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Friday, May 25, 2007

Preach the Gospel? Don't Bother.


by Sharon

The March 17th issue of Church News included an article about the LDS Church in Yonkers, New York. The article highlighted the work of a senior missionary couple that sparked "needed growth" of the Church in that area.

According to the article, Yonkers, the fourth largest city in New York, is "just a few miles north of Manhattan" and home to 200,000 people. Even so, the Church struggles there to have enough active members to keep an English-speaking branch going.

Five years ago, the small Yonkers branch was merged into the Westchester 1st Ward "due to insufficient priesthood leadership." The article explains what happened next:
Since then, some faithful members in Yonkers simply could not attend Sunday meetings at the Scarsdale meetinghouse...due to transportation issues.

"The number of cars among the members is limited. Public transportation is inefficient; with no direct routes, it could take members several hours to reach the meeting house on a Sunday morning," said President Taylor.

Missionaries stopped actively proselytizing in Yonkers because most investigators simply had no way to get to Church meetings.

I'm puzzled by this. Mormon magazines are always filled with stories of Latter-day Saints who must walk for miles to get to Church every Sunday, or members who travel for hours each way. LDS Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley has stated that the reason the Church is so successful in membership growth is because it is demanding and "expects great things" from its members. But because there is no convenient way for the people in Yonkers to get to an LDS meetinghouse a few miles away the missionaries stop preaching the gospel to them?

To me, this speaks volumes. The LDS missionary's primary message is not "come unto Christ," but rather "come unto the LDS Church." The idea that there is no use teaching people about Jesus and His substitutionary atonement unless they can easily get to a meetinghouse is entirely foreign to Christian missions and the Great Commission Jesus gave to His people. "Go into all the world," He said, "and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Later, the Apostle Paul said, "I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ,...preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season...do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (2 Timothy 4:1-2, 5).

This illustrates the difference between the LDS missionary system (proselytizing) and the biblical missionary system (evangelizing). One is focused on church growth; the other is focused on sharing the Good News of the Gospel -- that Jesus died to set sinners free.

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9 Comments:

  • At May 26, 2007 12:51 PM, Blogger neal said…

    Sharon,

    You have missed the mark here. There is no indication at all in this article that the LDS Church has stopped proseyting, even that it has stopped proselyting in areas where there are hardships and difficulties. There are practical realities in ANY enterprise with limited resources. The LDS church's missionary force is a finite resource -- there are a certain number of missionaries in the world and decisions must be made as to where they will be put to use. One of the things we have learned over the years is that people who are new in the gospel require the love and fellowship that comes with gathering together with the Saints to learn, to grow, to fellowship and strengthen. Certainly all Christians agree with the strength that comes from that kind of fellowship. Sharon, you have skewed the entire purpose of this article, for your own purpose, which is, in my opnion, unlike you and beneath you. The purpose of the artice, as you state in your first paragraph, was to highlight the work of a senior missionary couple in makinga difference in a branch of hte church that was struggling. You then spend the rest of your post being critical of the church because there was a struggling branch? What is that about? Didn't Paul and Timothy have struggles? The LDS Church is unique and illegitimate and somehow needs to explain that certain branches struggle at times? This is a common occurance in the world. Tell me with a straight face that no mainstream Christian Church with an organized missionary effort hasn't had to move resources or people from one place to another for various reasons.

    This is a wonderful story. The fact is, whether you believe the doctrine of the LDS Church or not, many thousands of families every year sacrifice time and money to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ as they understand it. You do the same. To ascribe some nefarious motive is unfair and unwarranted.

     
  • At May 28, 2007 10:35 AM, Blogger rick b said…

    Neil, the problem I see with your reply is this. Your viewing certain groups of people as "Witness's" to share the Gospel. Everyone who calls them selves a Christian is a witness. We dont put on a badge saying I'm elder so and so or I am "witness" so and so.

    Read the great commision Jesus gave, that for everyone not only some. So every LDS should be out sharing the Gospel if you really are Christian, Which I dont believe you are, as you preach a different gospel.

    So looking at it as we are all to witness, shows resources should never be a problem. I see no problem with the article, as when MM's knock on my door, it is always young kids, never the stake presidents asking groups of the "regular sunday" LDS croup to go out with him door to door. Rick b

     
  • At May 28, 2007 2:35 PM, Blogger Renee M said…

    Neal, Sharon doesn't say that the LDS church has stopped proselytizing everywhere as your comment indicates, but that they have stopped proselytizing in Yonkers, NY. as reported in "Church News"

    In your last paragraph you accuse her of ascribing a nefarious or evil motive to this action taken by the Mormons. I don't see where she is doing that at all. She is just stating what the article says and how it seems to contradict other articles about LDS believers walking miles and taking hours to get to Sunday meeting.

    You ask, "Didn't Paul and Timothy have struggles?" Of course, they did, but they didn't stop preaching the Gospel to an area because the people couldn't get to a church. If they left an area without having someone to take over for them it was because the people there were unreceptive and they left shaking the dust off their feet as Jesus commanded in Matthew 10:14.

    As I see it, you've missed the point of Sharon's article, which is the difference between the LDS missionary system and the biblical missionary system. One proselytizes to get more paying members into the LDS church; he other evangelizes to share the Good News of the Bible -- Jesus died so that those who believe in him are set free from sin and death. See Romans 5:6-11, also John 3:16-18.

