“On two different occasions I have tried to approach friends about the missionary discussions but was turned down flat!” said 16-year-old Mari. “Needless to say, I was embarrassed when they let me know that they weren’t interested in finding out about our church.”
Mari is an attractive, intelligent high school student. She attends seminary and comes from a devout, missionary-minded family. And I can understand her frustration at wanting to do what the prophet has asked us to do, yet seeming to alienate good friends in her attempts to do so.
There is no question but what a successful missionary experience is rewarding, but how can we avoid the unpleasant ones? Perhaps we can’t experience 100 percent success, but let’s try a few other approaches.
Robin was just 19 years old when she enlisted in the navy and was assigned to the East Coast of the United States. Her roommate was an LDS girl whom she quickly grew to love.
“I admired my roommate’s way of life, her high ideals and standards. She stood for everything that I wanted to have in my life. I wanted to be in her company and with those who shared her standards. I wished and longed for an invitation to join in the activities of her youth group but was never given an opportunity to join them.”
A few months later Robin was transferred to the West Coast in another navy installation. Unusual as it seemed, her new roommate also proved to be an LDS girl. As they talked together on their first night it became apparent that this Church group was just as busy as the other group had been. The difference was that Robin was immediately invited to accompany her new roommate to all of these functions.
Within a few weeks Robin began the missionary discussions and was baptized. She became the best member missionary in the area and was constantly bringing fellow workers to Church functions so that they could investigate the Church. As soon as she was discharged from the navy, Robin was called as a full-time missionary.
A second experience concerns an elder serving in our mission, who gave this account of his conversion:
“During my first year in high school I became aware of a small group of fellow students who seemed to have a tightly knit bond of fellowship between them. They acted differently from the rest of the students. Their language was clean, their standards were high, even their appearance was different. They were not on drugs, and they did not smoke or drink. I admired them and tried to become acquainted with them.
“They were always having such a good time together, holding their own parties, dances, and other socials. I was told by someone that they belonged to the LDS church, but that did not matter to me. I still wanted to belong to their group.
“I hinted as much as I dared that I would like to attend some of their socials, but they didn’t take the hint. Finally in my senior year, I summoned the courage to ask them outright if I could possibly attend some of their socials, even though I was not a member of their church.
“Within a few weeks I was baptized into their church, and here I am now, about a year and a half later, on a mission for our church. When I see how difficult it is to find converts in the mission field, I wonder why these fellow students of mine found it so difficult to invite me to go with them.”
As I was interviewing the young people in our ward as their bishop, I asked each of them: “Are you dating anyone who is not a member of our church?”
“I’m not exactly dating him, but we know each other very well. We’re good friends.”
“Do you know him well enough to invite him to our student ward party?” I asked.
Susan brought Bill to our party, and our ward missionaries did the rest. Bill is now in the bishopric in Houston after having served a mission for the Church. And Bill and Susan’s experience has been duplicated all over the Church.
Does this give you any ideas? How many of your friends would like to attend your socials, your dances, your outings? How many would like to join you in all the fun times you have? Is this not an easy and inoffensive way to introduce them to the gospel of Jesus Christ? In most cases you can let the missionaries invite them to take the discussions and to teach them.
I recall when my wife and I invited our teenage sons and daughters to take a challenge, one which they accepted. They were to pray earnestly that the Lord would help them identify a person they were to help come into the Church. There would be no time limit. They were to pray and search and wait until the Spirit spoke to them, until they found that special person who would accept the invitation to either participate with them in a Church activity or to listen to the message of our missionaries.
We promised them that they would know for sure because it would be just as though the Lord were pointing his finger at that person. They were also to pray that they would know what to say to that person at the time.
One son returned in about two weeks with the story that he definitely had been impressed to approach a young man who sat by him at the university. He approached him and was turned down. Naturally he felt discouraged and questioned the validity of our project.
“Did you truly love him?” I asked. “Or were you just trying to compile a statistic? Did you have love in your heart and in your eyes when you approached him? Were you listening to the Spirit to help you as you approached him?”
“Let me try again,” our son asked. “Let me fast and pray about it. Then I’ll try again.”
After fasting and praying about it, he still felt impressed that this was the young man he should introduce to the Church. He approached him once more, this time with great love in his heart, in his eyes, and in his soul. The young man agreed to meet with our son and the missionaries to learn about the Church.
Not only was the young man baptized but his inactive wife was reactivated and their three children will now have the blessings of being reared in an LDS home.
Even a young man who was dating one of our daughters (he later became her husband) accepted the challenge to pray and search for someone who would accept the missionary message. He was directed to a friend whom he had known all his life but had never approached about our Church. Within a month this young man was baptized into the Church.
Everyone has a different approach, one that seems in keeping with that individual’s personality and that he feels comfortable with. Although the person we talk to may not join the Church now, he may accept the message later. We are convinced that some of these individuals will come into the fold sometime in their lives.
Whether we accept the fact or not, we are different from the world if we are living what we believe. Let me tell you about two of our missionaries.
It was the dinner hour, and it was raining without any sign of a letup. In spite of the rain, these two missionaries continued tracting. But let the father in one of these homes tell what happened that night:
“I had come home from work tired and hungry and wanted nothing more than to be left alone. I might also add that I dislike ‘door knockers’ and canvassers.
“I had just sat down to my dinner when the knock on the door came. I don’t know what I expected to find at the door, but I didn’t intend to be very pleasant about the disturbances at this particular hour.
“Perhaps I was too stunned at first to be angry, but for some reason or other I did not slam the door in their faces. There in the doorway stood two young men, grinning from ear to ear and literally beaming as they told me that they had a special message for me and my family. I still don’t know what prompted me to invite them to come in, except that there was something very special about them. There was an aura about them that I had never experienced before.
“I can tell you that when I invited them to come into our home, I also invited the greatest blessings that have ever come into my life and the life of my family. Yes, we were all baptized into the LDS church.”
In Doctrine and Covenants 88:67 [D&C 88:67], we are told: “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light.” We are different when we are living the way the Savior taught us to live. Our bodies will be filled with light, and people will become aware of this.
A man came into the mission home one day asking to know more about our church. “I sat on a plane next to one of your members,” he said, “and I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. He told me about his family and the love they had between them. His face almost glowed as he talked.”
This man was far more worldly than the average man on the street. “I know I will have to make some drastic changes in my life, but I want what that man has. My family means a lot to me,” he said.
If we live what we believe, our example may serve as an effective missionary for us and for the Church, especially for those who are searching for the “more excellent way” (Ether 12:11). There are many people who admire our way of life and our standards of conduct. They want this way of life for themselves and for their families.
Doctrine and Covenants 123:12 [D&C 123:12] tells us that “there are many yet on the earth among all sects … who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.” So how can we help them find it? How can we be effective member missionaries?
It just might be that your best method is to be your best self. Be friendly and be sharing. Invite those around you who are not members of our church to share with you the fun and the joy that they may be secretly wishing they could also have.
Instead of losing friends, you may develop friendships that will endure through this life and the life to come.