like he wanted.

  13. Norbert says:

    Because the formal discussions are no longer formal discussions per se. The lessons involve a series of teachings and commitments. I can do the ‘lessons’ and explain the commitments, while someone in the mission bureaucracy can formally issue those commitments.

  14. Norbert, I’m not talking about formal lessons — I’m talking about the formality of being taught by missionaries. The event itself. You’ve got two name-tagged individuals there who are obviously trying to convert you to their faith, and you’ve agreed to listen to them. That is a different dynamic than listening to your buddy tell you about his religion (well, usually anyway).

  15. Norbert says:

    Sorry, Martin. I was aiming #13 at Enna (#9). I see your point, and I can see how that might be more agreeable in some situations.

  16. Steve Evans says:

    Norbert, I guess I have some belief in the missionary mantle and special dispensations of spiritual power given to aid missionaries in their calling. I don’t believe that mantle completely reverses your concerns or anything, but I still retain the notion that missionaries are stronger and better resources than our logic would dictate.

  17. My boyfriend (now my husband) taught me everything about the gospel that I really needed to know. By the time I sat down with the missionaries, it was basically just a formal procedure to make sure I knew what I needed to know. They were surprised at how much I knew already. But I’m glad I had those missionary discussions–I enjoyed them a lot, and Daniel and his family were there contributing to them. (I had the discussions at his house.)

  18. Why must being taught the Gospel be such a formal thing? The first missionaries of the Church went out with bags full of the Book of Mormon and a personal testimony of the truth. Why isn’t this good enough today?

    I love Preach My Gospel and I appreciate the utility of having something that outlines the basic tenets of our religion. But I don’t understand why teaching and learning need to be so formal. Let the members teach and then, when someone is ready, let them meet with the full-time missionaries to discuss the import of what they are doing. Let them be interviewed before baptism, and again before confirmation. I have no problem with the formal process of applying for membership. But I do have a problem with insisting that the teaching and learning be equally formal.

  19. JT in Chicago says:

    Michael #10:

    I agree, we do all have the responsibility to share the gospel, and I wish I did a better job of it. But the difference between us (regular members) and missionaries is greater than the fact that they share/teach full-time. They have been specifically called and set apart for that purpose.

    I have no real problem with anyone teaching on their own (sans missionaries). I just think that the hesitancy to invite firends to meet with the elders (and so teach on your own) likely stems from a fear of whether the missionaries will screw things up or cause embarassment.

    Also, as mentioned above, conversion comes by the spirit, not an esspecially articulate teacher.

  20. Alex (18) – I think there may be something to the formality aspect. Considering the formality involved with being an active member of the church, sitting down with the missionaries actually seems like a small (and useful) step to becoming a member.

  21. This reminds me of story told by Elder W. Rolfe Kerr when he visited my mission. He was an educator by profession with an EdD and had served in some pretty high education positions. He had been asked by the missionaries to come teach an investigator who had lots of sticky questions. Elder Kerr, being the bright man that he is, was able to answer all of them to her satisfaction. At one point, however, she asked a question of a more spiritual nature, and he began to answer. The investigator stopped him, and insisted that the missionaries answer instead. “You have all the answers,” she said, “but they have the Spirit.”

    I don’t think he was relating this to flatter us. I could tell that there was something different about me while I was missionary that was more than just the lifestyle I was living. Like Steve and JT from Chicago, I think there really is a power in the missionary mantle that goes beyond mere teaching know-how and administrative convenience.

  22. I’m like Susan M- by the time I contacted the missionaries, it was only a formality and the work had been done. I went through the motions of the discussions, but they had nothing to do with my conversion.

    I suppose it depends on the person. Norbert’s OP is something with which I intellectually (and practically) agree- and yet, I have seen people learn everything they could about the church, but until the right missionary came along, nothing moved them. So I suppose I do believe in the mantle of the called missionary, as well.

    That said, I would be very careful about handing over a friend.

