Jan 21, 2009

Tough Questions... Tougher Answers

The later comments after my last post made me wonder about something.

How do we answer those tough questions from non-members about the Church? Should we even answer them? Or should we answer them politician-style (i.e. duck the subject and divert attention to another subject)?

Some of us were saying how we wish we could just hear "the truth," whatever it is. But, admittedly, we haven't always been so truthful ourselves. Maybe we've even tried to cover up certain things about the Church to those we care about who are perhaps interested in investigating.

Most of us have probably been there. Someone asks us about polygamy, the priesthood ban, Kolob, or the like. Or maybe we sort of feel obligated to tell people about such things before they get baptized so that they don't get a shock afterwards and leave the Church feeling disillusioned. I've told the story before about my cousin-in-law (who is black) who never heard about the priesthood ban until he was on his mission and someone told him about it before slamming the door in his face. Then it was time for some serious damage control. Are such awkward subjects something that should be dealt with early, in order to avoid such situations, or should we just worry about it when it happens?

Before when people asked me about polygamy, I used to just repeat what I had heard: there weren't enough men to take care of all the women, so it was a way to care for all the singles. (Incidentally, I remember sitting in on a discussion with the Elders and some investigators many years, who were concerned about polygamy. This was the reason that the Elders gave them and their response was that you don't have to marry someone and have sex with them in order to take care of them.) OK, so now I know that that isn't a good answer. It doesn't explain all the women that Joseph Smith married who were already married and taken care of. So now I can't really repeat it without knowingly lying. And I know people don't want to be lied to.

So how do we truthfully answer people's questions without giving them too much information that they might not be ready for? Should we try to cover up our past, perhaps because we feel a bit embarrassed by it (c'mon, you know you do sometimes!), or should we be an unapologetic "open book?"

35 comments:

derekstaff said...

It will probably surprise no one that I am a proponent of full disclosure. The truth, and people grasping that truth, must be able to stand on their own merits. To wait is only to create a feeling of betrayal. Nor should we try to use rationalization, such as the rationalization you heard about polygamy. We have to admit there is a lot we just don't know.

Now I'm not going to hit up investigators with a list of potentially shocking doctrines. I don't have any idea what they already know or what they might specifically find troublesome. But I will always make myself available for questions, and will answer as openly and honestly as I can.

Steve M. said...

So how do we truthfully answer people's questions without giving them too much information that they might not be ready for?

I don't think that we should be the ones to decide how much information someone is "ready for." It strikes me as paternalistic and condescending. If someone asks a question about the Church, we should give them a straightforward answer. That person should be entitled to weigh the evidence and make an informed decision.

Of course, one of the difficulties is that many Mormons themselves have not been given accurate and straightforward information about their own faith tradition. For instance, as your post hints at, many Mormons sincerely believe that polygamy was practiced in order to ensure that single women were cared for. If they were better acquainted with history, that explanation wouldn't seem plausible.

Lisa said...

I have to agree with Steve. To assume one's level of "readiness"...well. I see that as a matter of "If you find out you'll still join the church" and I find that problematic.

I'm also one for full disclosure, though I'll be the first anymore to admit it's not easy. I'm often embarrassed by certain things.

I used to hate it when people would ask me questions about issues that discomforted me. Kolob does sound silly, and the whole explanation behind "secret versus sacred" (really it's both) unsettled me as well.

We can't be honest with others until we're honest with ourselves. I think this could that mean it's not a matter of *other* people being ready to hear it but instead a matter of *us* being ready to acknowledge it without feeling the need to put some sugar on top.

The Faithful Dissident said...

"...without feeling the need to put some sugar on top."

Good one, Lisa! I think that's exactly how I've felt. I've always felt the need to sugarcoat things so that they don't sound as bad. And maybe the sweetener was actually more for my own taste buds.

But yeesh, there are some things that you can keep piling sugar on but you never quite get rid of that taste you're trying to cover up.

derekstaff said...

