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Just Call Me Chicken

Almost sixteen years ago, I was called to serve as a full time missionary in the Oregon Eugene Mission. I remember the night I had my final interview with my stake president, because it was election night the night Bill Clinton was elected. Memorable, isn ?t it? Hard to believe it ?s been sixteen years!

I considered myself a bold missionary. I was never afraid to approach anyone about the Gospel. I knocked on doors for ten hours a week or more, and taught many discussions each week. It was easy for me to share my testimony and my feelings with strangers, and I sure had some amazing experiences doing it.

Then, I came home ? and became a big chicken.

When we were missionaries, we always challenged members to:

  1. Pray for the missionaries serving in their ward by name.
  2. Pray for the missionaries serving from their ward by name.
  3. Pray that they would have a personal missionary experience.

And you know, many, many people did have missionary experiences! Our greatest finding tool was member referrals, and those were the investigators who were usually the most prepared to listen to the gospel message and accept baptism. Member missionaries were our greatest blessing!

So while I do have a testimony of member missionary work, I also have a huge fear of doing it myself now that I am in the real ? world. Not that I wouldn ?t talk to someone about it if they approached me, but I have a hard time being the one to make the approach. I always hear people say, Why would you be afraid to offer something so wonderful to someone you care about? ? and they are absolutely right! I shouldn ?t be afraid! But yet, I am.

This became suddenly, embarrassingly, apparent one Sunday last year. I was room mom in my kindergartner ?s class, and one of the other moms had become a friend. We spoke whenever we saw each other at the school, and she often volunteered to help. Our children even played together a few times. Then one Sunday, I walked into church and guess who was sitting there with the missionaries? I felt so embarrassed that I had not been the one to make the introduction to the gospel to this family! Instead, the missionaries had tracted into them! In fact, I don ?t believe she even knew I was LDS up to that point.

I tried to redeem myself by immediately going up to talk to her and sitting with the family at church. I also invited them into my home to listen to the next discussion and have family home evening with us. Yet, it doesn ?t negate the fact that this woman was obviously open to learning about the church and I had not followed those promptings and invited her myself.

This family did not end up joining the church. I still wonder sometimes if it might have been different if the approach had been from me rather than from the missionaries. I ?ll never know, but I do regret it.

Last week at gymnastics class, I ran into another friend who I had not seen in awhile. I kept having this prompting to talk to her about the church, but every time I tried, I clammed up and chatted about something else. I did try to open the door by telling her that we went to Utah over the summer to see family, hoping that she might ask if I were Mormon (which is usually the first question out of everyone ?s mouth!) but she never asked, and I never offered.

Today again was gymnastics, again we chatted, again I am kicking myself for keeping my mouth shut! I ?ve really been sitting here thinking tonight why I am such a big chicken! I think it ?s because I know how I would feel if approached by a friend about their religion. It wouldn ?t make me think any less of them, in fact I’d be honored that they thought enough about me to share. But it might change the relationship somewhat, and that makes me uncomfortable.

This article will hopefully spark some conversation about how to share the gospel in a way that doesn ?t seem overbearing. I ?m sure there are many out there who do a much better job at it than I do! I am great at befriending investigators and helping through the learning process, but the actual invitation is what I struggle with. What have you done to be a good member missionary?

{ 26 comments… add one }
  • Alison Moore Smith September 15, 2008, 10:39 pm

    What a fun and home-hitting article.

    To tell the truth, I don’t do much at all except what I do online. Why? Because I’m apparently a perfect conduit for the spirit of idiocy. I used to be somewhat bold, too. But the result was, every single time: (1) utter rejection, (2) making a fool of myself, (3) kids disallowed to play with my kids, (4) crickets. You get the idea.

    In your situation, had I introduced the friends to the gospel, it wouldn’t have brought them closer to baptism, it would have caused them to slam the door in the missionaries’ faces and hide under the bed.