  23. The reasons you listed as to why you could be a better option than the missionaries detail exactly the concern I’ve always had over the church having full time marketers/proselytisers. The benefits to the missionaries themselves are pretty clear; serving a mission reinforces testimony of and loyalty to the church. But there can be some problematic issues with sending out 19 year old boys to convert the world. Baseball baptisms, low convert retention, and cultural imperialism all stem from approaching prospective converts with the attitude of a high-pressure salesman. I have often wondered if professional proselytising ought to be abandoned for the more sincere, personal process you describe here.

  24. StillConfused says:

    I would have missionaries do it because I wouldn’t want to risk any perceived damage to my friendship in the event that the friend didn’t want to become Mormon. While I would be happy to share my personal experiences etc, I would not want to be the one who actually brought the friend into the fold. Especially when the friend later finds out about the dark side of the church history.

  25. I want to echo the ideas already mentioned of
    a–the missionaries having a mantle/special calling
    b–for some people, the formality of strangers with name tags and special jobs means something important

    I also think that we may feel just dandy about Norbert handling the discussions with his friend and then making the appointment with the missionaries for an interview, maybe we wouldn’t/shouldn’t trust quite everyone. What about the man in your ward with particularly patriarchal views or the sister who teaches food storage as a sign that Armageddon is happening next year or just about any other old idea that some people cling to and may teach? I think it would be awfully hard for us to say “yes, well, I trust these guys to teach, but you lot over there–I don’t care if you are a High Priest–we can’t trust you.”

    Isn’t the ideal scenario to have missionaries AND you at every discussion? I am sure the missionaries could benefit enormously. Every time I have done splits with sisters since PMG came out, we have had a little planning session before the lesson to decide who was going to handle what, treating me just like a member of the companionship.

  26. Kevin Barney says:

    Anyone who wants to is free to teach his friend about the Gospel. I suspect the Church encourages us to use the missionaries, because otherwise they would have nothing to do. And so there is a certain rhetoric supporting that outcome. And there are good reasons for using the missionaries, as you mention in the OP. I’m a good teacher and knowledgeable about the Church, but personally I wouldn’t want to do it because of your point about it possibly infringing upon the friendship. There’s a value to the missionaries not having a persona investment in this person.

    But ultimately if you want to do the teaching, go ahead.

    No. 12, that’s really weird. In my mission, a convert baptism was a convert baptism irrespective of who performed the actual ordinance. We would often encourage locals to do it if they had developed a relationship with the proselyte.

  27. Mark B. says:

    Whatever makes Molly think that full-time missionaries have the attitude of a high-pressure salesman, or that they lack sincerity? Or that they don’t care very deeply for the people whom they teach?

    To be sure, their relationship cannot be “personal” in the sense that the relationship between Norbert and his friend is–but the rest of Molly’s comment sets up a false dichotomy.

  28. Thomas Parkin says:

    reason to contact missionaries: I think the young Elders are _much_ more likely to actually teach the Gospel,- faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end,- than almost any member – for whom the gospel is those, maybe, and whatever other things have stuck while passing through their personal transit.

    reason not to contact the missionaries: they are likely to commit your friend to baptism almost on sight, and that can be awkward, or worse.

  29. re: #9

    I think a slight change would do the missionary program well.

    Maybe it should be:

    – The missionaries find whoever they can find
    – Members find whoever they can find
    – The ward mission, and the teaching resources of the ward teach
    – The holy ghost converts

    When I think about it, members and full time missionaries typically find different types of potential converts.

    There are those that are ready to hear the gospel and are just waiting for the elders / sisters to knock on their door. Since the full time missionaries have the time, these are the types of people they should be finding.

    The potential converts that need more ‘cultivating’ are mostly found through long term friendships and a more gradual approach. These are usually found through member families.

    Under the supervision of the ward mission leader, a member like Norbert could teach his friend. Not that the WML would need to be there, but Norbert could ‘keep him in the loop’. If it’s someone else less qualified, the ward could take a more ative roll in teaching.