I think being honest and addressing the tough questions also requires being willing to admit the limits of our own testimony. There are times in my life where I've "testified" about things regarding which my faith was flimsy at best. I felt I needed to support the official or conventional position. I've come to believe that it is more important to be honest, and to admit we have a hard time believing "x" and "y." It may not be the most effective method of shepherding in droves of converts, but it makes me feel better about my relationships with others. If part of the reason they join is because they trust my judgment, I want to be honest about my judgment.

Lisa said...

"But yeesh, there are some things that you can keep piling sugar on but you never quite get rid of that taste you're trying to cover up."

You said it!

Derek: Agreed. I think I came to a similar conclusion on the day I had to admit the doctrine of celestial polygamy to my Mom. I let her know I didn't like it, but that was what the Church taught.

Clean Cut said...

I one who finds it refreshing to be open and honest about my own personal experience, thoughts, and feelings in regards to those "uncomfortable" issues. But I try to be balanced, depending on the audience, and also to be fair to honesty and the truth.

There' still plenty to highlight about "why I believe" without having to perpetuate stereotypes or being disingenuous. I agree that you we ought not to sugarcoat anything--just tell it like it is, but as a believer who recognizes there there are fair ways of looking at things without having to be extreme.

Regardless of the real reasons for polygamy (whatever they may be), I still feel deeply about key points of the Restoration (ie: the Book of Mormon is still the best kept secret in the world and testifies to me of the Savior of the World).

As I said on my own post about Tensions in Testimony, I like the advice of the late Richard Poll, at the end of his "Confronting the Skeletons" essay: "Don't gild the lily but don't spotlight the swamp". And I love the quote by Dr. Henry Eyring: "In this Church you have only to believe the truth. Find out what the truth is."

Clean Cut said...

Sheese. I forgot to edit that last comment and now I caught all my mistakes! Anyway, great comments everyone!

Lisa said...

Clean Cut: ""Don't gild the lily but don't spotlight the swamp"

I don't think anyone is proposing that's what we do here. We're more addressing the issue of when the situation presents itself - when a person has a question, or when the Church (or a class) brings these situations up.

Often we choose to ignore such things (for example, you will *never* hear about any of Joseph Smith's other wives, forget about how old some of them were or the fact they were already married).

When a person asks, we ought to tell to the best of our ability with the knowledge we have.

That said, a little education would go a long way to get rid of these pesky mormon myths of which I include "polygamy was to take care of the women"

*blech*

Seriously, answers are in the scriptures. I take issue with scripture sometimes (yes, I know how that sounds), but for the most part, people won't argue with that. Rationale that serves only to make us feel better is something we can argue with and in the end will cause more dissention than just dealing with the issue honestly and realistically.

Clean Cut said...

Lisa, I suspect you may have misinterpreted my comment and/or the "don't gild the lily but don't spotlight the swamp" I'm actually agreeing with you. In those unique situations, I too am suggesting being honest and just telling the truth, although it's important to be sensitive about it. If someone had assumed something all of their life and then finds out that things weren't necessarily the way they had been led to believe, it can be a bit jarring, so I'd talk differently or at least use a little more caution in Sunday School than I would in discussing these things with my wife, who happens to already be "informed".

Indeed it's hard to know how much I can tell people, or what amount of "truth" they can handle when the opportunity to present it arises. But the way something is presented can go a long way to ease the "shock" factor. (Although I personally feel that the real shocker is how many people are still under the impression or were told that "polygamy was to take care of the women" even though that's untrue, or likewise that some don't even realize Joseph Smith introduced and practiced plural marriage!

I'm just kind of "thinking out loud" here, but I need to personally remember to be sensitive even when "exposing" myths or clarifying the truth about Joseph Smith, whether it's the fact he practiced polygamy at all or that he was married to women who were already married, or whatever other "disturbing" facts. When the occasion arises, I make sure to debunk the myths and tell the truth. I just hope can I do it as tastefully as possible--even without the sugar!

