January 2013 Visiting Teaching Message: Missionary Work

Posted by on January 3, 2013 in mission, Relief Society Lessons | 8 comments

We’ve all seen the recent, almost wild eruption of missionary applications that resulted from the change in missionary age. This; combined with the 2013 Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) curriculum makes no surprise that the opening 2013 Visiting Teaching message is of missionary content, includes a quote by the (presumably) female-favourite Dieter Uchtdorf and uses only the D&C in the scripture section. Not a subtle introduction to the year.

I daresay most of us have already heard stories of women between the ages of 19 and 21 who are now engaged in the missionary application process. The thing is, unless we are visiting teaching someone in the age bracket who is eager to serve a mission, this really just feels like a predictable snoozy message.

So- how do we liven it up? Well, how about this quote that I have seen on a few facebook status updates:

 

“Today many sisters are being called to serve. Many more are preparing to serve. Not because they aren’t married of don’t have anything else to do, but they have the desire to serve. One reason that the Lord wants more sisters to serve is because within the next generation He will send His priesthood army to the earth. He wants to send choice spirit children to mothers who have been prepared, properly trained, and taught in the gospel. What better schooling can a mother have than the experience and growth she gains through serving a mission.”

 

The quote is attributed to Gordon B. Hinckley, usually with a vague descriptive that it was “from a mission conference in (insert city here).” Here’s the thing: the quote cannot be found in the Conference Citations Index, nor can it be found on lds.org. It can be easily proven that Hinckley believed the opposite; to be true, Hinckley openly stated that women should marry rather than serve as missionaries. So, besides the hugely problematic overall content (one could easily rip the whole quote apart doctrinally as easily as one could rip it apart as matter of historiography), quite frankly, it simply does not appear to be true.  In the words of a dear academic friend whom I asked to look for the source (“just in case”) at the Church History Library, “I call bunk. Baloney. Trash. Made-up nonsense.”

 

This “made-up nonsense” is what leads me to my focus on this visiting teaching message: Truth.

 

“If men (and women) are really humble, they will realize that they discover, but do not create, truth.”

– Spencer W. Kimball, “Absolute Truth“, First Presidency Message, September 1978

 

Let me be clear. I do not believe “the church is true.”  As a matter of ideology or otherwise, my concept of truth will never allow me to accept the church as completely true. I believe the church is a vehicle of, and for truth. I believe in the power of proper priesthood keys as restored to Joseph Smith. I believe the Book of Mormon is an account of real people.

I also believe there is a lot of Mormon folklore that-like the fake quote above, is false. I also believe that some Mormon history, especially polygamy and the overall patriarchal structure of modern Christian church administration, is abusive. So- how can I be a missionary when I have such an inner conflict that is a part of my Mormonism?

 

Well, I think the answer lies in telling the truth.

 

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” ― Virginia Woolf

 

I suggest the same of missinary work: if you cannot tell the truth about the gospel, the spirit will not bear truth of what you are saying.

 

I recall when I learned of a child who was told at the age of 16 that she was really adopted. Her adoptive parents had lied to her until that point, and because legal provisions came to term wherein the natural mother would have the right to contact the child, the truth was revealed. The daughter rebelled, and had a massive falling out with her adoptive parents. What else had they lied to her about? How could they lie to her about something so important? The situation is still an unresolved, painful, emotional mess.

I believe the same happens when we are untruthful about the church, when we try to cover unsavoury parts of church history or when we don’t own our personal challenges with certain aspects of piety. Whether well-meaning or not, mistruths will never convert someone to the gospel of Jesus Christ; the reason should be obvious: dishonesty is not of Christ.

 

So… my truth and my message of missionary conversion is this: I have huge issues. Some of my issues are in regard to doctrine; some of my issues are in regard to certain prophets, general authorities and their corresponding speeches.  But this list of issues is a powerful part of my testimony because when I own what disturbs/angers/frightens me about this religion, I am strengthened in my personal resolve to seek truth, to seek Christ and seek my personal relationship with Christ. When I own that my message of missionary work is one of truth and bound in a personal relationship with Christ, then I cannot fail. Because it is truth. Real truth.

