Had a wonderful experience being in Provo yesterday to drop my oldest daughter at the MTC. Spending the last 24 hours of her preparation with few distractions was a great treat for her mom and me.
We had another experience at the same time that magnified the spirit of the moment . The night we arrived in Provo, I received an email from a young lady who has been reading my other blog (reallywanttoknow.wordpress.com). She told me that the posts there had helped her work through some difficult questions about the gospel, and that after taking the missionary discussions both she and her husband had decided to get baptized.
Even cooler, she lives in Provo and agreed to meet us just before we dropped off Number One at the MTC. My family was up for it, so off we went. It was a quick meeting, but it meant the world to me.
This young investigator (to preserve her privacy, I will refer to her as “Gator Girl”) was very excited about getting baptized and was particularly anxious to give Number One a hug before she hit the MTC. Then she offered some advice, which is really the point of this post. She told Number One that there were two things she wanted her to remember.
The first was to be obedient. She said that investigators can tell when a missionary is not following the rules of the mission, and it interferes with their ability to teach effectively.
The second was to genuinely love the people you teach, because investigators can feel when the missionary’s love is genuine, as opposed to when the investigator is just another statistic in a weekly report.
That advice seemed to connect with my daughter, and I thought about it a great deal for the rest of the day. I became convinced that for any of us who want to share the gospel with others, Gator’s Girl’s counsel is just as important.
We have to be obedient. That doesn’t mean that every member of the Church has to live by the little white missionary handbook (my colored shirts and facial hair can stay), but it does mean that we have to strive to be obedient to that same gospel that we proclaim to be true. If we attempt to testify of something that we have not bought into ourselves, others will sense that conflict in us. Worse, we may outwardly manifest that internal conflict through very obvious bad behavior. People will listen more closely if we have demonstrated that we believe these principles to the point of living them.
We need to love more genuinely. Sometimes in our discussions of missionary service we talk about friendship with non-members in a way that is nearly manipulative. We discuss how to make more non-member friends so that we can share the gospel with them. What I think is more important is that we demonstrate a genuine love to other people. If we truly and deeply care about our neighbors, we will be naturally more inclined to share with them the things that make us happy. And when we do share, our friends will know that it is out of an honest love for them and not contrived or forced.
Both of these pieces of advice are about putting our hearts where our mouths are: Loving the gospel enough to live it, and loving others enough to offer them the Living Water that is Christ.
Gator Girl gets it. We need to pay attention.