Missionaries and challenges/commitments

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DarkJedi
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Missionaries and challenges/commitments

Post by DarkJedi » 23 Mar 2015, 20:53

We have two sets of missionaries in our little ward, elders and sisters. We invite each pair over to dinner once a month (actually my wife does). I don't mind having them over, and I partly do it because others do it for my own son who is far from home. I also recognize that they are young and doing what they think is right.

Despite having served a mission (I am not a member of the "Best Two Years Club") and having a son serving and another preparing, I am not all that into the missionary aspect of the church. If someone asks me about the church I will answer their questions. I don't ever engage in "sharing the gospel" because I think we are not the only ones who know it and I believe we're a bit arrogant to knocking on other people's doors and telling them we're better. And, I dislike that we teach that our church is the one and only way (that is reserved for Jesus Christ).

There's the background, here's the issue. Only the sisters are doing this, not the elders. Maybe it's because we actually live in the sisters' area. FWIW the elders just give us a "spiritual thought" which is usually a scripture and a testimony that I can cope with. But whatever the reason (their heart or their shoes :D ), the last three visits the sisters have been pushing us to have a family mission plan. The idea has been mentioned by our SP, and he modeled his own family's plan at our prior stake conference (not the most recent). Even my TBM wife is not all that interested in doing so, and doesn't share much about the church, either (probably more because of her timidity). Each month they have tried to commit us to something different related to the plan (last month we were supposed to actually write it and, of course, didn't). This month they gave a little spiel about how easy it is be to be a missionary, even as simple as giving a pass along card to the checkout person at the supermarket. They wanted each of us to commit to do one between now and their next visit. I am normally passive during this things, but just flat out told them I wasn't going to do that, and they were clearly shocked and asked why not (a mistake). I told them something they already know, that I am not the most orthodox member, hoping to leave it at that. The new sister (her first time here) asked what it was that makes me not want to do this (another mistake) and as civilly and calmly as I could muster I told her she didn't want or need to know. They pretty quickly left, but it was time to end their visit anyway.

I'm sure there are better ways to handle the situation. What do you all do when faced with challenges or attempts to commit when you have no intention of playing the game? I'm not good at thinking on my feet, so any polite comebacks that might deflect and/or diffuse are also welcome.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Minyan Man
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Re: Missionaries and challenges/commitments

Post by Minyan Man » 23 Mar 2015, 21:14

I tell them that I will prayerfully consider their challenge & do what I believe is best.
I also make it clear that my missionary participation is not a project that needs followup.
I also make it clear there maybe times when I say no. (For example, helping investigators.)

I like doing missionary work. But, it will not be an all consuming endeavor.

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Heber13
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Re: Missionaries and challenges/commitments

Post by Heber13 » 23 Mar 2015, 22:41

I agree with Mike.

They usually understand when you make it a matter of prayer. The really gung-ho missionaries may try to commit or pressure to use faith to do something to return and report on it later.

I often find the follow up to be very poor. So, many times, it just goes away. Transfers happen, they get busy, or they followup with weak questions and you can reply "I prayed" or "I tried" or "I didn't feel right about it"...or whatever you did.

I am honest with them, but when they don't understand how a person could not have a spiritual witness to do missionary work...welll...that is just their naive approach in life. They'll understand better some day.

Saying No is empowering to keep your faith personal. If you don't feel it in your heart...it isn't faith...it is fear of what others think about you...and that isn't what we want in church.

I'll often share experiences of how I had a discussion with someone at work or some place...and leave it at "I think I planted the seed." If they press...be vague. Positive, but vague.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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DarkJedi
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Re: Missionaries and challenges/commitments

Post by DarkJedi » 24 Mar 2015, 02:56

Heber13 wrote:I agree with Mike.

They usually understand when you make it a matter of prayer. The really gung-ho missionaries may try to commit or pressure to use faith to do something to return and report on it later.
Yeah, that's part of the issue. My family is very well aware that I don't pray. I'm sure the missionaries don't notice because they're here so seldom, but I don't even do meal time prayers. I will most definitely not commit to pray about anything. Prayer is still a struggle for me.
I often find the follow up to be very poor. So, many times, it just goes away. Transfers happen, they get busy, or they followup with weak questions and you can reply "I prayed" or "I tried" or "I didn't feel right about it"...or whatever you did.
That's what I was hoping. In the past that has been the case. That's why it's significant that this has gone on for a bit this time. They actually did ask us if we wrote our plan, and when the answer was no they just asked us again to do it. FWIW, the answer to whether we wrote our plan was that we had been busy (not untrue, but we could have done it if we wanted).
I am honest with them, but when they don't understand how a person could not have a spiritual witness to do missionary work...welll...that is just their naive approach in life. They'll understand better some day.

