What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
Missionaries—be they full-time or ordinary members—are those who take an active part in the conversion process of others. While the conversion process is facilitated by the Holy Ghost, those introducing and teaching the gospel to the investigator are a key factor in the process.
This exchange doesn’t sit will with everybody. On some occasions, a sincere member might be astounded to find that they’ve offended a friend or colleague by offering a Book of Mormon or sharing their testimony about what they believe. I’ve always wondered on what grounds people grow upset over this type of thing.
This issue was brought to my recollection when reading the Non-Mormon guide to success in Utah, published in today’s Deseret News. Number 8 was the memory trigger:
8. Accept the compliment. Some nonmembers are angered over the attempts by their Mormon associates to convert them. So what? Every day billions are spent to change our preferences for toothpaste, automobiles, clothing, etc. LDS faithful do not receive commissions for conversions — their willingness to share the faith is genuine. I’m always honored when a member courts an obnoxious heathen like me.
Indeed, so what? Rich men in faraway skyscrapers have long meetings about how they can get you to change your ways and adopt a new lifestyle, use a new product, or think a certain way. These people obviously couldn’t care less about you as an individual. All they are concerned with is the money in your pocket.
Contrast the intentions of these persons with those of an LDS neighbor, colleague, or friend. When this person reaches out to share their beliefs, a video, or a casserole, their intentions are pure and friendly. While their end goal might be to see you baptized, it is only because the gospel is so precious and important to them that they want to share it with everybody.
If my neighbor was ecstatic about his new swimming pool, I’m sure he’d be eager to invite over those who he cared about so that they could share in the fun. The same principle applies to knowledge, whether it’s religious in nature or not. If I know something of value, I’m more liable to share that knowledge with others so that they can grow in knowledge and understanding as well.
Conversion exists because of people who care. Because I love my neighbor, I want to share with him the thing of greatest value in my life: the gospel. If they disagree, believe differently, or would prefer not to hear it, that’s fine. They have the agency to make that decision. But being offended or irritated by a sincere desire to reach out and share something of value shows a flaw in that person’s personality.
It’s all about love. If we love each other, we’ll share and reason with one another. Despite our differences, we’ll be open and friendly, sincere and warm. We’ll find common ground and develop mutual respect. We’ll seek first to understand, and then to be understood. We’ll be eager to listen to what’s important to the other person. When we truly love our neighbor, missionary work will flourish like never before.