I had a totally confused look on my face as my mind raced to understand what he’d just said. My new mission language was still really tough, so it took me a few moments to comprehend the question. He then repeated himself again, this time a little slower. “Why are there no crosses in Mormon churches?”
My investigator had a good point. “Why didn’t we have any crosses in our churches?” I thought to myself. Even though I’d been a member my whole life I didn’t really know the answer to this question. I could have tried answering with an educated guess, but I didn’t really know.
Little did I know that that moment was just the tip of the “I don’t know” iceberg.
Like most missionaries, I spent the MTC experience hoping no one would find out how few scriptures I’d memorized or little I knew about (cue deep echoing voice) “THE OLD TESTAMENT.”
Most missionaries in the MTC believe that they need to become a “super human bank of knowledge,” able to answer any question, anywhere, for anyone. And this gets them pretty stressed out. Is this really the expectation the Lord has for us?
The missionary purpose is to “invite others to come unto Christ.” It doesn’t mention anywhere answering everyone’s questions with sound gospel knowledge. Maybe that expectation is too big.
I think our objective should be to develop our ability to teach anything, anywhere, to anyone. But teaching doesn’t mean we have to be the smartest person in the room. We don’t need to memorize tons of facts and figures. We need to learn how to simplify what we know and continue our learning based on the needs of those we teach—especially according to the Spirit. Experience in the mission field will shape what you “need to know” over time. Believe me, you won’t figure that out until you have someone to teach.
For example, there was one investigator who we taught, the importance of the Sabbath day and then invited her to come to church. She didn’t say yes or no; she responded with a question, “Why in some faiths is the Sabbath day on a Sunday, and others, a Saturday?”
This question was really important to her. Her late husband (who had introduced her to Christianity) had gone to church every Saturday until he died at around age 40. Of course it was natural that she was confused about the division of understanding in regards to which day the Sabbath day should be.
My companion and I didn’t have a solid answer for her. It wasn’t something we’d ever considered or done any research on. We didn’t know any more than she did on the subject.
So I responded with, “We’re not too sure, but we can see that this is very important to you, so we will go away and study this together, come back later, and teach you what we learn in tomorrow’s lesson.”
The next morning, we franticly searched through our books together, trusting God would help us find an answer. Our investigator hadn’t been to a church in years, and we wanted to help her reconnect with God. We felt that finding an answer to her question was the key to unlocking this blessing.
We searched the Bible Dictionary and references in the four standard works on the topic of “Sabbath day.” We cross referenced Old and New Testament passages with Preach My Gospel. It was like a Da Vinci Code-style puzzle to solve, and it became really interesting.
I won’t tell you what we discovered, I’dhate to spoil all the fun, but in the end we did find what we were looking for. That helped us to teach our lesson with real power. Our investigator was so taken back by the effort we’d made that she came to church with us that Sunday—the first time she’d been to church since her husband’s passing.
If we want to “invite others to come unto Christ” we need to be willing to work. Missionary work is not a sales pitch; these people are not customers, and we certainly can’t bluff our way into “closing the deal.” Sometimes it’s good to identify when we don’t know something.
In that moment, I understood what a mission was all about. Loving your investigators! Which isn’t about “having all the answers” or sounding really smart. It’s about making an effort to go the extra mile, listen to the Spirit, and trust that God will help you say exactly what they need to hear. That’s the real way to answer any question—at any time, about anything, for anyone.