Sunday, November 1, 2009

Day 25: Missionary by Default

From getting to know others at church, I am one of very few members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints here at Oxford. I have met only one other active member of the Church who is attending Oxford, although I have heard from my fellow students who are members of other faiths that there is at least one more. Time will tell.

Regardless of whether we are two or six, our numbers are incredibly few. This means that I am a missionary by default. I am often the only member of the Church anyone has ever met, and certainly--particularly for the English (the Americans have invariably had some contact/knowledge of the Church, whether good or bad)--the only member they have ever had the occasion to know well. I am questioned every day on my beliefs. Many, upon realizing I am a member, have googled/looked up the Church on Wikipedia, and have many, many questions.

Don't get me wrong. I am not unwillingly put in these situations. On the contrary, I have prayed for them, and prayed to be able to represent my Church well. I love it.

In an effort to respect the privacy of my fellow students and instructors in this, a matter that can be intensely personal, I will not mention names here, but I will discuss situations.

I have been casually questioned about the Church. I have been asked what the basic differences are from Protestant faiths (there are many, but most importantly, 1) restoration of the priesthood rather than continual succession or reformation; 2) the gift of the Holy Ghost as a means, if worthy, to continually have contact with a member of the Godhead, or a semi-permanent spiritual experience; and 3) modern-day revelation and scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon, as a result of the restoration of the priesthood). I have been asked by friends if they can accompany me to church. I have been asked if I am Christian. I have been asked if I would read the Book of Mormon (in an indirect, English-sort of way) with them, and, finally, I have been told by one individual that many have tried to convert them, but that I might just succeed. Always, an apology of being too personal or intruding has accompanied each query. I always smile and let them know that I have been a missionary, and I could talk about my faith all day every day, and happy to answer any questions whether they be merely intellectual curiosity or of a more faith-probing inquiry. Moreover, I have told at least one that it would be a great joy to me to facilitate someone's study and perhaps conversion, because it would mean watching a good person become better as the light and love of Christ comes into their lives and fills their souls.

I am a different sort of missionary than went to Australia eight (eight!) years ago. I don't believe that I "lust after souls," nor am I partially motivated by how I would be viewed by other members/missionaries if someone I contacted joined the Church. I simply want to be a source of information, of inspiration, and, if the Spirit so prompts and/or the queries are earnest, of facilitation.

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