Sunday, May 18, 2008

This Could Be Interesting

So I’ve got this little problem. I was asked today to speak in sacrament meeting next Sunday. Because the other speaker is a young man who is leaving on a mission, I have been asked to focus my comments on member missionary work. I guess it’s pretty clear that you don’t get assigned a sacrament talk based on qualifications. I am certainly not much of a missionary, unless discussing the similarities between the FLDS practice of polygamy and that of my great grandparents constitutes sharing the gospel. In fact, most of my sharing time is spent trying to understand my connection to the church rather than trying to connect others.

I have given a talk in sacrament meeting about 2 times in the last 15 years, but I have some strong notions about what makes a talk good. But I am having a tough time figuring out how to make this topic fit into my idea of a good talk.

I hope the talk to be

Interesting

Honest

Thoughtful

Thought provoking

Helpful to those listening

Because the topic of member missionary work is one that the average member has heard about 10 million times, I am trying hard to think of something that won’t put my listeners to sleep. Any ideas?

18 comments:

Mormon Heretic said...

Do you have any personal stories dealing with missionary work? I always find personal stories very interesting, and relevant.

anonk said...

Good luck-I always hated giving talks!

Rubymainia said...

Me too! They are hard toput together and I get nervous easily! Ahhhhhhhhh!
So I did a great new post! Go! Go!To rubyreddmania.blogspot.com!

Love,

Me(great Ruby)

Fifthgen said...

Hard topic, because who is really good at/comfortable with it? Two current areas of emphasis in "member missionary work" are inclusion and unconditional kindness/neighborliness. But I think those ideas are rarely developed in realistic, nuts-and-bolts terms. You could make a pretty good, thought-provoking talk out of those topics, especially given your life experiences. You could really challenge your ward members on how inclusive they really are. Also, see Elder Ballard's talk in October conference last year. He suggested that we all be prepared to talk to others about "facts, faith, family and fruits." You have a pretty thoughtful take on the fruits of LDS Church membership that are valuable to you and might be valuable to others.

jupee said...

I find statistics about missionary work interesting. How many? How old? How many girls? Where are they? What kind of success/failure do they have? What kind of short or long term impact do they have on people/communities? (I don't know how to go about getting this information.)

It might be interesting to speculate about where the church would be without its missionaries. You could be honest and thought provoking and I bet a lot in the congregation would think that you were bearing your testimony about the importance of missionary work.

Rubymainia said...

Poem of the weeeeek

reddirtgirl said...

You could warn them against the dangers of returning home full of self importance.

Or you could take the high road and focus on SERVICE and really getting to know the people that they meet as brothers and sisters. (You're good at this.)

My mom told me about one of her friends that is a visiting teacher to a mentally ill woman. This friend brings catfood to the woman every month. I like that kind of missionary work.

reddirtgirl said...

Oh. The cat food is for her cats. Just in case that wasn't clear:)

jupee said...

Another idea. What responsibility do Mormons in the media have to be missionaries? I'm thinking about Mitt and Jon and Harry and there's an article in this week's Newsweek called "America's Next Top Mormon" all about the rise of Mormons on idol, survivor, that dance show, etc.

Oh, and as an aside, I'm a project for one of my clients. He keeps sending me photos he's taken of the big house and the assembly hall and the flowers. He claims to be showing off his amateur photography skills, but I'm a little suspecious given that I've not seen a picture of anything outside of Temple Square. And I've seen approximately 10 photos. I'll let you know if it works. So far, no dice.

Anonymous said...

Here's the plan:

1. warn the young lad that odds are the next 2 years of his life won't really be his best, regardless of what the ensign and most others parrot from the pulpit upon the blessed end of the obligation. give him permission now to speak the truth when he gets back. let him know it's okay to say it sucked, or it was okay but not the best 2 years, or maybe in fact it was the best 2 years.

2. tell the lad to seek honestly to do what is best for others, which does not always include helping them gain membership in the mormon church, regardless of the pressure from silly zone leaders and others above him.

3. tell him that hoping for a medical release in the first few months is a completely rational thought, and most others hope for the same, but don't talk about that until they get home, if ever.

