“O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!” (Alma 29:1).
Do you feel like Alma sometimes, wanting to be an angel so you could tell all your friends about the greatness of the gospel? One of the best things about it would be that after you’d delivered your glad tidings, you could go back to heaven and not worry about being embarrassed or rejected. As it is now, if your friends think your message is weird, you still have to associate with them. After all, they might ride the same bus with you or sit next to you in English.
Sometimes that fear of rejection can tighten your tongue and keep you frustratingly silent. You wish you could share the most important thing in your life with them, but what if they laugh? Or worse yet, what if they reject it?
Well, a group of Young Women in southern California have some answers for you. They seem to have a knack for friendshipping and sharing the gospel. They make their ward, Fullerton Third, a warm place to be. People feel it the very first time they visit, and there have been lots of visitors.
You’ll find recent converts in all their classes. And you’ll find investigators at all their activities. How do they do it? How do they introduce so many people to the Church?
“You have to start out by just being friends with them,” says Karen Freiley, 16. Karen should know. She was instrumental in helping her good friend Krissy O’Shea join the Church. Krissy, in turn, has brought a number of her friends to church, and many of them have taken the missionary discussions.
“I’d asked Karen a few questions about her church before,” Krissy says. “But what got me really interested was going to a youth conference. Karen’s invitation was no big deal—I wasn’t getting along with my mom, and Karen knew I needed to get out of the house for a while, so she asked me if I wanted to come to this thing they were having at her church. To me it sounded like a great way to get away for the weekend.
“The thing I noticed first was the closeness I felt. You don’t really go into the doctrine the second you put a foot in the door, but you can feel the Spirit. As the classes got into the doctrine part, I began to feel that it just made so much sense.”
That’s where Krissy’s conversion began, and along the way, Karen’s testimony was strengthened. “It felt so good to share the gospel with Krissy,” she says. “Especially when the missionaries would come to our house, and we’d sit together and hear the discussions. There were things that I learned from them, even though I’d been raised in the Church.”
The girls who’ve had a positive missionary experience agree that activities are one of the best ways to introduce people to the Church. “I usually invite my friends to a dance first,” says Noelle Adams, 15. She and her sister Torrey, 16, have a large group of non-LDS friends who regularly attend the Fullerton dances. They like the clean, friendly atmosphere, and so do their parents.
“Our friends’ parents love our standards,” Torrey says. “They’ll let our friends be out with us later than they will when they’re with other friends. They encourage their kids to go out with us, because they like what we’re doing.”
Okay, so once they have their friends excited about the stake and regional dances, what’s next? “Well,” says Noelle, “I take them to another kind of activity after that. By then they know a lot of the kids, so they’re eager to come. Then I have them over to the house for dinner or something, and then I invite them to church on Sunday.”
Torrey and Noelle took advantage of their little sister’s baptism to invite many of their neighbors and friends to a spiritual meeting. “They were happy to come, because they know my little sister, and they know that we’re different, so they’re interested in what we do,” says Noelle.
Once your friends are familiar with the Church, then it’s time for the most significant thing you can do, according to the Adamses. “I sit them down and explain that there’s something important I’d like to share with them. Then I tell them how special the Church is to me,” says Noelle. “I let them know that the missionaries can explain more about it, if they’d like to meet them.”
“They don’t always accept my invitation, but they do think about it, and they usually appreciate your caring enough about them to tell them,” says Noelle.
The girls in the ward agree that just because a conversion process doesn’t happen immediately, you shouldn’t give up. Crystal Wangler, 14, went to church with friends for the first time when she was five, but her parents wouldn’t let her be baptized until she was 14. “It was hard to wait,” she said. “The rest of the family weren’t attending any church, and Mom and Dad love to go away on weekends, so I had a hard time getting to activities and church meetings. But my friend Denise’s family always gave me a ride when I needed one. They’ve been a good influence on me. They call me all the time and invite me. I wouldn’t be able to come to most of the activities without them.”
Denise Freiley is Karen’s little sister, and their family is particularly missionary minded. Their home is open for anyone to take missionary discussions, and the missionaries know they can count on the Freileys to fellowship their investigators.
It was family orientation that first got Amy Linstrom, 19, interested in the Church. The ward members fellowshipped her from the very beginning. “You know how the Church is based on the family,” she says. “This ward is like one big family, and it’s really nice to be a part of it.”
Of course, the girls in Fullerton don’t have 100 percent success with every friend they bring to church. An anti-Mormon contingent in their area is particularly active, and a few investigator friends have been scared off by people who present the Church in a negative light. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people who are opposed to the Church to stand up in firesides and try to argue doctrine with the speaker.
“We never argue with those people,” says Michelle Dickens, 16. “When someone tells me the gospel isn’t true, I explain to them how I feel about it. Then I invite them to come to church and see what we’re really like. They do make me want to study the Church harder, though, so I can be prepared for any questions they might ask me.”
“As a matter of fact,” says Amy, “one of the things I liked best about the LDS church is that they didn’t come on too strong. Other people told me I would go to hell if I joined the Church and didn’t become a member of theirs. That really bothered me.”
“If the people that preach against our church ever tell me anything I don’t understand,” says Krissy, “I ask Heavenly Father about it. He either helps me understand, or sends someone else who can help me.”
Bishop Gary Wallace is understandably proud of the Young Women of his ward. “They do a great missionary work,” he beams, “but they also get good grades and are leaders in their various activities in their schools.”
Being active in different interest groups in school gives the girls many chances to make friends with people, and those friendships aren’t abandoned if their missionary efforts are rejected. “You just have to keep being yourself and letting them know you care,” says Michelle. “And the same goes for helping your less active friends get active again.”
The ability to reach out and the ability to receive and follow up on the promptings of the Spirit—that’s what these girls have in common. They may seem like average teens—like just about everyone else, they like to go to the beach, eat fast food, and shop at the mall. But they also like to share the gospel with their friends.
And those who have been introduced to the Church through them don’t think they look average at all. They think they look just a little like angels.