    If it’s the full time missionaries that have found a candidate for teaching, the wml would get involved and assign teaching resources in the ward to take the lead in teaching the potential convert and use the ft missionaries as part of that resource if needed.

    This way the ward gets involved earlier and has a more active roll in the conversion process. Bishops can interview potential converts for baptism. Everyone is happy.

  30. Norbert says:

    I believe in the mantle of the full time missionary as well, I think, but sitting in ward missionary correlation meetings, I’ve often wondered how I’d feel if the people the missionaries were discussing — and making snap judgments about and trying to get baptized before transfers, etc. — were friends of mine.

  31. ESO and Steve Evens have it right; for all of their immaturity and cluelessness, the missionaries are called, set apart, and then live apart from the world with the full time calling of teaching the gospel. Mantle or spirit or the fact that they are living for the most part cloistered from all the distractions of the world (work, home teaching, kids soccer practice, etc) and doing probably way more scripture study and prayer than most of us does, I think, get them a better access to the spirit than they almost ever will throughout the rest of their lives.

    But, Norbert, for all the reasons you mention, you are a perfect companion to be their with them when they teach, or if they split up to go with just one missionary. The missionaries in our stake are all directed to as much as possible either have a member with them when they teach, or have the lessons taught in a members home. Your list is a valid list. You are a perfect complement for them in a teaching situation.

  32. Members actually did this in our mission. It made me wonder why I was even there.

    I agree with the others that have said that there is a mantle that worthy missionaries often have. I remember getting certain impressions about people I taught or tried to teach that regular members were clueless about. A lot of members didn’t trust us to talk to their friends, because we weren’t sophisticated enough.

  33. Norbert says:

    kevinf, I don’t really disagree with you, but I would say that they are a perfect complement for me in a teaching situation.

  34. There are many things a member/friend can do better than a full-time missionary, but there are two things a full-time missionary can potentially do better than a member:

    — LEAD AN INVESTIGATOR THROUGH THE COMMITMENT PATTERN. A friend can only make suggestions, but a missionary (because he/she is a stranger, and a set-apart minister), can ask for commitments. You can ask your friend you read certain passages and pray about them, and he can take it or leave it. It’s a very different experience when an ordained minister asks, “Will you read these passages and pray about them? Will you talk to us about your experiences on Thursday night?”
    Helping a person make and keep commitments prepares them for the eventual step of making and keeping covenants. It’s my experience that the Lord often reserves the most powerful conversion experiences for those who are asking, in part, because they want to keep their commitment. You simply cannot do this effectively with your friend.

    — ENSURE THAT THE CONVERSION IS SPIRITUAL, NOT ONLY INTELLECTUAL. I like the fact that we’re sending out missionaries that can’t teach as well as more experienced church members. It keeps the focus where it should be: “No, I can’t convince you that all of this is true, but God can.” Intellectual conversion is good and necessary, but I’m happy our missionaries rarely have the ability to pull that off — conversion should always be a personal experience between the person and God.

    AN IN-TUNE MISSIONARY CAN BE BOLD AND DISCERNING IN WAYS YOU CANNOT. I’m pretty careful with which missionaries I trust because I don’t trust boldness that comes from training rather than from discernment. But I know that when I was a missionary, I had some insights and experiences given by the spirit while teaching that I’ve never gotten in my 20 years since as a modestly effective member missionary and two-time ward mission leader. The Lord just seems to reserve certain vital spiritual gifts to worthy full-time missionaries that he doesn’t given to anybody else. If He respect that, I’ll respect that, too.

  35. Guess that was three things. Oh well.

  36. Norbert, glad to hear that you agree even with my atrociously botched last sentence in that first paragraph. It’s so bad I don’t even want to try and fix it, other than “does” should be “do”, and “get” should be “gets”, at least.

