Project Conversion

Project Conversion


For the Love of Missionaries

posted by abowen

If my heart and mind are clean sheets of glass for the year, my experience with each of Project Conversion’s Mentors is a unique fingerprint left upon the glass. No two are alike and each leaves an indelible mark upon my progress.

Last night during a weekly meeting with my two young Mentors, something happened. The meetings are usually very organized and topical. My Mentors (the LDS church calls these young missionaries “Elders”) always start off asking how my week was so far, if I had any questions since our last meeting, or if I’ve had any unique experiences during the week. We then cover certain doctrine or beliefs of the church and talk about application.

The meeting last night went completely off the rails in terms of church instruction and, well, I became the target of the questions.

“Brother Bowen,” the most senior of the two asked, “How has reading the Book of Mormon and learning about the gospel of Jesus Christ made you feel?”

Here we go, I thought, talking about my feelings again. I thought we got passed this point. I thought these meetings were about facts and figures and tenants and doctrine. No. Like a good teacher, these young men asked me to spiritually and mentally engage what they taught me.

“I have some personal reservations about some of the details,” I said, “However in general, I feel that Jesus was a good teacher.”

I won’t go into the two-hour philosophical marathon here, but there is something I want to hit on that is unique to this month. This is the first month where my teachers have pressured me to not only learn about the faith, but to learn about it in order to consider joining the church. This was annoying at first. I felt as though every question was rehearsed, planned, and loaded toward that end. These guys don’t care about Project Conversion’s mission, they just want another notch in their “convert” belt so they can score points with God.

Last night’s interaction with these guys changed my whole outlook and was easily one of the most powerful and humbling experiences I’ve had with Project Conversion.

You could say that, during our talk, we laid it all out. We spoke no holds barred about how we felt, what our concerns were, what we wanted. The pressure in the room was palpable. I could see it in their eyes; they wanted so bad for me to understand and come to a spiritual summit where all is clear. By this point I knew they had run out of trained responses to my questions. Many of our statements began with, “Please don’t take offense,” or “I’m just going to be honest,” and we bounced off one another like hockey players for two hours.

Then, the newest Elder spoke toward the end of the meeting and changed everything. I had reservations about this kid at first. He seemed nervous when we met, even unsteady in his faith, as if his faith might crumble beneath the weight of one of my questions at any moment. But last night toward the end, he told us that he had something to say, only he couldn’t quite find the words.

Silence covered the room like a thick, smothering blanket. He fidgeted and had a few false starts. In fact, he looked choked up. This young man looked up at me and, paraphrasing, he said “I was told that I might get attached to some of the people we teach. Spending this time with you, Brother Bowen, I feel I’ve grown to love you.” Of course I threw in some comic relief. He continued, “I just want you to know from the bottom of my heart that I know this gospel is true, that it can bring great joy–the greatest joy–to your life. I know that this gospel means that we can spend eternity with our family–that we don’t have to wander around alone after death. I’m not on this mission for me, but because I care enough and believe enough in Christ to share it with others. Through teaching you, I feel as though my testimony and faith has strengthened. I dunno, I just wanted to tell you that. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

Congregation, at that moment it was like the entire reality of these two men opened before me. I felt a love and sincerity that I rarely experience from a teacher. At that point I understood their faith and why they are on missions. Sometimes I wondered why they devoted so much time to me even though they know I’m leaving at the end of the month. For them, the gospel is like the cure for cancer, only in this case it’s the cure for spiritual death. The cure they hold is free and accessible to everyone, all they have to do is share it. If you believed with all your being that you held the secret–the cure–to something universally fatal, what would you do to share it, even with people you knew would turn you away?

That is the love of a missionary–of my Mentors–and through studying the life of Christ, it was also the love and devotion he shared while among mankind. He knew they would reject him, but he came, taught, and offered his life anyway.

So the next time two young men in short-sleeve white shirts and ties knock on your door to share the gospel, invite them in and offer them something cool to drink. You have no idea what they’ve given up to be with you, how nervous they are, and how much they care. You don’t have to convert, just show them the love they offer to you. And who knows, maybe the medicine they offer is for you after all.

LDS missionaries keep going…only harder.