Scott said...

I think two distinctions are important:
(1) Is the question direct question or indirect?
(2) Why is the person asking?

For (1) an example might be "What is the Church's stance on social issues?" as opposed to "Why does the Church oppose gay marriage?"

With the former, there are so many ways to address this that a firm "Full disclosure all the time" rule is really impractical and will likely give far more information than was asked for.

If the question is direct, then honest disclosure relative to the questioner's interest level is what I go for.

For (2), I give full disclosure (given (1)) if the person is simply seeking information and likely to reply with "Huh. Interesting," no matter what I say. For example, I have an very devout Atheist friend who often asks about me about policies in the Church because he finds them amusing--I tell him anything and everything, because I know what his motives are.

If I feel the person is trying to debate with me or scorn me, then I have found the following approach to be very, very useful:

"I will tell you 100% truthfully and honestly what I believe and what the Church teaches on the condition that you accept my answer as factual."

That approach was born out of my exhaustion with people asking me whether I'm Christian, then disputing my answer because of something someone said somewhere in the JoD.

If someone is not going to believe my answer (not like "faith in my answer", but in terms of factual accuracy), then there is no point in answering it. (Elder Hales said basically as much last conference).

Mormon Heretic said...

FD, this is a tough question. I think knowing a person's motives is important. Are they asking to learn, or to argue? If they are asking to learn, I'm more inclined to give "full disclosure." If they just want to argue, I don't really need to get drawn into a meaningless dialogue.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I wouldn't really discuss anything with people who just want to argue either. You can usually figure out pretty fast what their intentions are.

I think, though, that there are those who sincerely want to know not just for the sake of picking a fight, but want straight answers.

Personally, I find it hard to not give personal interpretations. I almost feel obligated to "explain" things. This is especially true of the priesthood ban. Like when my husband found out about it, of course he wanted to know WHY. Well, I can certainly give many different reasons "why," but they're either just speculation or my own personal opinion. But at the same time, an "I don't know" just seems so insufficient sometimes, at least for such big things as plural marriage or withholding certain ordinances from an entire race of people.

RAP08 said...

I have a question for the full disclosure group, any thoughts are welcome. Do you think it would be prudent to have a missionary discussion along these lines?

"You may have heard or may hear some of the following about the church ..."

Then go on to explain the history and principles associated with the different topics.

Scott said...

RAP08--

Ideally, I would say no. Practically, however, whether it's prudent or not is kind of irrelevant, because that discussion almost always takes place. I don't think I ever taught an investigator who didn't ask me about awkward things he/she had heard about the Church. Thus, the bigger question is, as FD posed, how to handle it.

As to whether the missionaries should use full-disclosure or discretion, this is mostly a non-issue, since very few missionaries are sufficiently well-read on topics like plural marriage, the priesthood ban, the ESA, and such topics to address them intelligently in the first place. They're called to teach gospel principles, not answer every question that comes up; that's what member friends are for.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I don't think that full disclosure would be appropriate (unless the person was already very knowledgeable and had some very direct questions) because there would be the danger of information overload. At the same time, though, most people would perhaps appreciate being told that polygamy really did happen before they get baptized, just so that they aren't ignorantly denying it to everyone who is telling them that it happened in order to pull them away from the Church.

But as Scott just pointed out, I don't think missionaries are prepared to handle these questions. Heck, I don't think I'm prepared to answer these questions! :)

Scott said...

As a clarification of what I meant, I would say that the proper response for missionaries to give when asked about polygamy or some other scandalous topic would go something like this.

"Great question--we hear that one a lot around here. We want to get you an answer to that question, but we also want it to be the right answer, so let me suggest we do this:
"As missionaries, we're a little bit limited in the scope of what we teach, and that's not really our expertise. As such, let me introduce you to Brother/Sister Brown, who can answer your question in much better detail."

RAP08 said...

