Every member a missionary. “Sure, I want to be a missionary but I’m embarrassed.”
“It’s hard to do.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“I don’t want to force the gospel on others.”
So, what would you think of a simple approach that allowed you to introduce scores of friends and acquaintances to the Church or gospel principles—while you are doing your school work?
Karen and Susan Jacobs of Walnut Creek, California, found it fun and rewarding. It started when Karen was in the fifth grade at the American School in Copenhagen, Denmark. She was looking for a subject for a rather ambitious American history report. The teacher called for footnotes, bibliography, note cards, and oral reports—everything. Her biggest challenge was to choose a subject. Her parents suggested that she do her report on the Mormon trek westward.
“Why not?” she said.
Once started it was an easier topic to write on than most, with all that help at home, her interest, and her background on the subject from Primary and Sunday School.
Few in the class knew much about the Mormons, and the oral report, filled with interest-raising points, created a lively discussion for months afterwards. She got an A grade too!
Once they discovered the approach, the Jacobs sisters used it, with variations, on numerous occasions. For example, eighth-grader Susan created interest in a science lecture on the effects of smoking by cutting a calf’s heart in class (she had been taught where to cut and how the heart worked by George Washington University medical student Milo Andrus, who also supplied surgical gloves and scalpel). Such a graphic presentation by a petite girl made quite an impression on the class—and they got a strong Word-of-Wisdom explanation at the same time. The grade was A!
The heart lesson was so well accepted that Karen used a calf’s brain in her science fair presentation on the effects of narcotic drugs and won a prize. Again, she included an easy-to-give, easy-to-understand-and-accept explanation on one phase of the Lord’s law of health.
As an eleventh-grader (in a school system that has 12 grades) at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, Karen was very angry to find a derogatory portrayal of the Prophet Joseph and the Church in her history book. It described Joseph Smith as a farmer who moved from place to place digging for buried treasure. She pointed out the inaccuracies to her teacher who responded by asking if she would like to give a class presentation on early Church history. Karen was afraid but accepted. She got out her fifth-grade report. With the addition of the Joseph Smith story and a few other items, it was just the right thing. As it turned out it took the whole class period. The teacher right away asked Karen to repeat the report in his afternoon class. There were dozens of thoughtful questions which led to the missionaries being invited to explain more.
Although there were only three LDS seniors in her graduating class of 800, Karen’s senior government class was given the privilege of hearing four oral presentations on Church subjects. Karen spoke on the United Order, Mike Miller on the nutritional aspects of the Word of Wisdom, and Mark Forsyth on Church government. The bonus came when a nonmember friend, impressed by her visit made prior to the dedication of the Washington Temple, and with help from her LDS friends, reported on the Mormons as temple builders.
The willingness of Karen, Susan, and their friends to try this approach had wide-reaching effects. Virtually everyone in the school knew them as the Mormons. Located in a major suburb of Washington, D.C., the school was largely composed of children of foreign diplomats, congressmen, and other military and government officials; yet, the school was full of drug users, crude language, immorality, nonexistent dress standards, and hundreds of students without fixed standards or ideals. But the tiny LDS group was recognized and respected by teachers and students alike for what they believed in. None was treated with derision or given any trouble. In fact, it was most helpful in avoiding unwholesome activities to be able to say, “Remember, that’s not something Mormons do.”
Perhaps it was due in part to this early willingness to dig into gospel subjects and share LDS teachings that today Karen is taking time out from her studies in the Brigham Young University honor program to serve a mission to Spain and Susan has only a few months to wait for her mission call.
A great prophet of the Lord called on every member to be a missionary. Can you imagine the impact on teachers and students if every LDS student were to write or give just one report each year on the Church? Even in areas of heavy Church membership, many nonmembers have never been given real exposure to our teachings. What easier way to lengthen your stride and please President Kimball? Try it. Or to quote that motto in our beloved prophet’s office, “Do it!”