I thought this story was interesting, and it’s worth sharing. In Murietta, California, members of the United Church of the Valley were preparing to serve their first mission, and they turned to an unusual source for help: the Mormons, or members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Asking missionaries of another faith for help in preparing to teach may seem odd, but when you think about it, it really does make sense. After all, Mormons have a very active and successful worldwide missionary program. So whether or not you agree with the specific religious beliefs, you’ve got to admit that the LDS Church probably does have some good insights into missionary work and sharing the gospel of Christ with others.
According to the North County Times, the Reverend Randy Leisey, pastor of United Church of the Valley, had become interested in the Mormon approach when he heard President Gordon B. Hinckley, then the prophet and president of the LDS Church, speaking in a local conference.
“He said ‘You 77 million baby boomers, don’t get a motor home. Go on mission,’” Leisey said to the North County Times. “I thought, ‘Wow, wouldn’t that change the world?’”
Leisey had been more interested in the LDS Church’s humanitarian efforts, since members of his congregation would be serving humanitarian missions themselves, helping to build houses in an impoverished country. But Larry Slusser, second counselor to the Temecula Stake (group of local congregations) president of the LDS Church, gave them a challenge in their meeting: “Is there any plan to teach them about Jesus Christ?”
Members of the United Church of the Valley were not completely comfortable with this idea, as they were afraid of appearing pushy and self-righteous. However, President Slusser gave them some ideas for sharing the message of Jesus Christ that would not be overbearing, such as bringing them videos to watch, holding devotionals before work, and staying in contact with the people after the projects were completed.
The important things, as LDS Church leaders will tell you, is to truly become their friends and to not be afraid to share your knowledge of Jesus Christ and the gospel when appropriate.
“The house is going to care for … one or two generations,” Slusser explained. “The faith affects many future generations. . . (Christianity) is life-changing, to give them peace of mind, direction … .”
“The task of missionary work used to be to make them like you,” Leisey commented. “But if you get intellectual about it, you realize how egocentric that is. Our denomination and many denominations started rethinking what mission is all about — building relationships.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has said: “Our opportunity and responsibility are to care, to share, to testify, to invite, and then to allow individuals to decide for themselves. . . At the very least, we have a rewarding relationship with someone from another faith, and we can continue to enjoy their friendship.” (M. Russell Ballard, “Creating a Gospel-Sharing Home,” Ensign, May 2006, 84-87)
And, in the meantime, we will have given someone we care about the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and how it can change their lives. Having received the gift ourselves, we naturally want to share it with those we love.