I agree that often investigators have questions about things they had heard. I must admit I was fairly lucky as a missionary in that most people who asked these questions tended to be the bashing kind. It made me want to go and learn, but I did not feel like a failure if I did not have the answers they wanted as I think nothing I would have said would have mattered.

I poised the question out of curiosity to see if there was some who thought we should be more proactive in presenting these materials in advance of baptism. Like Faithful’s cousin-in-law, would there be others who were surprised and potentially turned off by later learning things they had not been taught before baptism.

My personal opinion is that it is better to have established a testimony of the basics, thus that is what the missionaries teach, before dealing with some of the "tricky" questions. I look to my own experience as a BIC member, I was taught the simple things first and then perhaps in seminary or Sunday school I was exposed to some of these other topics. Thus though I did/do not fully understand them they are not anchors that are dragging me down. I realize they are concerns to be addressed/understood but don't feel like my testimony and membership hang in the balance. I lean on the solid foundation and take a patient view.

One of the reasons I like reading blogs like this one is it gets me thinking, so thanks Faithful for your posts! I also find value in the comments.

KigOfTexasn said...

The Faithful Dissident has it right. As little or as much as we think we know we probably should do as the Lord said “And I command you that you preach naught but repentance, and show not these things unto the world until it is wisdom in me.” Some time we are tested by what we find out after the fact.

derekstaff said...

Rap, the idea of a lesson preemtively dealing with troubling issues is one which appeals to me, because of my support for transparency and disclosure. However, I think it would be infeasible. There is simply no way to cover every conceivable troublesome issue associated with the Church. Better to wait until the problems come up. Just don’t try to paper over them when they do come up, as so many members and missionaries do. Address it honestly and forthrightly, even if it means admitting that you don’t have the answer, that the Church isn’t perfect, or that the issue troubles you as well.

Additionally, I would recommend people do their own research into the Church. "Don’t just trust me. Look at some other resources, and then lets talk about what you find."

Mormon Heretic said...

There was a discussion a while back on Mormon Stories or Sunstone (I can't remember) about missionary work.

On the one hand, the primitive church baptized 2000 people on the Day of Pentecost, so obviously these converts weren't exposed to everything. On the other hand, if one decides to convert to Judaism, Islam, or Catholicism, they are often required to go through a process which takes a year or more.

If we spend time exposing people to things like the priesthood ban, polygamy, etc, it certainly will cut down on baptisms. However, people like Gladys Knight will still choose to join, even with an understanding of the priesthood ban.

Convert retention is a big problem in the church. I tend to think that it would be better to find people like Gladys Knight, who have a strong testimony before joining, than the 2-3 week converts who fall away shortly after joining the church.

Such a change in philosophy will take away from the status as "largest growing christian church", but do we want quality converts, or quality converts? I say quality is better.

Scott said...

MH--

I agree that quality converts are the priority, but I think it's illogical to tie the "issues" we're discussing here to those who leave the Church 2-3 weeks after being baptized. I don't think addressing these issues early on will have any impact on the number of low-quality investigators ... those who believe anything the missionaries say and nod their heads all the way to the font.

The fact is, most of the 2-3 week converts are in lower income, non-english speaking nations (whereas most of the material and information about all of these touchy subjects takes place in english in high income nations), where the reasons for immediate inactivity/departure are very diverse.

I would argue that the members who leave the Church after coming across these "issues" are more likely to be in the 1-3 year range, not the 0-1 year. Sure, some folks might run straight from the font to the JoD, but most run from the font to their old friends and old habits.

Mormon Heretic said...

Yes, Scott, I agree that there is a difference between 2-3 week converts who fall away after 2-3 weeks because they were never converted, and the 1-3 year converts who come across disturbing information.

I guess my point is that I would prefer that we stop trying to baptize people after just 2-3 weeks altogether, as they are often poor, uneducated folks as you mention.

