Monday, January 13, 2014

Week Twenty-Seven

WEEK TWENTY-SEVEN January 6, 2013

Had an interesting experience I am anxious to see how it plays out. While buttoning my shirt one morning I received an impression to get on my knees and pray. I was given no suggestion as to what I should be praying for or about. I had down two buttons and proceeded to the third when the impression forced me to my knees. As I began praying the Nineteen family came to my mind and the entire prayer was about them. We have no idea why or for what purpose we were so impressed but are anxious to learn the rest of the story if we are permitted to so learn.

In presenting our Bible Study group’s discussion this week seemed to see for the first time how much of Paul’s writings deal with an apostasy that was already underway. In other words the New Testament itself not only foreshadows the apostasy but provided evidence of its searing effects even during the life of Paul

We have spent considerable time the past few weeks in prayer and assessing missionary activity in the two wards to which we have been assigned. Over the years we have frequently heard two reasons given for the lack of missionary success in a ward: 1) failure of the ward mission to function as it should, including lack of appropriate leadership; and 2) failure of the ward members to exhibit the ward spirit necessary for the Lord to trust the ward with those He has prepared.

We prayerfully concluded that in both wards the ward mission leader and ward missionaries were quite exemplary and the welcoming and including spirit of the ward member’s was outstanding.

As both wards are considering goals and there seems to be a feeling to do something different to achieve a different result, we came up with a suggestion. I wondered as a young missionary how I could be asked to set a baptism number goal for another person when I clearly understood the conversion process was between them and the Lord and not me. Such a “goal” seemed to involve me stepping on the agency of others or me being held accountable for something I had no control over. So I was thrilled years later when Elder Dallin A. Oaks stated our goals should not be based on the agency of others but rather upon our personal agency and action:

The achievement of some important goals in our lives is subject to more than the timing of the Lord. Some personal achievements are also subject to the agency of others. This is particularly evident in two matters of special importance to young people of college age—missionary baptisms and marriage.

Last summer Sister Oaks and I were in Manaus, Brazil. … I reminded the missionaries that some of our most important plans cannot be brought to pass without the agency and actions of others. A missionary cannot baptize five persons this month without the agency and action of five other persons. A missionary can plan and work and do all within his or her power, but the desired result will depend upon the additional agency and action of others. Consequently a missionary's goals ought to be based upon the missionary's personal agency and action, not upon the agency or action of others. [Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Timing.” BYU Devotional Address, 29 January 2002.]

In the October issue of the Ensign, in the article beginning on page 36 and entitled, “Hastening the Work of Salvation” there is suggested along with this new emphasis, a different key indicator—invitations. The article states on page 39:

As Latter-day Saints we are blessed to be living in this time when the Lord is hastening His work. Because God has a purpose in placing us on earth at this time, we have the capacity to do more than we think we can. As long as we reach out in kindness and love to those who need our friendship and help, we will not fail. Missionary success comes by following the inspiration that flows into our minds and hearts and simply inviting others into our gospel-centered lives. The invitation is the mark of success, not whether people get baptized or become active in the Church. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said of the great army of missionaries now entering the mission field: “The hour is upon us in which we must now say, ‘Here they come.’ All of us must plan for and use this heaven-sent resource in the most productive way possible.”

It is time for all of us to understand more clearly our role in hastening the work of salvation. As we make member missionary work, convert retention, activation of less-active members, temple and family history work, and teaching the gospel a natural part of our lives, we will experience great joy and be endowed with the spiritual gifts we need to strengthen the Church in the 21st century. [Emphasis added]

This caused us to wonder if a baptism number goal was really the ideal, or should we consider an invitation goal if that is the “mark of success”?

A baptism goal doesn’t involve the ward members on a daily basis as does an invitation goal. Praying for opportunities to extend an invitation once a week (or whatever time period is chosen) is personal allowing each of us to be fully engaged. It makes us look throughout each day for opportunities that might occur. It’s a goal we can set and achieve on our own without relying on someone else’s actions. “I can do this, I don’t have to go around feeling guilty.”

The number and kind of invitations seem pretty much infinite: One could invite someone to accept a pass-along card, attend some function, come to a FHE, have a discussion with you, or meet with the missionaries. For a less active member, all of the above invitations would work as well, including more personal ones such as accepting an invitation to prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.

If one of the objectives of Hastening the Work is the get the members and full-time missionaries working together as a team, invitations seems to be a seamless way of jump starting that relationship.

If a ward had only 100 active families and a goal of only one invitation per week per family (this is for illustration only as the goal should be prayerfully determined by individuals and families) that would be 5,200 invitations a year which is casting a pretty wide gospel net to accept those the Lord has prepared.

Others must be having similar thoughts as the Spirit promotes Hastening the Work. We heard from Bishop Nathan Myres, “I asked, according to whisperings for each family, that they prayerfully consider individuals in their sphere of influence each day, to invite someone to learn more about the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have had a great response. As we desired to just try, Father in Heaven does the things only a God can do and puts those ready and willing in our paths.”

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