  37. At risk of invoking the C word, I suspect the church’s insistence on teaching by full-time missionaries has something to do with the church’s concern about the uniformity of its message. Training and closely supervising a group of missionaries allows the church some measure of control over the way the church is presented to outsiders. (The fact that these missionaries are young, with attendant zeal, impressionability and lack of question-raising, real-life experience no doubt serves that purpose as well, but that’s a discussion for another day, another post.) If each of us lay-folks were dispatched to teach our friends the basic lessons that lead up to baptism, you run a high(er) risk that crazy individual views will be taught as if they were core church doctrines.

    As others have already suggested, the current approach might just be the best one: full-time missionaries with a standardized message supported (mitigated, damage-controlled) by friends who have a better connection with and insight regarding the person being taught.

  38. Steve Evans says:

    Not to mention, Kevinf, that you spelled my name wrong.

    Jon, the C word?!?!?!?

  39. Um, correlation.

  40. yeah, let’s not go with that expression.

  41. Steve – Probably a wise choice. As proof of how far removed I am from my teen-age years (and how little sleep my 4-month old allowed me last night), the other connotation didn’t occur to me until you raised it. Sorry to distract from an interesting discussion.

  42. Norbert says:

    Lorin, despite the fervent testimonies of it amongst my mission leadership, the commitment pattern is no longer with us.

  43. “despite the fervent testimonies of it amongst my mission leadership, the commitment pattern is no longer with us”

    No longer with whom? I don’t understand.

  44. I suspect the reason the commitment pattern is no longer with us has to do with a higher potential for shallow testimony converts who don’t remain active. My take is that the current model taught in PMG, while perhaps resulting in fewer baptisms, does seem to generate better long term retention of converts. However, that’s a personal observation of anecdotal evidence made on a very limited basis by someone with a propensity to write long incoherent sentences, and offend the wielders of the banning stick by misspelling his/her name.

  45. For the same reasons stated above, I feel that the missionaries have a special calling to do what they do. I think there are a couple of other reasons why the missionaries are an important factor in all this:

    1) The missionaries are trained to make sure the investigators commit to the stuff that isn’t fun. Members are asked to pay tithing, ten percent of their income. Members are asked to live the Word of Wisdom. Sometimes when we teach our friends about the Church we’re more interested in the Limited Geographic Model and chiasmus than we are in saying, “By the way, you have to pay ten percent of your income when you join the Church.” The missionaries are required to be very clear about these things nowadays.

    2) We are training future generations of Church leaders by calling missionaries. The calling of missionary is as much for the missionaries themselves as it is for the converts. We’re training these kids to listen to the Spirit, to learn the basic tenents of the Gospel, and how to listen to the needs of others. So yeah, we could do all that for them, but they won’t grow that way.

  46. OK, I’ve been thinking about this as I have gone about my day a little.

    I think maybe companion ships in teaching situations are more important than we give them credit for. Even with the best of intentions, we might articulate an aspect of the Church in a way that can be misunderstood. The companion can chime in with clarification. Maybe.

  47. Norbert says:

    Dyphax, I agree that we have to teach the commitments, but all of that is in the book. Wouldn’t a person who makes a living and supports a family and pays tithing in the same tax situation as the investigator be in a much better place to demonstrate the viability of that commitment? Although I take your point that making that commitment stick might come better from outsiders.

  48. Norbert says:

    The calling of missionary is as much for the missionaries themselves as it is for the converts.

    This is a problem for me as a potential source of referrals..

  49. #48. The Lord chooses imperfect, weak servants to do His work. There’s a reason for this. We’re all learning (and making mistakes). Remember, the Lord had to entrust those friends to you to begin with.

  50. Missionaries are called and set apart to teach, under the direction of a mission president, who holds keys to direct the labor in that area.

    So ideally, for the Lord’s power to be the most effective, missionaries would be involved. This obviously does not mean involved at every stage…

  51. can we table this question until after we all have a years supply of food and are out of debt?

  52. re: 58

    So, why couldn’t this calling and setting apart be given to someone in the ward?

    I’m not saying there isn’t a place for a full time mission resource, but why not do the same for part time resources as well?

    Call Norbert. Set him apart. Have him teach his friend. How is this any different than what the full time missionaries do? Who’s to say he wouldn’t study a couple hours a day, if it was part of his calling? Why wouldn’t he have the spirit to direct him during discussions? Why wouldn’t he have the mantle fall on him?