     
  • At May 29, 2007 2:41 PM, Blogger neal said…

    You guys are making my point. We believe, in the LDS Church, that "every member is a missionary". we adhere to the basic Christian tenet that all of us are called to witness of Christ. This article didn't say that members of the church were forbidden from teaching the gospel, it simply spoke to the organization of the church, the difficulty of organizing in a certain area, and the difference that a single couple made in revitalizing an area that was struggling.

    And never forget, Rick, if I was working to be accepted by you I would be striving to be a Rickian. I am a Christian because I am accepted by Christ, not you.

     
  • At May 29, 2007 6:11 PM, Blogger Alex D said…

    neal,

    Judging by your response, I don't think you understand where we're all coming from. Let me quote Sharon here for convenience:

    "...because there is no convenient way for the people in Yonkers to get to an LDS meetinghouse a few miles away the missionaries stop preaching the gospel to them?"

    Neal, I understand that this article didn't say that members of the church were "forbidden to preach the gospel" -- moreover, the other commentors never said that they were. From what I can see, you've taken our argument about the church not preaching the gospel in Yonkers and modified it to fit your own argument.

    In other words, you have yet to reply directly to the issue at hand (In plain English: "Why have the church missionaries stopped proselytizing in Yonkers due to issues that (in the past) have proved not to be issues at all?")

    Moreover, I don't believe you're adding depth to your argument by belittling rick by calling those who agree with his stance "[Rickian's]."

     
  • At May 29, 2007 10:36 PM, Blogger Ruthie said…

    To Neal or any Mormon who will help me understand the LDS Church's position on missions --

    I have two questions that I need clarification on:

    (1) Does the LDS Prophet receive Divine Guidance regarding the calling of missionaries and where they will serve? (This is what the elders who have visited my home have told me. I hope the young men were telling the truth.) If so, did the Prophet not hear properly the directions concerning Yonkers? If not, then are missionaries simply sent wherever Church leaders think it is a good idea to send them? That is, is it a business-type decision and not spiritual guidance?

    (2) The article stated: "Missionaries stopped actively proselytizing in Yonkers because most investigators simply had no way to get to Church meetings." Does this mean that the poor souls in Yonkers who want to be Mormons are destined to remain non-Mormons because it was too difficult to proselytize them?

    Ruthie

     
  • At May 30, 2007 12:39 AM, Blogger neal said…

    Alex,

    I'll back up. All members of the LDS church are taught to spread the gospel -- as I stated -- every member a missionary. Active, participating, faithful members are also expected to fulfill other assignments, to lead, to teach, to ocunsel, to support. Some are called to be full-time proselting missionaries. Those missionaries are organized into missions around the world and are assigned by locals leaders to perform full time missionary service. There are members of the LDS Church all over the world, some of whom make tremendous sacrifice to attend church services. Where there is sufficient strength and need, branches, then wards, then stakes are organized to facilitate teh needs of local members. at some point in time, in Yonkers, the decision was made to consolidate resources because their was insufficient strength to maintain a functioning branch of the church in that area. That included relocating proselyting missionaries, apparently. My criticism of Sharon's approach to this story is that she is making a major point out of a part of the story that the story gives us no detail about. This story is about the resurgance of the area, not the demise. At some point the area was struggling. There is a whole story in that struggle -- but it is not the point of THIS story. How can we be critical of the church's decsion, at some point in the past, to respond to local needs, when we simply don't have information enough to be critical. My point is that this is a warm and wonderful story of what happens when commmitted people make the gospel real in the lives of others through their selfless service. It is unfair and off base to use that story to be critical of the reasons for the struggle, when the story barely touches on those things. I was critical because it is rare that I she Sharon miss the mark. Her critiques are usually spot on and deserve to be answered, and as a member of the LDS Churhc, often cause me to think and reflect. I enjoy reading her blogs for those reason. This one, I believe, missed the mark and was beneath what I have come to expect.

    My point to Rick was very specific to his continued point to make certain I know he doesn't consider me a Christian. His consideration of me as a Christian makes no difference to me. I am a Christian because I follow Christ. It is HIS opinion of me that matters. If I was seeking Rick's approval, I would be devastated by his denial of my Christianity, but I don't seek his approval.

    Hope that helps.

     
  • At May 30, 2007 1:45 PM, Blogger rick b said…

    Neil said, And never forget, Rick, if I was working to be accepted by you I would be striving to be a Rickian. I am a Christian because I am accepted by Christ, not you.

    Nice label, but I follow Christ. I don't have "followers" and am not asking for any.

    You're not a Christian. You have a different gospel that is not the same as mine. I believe that Sharon did a topic on that. Either we are Christians and you're not, or you are and we are not.

    Why is it wrong for me to say you have a different gospel, but Paul teaches that in the Bible, and your Prophets like BY, for example, said they are not Christians? Rick B

     
  • At May 30, 2007 3:05 PM, Blogger Sharon said…

    Please allow me to clarify something. My blog post, "Preach the Gospel? Don't Bother," was never intended to be a review of the referenced Church News article. My specific point was related to the information provided in the article which stated, "Missionaries stopped actively proselytizing in Yonkers because most investigators simply had no way to get to Church meetings." I did not invent the reason the missionaries stopped actively preaching the LDS gospel to the people of Yonkers. Neal is welcome to suggest alternate reasons, but the reason given in the Church News article is the basis of my blog remarks.

    In my blog post I was not "critical of the reasons for the struggle" of the LDS Church in Yonkers. I didn't comment on the struggle of the branch. My concern and "critique," if you will, was the statement that the LDS missionaries stopped their work in Yonkers because investigators could not easily get to an LDS Church service. In my opinion this is a revealing perspective on the LDS missionary system; I stand by my original conclusion.

     

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