  • jennycherie September 16, 2008, 6:41 am

    how to share the gospel in a way that doesn ?t seem overbearing. I ?m sure there are many out there who do a much better job at it than I do! I am great at befriending investigators and helping through the learning process, but the actual invitation is what I struggle with. What have you done to be a good member missionary?
    _______________

    Great article, Angie! I am with you – the invitation is difficult. Honestly, I really feel that I am just very unfaithful in this particular thing. TIME TO CHANGE! My husband has given out loads of pass-along cards and chats with people he sees at work (while delivering dangerous chemicals and hazardous materials :devil:) about the gospel all the time and I am so wimpy! My kids are amazing and fearless when it comes to talking about the church with their friends. In fact, I worry sometimes that they are going to get picked on or ostracized for asking some kid on the playground, “Do you follow God’s Rules??? Then you shouldn’t say/do that!” And I do nothing!

    I think that if we are prayerful, we need not fear. Really, when we are doing the Lord’s work, we have to be willing to be his hands whether that means that we get a “yes, I’d love to meet the missionaries and keep next Saturday open for my baptism!” or a “no, how dare you try to suck me into your weird Mormon cult!” Angie, thank you for getting me to think about this!

    Posted By: Alison Moore SmithBecause I’m apparently a perfect conduit for the spirit of idiocy. I used to be somewhat bold, too. But the result was, every single time: (1) utter rejection, (2) making a fool of myself, (3) kids disallowed to play with my kids, (4) crickets. You get the idea.

    Alison, my husband has experienced this as well but I don’t think that means that either one of you is a conduit for the spirit of idiocy (though that was beautifully expressed :wink:). I think that those are probably important experiences for you [think how much faith you showed each time you tried again after facing utter rejection or making a fool of yourself – seriously – that is a mountain of faith just getting through the four experiences you listed and that list probably represents many more than four efforts!] and for the person on the receiving end of your effort. My husband had a friend he really enjoyed chatting with when he was driving over the road. They lived near enough to us that we were beginning to make plans to get our families together for dinner on a weekend when they were both home. Then my husband said something about church (not even trying to invite them, just that we were LDS) and SLAM! He will no longer even talk to my husband – – he could not run away fast enough! That is a shame and it was irritating/hurtful/silly, but that experience may serve some purpose. For us, it is a reminder that all of the friends in the world are not enough for us to ever want to hide our faith. For them, who knows? Will it serve to condemn them in some way? Will it help them in some way? Maybe at some point they will become disenchanted with their current preacher (who is telling his congregation to stay far, far away from the bad, contaminating Mormons) and meet someone else and remember the old friend they quit talking to because he was Mormon. Who knows?

  • Ray September 16, 2008, 9:10 am

    There is a Spanish-speaking branch in our stake that is growing faster than any of the other wards and branches. The reason is simple: The members there almost all are recent converts, and they don’t know the Gospel well enough to be scared about explaining it to others. They simply are excited about their testimonies and ask everyone they know to attend church with them and share their excitement. They know they can’t explain it well enough to convert, so they just invite people to church.

    I have come to the conclusion that the biggest impediment to missionary work is the idea that we have to teach the Gospel. My take:

    All we have to do is invite people to come to church with us. That’s about it. We can answer questions they ask us, but we will be amazed at how easy those questions generally are. If we get in over our heads, a simple, “I’m not sure, but I can get someone who does know,” generally works wonderfully. (and by “someone who does know” about those deeper questions, I don’t mean the full-time missionaries. I mean some other member.) If we do the “finding” and let others do the teaching, “doing missionary work” becomes “sharing the Gospel” – which is much less frightening, imo.

    Summary: Just ask people to come to church with us. Open the conversation with that and see where it goes from there.

  • mandyp September 16, 2008, 10:15 am

    I am also a chicken. I’m a very shy person, so talking to people about anything is uncomfortable for me. :confused: I had a good friend that I worked with when we lived in Colorado. I always felt prompted to share the gospel with her, and every once in a while I would bring up something, but I never really talked about the church. After we moved I couldn’t stop thinking about how many promptings I had recieved and kicking myself for not following them. Finally I decided to send her a Book of Mormon and share my testimony. Since then she hasn’t said anything about it, but she also didn’t stop talking to me. I just hope that someday she will be ready and my testimony will have helped in some way.
    Right now we have neighbors that we are good friends with who are not members. My husband and I keep telling each other that we need to invite them to church, but we just haven’t done it. We did invite them to the temple open house, and they didn’t tell us no, but every time we brought it up they had other plans. We just need to buck up and invite them, maybe if I report back to you guys on how it goes I will have more courage…

  • agardner September 16, 2008, 3:56 pm

    Ray, I can’t speak for others, but for myself the problem is definitely not being afraid to answer their questions – it’s just making the initial approach.