4. explain the difference between little white lies and weekly mission stats.

5. tell him to pray to god that his mission president is not aspiring to be a g.a. in the near future

6. tell him that if it's service he wants to render, maybe the peace corps is a better option.

that's a start. you can add more, no doubt. if you follow my advice, this could in fact be the most honest farewell (do they let them call it that anymore?) in the history of any upper eleveation ward in davis county, or maybe even in the church, for that matter.

go ahead, i double dog dare you. give the lad a send off he won't soon forget. and in the process, ensure that you'll never be asked to speak again. and then thank me later.

signed,

plain talk from the flatlands

Anonymous said...

i just thought of one more:

7. tell the lad to become familiar with local news, issues, current events, etc. no doubt this will be contrary to one of the most insipid rules which says to not read any of such things. which mystifies me because if you really want to connect with people, it's nice to know what they are reading and hearing in the news; knowing this helps you connect and build relationships; and ain't that a big part of what it's all about? the best thing i did was read the sydney morning herald at least once a week. it provided plenty of fodder for chatter during the many hours of mindless door knocking we did.

8. tell the lad that most investigators are a bit nuts and chances of him converting a middle class traditional family are slim to none.

i need to stop. i'm having hot flashes.

Fifthgen said...

How about this idea: You turn it around a bit and talk about the benefits to the "member missionary" of developing the qualities of openness, tolerance, kindness, etc.

The Faithful Dissident said...

What about missionary work from your perspective, what works for you and what doesn't? You could talk a bit about your struggles, maybe not in-depth, but just in general and what kind of missionary work has been most helpful to you. I've known many missionaries over the years and there are a few that you never forget -- for good or bad. Some have been very humble, caring and considerate and leave you with the impression that your friendship with them and personal well-being is more important to them than whether you're baptized or active. Others, unfortunately, leave you with the impression of a telemarketer, that is to say that all they want is to get your baptized to add to their statistics, while a personal connection or friendship comes a distant second. Unfortunately, those who take the latter approach can quickly erase the good that the former may have done. My husband had such an experience with one pair of elders and in a way, I feel that the damage done is irrepairable. Maybe not, but it will certainly be a long, hard road.

Rubymainia said...

rubyreddmania.blogspot.com

pb said...

How about questioning whether conversion from the religion of your upbringing is a good idea. There is some thought out there that it is usually best to attempt to access god through the pathways that the religion of your own culture provides. The dalai lama, for instance, has taken an anti-conversion stance for buddhists, meaning that buddhists should not be attempting to convert others to buddhism, but rather, if a christian or muslim or whatever is attracted to buddhism, then that person should be encouraged to incorporate buddhists insights into the context of their own religion, but not abandon their own religion. So I guess I might want to challenge the congregation to at least consider, first, what is the reason -- is there a reason? -- to attempt to convert people from the religion of their upbringing.

As for people who have no religion, there may be some benefit to exposure, but I tend to think that if a person is nonreligious, its probably b/c they're perfectly content with life as it is, not b/c they just haven't heard the good news yet. On the flip side, I tend to agree with anonymous that most "investigators" are probably investigating because they're a bit nuts, i.e., they're unhappy and discontented on some level.

So for that segment of the population, the missionary needs to be able to demonstrate that he's got what the other person wants. If that thing is happiness and contentment, then the missionary has got to in fact BE happy and content. The seeker will then naturally want to have a piece of what the missionary has. But if the missionary does not personify what seems to be missing for the seeker, then the seeker is unlikely to want to buy what the missionary is selling. Its kind of like if Jenny Craig is fat, she's not going to get signers onto her diet plan.

Just some thoughts.

Fifthgen said...

pb: Just to be clear, are you saying that anyone who investigates a religious tradition different from the one in which they were raised (for example, a Christian from the western United States exploring, say, Buddhism) is likely to be unhappy, discontented and a bit nuts?

pb said...

yes. I was hoping everyone wouldn't pick up on that, but yes I admit it. I'm a bit nuts.

Fifthgen said...

Hey, join the club. Nutiness seems to me evenly distributed across cultures, traditions and degrees of "truth seekiness." (I really like that last term; might have to copyright it).