Thinking back to my mission, I remember that one lady we taught had been exposed to plenty of anti-mormon information. While I fully recognize the spirit in her conversion, she had studied mormons for at least 4 years before she joined, even though we taught her over just a few months. She is very active today, and most people can't imagine that she is a convert, and feel she acts more like a life-long member.

Another family had been exposed to the church by an army bishop in Georgia. They had great fellowshippers. The mother has since fallen back into some smoking habits, and is uncomfortable coming to church because of it, but still has a strong testimony. Her 2 daughters are very active. Over Thanksgiving, I talked to them, and found that the oldest daughter (now about 30) is writing a master's thesis on black women in the LDS church. I could tell she was uncomfortable with the priesthood ban.

This particular family is black, and on my mission, the subject never came up, nor did I feel the need to bring it up. The ward was mostly white, but I think no different than many other churches in the area. I referred my friend to my post about the priesthood ban. She still has a testimony of the church, but I can tell it is bothering her. I will tell you that she feels just as I do (that the ban was uninspired), and I think that was a strength to her that I was candid with her.

So the point is that people can overcome these types of difficult issues if they have supportive LDS people who have studied the issue. While I think it is important to be open and honest, I admit that if all members were taught this info first, there would be fewer converts, but stronger converts.

I do want to add another point. This issue is not unique to mormonism. Do Christians have to reconcile why they didn't stand up to Hitler in defense of Jews? Do Catholics have to talk about the Crusades, Papal Infallibility, transubstantiation, etc before converting? Do Jews deal with Joshua's genocide in the Bible before converting? Perhaps they do, but I don't think so. I believe mormon history is more recent, but I don't think it necessarily is more "messy" than other religions.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I'm with MH, I think quality is MUCH more important than quantity.

I think it's hard to set a time frame. From what I understand, the missionaries already start challenging people to commit to baptism after the 3rd discussion. (Or am I mistaken?) I guess each individual case is so different, it's perhaps wrong of me to say that they should NEVER do that, but I also think it's wrong to just make it the standard. A couple of things can happen:

a) People feel obligated and only commit because they find it hard to say no. So they end up getting baptized without having a real testimony. A small percentage may stay, but I would venture to guess that the majority will not.

b) People get scared off. All those who are afraid of commitment realize they better get out while they can!

One practice I never really liked is the "set a date" thing. I'm not saying it should be banned. I mean, if the missionaries REALLY feel inspired to challenge someone to set a date for baptism and work towards that goal, then fine. Maybe it works. But it can backfire big time. A couple of Elders tried this on my husband a few years ago, without consulting me or even asking him whether he was really interested. He was extremely upset afterwards and his relationship with the Church was, I think, probably forever scarred because of it. I know (and he probably knows as well) that those young Elders meant no harm. But what they did caused a lot of damage and almost created a big rift in our marriage as well.

RAP08 said...

Faithful, I found that people had no problem turning down baptism. In fact I think many people were curious but not looking to really commit to a church. I did serve stateside which is very different expereince from some over seas missions.

I think it helps people to really understand the purpose of missionaries to bring up baptism early in the process. My mission president talked about cloud castles that missionaries would build up around an investigator that would not turn them away, but would not keep any commitments. He considered them a waste of the missionaries’ time and encouraged us to work to find committed investigators rather than passive people who would listen to us but not really do anything on their own.

I do agree that as a missionary the feeling of having someone agree to be baptized was often so exhilarating that we did not worry as much as the ward members about long term activity. I remember as a district leading having to tell a baptismal candidate and the missionaries that he was not ready, it did not really go over well with the missionaries. One of them was going home soon and wanted to have one more baptism before he left.

I am reminded that some very great swans come from ugly ducklings; it is very hard to discern what may come from the seed that is planted. I thing the parable of the sower covers all the potential outcomes, sometimes the seedling looks so promising but the roots are weak and the testimony dies. With baptism comes, hopefully, the full fellowship of the ward which may be what is needed to make the difference in establishing deep roots.

The Faithful Dissident said...