Saying No is empowering to keep your faith personal. If you don't feel it in your heart...it isn't faith...it is fear of what others think about you...and that isn't what we want in church.
I agree that saying no is empowering - I am glad I learned to do it. I don't have a problem with saying no to the bishop or even the SP, and I don't have problems saying no to helping someone move or whatever (although I do participate in those things when I can). Those types of things are usually presented in a much less "challenging" or "commitment" way. Frankly, I have never been asked "Brother Jedi, will you commit to helping Sister Sith move and pray that we can move the piano?" That whole fear of what others think of you thing can be used as a negative tool as well - In retrospect I think that's what the Sister who asked why might have been looking for.
I'll often share experiences of how I had a discussion with someone at work or some place...and leave it at "I think I planted the seed." If they press...be vague. Positive, but vague.
Thanks, these things could prove useful sometimes. I generally don't have conversations about the church with anyone, actually, so coming up with those seed planting things is pretty rare (I can't remember the last time I had such a conversation, actually).
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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DarkJedi
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Re: Missionaries and challenges/commitments

Post by DarkJedi » 24 Mar 2015, 02:59

Mike wrote:I tell them that I will prayerfully consider their challenge & do what I believe is best.
I also make it clear that my missionary participation is not a project that needs followup.
I also make it clear there maybe times when I say no. (For example, helping investigators.)

I like doing missionary work. But, it will not be an all consuming endeavor.
Again, I don't pray. I could lie about it I suppose, but my family would know I'm lying. I have used the "don't need help" thing before, these challenges have been a bit different.

I will actually help investigators if asked - unless I perceive that's all the investigator is after. I don't like doing missionary work, so it is far from consuming.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Missionaries and challenges/commitments

Post by Curt Sunshine » 24 Mar 2015, 04:54

I usually smile and say something like:
"We talk about sharing the Gospel a lot, but I personally don't do mission plans. It just doesn't work for me. My plan is to follow any prompting I get and ask God to guide my efforts. He knows what people need much better than I do."


It surprises some missionaries, but they know I am in church each week and have visible callings - and, now, that I work in the temple and am on the High Council. I also have no problem visiting investigators and feeding the missionaries. It's a subtle thing (including the wording of "sharing the Gospel" instead of "doing missionary work"), but it's an honest approach - and one nobody has ever fought.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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nibbler
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Re: Missionaries and challenges/commitments

Post by nibbler » 24 Mar 2015, 05:22

Missionary work. Over the years I've spent an unhealthy amount of time in callings related to missionary work (almost half my time as a member) so watch out. :P

Only feed one pair of missionaries at a time. If the current set of Elders are bugging you, start feeding the Sisters until the next transfer. If the current set of Sisters are bugging you, start feeding the Elders until the next transfer. You could even resort to feeding them less frequently, like once every 3 months. If you're like me the meal calendar gets filled out by the fairer sex, you might not have any say in the matter but it's certainly something to discuss with DW.

DW and I are both RMs so the missionaries "use" that, they typically follow the "unto whom much is given..." philosophy.

In my case DW actually runs a little interference. I don't ask her to do that but she does it because she's mostly in the same boat as I am. We both believe that the gospel spreads through fascination, not force. Pass along cards and other dyed in the wool approaches feel forceful to us. We tell the missionaries that we try to be of service to our neighbors, try to be good people, and let the gospel spread naturally. I haven't met many missionaries that have a good comeback to that approach.

You may not have seen much of a change in the approach from missionary to missionary because they may be taking direction from the MP. If the MP is all about getting families to write down a mission plan that may be all you hear under their tenure.

One approach, write down a mission plan. Not the one that perhaps they are expecting but one that's true to yourself. That way you can report that you've written your plan.

"I'll talk to my neighbor twice this year. Not even about gospel related stuff, I'll just chat with them."

