Dear Elders and Sisters,
This past week I had to opportunity to interview a member from one of the stakes in our mission. He was baptized several years ago and has remained fairly active in the Church. He was fellowshipped by the members of his ward and given opportunities to serve others. He has established friendships that have helped him and blessed his life. He expressed to me his belief that the gospel is perfect and the Church is true. At one time he was strongly considering serving a full-time mission. Despite all of this, he has been troubled by nagging feelings that he had been pressured and manipulated at the time of his baptism. He has been so consumed by these intense feelings that he is actually contemplating leaving the Church. As he related to me his recollection of the events at the time of his baptism, I could understand why he would be struggling with such feelings. In his mind, the missionaries had treated him more like a statistic than someone they loved.
Since our recent zone conference, many of you have commented in your letters about my invitation to “measure all that we do according to our missionary purpose.” I have appreciated your thoughts and insights. I would like to share with you two excerpts from emails that I received this week:
“Drawing from my own experience as a convert and the perspectives expressed to me by other recent converts I have befriended … I think nearly every convert at one point or another of their conversion will wonder if they are being manipulated or tricked in some way. This question will persistently hang in the back of their mind, even if they are not constantly thinking or wondering about it…It's unfortunate that in my correspondence with some of my convert friends (who were at one point or another struggling to adjust to our faith) some of them have expressed contempt at techniques used by their missionaries which they have felt were dishonest or coercive. Unfortunately fixation upon these unpleasant and unnecessary experiences have become for them stumbling-blocks, detracting them from tasting the goodness of the gospel and enduring on the simple path paved by Christ.”
“It has been such an honor and joy to serve with Sister ________.... She has inspired me to be a better missionary, and a holier person. We have actively worked together to focus all our thoughts on Christ and our mission. To not compare to others, to say nothing negative or sarcastic, or about the past or future (on or off mission). I've truly felt numbers become simply a measurement, nothing that controls us nor we try to control. The lessons and new investigators have just happened by the hand of the Lord as we try to keep our spiritual eyes and ears open.”
When Sister Blickenstaff and I attended the mission president’s seminar in February, Elder Holland reminded us that, “this work is a labor of love, and must be a labor of love.” On page 10 of Preach My Gospel we learn that one of the ways we can know we are a successful missionary is if we “love the people and desire their salvation.” Moroni taught that charity is the “pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47) and invited us to “pray unto the Father will all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love” (Mor. 7:48). We learn in PMG that as we strive to develop charity and live righteously, our “love for all people will increase, especially those among whom [we] labor” (PMG, pg. 118).
We will find greater fulfillment and joy in this work as we strive to serve in the Lord’s way and to follow His example in all things. Thank you for your faith and diligence and for striving to let the pure love of Christ be your motivation for all that you do.