I can understand why mission leaders would not want their missionaries to devote all their time to people who won't commit. However, I think that as long as someone actually wants the missionaries to come, maybe even just for the company, and doesn't give them the boot, it's not really a waste of time. Such is the case with my husband. Just in the last month, we've had the Elders come over a couple of times -- for the first time in about 3 years, I think. We've clicked well with a German Elder and I think my husband enjoys their company. When they come over, it's pretty much just social. They are aware of what happened with the Elders who got pushy a few years back, so they haven't tried to get him to commit to anything. If they ever did, I would have to ask them to stop. In a way, you could look at their time with us as a waste of their time. They could be out knocking on doors or visiting "real" investigators. My husband isn't interested and he doesn't want to get baptized. But it is nice to see him be able to trust the Elders enough again to let them into our home and enjoy their company. It might not last, since Elders have different personalities and the next ones may end up being more interested in converts than friendships. But for the mean time, I think we're enjoying the company.

Mormon Heretic said...

Rap08,

I also served stateside. I will say that the first year of my mission, I did not participate in any baptisms. I was really frustrated. The Missionary Guide came out, and my companion and I made some specific promised to "be bold" and start challenging baptism on the 2nd discussion. As scared as I was, I decided to do it, unless I felt a specific prompting not to.

I remember one lady, Harriet, almost seemed to be falling asleep during our discussion. Yet we decided to challenge her anyway. To my amazement, she responded "yes." We baptized her a few weeks later, and she soon fell into inactivity. In retrospect, I feel this was probably a mistake to challenge her to baptism so early.

The woman I mentioned above, I'll call her Betty. On the one hand, her daughter's friends were all mormons, and personally she liked the missionaries. But she had so much anti-mormon info from her pastor, that she wouldn't give permission to her 15 year old daughter (I'll call Amy) to join. She allowed Amy to attend church, which Amy did faithfully for 3 years. At age 18, Amy had the difficult choice of choosing baptism against her mother's wishes. She didn't get baptized right away, but did do it while she was 18.

When I learned about Betty from the previous missionaries, I was told that Betty was an ogre. Betty even told me that she hated missionaries when we first met by chance. So, my initial inclination was just to be friendly to Betty, in order to facilitate Amy's baptism.

Unknown to me, Betty had an incredible spiritual experience while praying about her ex-husband who was dying of cancer. As part of this experience, she knew she should join the church.

As I got to know Betty, I was amazed how friendly she was. She was nothing like I had been told. After a few "social" meetings, I asked her if she would be interested in the discussions. To my surprise, she accepted. We challenged her to baptism on the 2nd discussion. She said no. I was astonished, but we challenged her again on the 3rd. She said no again. As we were preparing for the 4th discussion (on the Word of Wisdom), I asked her if she was not accepting baptism because of her smoking habit, and she said yes. (She was well aware of the WoW from Amy.)

On the 5th discussion, I told her that I would be transferred in 1 week. She told me that I would have to come back to baptize her, but I told her that I didn't know if the president would allow that. So, she quit smoking cold turkey, and I baptized her the day before I was transferred. She has been active ever since.

So, while there are cases where a quick baptism results in a quality baptism like Betty, I feel that the quantity baptisms like Harriet are more typical.

There is a podcast on iTunes called Catholic-Mormon Podcast. Basically it tells of the conversion of a mormon girl to her husband's catholic faith, and even has a video of her baptism. They talk about the much longer conversion process to catholicism.

Rap08, I am going to disagree with your mission president. I think the church's missionary program is too high pressure, like a car salesman. I think the previous missionaries' efforts in Betty's case were productive, even if they were rebuffed. We need more Betty's, and less Harriet's.

derekstaff said...

MH, while I've never been a big fan of the hard sell in mission work (and on a semi-related note, a pet peeve of mine is the "challenge" to baptism. What is this, a contest? Why make it so confrontational? Christ didn't challenge, he invited), I would somewhat side with the mission president on this one. Missionaries are there to bring in those who are ready. Long term nurturing of potential converts is a job for the local membership and the ward/stake/branch missionaries.

