A Six-month Smile

by Melvin Leavitt

Assistant Editor

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    or What to Do Until Captain M Arrives

    An ominous darkness hangs over Metropolis. Thousands of men and women plod along its busy streets, little suspecting that something important is missing from their lives. Suddenly a young man in a vermillion cape springs from a telephone booth. It’s Captain M, the member-missionary marvel, to the rescue!

    His muscles of steel rippling, he shouts the Golden Questions as he hurls ten men through the air to his secret fortress where the missionaries are waiting. At super speed he spins a family off to a visitors’ center. He wows a whole crowd at a bus stop with a catchy lead-in about family home evenings. He leaps aboard a subway and converts everybody except one small boy who is asleep.

    His cape flying like a banner behind him, he then whirls away through the city, accosting total strangers and committing them to learn more. That evening all the residents of the city, now members of the Church, gather to pin a hero’s medal on his broad chest.

    Sometimes we feel that member-missionary work can be done only by a Captain M—a fearless, dynamic, aggressive, gregarious person who is perfectly at ease stopping strangers on the street, lecturing taxi drivers, and preaching up and down the aisles of airplanes. How about those of us without a cape? How about us timid, non-aggressive souls who never raise our hands in class and who break into a rash at the thought of a 2 1/2-minute talk? We know that missionary work isn’t a comic-book question. It’s a serious obligation, and yet we don’t have the self-confidence to use an aggressive method. Isn’t there a quiet missionary approach we could start out with while we’re working up our courage?

    The answer is yes! There is a method that works wonders for us shivering toe-dippers and for the Captain M’s of the Church as well. It is practically guaranteed not to offend people. In fact, one of its main purposes is to make good friends into even better friends. All it requires us to do is give our inactive or nonmember friends a gift subscription to one of the finest magazines in the world today—the New Era.

    Will nonmembers like the New Era? The editor has a whole stack of letters from nonmembers who haunt the mailbox each month waiting for the latest issue and from converts who feel that the New Era played an important part in their conversion. And they all have some very warm things to say about the thoughtful person who gave them their gift subscription.

    Why will a New Era gift subscription be a good missionary tool? Well, first of all, simply because everybody likes getting gifts. Second, because the New Era is an outstanding magazine. Its high-quality articles, fiction, poetry, art, and photographs make it a pleasure for anyone to read. Third, because the New Era teaches gospel concepts in a clear, exciting way, with many interesting stories and illustrations.

    Your friends will like the New Era for the same reasons you do. You can be sure that even if a recipient never joins the Church, he will be grateful for a very fine gift.

    In order to field test the program, the New Era asked the students at the Highland High School Seminary in Pocatello, Idaho, to give gift subscriptions to their friends and see what happened. At the beginning of the program the seminary student council gave each student a marble to put in his or her back pocket, coin purse, or some other place where it would be hard to ignore. When the student gave a gift subscription, he was allowed to return the marble to a special thermometer board that would measure the program’s progress. Some students had more names than money, and some had more money than names, so both kinds gave what they had the most of. As a result, over 200 marbles found their way out of pockets and purses and onto the thermometer board, and about 180 New Eras found their way to brand-new mailboxes.

    Unfortunately, the program is only about three months old as this article is being written, so no one knows what the final results will be, but a few things are clear already. Within a week or so of the day the student council first shared the idea with the students, an unexpected result developed across the street at the high school. It was clearly becoming a mark of status among the non-Mormon half of the studentbody to be given a New Era subscription. Even the rare students who didn’t want the magazine went around with wrinkled brows if they weren’t at least given a chance to turn it down.

    Most of the seminary students found it easier to give a New Era than to bring up the gospel in any other way, and yet some of them still approached giving the gift with some fear and a little trembling. What if the gift were rejected? What if a friend were offended? They were amazed at the overwhelmingly positive reaction. Their friends were not only willing but eager to receive the New Era. There were exceptions of course. A few students wanted nothing to do with anything Mormon. A few parents objected, but those cases were a small handful, and it was never hard to find another friend who would say yes. Having given one subscription, students found themselves wanting to give another. One girl gave five. Another said, “Whenever I see someone now, I think, ‘I wonder if I ought to give him the New Era and the Book of Mormon and then maybe see if he wants the missionary discussions.’”

    Captain M was starting to stir in Pocatello, Idaho. Improvising on the program, one girl sought out the most anti-Mormon teacher in the school and informed him she was giving him a subscription to the Ensign. Astonished, he accepted.