  53. re: 49

    Sure, he calls the weak, unlearned, etc…. that is, unless he is calling a mission president, stake president, area authority seventy, etc. Then it all the sudden matters.

  54. Re: 53. I’ve known quite a few folks called to the callings you mention, and other similar callings, who were indeed weak and unlearned. Most of them served humbly and faithfully and were magnified in their callings in ways that astonished me. Sorry to see you have such a cynical perspective on who is “called”.

  55. Mary W. says:

    I didn’t read all the comments, so pardon please if I’m repeating someone. When I was serving my mission, it was made clear to us several times by our leadership that the ULTIMATE goal was for the members to do all the lessons, the gospel teaching, help them keep all the necessary commitments, overcome doubts and questions, fellowship, etc. The ideal situation is for members to bring their friends practically to the baptism font without missionaries, then the missionaries just run through the lessons quickly to make sure they learned the basics and had kept the necessary commitments for baptism. They don’t even need to be the ones to baptize…just interview.

    We still have full-time missionaries because the members in general are not doing this; are not familiar with the lesson/commitment requirements for baptism, and are not preparing themselves to prepare others. So I say keep up the good work! We’ll get there some day! For now, I’m glad we still have the missionaries to do the work also.

  56. I agree that the Spirit accompanying the missionaries is the primary reason to involve them.

    I think from an administrative point of view, it can be advantageous to have gatekeepers who are not members of the local leadership. An isolated group of leaders/members could generate their own criteria for who is worthy for baptism. Having the entrance requirements checked by a separate, parallel hierarchy (missionaries and mission president) avoids this problem. Of course, it also opens the door for baseball baptisms. But better too wide than too strait.

  57. I had friends to answer all my questions up front. I had a lot of intense questions, particularly about women’s place in the church. Once all those concerns were satisfied, I waited for a year. I’m not sure what I was waiting for, because I knew by that time that I was going to get baptized. I think the spirit was waiting for Elder Mooney to be called to my district, actually, because he was the perfect missionary for me.

    At first I was reluctant to talk to people who are just kids. I mean what could they possibly know about life, you know? But we hit it off instantly, once we met, and their authority really was true. Despite being kids, they were able to testify and teach by the spirit, and I soon forgot about any age difference. After all, I remember back to those days of my own youth, and despite my callowness, I was a real person with a full-grown heart at that age. I had read and loved some of the world’s great books. There’s nothing a 19 year old necessarily is incapable of understanding.

    We breezed through the discussions, 3 in one day and 3 in the next. I enjoyed them a lot, (this was before PMG) and learned some new stuff that my friends hadn’t taught me, like the 3 degrees of glory. They probably said marriage was required for the highest degree of glory, but I didn’t realize we teach 3 kingdoms and what their names were. I liked the “will you…” commitment questions, and I think I responded better to those from full time missionaries than I would have from my friends.

    So all in all, I think the very best route to conversion is one supported both by friends and missionaries. I had an investigator friend ask me a bunch of questions about how I relate to the church, which I answered carefully and prayerfully, but then he saw the missionaries to get the whole basic doctrine. It worked well for us that way.

    I don’t ever hesitate to send my friends to the missionaries, but I do say that if there’s any question they don’t answer to their satisfaction, to please let me try, as well. There are just some things you can ask friends that you can’t bother helpful strangers with.

    And so if they ask, I explain my own rather messy view of the church and the gospel, again trying to testify by the spirit, and warning them that my views are but one possible subset inside the superset of Mormon ideas. I tell them that we’re defined more by orthopraxy than orthodoxy, so they should keep the Word of Wisdom as it’s currently taught, but there is a fair amount of latitude about beliefs.

    Two of my investigator friends have joined the church, and two more haven’t.

