Mormon Monday: Missionary Work and Love

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My wife and I have received our callings in our new ward — we are ward missionaries.  And we have received our first assignment to speak in sacrament meeting.  We spoke yesterday, both of us on themes dealing with — you guessed it, missionary work.  I will have to admit, I was very impressed with the topic that I was given to speak on.  It was a simple sentence, yet it caused me to look at my own personal attitude towards member missionary work in a whole new way.  Isn’t it amazing how those simple sentences, when pondered and contemplated, can change our whole worldview?

The sentence is:  Perfect love casteth out fear in missionary work.

The first part of that sentence comes from 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear”  And that is a phrase that we hear repeated quite often, but I had never thought about it in connection to missionary work before.  But what is one of the main reasons we do not do more missionary work?  I would say fear.  We are afraid of opening our mouths, we are afraid of the reaction we will get when we begin talking about our religion, we are afraid that we do not know how best to convey what our faith means to us in a way that others will properly understand.

I repeat the sentence: Perfect love casteth our fear in missionary work.  Love is the way we can overcome all of our fears.  Love is everything in this gospel.  Our whole lives, our whole existence, this entire gospel is all founded on love.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Love is what motivates us to action.  With regard to missionary work, love is the reason we feel the desire and the need to share the gospel with those around us, with those we come into contact with.

I love this gospel, the Plan of Salvation, the Plan of Happiness.  It is so wonderful, so perfect.  It is so simple that a child of eight years can be expected to understand it fully enough to commit to it and enter into the first covenant of Baptism, and yet it is so full and complex that a man can (and should) spend his whole life studying the principles and precepts and yet he would never come to understand them completely.  There is something for everyone, and the best part is that all who will sincerely come unto Christ will find that his arms are eternally stretched out.  He will make up any and all difference in our lives.  We do not have to worry about where we stand in regard to any other individual, only about where we stand in relation to our Father in Heaven.

I love this gospel and I love my friends and family, and because I love my friends and family I naturally want to share with them the one thing that brings the most happiness and joy into my life.  I have written before about the parable of orange juice.  Basically, if I have some orange juice (which I absolutely love) and I pour myself a tall glass and do not offer my friend any because I am not sure if he would like some and I do not want to offend him, then what kind of friend am I?  If I truly love orange juice and I truly love my friend, I am going to offer him some orange juice and see if he wants any.  If he does, wonderful!  If he does not, well, that’s too bad, he is really missing out on some wonderful orange juice, but he is no less my friend because he does not want orange juice.

We need to not be afraid of sharing the gospel.  If we do it in love, our friends will see that we love them and that the gospel of Jesus Christ means so much to us.  And even if they do tell us that they are not interested in hearing more about what we believe, they remain our friends, and we cannot let that rejection change our friendship or our relationship.  If we do, then our friends may think that we were only being their friend so that we could share the gospel with them, and we should not give that impression to any one.  We do not make friends just so that we can share the gospel, we share the gospel so that our friends can benefit from the wonderful blessings that our Father in Heaven has in store for the righteous followers of Jesus Christ.

We need to show our friends what living the gospel means to us and our family, and then invite them to come and see.

It really is that simple.  In the first chapter of John, one of Christ’s disciples is talking to his friend about Jesus of Nazareth. “Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.  And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.” (John 1:45-46)   And Nathanael came and saw and met Jesus and discovered for himself that he was the Messiah.

Come and See can be our motto in our own missionary efforts.  Can we all see ourselves saying that?  “Come and see.”  To a friend, a coworker, a neighbor.  Come and see what makes me different, what makes me happy, what makes my family happy.  Come and see.  Have we ever had someone ask us what it is exactly that Mormons believe in?  “Come and see”.  Have we ever had someone ask us what goes on in a Mormon worship service?  “Come and see”.

That is all it takes.  And it is not hard to guide a conversation into a situation where we can extend such an invitation.  Not that we manipulate people to get them to come, but that we don’t just sit around waiting for the perfect missionary opportunity, constantly telling ourselves, “well, it hasn’t come up yet.”  We can help it come up in conversation, and it’s easy, and it’s actually kind of fun.  If we live the gospel of Jesus Christ, then those around us will notice in our conduct that we are a little bit different.  I have been living in Ohio for a little over a month, but it has already come up that I don’t drink, that I don’t smoke for religious reasons.  And a conversation begins.

In Germany, where I served my mission, I loved riding the trains and having conversations with people.  I’d often start by asking a simple question, completely unrelated to the gospel, just to start the conversation.  I’d ask for help with my German or pronunciation, and they would inevitably ask where I was from, and I would tell them America.  Then they would ask my favorite question, “Why are you here in Germany?”  And then I could explain that I was a missionary, and I could talk about the Church and the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, or whatever else about the gospel I felt was appropriate.  And they would listen.  Why?  Because they had asked me why I was in Germany, they wanted to know, and were listening to my response.  These same people who would have closed a door in my face were listening to the same message I would have given on the doorstep because they had asked the question, rather than me telling them what I wanted them to hear.

We can do the same thing in out conversations with our friends or our coworkers, as appropriate.  Not that we manipulate the conversation or our friends to steer them toward gospel topics, but that we are open and honest about what we believe in and allow that to be a very public part of our lives.  How often have we prayed for missionary opportunities, and then at the end of the day lamented that it just never came up in the conversation?  We can help it to come up in conversation by not being shy or ashamed of our love for the gospel or the wonderful things it brings into our lives.  And there is almost always something that we can invite people to.  Mormons love food and they love having dinners and get-togethers and whatevers where there will be food.  Who doesn’t love a free meal?  Or I could tell my friends that my family spends our Monday nights together with a good meal, some games and a simple Christ-centered  message, would you like to bring your family over and join us?

A pass-along card sitting on your desk at work not only serves as a nice reminder of the things you believe in during the work day, but also as a start to conversation with a coworker.  The Church has also come to really understand how to utilize modern technology in recent years, especially social media and the internet.  Mormon Messages are wonderful little videos with a great gospel theme that can be easily emailed or posted to a blog or shared on Facebook.  And if a friend wants to view the video, great! If not, that’s okay, too.

And that is the way all of our interactions need to be.  We invite others to come unto Christ, to “come and see” what we have to offer, but not everyone will be eager to accept such an invitation.  And we may not always know why.  Sometimes it is nothing on our part, but that this individual is not at a place in their life where they are ready to make the necessary changes required to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and its subsequent blessings.  I have heard numerous stories of individuals who were regularly invited to read the Book or Mormon or to come to a sacrament meeting, who repeatedly refused until one day something had changed about their circumstances and they found themselves wanting to make a change in their lives and accepting the invitation to come and see.  We do not know our friends and neighbors perfectly, but we do work for someone who does.  It is not our place to judge, but only to do as we have been asked and extend the invitation and leave the rest to God.

That is my testimony about missionary work.  It is work, it can be hard, but it is very much worth it to share such a wonderful message with those we care about.  And in the end, it all comes down to love.  If we love this gospel it will show, if we love our friends we should find no reason not to want to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them.  For perfect love casteth out fear, especially in missionary work.

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