Tag Archives: Missionary Training Center

I Hope they Call Me on a Mission…

My favorite robot testicle blog (calm down, it’s a metaphor) posted an interesting Q&A with Craig Harline, the author of the book Way Below the Angels: The Pretty Clearly Troubled but Not Even Close to Tragic Confessions of a Real Live Mormon Missionary.

(What a title! I haven’t read the book, though I am curious to after reading the Q&A.)

Having as many countries in the world as we have, and having missionaries who served in as many different decades as we have, I don’t doubt that mission experiences are as varied as the number of people who served LDS missions. Add in variables for different mission presidents and companions and backgrounds and expectations and emotional intelligence and…

That’s a lot of variety.

I feel like it would be tremendous fun to get some type of panel together, made up of Latter-day Saint men and women who served missions in different countries and at different times and under different circumstances, just to hear different answers to the same questions. Maybe that’s a fun project for later.

For now, I decided to answer these questions from my own mission experience. Continue reading I Hope they Call Me on a Mission…


Lying for the Lord?

I think this uploader believes a clip like this will bring the Mormon Church to its knees. Spoiler: not so much.

If you’d like to talk about the accusations he makes in his pop-ups at the bottom of the screen, let me know (just identify which one, (1), (2), or (3), that you want to discuss). Those accusations are these:

  1. Millet says, “That’s why I group this under Answer the Right Question. The uploader says, “Don’t be honest – this is how you deceive people”. (0:12)
  2. Millet says, “In the spring of 1820, there was a young man named Joseph Smith, Jr., who was concerned about the subject of religion and wanted to know which church to join…”. The uploader says, “Not talking about sin and Jesus – Mormons are not Christ-centered, they are man-centered”. (1:10)
  3. Millet says, “The issue facing the religious world today is “Was Joseph Smith called of God?” The uploader says, “Is this the most important? No it is not!” (2:13)

Still, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see past the spin. I actually love this little segment. I hope at least that the Latter-day Saints appreciate it.

And the title of Millet’s talk was not “Lying for the Lord”. I know – shocker. But just in case…

For those who want to see another place where this same principle is discussed, read Preach My Gospel, the section entitled “Use the Book of Mormon to Respond to Objections” starting on page 108. Trust me – it makes sense.

Hello – Scripts and Teaching by the Spirit

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Scripts and Teaching by the Spirit
Elder Cunningham: “Hello. Would you like to change religions? I have a free book written by Jesus.”
Mission President: “No, no, Elder Cunningham, that’s not how we do it! You’re making things up again. Just stick to the approved dialogue.”

Focusing on The Book of Mormon is just one approach to tracting, though. At least since the adoption of the missionary guide Preach My Gospel, there has been a greater emphasis on “preaching by the spirit,” and a lesser emphasis on rote memorization and the delivery of an exact script. To us, “preaching by the spirit” means relying on God to direct our words so that we can share those things that will benefit a specific person in a specific moment. That means that a missionary at your door may start by talking about Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, eternal families, or a number of other things in addition to The Book of Mormon.

This type of approach is mirrored in scripture. Paul teaches,

“For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (see 1 Corinthians 2:11-14).

In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord says,

“Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained? To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth.

“Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? And if it be by some other way it is not of God.

“And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? If it be some other way it is not of God.

“Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth? Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together” (see Doctrine and Covenants 50:13-22).

M. Russell Ballard echoes these thoughts. He says,

True conversion comes through the power of the Spirit. When the Spirit touches the heart, hearts are changed. When individuals… feel the Spirit working with them, or when they see the evidence of the Lord’s love and mercy in their lives, they are edified and strengthened spiritually and their faith in Him increases. These experiences with the Spirit follow naturally when a person is willing to experiment upon the word. This is how we come to feel the gospel is true.”

Hello – Eternity with Friends and Family

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Eternity with Friends and Family
“Spend eternity with friends and family.”

A belief that is unique to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that family relationships can be perpetuated beyond the grave. When my wife and I got married, it was not just “till death do (us) part.” It was for time and all eternity. Because of the authority with which this marriage was performed, we and our children can be together even after we die. You can learn more about eternal families here.

Hello – Hellfire and Damnation

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Hellfire and Damnation
“Have fun in hell.”

Do Latter-day Saints believe that those who aren’t Mormon go to hell? No!

Our Father in Heaven has crafted a very merciful plan, the purpose of which is not to damn most of His children. To learn more about this plan, visit here.

Hello – The Secret to Eternal Life

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The Secret to Eternal Life
“This book gives you the secret to eternal life.”

Do Latter-day Saints really know the secret to eternal life? Yes! Our claim to be the one true church (not to be confused with having a monopoly on truth, mind you) is something that really rubs mainstream Christians, who believe in a sort of Christianity-pluralism, the wrong way.

President Ezra Taft Benson said,

“The Lord Himself has stated that The Book of Mormon contains the ‘fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ’ (Doctrine and Covenants 20:927:5)…. In The Book of Mormon we will find the fulness of those doctrines required for our salvation. And they are taught plainly and simply so that even children can learn the ways of salvation and exaltation.”