    I think what I’m really afraid of is that it will change the relationship – even if it doesn’t end it – just that they will think of me differently, like I was trying to be their friend just so I could convert them or something. Although logically I know that a true friend wouldn’t think that, for more casual acquaintances like those I mentioned in the article, I think it might seem that way.

    I guess a good place to start is just inviting people to a church activity or even to church itself – so that the door is open and they can take the next step and ask more questions if they’d like. I suppose I always think of member missionary work as inviting others to meet with the missionaries (“would you like to learn more about the church?”), when maybe it should just start with a simple invitation to an activity or something (“hey, we’re having a great halloween party at my church. Wanna come?”).

  • facethemusic September 16, 2008, 7:39 pm

    Angie, I think you hit the nail right on the head. It’s EASIER to invite people when they are total strangers and you don’t have anything to lose, and aren’t likely to see them again anyway (since most refuse.) But when there’s a relationship there, we’re taking a risk of changing it. Or at least, we WORRY that we’re risking it.
    I’ve pretty much gotten over the fear– pretty much. I still have it– I just make myself ask anyway. What drives me nuts is that I can get them to come to activities, but they always cancel out on showing up to meetings (the morning of– it’s too early and they were out late) , or are very active in their own church and our meetings conflict.
    I’ve had the family of one of my daughters friends come to 3 activities.
    One of my previous co-workers came to two– one of which was because we invited her daughter to do a dance number with my girls for the ward talent show.
    I’ve brought the elderly lady who lives next door to us to 4 or 5 activities/homemaking.
    Another previous co-worker and her husband have come to 3 activities, and they came to Emma’s baptism as well.
    But so far, I haven’t been able to get any of them to show up on a Sunday!!
    But as far as the actual invitation goes, I just do it very lightheartedly– usually using the “weird” things that people say about us as a joke.
    Like, with the one co-worker for example– we’d been chatting through lunch, she was asking questions. She’s Catholic, so I was telling her how similar our services are– more than just “the preacher” talking, congregation members participating, the Sacrament always being a part of the meeting, priesthood, deacons/”altar boys”, etc. So I said something like “You should come on Sunday. I think you’ll find it interesting– especially when we sacrifice the chicken on the altar.” First she got all big-eyed– then when I smiled she realized I was joking and started cracking up. But, in addition to her job at the school, she works at Target on the weekends, which includes Sunday mornings.
    With the other co-worker it was the same way– (Whenever she calls or emails, she says “So how’s my favorite Mormon?”) She’s a Donny Osmond fanatic. And when Marie was on Dancing With The Stars she was a faithful viewer, giving me all the details of the previous night’s show, during lunch. She couldn’t believe I was Mormon and wasn’t watching– honestly– I really didn’t care to watch!!
    So anyway–I told her that as a marketing ploy, the Osmond’s were giving out tickets to the different Mormon congregations in the area, for their show down in Branson. They were being randomly put in the ward bulletins, and since my husband is in the Bishopric I could make sure that the bulletin she got from the usher would be one with the tickets. She goes, “Really?” I said, “No. I’m totally lying. But you should come to church with me anyway– there’s certainly a better chance that Donny will show up at MY church than at yours.” She laughed her head off.
    BUT– she couldn’t come either. Her meetings are the same time as ours and she’s the one who makes the programs for their services.

  • Ray September 16, 2008, 9:40 pm

    I’ve found that making Mormon jokes works great – something about multiple wives or making Hell blossom like a rose (when I lived out west) or telling about the time I was called a serpent at work or anything to show the other person that the stereotypes are silly. It generally works – at least to start a conversation.

  • davidson September 17, 2008, 7:04 am

    I like your idea of reporting to the Mommas, Mandyp.