  58. velikiye kniaz says:

    Several centuries ago when I served my mission, (the end of the flannel board era and the start of the ‘new’ ten discussions), there were times when we taught an investigator in the home of his close friend who initiated his interest in the Gospel. We made it a point to make those discussions longer and slower so that it felt more natural to the investigator and allowed more questions that slightly broadened the field of the topic at hand. We mutually agreed that the member could add relevant thoughts, Scriptures, etc., during those question periods, or even when a main point might need further elaboration and explanation. Afterwards, the member’s wife often prepared refreshments and we continued our discussion casually as we enjoyed our ‘treat’. Between the next appointment, the member would contact us and give us an appraisal as well as some heads up regarding any unusual questions that might be coming our way. We made it a point to include the member friend in the whole teaching process and did not object to the member baptizing his friend. We participated in the Confirmation and bestowal of the Holy Spirit. When we knew that a member held some ‘pet’ ideas, we encouraged him to stick to the first principles so as not to confuse or alienate the non-member. We had very good success pursuing this approach and both the member and his newly baptized friend enjoyed and felt edified by the experience. Fortunately, we lucked out in having knowledgeable members and well-versed, cordial, well mannered, and courteous missionaries.
    One last thought, although I was usually considered to be the well-versed missionary, when it came time to teach a non-member who was a high powered lawyer, it was my cowboy companion who’s simple, imperfect English held her in rapt attention. When he bore his testimony, I could see that she was shaken to the core, while she virtually dismissed mine out of hand. So there is something to the calling of a full-time missionary. The Spirit often speaks most powerfully and directly through those of whom one might not expect could carry the message with such power.

  59. My companion and I taught a woman who had been attending church with another denomination for three years without officially joining them as a member. I was fluent in the language; he was a greenie whose native English was less than impressive.

    Missionaries had been teaching this woman for a long time and had gone through the discussions multiple times. One day, my greenie companion suggested we just open the Book of Mormon and start reading with her. Long story, but at one point he looked at me and said, “Elder, how do I ask her if she wants to be baptized?” I told him phrase-by-phrase, and he repeated it to her.

    I’m not sure if, to this day, I have felt the Spirit that strongly again, and it left her literally sobbing with joy.

    There is a place for a solid understanding of the Gospel and the ability to articulate it well – but there also is a place for a humble servant of God who can’t speak as well as a five-year-old changing someone’s life forever. I prefer balance in the teaching of the Gospel to others, and I am convinced missionary callings are inspired FAR more often than most of us realize. I know my companion reached Soma-san in a way nobody else could have done, and I know I reached someone else nobody else could have.

    Intellect and personal connections are good and important things, and they should not be under-valued – but they shouldn’t be over-valued, either. They are what they are, and we need to allow God to use whatever is best in each situation, imo.

  60. I think there must be something wrong with me. When I was released as a full-time missionary, I did not forget everything I had learned on my mission. I did not lose the ability to commune with the Spirit. I did not lose my ability to listen to others and help the feel and recognise the Spirit. I didn’t forget how to invite others to come unto Christ. In fact, the only major change that took place was that I no longer had a responsibility to teach the Gospel full-time. I simply do not accept the idea that only the full-time missionaries are so spiritually in-tune to be able to teach by the Spirit. Some of these comments are reminding me of Joshua’s insistence that only Moses be allowed to prophesy.

    I see no conflict with the role of the full-time missionary program and the concept of members teaching, as well. I think we can have both run simultaneously. Clearly, there are some members who would not be comfortable teaching their friends (or family). These individuals can (and should) continue to turn to the missionaries.

    But I keep coming back to the original question: If I am comfortable doing so, why not do it myself? Why the insistence on utilising strangers? Personally, I just don’t get it. But then, I like it when I know my teachers well. The worst classes I have had in my life, in and out of the church, have been taught by relative strangers. The best classes have been just the opposite. Maybe this is just a case of different strokes, and all that.

  61. Steve Evans — I’m blocked from youtube at the office so I didn’t actually get to view your link until today. I have the Arrested Development series on DVD. I’ve watched it through at least three times. Missed that joke every time. Brilliant.

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