Hello – A Strong Commitment

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A Strong Commitment
“And can I leave this book with you for you to just peruse?
…I’ll just leave it here.”

This is somewhat of a lame invitation, and hopefully none that any missionary would really give. The missionary handbook Preach My Gospel explains why:

“The Book of Mormon is powerful evidence of the divinity of Christ. It is also proof of the Restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith. An essential part of conversion is receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost that The Book of Mormon is true…. Have confidence that the Holy Ghost will testify to anyone who reads and ponders The Book of Mormon and asks God if it is true with a sincere heart, real intent, and faith in Christ. This witness of the Holy Ghost should be a central focus of your teaching.”

With a mantle like that, and the promise that those who pray in sincerity and faith will receive an answer (Moroni 10:3-5), no missionary worth his proverbial salt would leave such a weak invitation.

Hello – Visiting Other Sheep

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A Work Born on the Western Hemisphere
“Did you know that Jesus lived here in the USA?”

The Savior did not really live in the Americas (in the region of the current United States or otherwise). He did visit, though.

In John 10:16, Jesus mentions “other sheep” that are not of the fold at Jerusalem, and promised that they would “hear (His) voice”.  These other sheep that would hear the voice of the Savior were not the gentiles to whom the Savior did not go. They were members of the House of Israel, portions of the lost tribes that included those living in the Americas at the time of His death and resurrection. After He was resurrected, Jesus spent a significant amount of time with the people on this continent. In fact, He told them that they were the “other sheep” to whom He had referred (3 Nephi 15:11-24).

The account of the Savior’s visit to the Americas is one of the most exciting and tender portions of The Book of Mormon. It tells of how the Savior invited the people to come to Him, one by one, and feel the wounds in His hands and feet as a testament that He had died for them. When I was a missionary, on the occasions that I had a chance to leave a copy of The Book of Mormon with a person, I would often recommend that they read the beginning of this account in 3 Nephi 11.

Hello – Religious Mysteries, and Living the Good Life

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Changing Your Life
“You simply won’t believe how much this book can change your life.”

A number of years ago, a friend of mine was teaching a lesson about gospel mysteries. He began his comments by reading a little scripture in Alma. The scripture quotes Ammon, a Book of Mormon missionary, as he teaches,

“He that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God (see Alma 26:22).

He told us that his first reaction was to think that these “mysteries of God” referred to the really deep questions – the kind of goofy conjecture that often takes a class or congregation off topic in an otherwise calm Sunday school class or fast and testimony meeting (you know the kind I’m talking about). After thinking about it, though, he realized that these aren’t really the mysteries that Ammon is talking about.

To most people, where they come from – really come from – is a total mystery. To most people, how to make choices that lead to true happiness – not just fleeting satisfaction – is a total mystery.

Living with these kinds of questions is tough. Living with the consequences of bad choices made on imperfect information is tough.

One of my favorite promises from within the Book of Mormon comes not from the original text itself, but from an introduction that was added after the book was translated. We’re told that the Book of Mormon

“puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come” (Introduction; emphasis added).

The gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t about minding your vices so that, in the final balance where your life’s actions are accounted for, the scales are tipped towards “good.” It’s about making your life here – the one you’re living right now – sweeter and more fulfilling.

The Book of Mormon, precisely because it contains the doctrines of the gospel, truly can change your life for the better.

Joseph Smith said that

“a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

Gordon B. Hinckley said,

“Those who have read (The Book of Mormon) prayerfully, be they rich or poor, learned or unlearned, have grown under its power…. Without reservation I promise you that if you will prayerfully read The Book of Mormon, regardless of how many times you previously have read it, there will come into your hearts… the Spirit of the Lord. There will come a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to his commandments, and there will come a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.”

Those are quite the assertions.

Now, it’s a big book, and you might find the idea of just jumping straight in to be intimidating. Consider as a starting point these questions:

The Book of Mormon contains answers to many other “questions of the soul.” If you’re interested in a copy of the Book of Mormon, visit mormon.org and request a copy.

Hello – Old, New, and American Testaments

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A Book about Jesus Christ
“It’s a book about America a long, long time ago.”

If I had to say, in a word, what the Book of Mormon was about, then I’d probably go with…

“Jesus Christ.”

(Okay, that’s two words.)

It’s true that the setting is somewhere in the Americas, from about 600 BC to about 400 AD, but the subject is the Savior Jesus Christ and His teachings. You may consider that to be nitpicking, but it’s an important distinction (the subtitle “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” was even added to the book in 1982).

The Book of Mormon is a collection of writings made by prophets who lived in the western hemisphere. Some of the main authors include NephiJacobAlmaHelaman, and Moroni (who is also the figure with a trumpet who stands atop most LDS temples). Mormon, for whom the book is named, lived around 400 AD, and acted as a historian, abridging and condensing 1,000 years of secular and religious history into a single volume. This record was then translated in the 1820s by Joseph Smith.

The purpose of the book is to testify of Jesus Christ. The prophet Moroni wrote that the Book of Mormon is written

“to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations” (Title Page).

In some of the final words of the Book of Mormon, that same man admonished,

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ” (Moroni 10:32).