    Oops. I made the mistake of mentioning in a testimony once that I was not a member missionary, I was a member chicken. The next week a member of the bishopric spoke in Sacrament meeting and based his whole talk on the problems with being a member chicken. I felt pinned to the mat!

    Can I toss in an idea? We have this fantastic new ward mission leader. He spoke in Church on Sunday, and he said something that struck me. He said we are only responsible to do missionary work; we are not responsible for the outcome. In other words, if you are sincerely hoping, praying, befriending, setting a good example, and inviting, you are 100% effective and obedient at doing missionary work, whether anyone comes to church or not, whether anyone is baptized or not. I felt like Alison did, that all my efforts had failed–but then again, maybe not.

    Maybe it’s a GOOD thing when they say no. Maybe it opens the door of opportunity to continue to be warm and friendly and sincere, to show them that our love and friendship doesn’t hinge on a yes answer. Maybe that is the best missionary work of all.

    ‘Nuther thought. Every time I have prayed for an opportunity to do missionary work, the Lord has sent CHILDREN into my life, children who were not getting the gospel in any other way. The two neighbor boys are the sons of single mom. We invited the three of them to hear the missionary discussions in our home, which didn’t go well; the mother belongs to a church where they spend their Sunday meetings discussing how to stay out of the clutches of the Mormons. The younger boy joined that Church, and the older boy doesn’t want ANY religion. They are sweet, helpful boys, and they are in our home a lot. They are there for prayer and scripture study and family home evening. I feed them and give them rides where they need to go. They talk to me about their problems. The Lord has let me know that this is a long, ongoing project, and my job is to love and serve. Who knows what the outcome will be? I have seen some wonderful changes in their lives, not from me, but from their rubbing up against the gospel. They are adopting it, and they don’t even know they are.

  • MandyV September 17, 2008, 8:46 am

    As another RM who has had a hard time with this, lately I have tried taking he advice I used to give 🙂 For me it helps to feel prepared. Studying the missionary guide, Preach My Gospel, helps me remember how to address gospel doctrine in a clear and easy to understand fashion. There are also many tips and ideas for asking questions, issuing invitations, and recognizing the Spirit. Remember, “if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.”

    I also try and bring the church up in casual conversation. “What did you do this weekend?” is a perfect chance to talk about the gospel with a friend. Even something as simple as, “I went to church on Sunday, it was wonderful to feel spiritually renewed for the week,” can open the door for more gospel discussion. Sometimes it is enough to just talk about the church and the way it influences our daily lives.

    Perhaps the easiest thing to do is create a gospel centered home. We have pictures of the Savior, the temple, and our missions on display. I talk about my mission, keep a wedding picture of my husband and I in front of the temple, and all that good stuff at work. At the very least I hope these will open the door to discussions about the church.

    Oh yeah, and praying. Just asking for the opportunities and following through on the promptings is what has blessed me with the most success as a member missionary.

  • Alison Moore Smith September 17, 2008, 10:21 am

    jennycherie, nice thoughts. Thanks.

    Ray, with me it’s not the fear of teaching the gospel, since I never really tried to do that anyway. I never even invited anyone to church. I did answer specific questions IF ASKED, but mostly I simply let people know about the church in the sense of bringing it up when it fit in the conversation (often not even by name, as in, “I direct the choir at my church” or “I work with the teen group in my church.” And I tried to give service, etc. In my homeschool group in Boca, for example, I directed the music for the musical, directed a kids’ choir, ran the Recognition Day, started and ran the Girls’ Club, etc. At first when they found out I was LDS I was asked if it would offend me to teach music about Bible stories for a program and my kids were told they would “rot in hell.” Then, after about six years in the group, when there were THREE Mormons in the group (of about 200+ people), and we each served on multiple committees to help out–they wrote a “statement of faith” that particularly excluded Mormons. :fierce:

    The few times I did more serious “missionary work” included referring a name to the missionaries of a wonderful kindergarten teacher we knew quite well and sending a Book of Mormon to my cousin about whom I had a detailed dream. We also participated for years in the old family Book of Mormon project. We also did the pray-for-a-date thing.

