What of the
How Member Missionary Work Differs
How member missionary work differs from full-time missionary work in Japan and other places in this world.
A Historical Perspective:
When missionaries first enter a new territory, they are the only ones to find, teach, and baptize new members. They also have to direct the program of the Church. But as soon as one member is found, taught, baptized and confirmed, things change. This new member and others that follow can immediately begin sharing the gospel with others. Each one becomes a member missionary. They will likely remain in that area after the missionaries have been transferred. Unless they have just moved to that area, they will know the area better than the missionaries.
As the Church matures in an area, members take over the leadership of the Church. Their interest is to have the Church grow by adding faithful members. If missionaries find, teach and baptize converts who soon fall away causing additional shepherding for them without contributing any help, local leaders may feel some conflicts with the missionaries. (Of course no one can always know in advance if a convert to the Church will remain faithful. Because all have their right to choose, until they die, there is the possibility that any member of the Church might fall away.)
Full-time missionaries differ from members in two important ways that affect their attitudes about sharing the gospel. Thinking about transfers every six weeks, full-time missionaries naturally wish to find, teach and baptize people while they are located in any one location. Their perspective is unavoidably short-term. Additionally full-time missionaries are limited geographically to the boundaries of their current assignment location.
Members often stay in the same location for long periods of time. They are not under any pressure to see people baptized quickly. Realizing that it is success for them to help any person increase their understanding of the gospel or the truth, they can be pleased if they just provide more accurate information to a nonmember. They don’t need to feel disappointed if the person they are sharing information with doesn’t move forward soon on the path to conversion. They can nurture nonmembers for months, years or even decades.
Members are not limited geographically. They have friends, relatives and acquaintances all over the world with whom they can communicate via the Internet. They can share information, stories, testimonies, and inspiring messages to people across the globe. If they have an electronic library of materials to share, they can be effective Internet missionaries as well as helping people who live close by expand their knowledge of the gospel and the Lord’s church.
How God helps member missionaries:
There are too many situations that arise in missionary work to describe them all in a handbook. Likely each new situation is unique in some way from all others. Therefore, there is a need for full-time and member missionaries to be in constant consultation with the Lord. Nephi’s inquiry to his brothers, “Have ye inquired of the Lord?” is nowhere more important than it is in missionary work.
God is anxious to bless us when we are trying to share the truths of His gospel. He loves each person we know and all those we meet. Each is a precious child to Him. He remembers them well from the pre-mortal world. He has a way of monitoring their progress, or lack thereof, constantly. He wants each of them to have all His blessings they are willing to receive. So when we inquire about them to Him, He is delighted to help. When anyone repents and comes unto Him, He feels great joy. (D&C: 18:13) He can then bless them to know how to be full of joy themselves. (2Nephi 2:25) His great sadness comes when His children suffer needlessly. (Moses 7:37).
God knows each situation far beyond our capacity to know. So if we are willing to listen, He will teach us how He wants us to feel, what we should pray for, what we should do or not do, what we should say or not say. And as we pray for His children, He will help us feel some of the love He has for them. And simultaneously, we also feel His love and his appreciation for us and our efforts.
God will not coerce anyone. He respects our right to choose and He respects everyone else’s right to choose. He does not want us to deceive others in any way. He is patient with us and with others. He expects us to be patient also.
So where to begin? Each of us has a unique set of circumstances at this time. We can all begin with a question or two to God, our Heavenly Father. He knows us and our circumstances. He is all wise, all good and He loves us perfectly. We can trust Him completely. Perhaps first we might ask, “You know my situation exactly. Would you like me to be involved in some way sharing the truths of thy Gospel?” Then if the answer is, “I would like that,” then the next question might be, “What should I do next?”