If missionaries balk remind them that everyone is at a different place in their respective journey. Talking to a neighbor about the weather may be a monumental step for an extreme introvert or someone with social anxiety. Telling people that they have to engage in missionary work in a very specific way may be asking someone to run faster than they have strength. Just because it's easy for one person doesn't mean it's easy for all. The key is for everyone to find that balance, something they're comfortable doing with god's help. I was a WML and was often called upon to help people set missionary goals, every time I did I gave more or less this same spiel. It's all about what's best for us, not how we measure up to some program.

Good luck, missionary visits can be tricky.
The wound is the place where the light enters you.
— Rumi

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DarkJedi
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Re: Missionaries and challenges/commitments

Post by DarkJedi » 24 Mar 2015, 05:36

Good points, Ray and Nibbler. I actually think that was part of the shock for the sisters because they know I have a fairly high profile calling, and the day before my name was read in stake conference for sustaining. It's also fairly widely known that I'm not a program guy and I frequently talk about less actives not wanting to be a project or part of a program (although the sisters probably have not directly heard that).

I actually don't "share the gospel" because almost everybody I know is Christian and they already know the gospel - but that doesn't mean I couldn't say I would share it if I felt prompted to do so. Likewise I am not going to insult my Jewish friends who would never do the opposite to me. I'm actually not very good at following promptings, another thing I still struggle with, but they don't need to know that. But that's what is part of the problem here - agreeing that I would do so (since the challenge/commitment was to give out a pass along card) is something that's very unlikely to happen. I'd pretty much need an angel telling me to give a pass along card to the checkout girl at Wegman's, and if the angel was going to go to that much trouble he could just do it himself (he'd have to take a break from silent note taking, of course ;) ).

Our stake is doing Meet The Mormons next month (free at the stake center) and I full well expect next month's challenge to be to invite someone. Frankly I'm probably not going myself, although DW may. I'm pretty sure that unless an angel stops by I won't be inviting anyone either way (and neither will DW, although when they try to commit her she'll agree - Jedi mind tricks work on her). I have joked with prior missionaries that I already know lots of Mormons and I'm not really meeting those ones, it's a video :D . I have also asked them what they would think if they were invited to "Meet the Catholics" or "Meet the Jehovah's Witnesses." (I do have JW neighbors that we are friends with and we mutually respect each others' beliefs - we actually can and do have good and honest discussion.)

I am like you, Nibbler, I have no say in the meal calendar - I always get a chuckle when they bring it into priesthood and we all just pass it on. And I'm really not even formal enough to write a very vague and simple plan just to satisfy them - the idea that that is why I'm doing it would probably tick me off even more.

Your insight serves you well, young Padawan - this whole commitment thing is coming from the MP. The sad part is that part of it is just supposed to be them practicing committing people, mostly members, because there are so few non-members to try to commit. He has them trying to commit people to baptism on the first visit - even a golden convert like me probably would not have committed on the first visit (again with the Jedi mind tricks).
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Missionaries and challenges/commitments

Post by Curt Sunshine » 24 Mar 2015, 06:37

Write a plan. Make it as simple and honest as you need it to be. That way, you can say honestly that you've done it when you are asked.

If anyone presses for details, tell them that a family mission plan is personal and for only the family - like a Patriarchal Blessing that isn't supposed to be quoted and shared openly with other people. (I use that example intentionally, since it is a common view among the orthodox.) Smile when you say it, but say it. If they insist, tell them to talk with your Stake President about pressuring members to share personal things with them. If that doesn't shut them up, nothing will. :P
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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SunbeltRed
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Re: Missionaries and challenges/commitments

Post by SunbeltRed » 24 Mar 2015, 07:11

Ahh...the old Missionary Jedi mind tricks.

I honestly feel bad for the missionaries. I think they are bored and they have realized that the all the ways of the past are no longer working. It's rare that a family is baptized and even more rare when a family that can come in and contribute right away to the ward is baptized. The last few times we have had the missionaries over I have used a comment Ray mentioned in another thread "We are good right now. We share the gospel in a way that works best for our family" and leave it at that.

They did try to get us to commit to writing down a family mission plan. I told them I'd think about it, but probably wouldn't do it, and then made jokes about how our SP was going to put some pressure on me probably.

So I have used firmness and humor to deflect.

I was in their shoes, and I'm sure they are as frustrated by my lack of concern about missionary work as I am by their zeal for it.

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