    Sam taught the discussions to three or four people who, interestingly, would not take the discussions from the missionaries.

  • davidson September 17, 2008, 10:53 am

    Welcome, MandyV! This is what I need, hearing other people’s experiences and what the outcomes were and how you felt about and dealt with the outcomes. I have been afraid of missionary work my whole life. My dad is not a member and is the sort who has tossed several sets of missionaries out on their ears. Missionary work was the source of many arguments in my home growing up, so I’m trying to change my attitude about it. I like to hear people’s success stories, even when no one was baptized or converted. Some of the success comes in what it does to US.

  • Alison Moore Smith September 17, 2008, 12:20 pm

    Yes, welcome MandyV! Glad to have you here!

  • jennycherie September 17, 2008, 3:27 pm

    Posted By: davidsonMaybe it’s a GOOD thing when they say no. Maybe it opens the door of opportunity to continue to be warm and friendly and sincere, to show them that our love and friendship doesn’t hinge on a yes answer. Maybe that is the best missionary work of all.

    great point!

  • jennycherie September 18, 2008, 8:02 am

    Okay, I was just working on my SS lesson for this coming week. I was just starting and immediately remembered this thread. Samuel was thrown out of the city of Zarahemla! He was thrown out of the city! And he didn’t give up. AND, he went back knowing that his message was not “You’re wonderful and I want to share this wonderful gospel with you” but rather “REPENT and quit being so rotten or you will be completely demolished!!! ” Wow – note to self: quit being such a wimp! Over and over, I am amazed at how easy my life really IS and yet how hard I often THINK it is. Sharing the gospel today is a piece of cake compared to ancient times!

  • agardner September 18, 2008, 9:23 am

    Everyone has had such wonderful comments. Lots to think about. My mind right now is kind of focused on one thing…but I’ll have to flesh that out later because I’ve gotta run. But I just want to say thanks for everyone’s comments so far, they have been excellent.

  • mlinford September 18, 2008, 8:41 pm

    I think another factor that makes this hard is that we live in the day of TOLERANCE and PCness. At least for me, it permeates my life and adds to my fear of talking to others. I don’t want to offend them. I want them to feel respected. I don’t want to seem like I’m pouncing. And I think that sometimes it’s good to just be friends first and let that come. But sometimes I think I do that too much, get too comfortable there. I dunno.

    I will share something I did the other day, though. I was talking to a guy at my 401K place. He took a lot of time with me and all my questions, including telling me how I could sign up for the website. And I just had the thought to share a website that I know about that might be helpful to HIM! So I just ended the conversation by saying that I don’t usually do this, but that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and invited him to check out mormon.org

    I think I might try that again, sometime. I don’t know for sure if it was a prompting, but I was feeling a bit nagged to say something, and that was something that worked with our conversation.

  • davidson September 18, 2008, 10:30 pm

    Brave, Michelle. Good for you. Did he respond well?

  • mlinford September 18, 2008, 10:59 pm

    He was very kind, but I doubt he’ll jump all over it. But my thought is hey, plant a seed. Maybe someday. You never know!

    And I really believe that whole it-takes-an-average-of-seven-contacts-with-the-church thing. I like planting seeds. I got really good at it on my mission. I’m not nearly as brave as I used to be. I have a goal to be better.

    And I don’t think we can underestimate the effect that online work does. It’s part of why I like blogging and why I am involved with mormonwoman.org (and thus with the More Good Foundation).

  • Alison Moore Smith September 19, 2008, 10:07 am

    Oh, back in the day I was Ms. eBay Powerseller, I used to put those pass-along cards in all my shipments. Yes, it’s the chicken’s way to missionary work, but hey.

  • mlinford September 19, 2008, 12:47 pm

    Love it, Alison!

  • davidson September 19, 2008, 9:58 pm

    We used to tie pass-along cards to plates of cookies we delivered to non-member or less active folks a few weeks before Christmas. Maybe good for Easter, too?

    You are a good gardener, Michelle.