But I fully agree with you on the general point: We need to be looking for those whose ground is fertile, and not spend so much time on those with rocky ground just to get impressive statistics.

RAP08 said...

MH, I should clarify that my mission president did not give any specific criteria for de-prioritizing an investigator, like if they don't read the scriptures on their own after a month then stop. It was probably focused at the missionaries that had found a comfortable place to spend all their time. As a missionary it is easy to spend time with friendly people as often time the alternative is less pleasant, like tracting or street contacting. The problem he described was where we focused all our efforts in pursuit of a conversion that was not going to happen any time soon, if ever. I am glad you were able to connect with Betty, I think that there are often times people we are uniquely suited to share the gospel with.

I agree with Derek that getting the local members involved would be ideal. I have seen this become more of a focus, or at least I am more aware of efforts to get the members involved with all investigators earlier in the process.

Faithful, I think you case is different as you as a member can help the missionaries to understand your husbands interest level and help them to take a non-conventional approach. This kind of insight is not readily available, unless through the spirit, for families who have no members of the church. I think we were encouraged to prayerfully decide if we should continue to work with the investigators. If we decided to move on we were to meet with them and explain why we were not going to visit as often. On a personal note I am happy you have missionaries that your husband feels comfortable with. I do hope that they find opportunities to share spiritual thoughts, the kind with no strings attached:)

The Faithful Dissident said...

MH, those were great stories. I really enjoyed reading them. Goes to show you how we just never know.

I see what Derek means with challenging vs. inviting. I'd be much more inclined to invite because I hate the pressure of setting dates and deadlines. And yet, the deadline of your transfer is perhaps just the motivator that Betty needed in order to take the final step towards baptism.

I guess it's just impossible to predict.

Rap08, I agree with your last paragraph. It's more difficult to assess an investigator's needs when they have no family members in the Church to tell you about them.

derekstaff said...

Actually, FD, you can invite someone to be baptized on a specific date. The difference between challenging and inviting is more subtle than that, something which reveals a bit about our culture.

Mormon Heretic said...

Rap08,

Yes there are missionaries who waste time, but I would say that the time wasted is hanging out watching tv at members houses. Too often a scenario goes like this: non-members get the feeling that missionaries are only interested in a quick baptism. When they don't want a quick, high pressure baptism, they get dropped from the teaching pool. They can feel like missionaries are not really interested in them as people, but rather in a "sale."

Perhaps your mission president made that clear, but I know some mission presidents (like mine) wouldn't make this point clear, and I fear too many people were dropped too quickly. Relating this to the Savior's parable about the harvest, some people need laborers all day, not just the last hour.

Yes, member missionary work is the best, but if the members aren't doing it, (as is the case in most missions), then sometimes the elders must do it, and shouldn't worry about short term numbers. In the case of Betty, the elders were constantly aware of her because of Amy, but without Amy, I fear that she would have been considered a lost cause. With her previous attitude towards the church, it certainly would seem justified, but I think that thanks to Amy and the elders, it was effort well-spent.

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Allie said...

I've had to say, "I don't know", before.

There are a lot of things that I have no answer for, for my own sanity, I have to remind myself that what I don't know doesn't erase what I do know.

In college, I had a roommate take the discussions, and she'd ask questions to which the missionaries would respond "milk before meat".

That kind of bothered me. I understood that it was important for her to have a basic understanding before going into some of the more complicated things, but I think the missionaries just didn't know how to answer her, and I wish they would have just said, "I don't know".

The Teacher said...

I ran across your website preapring my Snday School lesson. I would really be interested to hear what you all have to say about this question in the context of formal church meetings. We have been discussing, for example, whether to initiate Sunday School discussions about the various accounts of the First Vision or of Oliver Cowdery's use of divining rods. You can click on my name above to find the link, I think.