What of the
Sharing the Gospel
From the New Zealand Auckland Mission
Joanne and I have had the privilege of know Herschel and Shirley Pedersen for many years. We love them and have learned much of value from them. The Pedersens were blessed with much success when they served in New Zealand where Herschel was mission president from 1987-90. I have never met any couple that have more genuinely warm and lovely smiles.
With a gentle boldness born of love, Herschel Pedersen has been an instrument in the hands of the Lord in helping rescue many less active members of the Church. As a young missionary, mission president, mission representative of the Twelve, and as a senior missionary with his wife, he has had similar success in sharing the gospel.
Letter to Elder Glen Rudd - Part 8
Elder Gale had this experience in Henderson: He was training a new elder and had been trying to commit Carlye Eyre to baptism. She had been taught over a six-month period by many elders, but refused to be baptized. So the elders all crossed her off the list.
One day she called Elder Gale and asked him to come bless her baby that had been born two months premature. When he arrived and saw the baby and mother he had no faith. The mother asked him to bless the baby to live. In his mind he said to himself, "It is stupid to bless the baby to live because it just won't happen." He went ahead and as he was blessing the baby the Spirit whispered to him, "Bless the baby to live and that the mother will be baptized within a week."
The mother asked for baptism that week and the baby lives.
Elder Gale reports the following experience: He went to visit an older, inactive Melchizedek Priesthood holder. The man refused to let him in and in fact, was very rude. Elder Gale returned the next week and the man hit him and drove him off the property. He returned again the third week and was physically thrown off the property.
Elder Gale said the Spirit told him to go back again the fourth week. This time the man cursed and even hit him again. Again the Spirit told him to go back for the fifth time. When he went back the man stood there is amazement and in anger.
Elder Gale looked at him and told him that he loved him and that he needed the church and the church needed his help. He then turned and walked away. That man has not missed church in the last three months.
Going through our contact list we ran across the name of Tom Davis. He had previously been a do-not-visit but we asked for permission to visit and it was granted. As we talked with him getting to know him and building trust, the subject of genealogy came up. Before the night was up, he had offered us a copy of thirty generations of a line of his genealogy. He also told us that his wife has her genealogy back one-hundred and eighteen generations. Elder Reimers
One Sunday we were teaching an old Maori lady who had been inactive for quite some time. We were teaching her the Fathers Presentation and talking about the Spirit of Elijah when tears started rolling down her cheek as we talked about temples. This came as a surprise to us because just a few minutes before-hand she had been somewhat abusive and hard hearted.
She then told us how special the temple in New Zealand was and how she felt very privileged to help feed those who worked on building the temple. She loved the verses we read out of the Book of Mormon and enjoyed our explanation of genealogy. She was very upset though, because she had never been able to use the temple even though she had helped out in its building. We then told her that she could prepare to go to the temple and be sealed to her husband who had passed away. She was very pleased when we told her this and asked us to give her a blessing for both physical and spiritual strength.
When we left we saw her crying and waving from the porch. She lives out in the country but the stake missionaries have offered to drive out and pick her up for church. We are also working with her son and his nonmember wife. Elder Hoole
Elder and Sister Hayward (he is an ex-bishop) reactivated twenty-nine people, baptized four people and had one advanced to the Melchizedek Priesthood. He is now in the Elders quorum presidency. They have nine families that have submitted names to the temple. All in the first four months of their mission.
Elders Miller and Lowe; zone leaders, report on the activation in their zone and stake: Elders Taylor and Hymas have seen attendance rise from 170 in June to over 250 as an average in six months.
Sisters Reihana and Daymond and Driscoll witnessed the attendance in that ward go from 200 average in June to over 260 by the end of December.
Elders Short and Boddington and Miller report 20 families reactivated since September. Temple attendance is up and tithing has increased.
Elder Miller reports on the family-to-family program initiated in December. Sunday morning I received a phone call from a Maori family. They asked us to meet them at the chapel. When we met them they told us they had one of their relatives ready to be baptized. We just needed to teach the discussions as required. It was all set up so beautifully. I haven't seen anything like this since I have been here.
Elder Reimers and Elder Smith in Rarotonga contacted a member of the Cook Island Parliment and spoke of the mission of Elijah. He gave them a copy of his genealogy for thirty generations and his wife had her genealogy for 118 generations dating back to 57 B.C. Arrangements are being made to microfilm and translate the work on genealogy sheets for temple submittal. That was on the first visit.
What a great and successful change has taken place in this the N.Z.A.M., the greatest mission in the church. My name is Elder N. Ward. (I am) one of President Pedersen’s assistants.
As has probably been explained to you I will not actually go into what a Fathers Presentation is or exactly what is involved, but I will go over the success that I have seen take place in some of my areas.