    Robin Oakey caught the spirit of the program and gave a subscription to his friend Tony Collings. Robin probably won’t hesitate to do it again sometime because Tony was recently baptized. The New Era didn’t do it alone, of course, but it certainly didn’t seem to hurt any.

    Susie Finlayson had been trying for some time to get a friend to have the missionary discussions, but he “kept not being too excited.” She gave him a subscription to the New Era, and while he was waiting for the first issue to arrive, someone gave him a couple of old copies so that he would know what he was getting. A day or two later he stopped Susie in the hall. “I’ve got a poem for you,” he said. He then quoted from memory a poem he had read in the New Era. A few weeks later he asked if he could start taking the missionary discussions. That success reminded Susie of another friend she had given the New Era to a year earlier. She checked with him and found that he was feeling bad because the subscription had ended. He is now receiving the New Era again.

    The students found that even those who weren’t too excited about the gift at first usually warmed up after the first New Era came. One day at a debate tournament, Cherie Allen and some friends worked up enough courage to ask a non-Mormon debater if he would accept a New Era subscription.

    “Do you take the New Era?

    “That Mormon magazine? Of course not.”

    “Well, we’d like to send you one, then.”

    “Fine! With the energy shortage I can use it for firewood.”

    Cherie and her friends were a little crestfallen at the flippant response, but they gave the young man the magazine anyway. A few weeks later he sought Cherie out and said warmly, “Cherie, thanks for sending the New Era to me. I really like it.”

    It was sometimes difficult to decide whom to give a subscription to, but the end results seem to indicate that the right person to give the New Era to is absolutely anybody who doesn’t already subscribe to it.

    Bobette Richmond gave it to her nonmember grandmother who now reads it faithfully—and especially enjoys the Q and A department.

    Dodie Boyd sent it to a nonmember friend in another town. When the first issue arrived, the friend called long distance to say thank you.

    Kathy Solomon thought carefully about whom her gift subscription should go to and felt impressed to choose a girl who was suffering a great many problems in her life and was not very popular at school. “When I said, ‘I want to give you a gift subscription to the New Era,’ she just started crying right there. She couldn’t believe that anybody would want to give her a gift.” When the first issue arrived, the girl read it from cover to cover and came to school with a lot of questions about it.

    Sometimes the least likely prospects turn out to be the most receptive. Sherilyn Oakey and some friends were feeling crestfallen one day because a friend had just refused a gift subscription. “Well, I’ll take it,” a voice behind them said. They looked and then they had to look again. The voice belonged to one of the most anti-Mormon students in the whole school. She hasn’t shown much interest in the Church yet, but she now reads and enjoys the New Era.

    Lynne Nielsen has been sending the New Era to some nonmember relatives in England for three years. These relatives gratefully report that when they finish reading each issue, they send it to their cousin in Cheshire who reads it and then takes it to work where clients and fellow workers read it.

    Perry Christensen sent a subscription to an inactive young man who received it with real gratitude.

    Patti Mackelprang sent her gift to an old friend in Florida. She received a letter telling how much enjoyment the first issue had brought.

    Kelly Manning gave the New Era to some girls who had received the missionary discussions in his home but didn’t feel they could join the Church at the time because of family loyalty. The girls came by his house and told him that they and their family both enjoyed it.

    When looking for someone to give the New Era to, don’t overlook your school or public library. If they do not subscribe presently, you could expose a lot of people to gospel principles for the first time by subscribing for them. You might also want to give a subscription to a barbershop, doctor’s office, beauty parlor, or any other place with a waiting room.

    So the who is really no problem, but what about the how? Basically all you have to do is fill out one of the subscription blanks in this magazine and send it in along with your money. But that still leaves you three possibilities: you can tell the recipient you are sending the subscription before you send it; you can just send in the subscription with your name as donor and a gift card will be sent to the recipient; or you can send the subscription anonymously. The seminary leaders suggested that the students check with their friends in advance to assure that no subscriptions would be wasted on someone who didn’t want one, but in practice everybody did it his own way. Kelly Manning, who was mentioned above, asked that his name be listed as donor but said nothing to the girls in advance. He felt that the element of surprise made the gift even more exciting. Shanna Grayson, on the other hand, sent an anonymous subscription to her nonmember cousins. A week later when visiting them, she saw the New Era on their coffee table and asked if they were reading it. They said they were and that they really enjoyed it.

