The Best Thing We’ve Done

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    Taping of Histories Brings Blessings

    “We renew our appeal for the keeping of individual journals and records and compiling family histories,” President Spencer W. Kimball has said. “Any Latter-day Saint family that has searched genealogical and historical records has fervently wished their ancestors had kept better and more complete records. On the other hand, some families possess some spiritual treasures because ancestors have recorded the events surrounding their conversion to the gospel and other happenings of interest, including many miraculous blessings and spiritual experiences. People often use the excuse that their lives are uneventful and nobody would be interested in what they have done. But I promise you that if you will keep your journals and records they will indeed be a source of great inspiration to your families, to your children, your grandchildren, and others, on through the generations.” (Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 4.)

    The high priests in the Ogden Utah Thirty-fifth Ward, Ogden Utah East Stake, believed what President Kimball said. But, like many, they were having difficulty getting going. How do you get started on a project as big as writing your life story?

    Happily, the group leader, Arthur H. Dale, and the group instructor, T. Taylor Cannon, recognized that many of the group members needed a little help getting started on their histories. So, with inspiration they devised a plan. The Melchizedek Priesthood curriculum allows some room for flexibility; in fact, quorum and group leaders are encouraged to come up with several lessons a year that are specially created to fill local needs. Brother Dale decided that it would be helpful if some of the group’s lesson time were devoted to the life story of each member.

    He and his assistants began by scheduling time in several group meetings for each member of the group to verbally share part of his story. Prior to each meeting, the members who were to speak that week were given an outline of what they might include in their oral histories. Included in the outline were such categories as genealogy, schooling, faith-promoting experiences, marriage and family memories, jobs, and church activity. Each brother was also encouraged to include his testimony.

    Each high priest was given ten minutes in the group meeting to present the thoughts he’d prepared. His short talk was recorded on a sixty-minute cassette tape. After the meeting he was visited in his home, presented with the tape, and challenged to fill in the remaining fifty minutes.

    Brother Dale explains their success: “The experience has been most inspirational. Our members have drawn closer to one another, common interests have surfaced, and a warm feeling for each other has prevailed. Attendance has increased. We’ve had fifty-two out of fifty-eight respond, and we hope to hear from the other six soon.”

    There are more tangible benefits as well. Says Brother Dale: “Fifty-two personal visits have been made to members of the group to deliver the tapes to them and to challenge each man to complete the tape. Fifty-two testimonies have been borne in group meeting. Fifty-two personal histories have been begun. Fifty-two live voices have been recorded for posterity.”

    One-Day Missions Yield Good Harvesting

    The Salt Lake Liberty Stake in the Utah Salt Lake City Mission recently found a new solution to an old problem. The problem was two-fold: how to get members involved in missionary work, and how to find good contacts for the missionaries to teach. The solution: call selected members of the entire stake on a one-day finding mission.

    The program was set in motion when the bishops were asked to submit the names of those who could serve as one-day missionaries. Stake President N. J. Scherzinger and his counselors approved the lists and then assigned the stake high councilors to issue the calls and set the special missionaries apart.

    Members of the stake were excited by the opportunity. As Brother Ron Clarke, ward mission leader of the Harvard South Ward, said, “We had many willing workers in the Harvard South Ward. … A lot of them said that this was the first time they had performed missionary service.”

    Since missionary work was new to so many who were called, the next step was to train them all. On a Tuesday evening two weeks before the “missionary day,” the special missionaries gathered at one of the wards in the stake for a training meeting. There they were instructed in their duties and were encouraged to prepare themselves spiritually for their day of missionary service. A subsequent meeting was held for those who missed the first training session.

    During the next two weeks stake and ward leaders were busy preparing for the one-day missions. Each ward was subdivided into areas with about fifty houses or apartments each, and a set of missionaries was assigned to each area. A supervisor, usually a seventy, was assigned to oversee the work of five or six areas. He was to see that each area was entirely tracted, as well as to tract fifty units himself, with his companion. He was also assigned to give out “tracting packets” to each set of missionaries. Included in the tracting packets were a meeting schedule for the nearest ward, a calendar of events, and a set of pamphlets introducing the resident to the Church. Packets were to be left at every home in the stake, both member and nonmember, whether the residents were at home or not.

    The day for the one-day mission came. On Saturday, at eight A.M., 247 excited people gathered at the stake’s Second Ward chapel for a special preparation meeting. They had been encouraged to come fasting and praying, and, as one participant said, “It was the thrill of a lifetime.” He said further, “The highlight of the meeting came when everyone was asked to stand up and repeat the fourth section of the Doctrine and Covenants. The whole group was really lifted up by the Spirit and was ready to go.”

    And thus they went. Prepared through prayer and fasting and enthused by the meeting, the special missionaries moved quickly through the stake asking their neighbors if they knew about the gospel. More than 2,250 homes were visited in four hours. That same day, the full-time missionaries were able to teach eight first discussions, all as a result of the efforts of the special missionaries. Another forty-five appointments were made for the following week. More than 400 copies of the Book of Mormon, all with written testimonies of members attached inside, were distributed to interested residents of the stake.

    Among the people found by those tracting were some golden contacts. For instance, one man said, “I was in the LDS hospital last week and received a blessing from some elders in your church. Of course I would like to know more!” And another: “Last night I felt very alone and I knew I wanted more out of life than I had. So I prayed that the Lord would send someone to my door this morning to tell me of his will.”

    The experience had a lasting positive effect on the members as well. Rather than thinking that the one-day mission fulfilled their missionary responsibility for the year, many became more aware of, and more confident in, their ongoing responsibility to share the gospel. Said Elder Peter Sweetland, full-time missionary serving in the stake: “The real result of the tract was the effect it had on members in the stake. Daily, members ask us, ‘When are we going to do it again? We so much enjoyed sharing the gospel.’ Many are friendshipping people they never thought they could.” And said Brother Bert Owen, Liberty Park Ward mission leader: “My missionary activity has doubled since our day of tracting. The experience has given me new enthusiasm because now I don’t feel the burden of doing all the finding in the ward. The seventies in our ward are more willing to go out and get involved.”

    An unexpected side-benefit of the tracting was also realized: nearly sixty members of the Church were “discovered,” and ward clerks were subsequently able to enter those members’ names on the records of the ward. But that was not all. As Brother Owen said, “We also learned of member families who need fellowshipping and nonmember families whom we can friendship, even though all are not ready for the missionary lessons yet.”

    Those fellowshipping efforts are already paying off: “Some of our inactive members have started coming back to church,” said Brother Clarke.

    Those were the positive aspects of the one-day mission the Salt Lake Liberty Stake had. What were, the negative aspects? The special missionaries had been briefed on what to do about mad dogs and mad homeowners. But “the worst that happened,” according to Brother Owen, “was being treated disinterestedly” by the person at the door. And even that wasn’t so bad, when it was weighed against “reports of friendliness, interest, and recommended call backs.”

    Thanks to Brother Mel Pedersen of the Salt Lake Liberty Stake for assistance in preparing this article.

    [photo] Photography by Eric W. White