Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Word of Warning: Missionaries Shaking the Dust Off Their Feet Even Today!

In the nineteenth century LDS missionaries took the concept of warning very seriously as many General Authorities across the pulpit would stress that one of the responsibilities of missionaries was to sound a voice of warning to the nations of the earth.

In Section 1:4,11 we read:
"And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days. . . .

Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear.” (D&C 1:4, 11).

In the twentieth century this concept has gradually been softened by church leaders and de-emphasized in the last three decades in an attempt at better public relations. I certainly don't remember any of them encouraging missionaries to shake the dust of their feet off today.
I do vaguely remember when I first joined the church hearing the concept but the last twenty years I can't seem to recall it being stressed.

In 1974 Elder Ezra Taft Benson said:

No person can read Section One of the Doctrine and Covenants, realizing that the Church accepts it as the word of the Lord, and ask why we send missionaries into all parts of the world. The responsibility, and a major one it is, falls squarely upon the membership of the Church, for "the voice of warning," says the Lord, "shall be unto all people by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days" (D&C 1:4). (Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974, p. 48).

Joseph Fielding Smith agreed:
When we see evil lurking, when we see dangers confronting the people, and especially the Latter-day Saints, it is our duty to raise the warning voice, and not only in behalf of the Latter-day Saints, but to warn all people, for our mission is one that is world-wide, and we should warn all men and give them the opportunity of repentance, of serving the Lord and keeping his commandments if they will. If they will not, yet we have saved our souls. We are clear from the blood of this generation. That is our duty. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-56, 1:309-310).
I think it might be resurfacing as a few elders seem to have taken it on. I don't know if they are mavericks or not. Today as I was perusing the Google results for the Brazil Campinas Mission I came across this fledgling blog Words from the Vineyard in an entry entitled "A Word of Warning." A couple of weeks ago Elder Bluhm whose pen name is reports on this subject:
It appears thst the growing dark feelings that I have for this particular part of this particular city in Brazil, will culminate here in this post as a warning to any and all who my encounter this situation that I find myself in.

Piracicaba Centro is an urban area, not inner city, there technically is no such thing in Brazil, however it is a very rich area. All of the people here care only for their money and the relentless accumulation thereof. Never have my mortal eyes seen such decadency. The blatant disregard with which they treat the basic morals of society makes me wonder how any of them can even begin to profess discipleship to any kind of religious organization. They pursue their vices with fervor and zeal comparable only to the steadfast devoutness of the Members of the Church in this sad sad city. They are so callous as to not even dream us worthy of common respect. It takes great courage to open your mouth and talk to complete strangers about something that you hold dear and close to your heart. These people take our words and savagely throw them in owr faces, stamp them into the ground and scoff at our timid attempts to help them. Even a seasoned veteran of the Mission Field was astounded at the hardness of their hearts. They do not wish to care, and they don't care to listen. When I leave this place, I will shake the dust of this contemptible city from my shoes and leave it and it's adulterous people behind as an unhappy chapter in this chronicle. Perhaps they will not meet the same end as Sodom and Gomorrah, but as far as their eternal welfare is concerned, they are doomed to that same fate until such time as they change their ways.

I do not intend to slack off these last two weeks of the transfer, I will work harder still as a final testament to their iniquity. I hope that these are the last two weeks of this area...

My warning is thus: If missionaries come calling, do not refuse, listen to at least a few of their words, for they are the words of Christ, weigh what you hear carefully and test their words as they will direct and go to the Father in prayer and ask Him, the source of all Truth. Piracicaba Centro, I quit thee forthwith and leave thee in my dust.
I think the young elder is a bit harsh on the inhabitants of this city and might consider mellowing out. I think shaking the dust is an extreme measure. Let us trace a few past statements on this subject that might contribute to his rather bold approach. I personally never shook the dust of my feet off nor did any missionary in my mission that I know about. I wonder how many missionaries really shake off the dust of their feet today.

1 comment:

Iguana Montana said...

When I was in the MTC, I can remember being counseled from "the pulpit" as it were about this topic. Not only were we actively advised against doing so, I can recall at least one instance where we were directed not to do so. This counsel was usually followed with the explanation that (my words) 19 year olds were a little too naive, emotional, and impulsive to trust with such a daunting power. That answer always rankled, considering the other daunting powers with which missionaries are entrusted.

However, I can still somewhat see their point, and your story is a case in point: is it the Elder's own personality or perspective that's causing the problem? What if an entirely different set of Elders or Sisters were sent to that area... would they feel the same way? I know that when I was on island, there were several times that I was irritated enough (possibly read: moody?) that I would have liked to dust-off an area... but did I ever want to bear that eternal responsibility? Nope. Looking back, never once did I meet anything that remotely deserved--to a reasonable, adult mind--such a verdict and sentence.