    Fawn Burrell found still another option. She sent a subscription to an inactive girl but did it in the name of her whole Mutual class. In the meantime somebody sent an anonymous gift subscription to her little brother who is a nonmember. He became an immediate fan and now reads every word as soon as a new issue comes, even if it means reading all night. He no sooner had the June issue open than he made Fawn sit down and play the leadership game with him. He is currently taking the missionary discussions.

    Carrie Buffat told her friend in advance that she would be receiving a gift subscription. The friend was so excited that she kept coming back every few days, asking when the first issue was going to arrive. By the time it did, anticipation had whetted her appetite to a fine pitch. Many students reported this side-benefit of telling the recipient in advance, although some also said that if the magazine was late in coming, the person could get a little irritated.

    In short, there doesn’t really seem to be a wrong way to send the New Era. You’ll have to examine each case on its own merits.

    If you do decide to tell the lucky person in advance, what do you tell him? Vickie Owen simply said, “I’m giving you a gift subscription to the New Era magazine. I really enjoy reading it, and I think you will too.” Others explained in more detail what the New Era contained. Some mentioned specific articles they had enjoyed.

    Just as we’re not all Captain M, we’re not all Mister Rich either, so we’re providing a special service for those with echoes in their pockets—a special six-month gift subscription for two dollars, in addition to the regular four dollar year’s subscription. Isn’t it worth giving up one movie in order to give your friend a six-month smile?

    When your friend has received an issue or two of the magazine, you can mention specific articles from time to time in your conversation with him or her. If you feel there is a growing interest in the Church, you might want to follow up with some more direct missionary approaches. Be sensitive, use wisdom, and rely on the Spirit in making those decisions. Do not try to push the gospel down anyone’s throat. Missionary work requires love, not salesmanship. The gospel should be shared, not sold. We think that you, like the youth of Pocatello, will find it easier to share than you ever suspected, even if you’re not yet Captain M.

    Although we at the New Era wholeheartedly recommend this program to you, we must humbly admit that it was not our idea. Ever since the first issue was published, many wise readers have been sharing the magazine with their nonmember friends through gift subscriptions. In fact, it was their success that inspired this program in the first place.

    We’d like to share with you a little of their success through a few of the many letters we’ve received from nonmember readers.

    Barbara Lemke of Sacramento, California, wrote: “This month marks my year-and-a-half anniversary. Since Christmas 1974 I have been receiving the New Era every month, and I’ve enjoyed each issue thoroughly. A very dear friend gave me a subscription as a gift, and I’m so glad she did. It keeps my Christmas spirit alive each month, renewing my awareness that Christ lived and died and rose again as an expression of our Father’s love for us. It reminds me that this isn’t just for a day in December, but for every day, every month, and every year of our lives, and the life hereafter. It also makes me happy to read about so many people who are in love with the idea of loving each other. Thank you for a wonderful magazine. Even though I’m not a Mormon, I can appreciate the love and thoughtfulness that go into every issue.”

    Cindy Shufeldt of Jackson, Wyoming, demonstrates the missionary potential of the New Era in her letter: “The New Era really brightens my day. Just recently I read one through from cover to cover and then lent it to a girl friend. She quickly devoured every word, and then I took it to my place of employment—the Jackson Hole Playhouse Theatre—where it was passed around one evening. One of the guys in the cast adopted it, and I haven’t seen it since! I am an investigator of the Church, and I can’t express in words how much the New Era has helped me in my studies. In fact, you may wish to know that I plan to be baptized.”

    In giving the New Era, you should always keep in mind that the personal example you set for your nonmember friends may have the largest influence of all on their attitude toward the Church. When they read the New Era, they will learn what the standards of an LDS youth should be. If you yourself are not living those standards, your gift may be in vain. If you are living those standards, the New Era’s effect will be multiplied.

    Consider this letter from Kathleen Garvey of West Sacramento, California: “I am not a member of the Mormon church, but I really like the New Era and the inspiring articles it has each month. However, I wouldn’t be enjoying the New Era if it weren’t for my Mormon friend who has given me several subscriptions to your magazine. In addition to giving me the magazine, she has given me an even greater gift. She has set such a fantastic example for me by living the Church’s high standards that she has really helped me in leading a clean and spiritual life, which I might not have done otherwise. So thank you, Vicki, and thank you, New Era.

    “If it weren’t for my Mormon friend,” Kathleen wrote. Perhaps there is someone who will never have the opportunity of getting to know the gospel through the New Era, unless you give it to him.

    Illustrated by Dale Kilbourn