Thursday, March 16, 2017

How do we do missionary work with solemnity and meekness today?

7 But a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall declare whatsoever thing ye declare in my name, in solemnity of heart, in the spirit of meekness, in all things.
8 And I give unto you this promise, that inasmuch as ye do this the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say. (D&C 100:7-8)

I did a study on meekness a while back, and I was struck by this scripture that mentions meekness is needed when doing missionary work. Meekness means teachable-ness, so this caused me to wonder in way a missionary (or a member missionary) is supposed to teach the gospel while demonstrating they themselves are teachable?  How do they learn while teaching? Is it only learning from the Spirit, or are they supposed to demonstrate they can learn from the investigator? And if so, what would that look like?

I ran into one answer in Clayton Christensen’s book The Power of Everyday Missionaries on page 26-30. He explained how people are generally not attracted to the church by its doctrines (only around 10% are), but by the promise of finding happiness, meaning, and purpose to their lives. He suggested that when people ask us about the church, we then ask them why they are curious and find out what they know or what they are interested in knowing. He even includes an experience he had discussing with a colleague the disinterest in religion in general society. Christensen asked him, “Why do you think that is?” and wanted to know this friend’s difficulties with organized religion.

Rather than trying to convince Stephen that he needed our church or any church, I said, “Why do you think so many people are exiting rather than entering churches? Are there any big deal-breaking questions that caused you to despair of organized religion because the churches didn’t have answers to those questions?”

Stephen responded that he’d like to take some time to put them together “in a cogent list.”

I said, “I would love to discuss these questions, because I think about this a lot too. And if by chance the LDS perspective shines any light on a question, I’ll offer it to you.” Stephen was amenable, and we set up a meeting early the next week.

At the next meeting I was quite stunned: Stephen had some very good questions—about the purpose of life, if there is one; what is God, if there is one; and so on. He said, “As I went through college and graduate school, the churches I attended just could not answer my questions. So I stopped going to church and have been looking for answers in philosophy and science instead. Frankly, they can’t answer them any better than churches can.”

We started at the top of Stephen’s list. I asked questions about his first question, just to understand why it was important to him, and why he hadn’t been impressed with the answers that others had offered. I then found and discussed answers to that question in the Book of Mormon.

I noticed that he crossed the first question off his list. “Why did you cross it off?” I asked.

“You answered it,” he replied.

We then organized the subsequent lessons with the missionaries around the remaining questions on his list. When we scheduled a time for the zone leaders to interview Stephen for baptism, we listed all of the concepts, doctrines, and practices that are covered in the four lessons. We were delighted that we had covered every one of them, but in a sequence that answered Stephen’s questions. (p28-29)

In the process of trying to understand his friend’s questions, Brother Christensen was demonstrating meekness and solemnity, taking his questions seriously, seeking to hear first before speaking, seeking to understand without judgment or dismissiveness. I suspect that is part of the meekness the Lord asks us to cultivate. (I also notice that Brother Christensen’s friend was honest enough to accept good answers when they were presented to him, rather than trying to go on the attack.)

So if anyone asks us about our church, rather than launching into a recital of our favorite aspects, only telling what we want them to know, we can ask, “Why do you ask?” or “Do you have any questions about religious issues that you’ve been wondering about or that you haven’t been able to get good answers for?”

I love the promise the above scripture gives if we declare the gospel with solemnity and meekness: “that inasmuch as ye do this the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say.  That is what we need. It’s what we hope will happen so that others can feel and know it. 

What do you think? ?  Is there anything else involved in teaching this way?  What experiences have you had with teaching with solemnity and meekness