As you know the N.Z.A.M. had a great amount of baptisms over the last few years, some of the strongest members came from this, but so did also the weakest. There was a lot of concern among the members towards the missionaries and at times, quite a bit of contention, so missionaries were basically left to do it on their own. A bridge or gap was created with some leaders, which caused a lack of ward support, which led to a lot of inactivity with newly baptized converts.
The last nine to ten months the mission has been concentrating a little more on retention and reactivation. Due to the Polynesian customs and their love for their ancestors, the Spirit of Elijah is really assisting us in our work.
We have seen a great amount of people come back into the church. Hikurangi was one of my areas. We had an average attendance of 35 a week. After one month of pushing the program, we brought the average attendance up to 57 with four families heading for the temple. Some take a little longer than others to come back but when they do, it is wonderful.
I had no desire for genealogy, or any understanding of Elijah and his purpose. My vision was just centered on baptizing, which is good but I definitely have learnt a lot more. When I go home, I can take with me the knowledge and desire to do my genealogy and prompt my family and friends to do the same. I have the ability now, to reactivate as well as baptize.
One family I saw, the man was a member. No one else in the family was. He had a vision of the tree of life, and he can't read at all. I explained that the Lord wanted him back to church with his family and that they needed to be sealed together. There have been untold happenings of spirits coming back to prompt people back to church and to do genealogy research.
Six more months and this mission will be passing the rest in everything. Missionaries are more spiritual. Their faith has increased and their knowledge has been enlarged. The members are excited, they are literally giving missionaries families of ten to fifteen to baptize.
Missionaries are being left behind by the members. Stake missionaries are excited and they are out their putting in twenty to twenty-five hours per week. The tables have turned, now the missionaries have to catch up to the members.
New Zealand, I feel, will soon be totally converted in the next ten years. We had a trade off with some stake missionaries and found twenty-five people to baptize in two hours.
The missionaries were introduced to other family members of a less active after giving a Fathers Presentation. While tracting, we arrived at Liza Marsh's home. She was intensely interested in what we had to say concerning Whakapapa or genealogy work, but because of an already scheduled appointment, we could only present her with the genealogy sheets and give a brief explanation of Malachi 4:5-6. I felt prompted to also leave two temple sheets and to emphasize the sealing ordinances. Nothing else was said, we closed with a prayer, invited the Spirit of Elijah into the home and asked that her deceased husband assist in the work, then left.
On our next visit, Liza was so impressed with temple work that she asked what were the requirements to be sealed to her husband and family. She made comment that her dead husband appeared to her and their children often. We bore strong testimony and gained a firm commitment to go back and teach her and her family. Liza had already completed three generations and researched more.
We met Wendy tracting. Spoke to her of genealogy and temple work. She was very interested. After teaching her the Plan of Salvation she asked about baptism and now we are teaching her and plan to baptize her in the next two weeks.
Dave is an elderly Maori gentleman, who has within his possession a book containing Whakapapa handed down from generation to generation. We approached him as a referral, with the intention of giving a Fathers Presentation, but Dave was reluctant to even speak concerning the book, it being a sacred subject among the Maori people. He refused to continue the discussion and started to ask us to leave. We asked if we could have a prayer and proceeded to ask for the ancestors’ assistance and invited the Spirit of Elijah into the home. Before we left, Dave had readily accepted several pedigree charts, family group sheets and temple sheets. We also left a Book of Mormon and he said he would begin reading it.
One evening while preparing to go home for the night, a car stopped beside us and the man jumped out and announced that he had a referral for us--himself. We arranged to go out and see him, he lived a long distance out. When we got there no one was home so our appointment fell through. His wife had had a baby so they couldn't keep the appointment. We arranged a cottage evening and had another less-active family there as well. That family also brought a young girl with them. We gave them a Fathers Presentation and left genealogy sheets with both families. Then the young girl asked us to help her make arrangements to attend the temple and to take out her own endowments. At her home we met eleven more of her friends from Kiribati. Plans were made to come back and teach them and recently seven of them were baptized.
We contacted Aroha Holmes, an inactive of twenty years, and gave her a Fathers Presentation. At the conclusion, she gave us the addresses and names of all her brothers and sisters. As the presentation progressed the spirit became more evident. She committed easily to do more genealogy work and then asked if her own children could be baptized, since the work was so important for the dead. She understood that the work was equally as important for the living and therefore enquired for her children. Aroha also helped us teach her sister about genealogy work and she too is now doing research.
We are finding that the genealogy and Fathers Presentations are an effective way of helping less actives to understand the importance of gospel ordinances for their own family's salvation as well as for the dead and thereby act as a reactivation tool.
Visiting teachers have noted more favourable responses in less-active members and find it a lot easier to discuss the temple and future goals with the sisters pertaining to their activities in the ward. We do find; however, that missionary contact with less active members is being substituted for home teaching and visiting teaching in a lot of cases. If these programmes were properly fulfilled the reactivation work would be greatly enhanced.