Sunday, November 2, 2008

Valued Placement of Missionary Literature

I recently received a comment by Ian about how on Halloween he and his companion wrapped candy in a missionary tract with their phone number and never got one referral. It really didn't surprise me that no one contacted him. The majority of investigators who don't ask specifically for a pamphlet or Book of Mormon are not invested in reading it. My mission president repeatedly stressed to us the need for the investigator to invest in the material which would increase their desire to read it. He discouraged the indiscriminate passing out of missionary literature.

When I was on my mission M. Russell Ballard drummed it in to our head that investigators would not value our literature if we just gave it away to them. He encouraged us especially with a Book of Mormon to charge them at least a dollar or two. He said if they paid something for it they would at least read something in it.

As missionaries we are reluctant to ask a person we are teaching to pay anything because we are afraid they might not take our literature and might equate us with salespersons or Jehovah Witnesses. The Jehovah's Witnesses expect a quarter at least for a Watch Tower. I know I was very uncomfortable with asking for payment because I didn't want to be perceived as a door-to-door salesman. The funny thing was that I was so cheap I never even bought a single Book of Mormon on my mission. I palmed it off on my companions because my ward was supporting me and I barely had enough money to pay my rent and eat each month. Mostly my companions had families with a few bucks who helped them buy cases of Book of Mormons. In our mission since you were suppose to sell the books it was expected that you could offset the cost of the books. We seldomly received free books from the mission office and if we did it was because a ward we were serving in had a Book of Mormon testimony project going. I remembered for a few months once we got several special gold Book of Mormons with the reformed Egyptian on the front.

I think Elder Ballard might have been on to something here. I am sorry I wasn't persuasive enough to get people to pony up something. I did have one companion who could get them to buy them by the dozen but that was when I served in Italy. Giorgio Del Pazzo sold literally dozens to Catholic priests and to municipal libraries. I think the priests bought them to take them out of circulation. I remember in Ragusa one time we met with a civic official who wanted a couple of hundred of them. It was a neat experience going to the provincial office and meeting with this distinguished man. We also were invited in to schools where we would answer questions about our religion. In Canada we went to a few Catholic schools also and answered their questions. The public libraries didn't have the same interest. Only one of my companions Harry Lodholm was moderately successful at obeying Ballard's mission policy. He had a very subtle approach that attempted to get them to want to buy it and he knew when they could and couldn't afford one. Even if they couldn't afford it he would tell them how he personally bought the book out of his own pocket and wanted then to have it since they had a genuine desire to know about the Gospel.

Today there is a whole different setup as my two returned missionary daughters from Korea and Italy inform me that Book of Mormons are purchased from tithing funds and given to them free of charge. Other missionary literature such as Pass-Along-Cards and pamphlets come out of their monthly allowance which for Italy was $160 Euros and about 200,000 Won for Korea. One of my daughters says it distribution of missionary literature in foreign missions is handled by a senior couple who also take care of immigration matters. She told me that what''s acceptable depends on the person who is coordinating it.

In her mission she passed out about ten Book of Mormons a week and used about five cases of Book of Mormons each month. My other daughter said they were lucky to pass out one or two Book of Mormons in Italy. The Italians didn't have much interest whereas the Koreans are more interested in our literature. Again the underlying factor is interest on the part of the investigator.

In order to insure that the investigator is reading the material you need to develop a culture of value for your materials. I think there are probably a few missionaries out there that have some sophisticated techniques for placing missionary literature and my readership would probably be interested in hearing their ideas on how to increase the desire in investigators to read it.

1 comment:

Bookslinger said...

I've wondered about this too. Sometimes I think I should just show the foreign language Book of Mormon to someone, but then just give them a pass-along card to call to get a free copy. That way, they will have a better chance of contact with missionaries