Saturday, June 7, 2008

Thorough Teaching of Investigators to Avoid Problems

When I was investigating the church I received all the discussions in two days. It was hard to get much out of the lessons when the missionaries presented concept after concept. Part of the problem was caused by me because most investigators even when they are interested feel they are pressed for time. I told the missionaries I would listen to all of them in one day. When they weren't able to do it in one day but took two days I gave them the extra morning.

Needless to say it isn't the most effective way to learn the gospel. Missionaries a lot of the time operate under fear. They are afraid that if they don't comply with the investigators desire they will reject them. In some cases this is true but in many cases if they help the person feel the spirit along the way they will whet their appetite for wanting to discuss the gospel more. In my case I listened to their concepts but there were no real moments where I did feel the spirit. The only unusual things I remembered hearing about was baptism for the dead which I don't was an interesting concept and the law of chastity.

When we came near the end of of our two days of lessons they asked me if I wanted to join the church but the young elder didn't have much conviction. In fact I sensed he was expecting me to turn down his offer which I did. I told them I appreciated their taking the time and I would let them know if I ever wanted to join the church. I am afraid I didn't get much out of what they taught me.

I never saw them again after that until I myself went to their apartment and knocked on their door a month after being taught. My conversion to the gospel had little to do with them. I had received a Book of Mormon from a friend and I decided after the missionaries jumbled presentation to read it. I read the book from cover to cover and when I got to Moroni 10:3,4, and 5 I put Moroni's challenge to the test and received a spiritual manifestation. The Holy Ghost physically and tangibly spoke to me and told me "the Book of Mormon was the word of God, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the only true church on the earth today." This isn't something I am projecting backwards either. I called up another non-Mormon friend Steve Wing and told him what happened within minutes of the occurrence. I thought he would tell me I had been smoking dope or hallucinating but he actually said you knew to do what you think is right. The guy was like Yoda in Star Wars he could say some really amazing things at times. I said I think your right. He said I will pick you up let's go to a Mormon baptism. We drove over to the missionaries apartment and I knocked on the door and told them I wanted to be baptized then and there. One elder was so shocked he slammed the door in my face. The other elder and he argued for about three minutes and then the door opened. They called their mission president who persuaded me to hold my baptism a week later.

After I went on a mission I was always troubled by how unprepared I was. I went on a mission fourteen months after I was baptized. There were so many things I really had not covered when I was investigating the Church and even during that year I might have known some deep doctrinal things but I had missed the basics. Most LDS have them drummed in their heads through primary, young men or young women, seminary and institute. All I had to go on was reading the scriptures from cover to cover three times and a few books I had read. I didn't even know I needed to confess certain sins until after I was teaching people myself for some months. I was asked during my baptismal interview had I ever stolen which luckily I had just a couple of minor things including buying a bike from my brother-in-law which I didn't know was stolen but the cops later came and took which they claim was a stolen bike and having shop lifted as a ten year old a comic book or two. I figured my sins were all washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. I never thought about confessing to having had a relationship with a girlfriend that I tried to marry and asked to marry me. I really was unprepared for a mission also because of not having taken the time to understand the basic lessons. In those days you didn't go to gospel essentials I jumped right in to young adult gospel doctrine class since I was eighteen.

I suggest that missionaries resist the temptation to shorten the teaching process. You might lose a person or two but in the long run it will be better for the person. I think you need to follow the Spirit but I know even as a proselyting missionary and a ward missionary that you need to have investigators make commitments along the way. You need to identify that they understand what you are teaching by asking them about the concepts not is there any questions but find out if they really understand by using a variety of methods of checking. I don't think you should drag out the process to bore them but I think you should not just speak in to the void. Assuming that because they don't speak or say yeah I get it that they really do. As a young men's leader I occasionally teach them and I know many times really basic things go right over their heads I am sure that is the case with many investigators.

I remember as a missionary that we actually used subterfuge when teaching either the word of wisdom or the law of chastity on purpose. My companions would say lets hope they don't ask to many questions so we don't have to be embarrassed. Many times it happened when we were teaching attractive young women. My senior companion would say let's just commit her to baptism and let the district leaders deal with it later. I remember losing a few investigators later who decided after discussing sensitive matters they didn't want to make that kind of commitment. I didn't think that our earlier approach was the wisest course but some of my companions knew me and were afraid of having someone as direct as me handle those type of delicate discussions. Sometimes I would subvert them by saying you don't have any problems with this do you you haven't had sex with a boyfriend or anything which turned my companions red. When they would start unloading my companion would have to stop them. A couple of times the companion would turn red from the tops of his ears to his chin. Later they would say when we left don't ever do that again. I would say of course elder I will be careful knowing that I would doing it if I thought I needed to if the elder was wishy washy. I didn't want to see anyone end up like me. People need to be well thought when investigating the church. They shouldn't have any surprises later on.

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