  • marijessup September 20, 2008, 12:41 pm

    Alison, I was just hired as a M.O.P.S. classroom assistant and interview went well and as it is a Christian organization and me considering myself a Christian I was put off when I was informed that, as a Mormon, I would never be allowed to be a “leader” or classroom “teacher” as a Mormon. I did say that Mormons are Christian as they believe in the Godhead, the “holy Trinity” so to speak, baptism, the atonement and all that but she still reiterated. I didn’t know I felt so strongly about it until then! It was kind of weird but it was still okay because I really could use the extra money!

    Along the missionary lines – how do you respond when confronted with the whole “Joseph talked into his hat!” kind of stuff? My husband, now separated, absolutely believes the mormon church is one of the biggest cults around and gets vehement, argumentative and angry in his defense of his belief. Now, he doesn’t have any belief at all and that is part of our “problem” also, but it is really hard to hold fast to the rod when you are pulled the other way and our little ones are trailing behind us, me now. I am praying that along the way I will gain a strong enough testimony to just go to church regularly with the children, but for now I am afraid he will do something crazy – not dangerous or violent or anything like that crazy – just call me crazy and part of a cult and an unfit mother and then my mind races…. 🙁

    So, how do you explain the “feeling” of testimony when someone confronts you with “no gold plates, no archeological evidence of the Book of Mormon, the talking out of his hat thing,? I love the feeling I get with the church, I love the peace I feel inside the temple, shoot just sitting on temple grounds sometimes is enough with sleeping little ones in the car! LOL!!I love the way we are accountable for each other, in our service, our visit teaching and home teaching, the many programs for the primary – youth that keeps them strong. But that just doesn’t fly with some people and I am having a hard time justifying “feelings” – I am SUCH a girl!:rolling:

  • Ray September 20, 2008, 1:14 pm

    marijessup, there are some who need to tear apart a machine to see how it works, and there are others who don’t care and simply love that it works. Sometimes those who tear it apart to see how it works end up looking a a pile of stuff that doesn’t work and can’t put it back together. In trying to understand how it works, they literally destroy it and make it stop working for them. Otoh, sometimes those who don’t care how it works get confused looking at all the pieces lying around and question whether or not it’s enough that it just works.

    If it’s enough for you, it’s enough.

    I’ve found that all of the details your husband freaks out about can be reconciled just fine – if the underlying testimony is there. If that underlying testimony isn’t there, the details can freak him out. If it helps at all, I wrote about my own reconciliation of difficult details in a post on Mormon Matters. I would NOT recommend the site overall to you (please, just trust me on that one), but the post is at: The Bright Night of My Soul.

  • marijessup September 20, 2008, 1:46 pm

    thank you Ray, I will get over there as soon as kidlets are in bed! You know, I haven’t thought of it in those terms – taking apart the machine and parts all over – it is enough for me but defending myself (read: feelings) gets tiring. That does help alot, thanks!

  • mlinford September 20, 2008, 3:23 pm

    I agree with Ray. Without a testimony, no amount of intellectual discussion or exploration alone will suffice. Pres. Benson said that eventually, we all are backed against the wall of faith. I believe that is true.

    The feelings are real, and in the end, that is the primary way the Spirit works. Hold tight to that. It’s true!

  • agardner September 20, 2008, 7:21 pm

    Ray, I like your analogy.

    Marijessup, I am realizing that a lot of my fear of sharing the gospel is similar to what you are talking about. There are some things in the history of the church that I don’t understand and don’t agree with. On a more local level, our ward has a lot of…well, interesting individuals and sometimes I wonder, “Gee, what would my friend think if I invited them to church and they experienced some of this weirdness?”. For example, there is no other way to say this other than to say that our last Fast and Testimony meeting was completely psycho. The entire meeting was dominated by a married couple who spoke for more than 20 minutes each, and the man was still going strong when the bishop asked him to wrap it up (we were already 10 minutes over by that time and there were still people on the stand waiting to bear their testimonies). Not only did they take way too long, but much of what they said was incoherent and very hard to follow. The man was so emotional that he could hardly be understood at all. It’s times like that when I just sit back and hope there are no people there for the first time.

    I’m not saying that my fear is acceptable, in fact I’m embarrassed to say that I feel this way, but I do think it is the root of my trepidation to share the gospel at the moment.

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