From the message:

“The Lord … entrusts a testimony of the truth to those who will share it with others,” said President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency. “Even more, the Lord expects the members of His Church to ‘open [their mouths] at all times, declaring [His] gospel with the sound of rejoicing’ … Sometimes a single phrase of testimony can set events in motion that affect someone’s life for eternity.”

And:

But that every man (and woman) might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world (Doctrine and Covenants 1:20)

 

So, rather than giving you a stock message aimed at increasing missionary support, I envision this message as a call for truth. It is not a call for missionary tales of intended perfection, nor is it a call of conversion to administrative structure, policy or folklore. It is a call for personal truth, for owning what works and does not, and for encouraging each other to seek spiritual empowerment… because we each have a unique testimony of candour, honesty… and truth.

 

“Truth burns up error.” – Sojourner Truth

 

How can being honest about our personal church issues and challenges be a better tool for truth, and therefore, missionary and personal conversion? 

What is a personal truth to you, and to the women you visit teach that might not be typical?

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8 Comments

  1. I’ve been thinking about the flood of missionaries entering service. What is the natural (hoped for?) consequence of this? Many new converts to the LDS Church. And if that happens, then we members have to be welcoming and loving to these new converts. Well, so far I don’t see that happening, in my experience. I’m sorry to say that. So, when I teach this message to the sisters I visit teach, I will talk about how great it will be to have so many more people exposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; how awesome it is to help change generations; how God’s work is (potentially?) speeding up; how God was serious when He said that Charity is the greatest of all.

  2. I haven’t seen that Facebook quote until now, but I have theories about why your friends are circulating it. For some members of the church, it is very hard to imagine that different church leaders could have different opinions and run the church differently because of their personal opinions. If you believe that every little policy choice comes directly from an unchanging god, how could it be that a few years back, the church was discouraging sisters from serving missions and suddenly it is implementing policies that would increase the numbers of sister missionaries? On the other hand, if you believe that church policy (and probably much of its doctrine) comes from human people with their own human opinions, it is not hard to see that Monson has simply decided to go a different direction than Hinckley did on this issue.

    • The Lord will reveal truth to his children precept upon precept – little by little, and has done so throughout the history of this earth life. It is not the leaders who reveal these truths – it is God ghrough his priesthood. Slowly but surely He refines his children so they become more like him. I am excited about what is in store for the future – particularly for women.

      • Kath,

        I disagree with you. I mean, I am excited and hopeful about what this missionary age change will mean long term for women of the church, but Hinckley is the one who stated that the reason why women don’t have prietshood was that there was not enough noise from church members for him to seek for that answer; it is clear throughout the entire Doctrine and Covenants that the revelations come because the church members sought specific information. Perhaps revelation comes so slowly because church members are slow to adapt, perhaps it is slow because the prophet doesn’t ask. Doesn’t make the prophet bad, it makes him human.

        I agree with April. Thanks, April.

  3. i agree with you totally! i was a missionary when prez hinckley made the comments about elders/sisters serving missions. in the time i was out we saw the number of sister missionaries drop from about 45 to 17.

    i like the idea of being “truthful” or what i’d call “real” about things.

    as much as my branch annoys me at times, one of things i’m grateful for is there is room for doubt and discussion. during relief society lessons, there doesn’t seem to be judgement just sisters expressing their truth. this atmosphere makes it more comfortable to live honestly and openly about aspects of the gospel that don’t feel like truth….if that makes sense.

    • Perfect sense, RS. I love your comment, thank you!!

  4. Spunky, this is fabulous. I love the idea of making this a lesson about truth. (And, I saw on our RS newsletter the other day that the vt lesson was missionary work, I groaned until I remembered that you’d come to my rescue!)

  5. I think your lessons are fantastic! The only way I can possible make it through rs is pulling up the lessons from the exponent learning from them since my ward is one of those crazy wards.

    Your honesty is encouraging. I feel the same way u do about the church and have my opinions about the church and its beliefs, which do not mesh with most orthodox members. I share what I think every now and again, but this lesson here focusing on “truth ” has opened my eyes.

    Thanks u!

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