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Comments read comments(20)
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Kay Dangerfield

posted December 6, 2011 at 4:38 pm


I am the recipient of the love of 2 missionaries had for me and especially for the
Savior. It has changed my life and I seek to
share that love (love of my Savior) with all
that I come in contact with. I love missionaries!!



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Spokane

posted August 20, 2011 at 4:48 am


Great story.



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abowen

posted August 5, 2011 at 1:08 am


Spencer,

My pleasure!



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spencer

posted August 4, 2011 at 9:07 pm


Andrew,
Thank you for your sincere insite. Rarely do I hear someone honestly convey inner feelings with the skill that you have shown with these posts about the Mormons. (I’ve not read your posts about the other religions, but I must presume that you were as honest and open about their beliefs as well.)

Thanks for this journey, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your perspective.



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Colin Faux

posted July 30, 2011 at 3:28 pm


Belief (in any form) is powerful. I’m glad the belief the Missionaries shared with you was in the form of love. Missionaries who are motivated by anything other than the Love they have for Deity and the Love they have for those they speak with will not be as powerful.



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abowen

posted July 30, 2011 at 4:34 am


Thanks Jay.

There are so many places I’ve wanted to see throughout my journey, but what it comes down to is the fact that amazing people create amazing places. And you are right about caring, about connecting. That is the sum of this entire project.

Peace,

Andrew



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Jay Garlick

posted July 29, 2011 at 11:07 pm


Thanks “Brother Bowen” ;), this a great journey and appreciate you listening too. I am LDS, 37, father of 6. I “serve” as a local missionary here in our ward at home. I was once a missionary like those elders. I was in Portugal. If you want a remarkable experience, visit a ward or branch internationally. But that is not why I wanted to comment. I could not help from feel a tear run down my cheek when you shared that young Elder’s comments. It brought back all over again the rush of love that I feel for the people I teach. I like the saying, “no one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Those moments when everything gets “real” are those that I cherish most. Thanks again for your time spent with us.



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Carol

posted July 26, 2011 at 9:36 pm


I really like your comments, Laura.

I had someone ask me once that if they didn’t join the Mormon church in this life what would happen to them.

I, too, feel that Heavenly Father knows each of us and the situations we are in so intimately that we cannot judge each other. It frustrates me when I hear of missionaries or others that condemn when they should love.

My personal belief, and what I told my friend is this: there is truth in all religion. We believe we have a fullness of truth as well as the tools (ordinances)we need to get us back to Heavenly Father. He wants ALL of us to come back. He will allow ALL of us the opportunity to get those tools for ourselves at some point or other in our lives here or in the hereafter. And we may have multiple opportunties. The LDS church is essentially a vehicle for those tools–not right where everyone else is wrong, but as our leaders have said–building on and adding to where everyone else is right.

You may have a hammer, nails and pliers in your tool box. But to get the job completely done, you also need a screwdriver and a wrench. At some point you will be given the opportunity to get those tools!

It says in the scriptures that Heavenly Father is “no respecter of persons” and that tells me that we ALL have the same ability to get back to Him if we will acquire and use the tools that He makes available.



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Laura

posted July 25, 2011 at 2:26 am


I know people have varying opinions on the subject, but I really hope that non-LDS people understand that, like Andrew said in an earlier post “they only share because they care.”

If a Mormon missionary ever tries to tell you that you are wandering around in spiritual darkness waiting to find the truth, you can and should explain to them that that is simply not true. Oftentimes we find something that fills a hole that we didn’t even know was there, and missionaries have had experiences where that is the case. Thus, it is hard for them to understand people who are in a place where they genuinely have no holes that need filling.

Also, nowhere in LDS doctrine does is say that those who choose not to believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the LDS Church are condemned to an eternity of wandering around aimlessly. I have an understanding and a testimony of the Plan of Salvation, and the reason I believe in LDS Doctrine surrounding life after death is because it teaches that all people will have eternal life, and that all people will end up in place that will bring them happiness. It teaches me that I CAN be with my family forever, and that you can too.

While I certainly can’t visualize exactly what life after death will actually look like, I very firmly believe that it is nothing like the gloom and doom picture that is often painted. Nobody will be kept out of Heaven on a tecnicality, or because they chose the wrong religion. Heavenly Father loves His children and wants them all to return to Him. He will be much more forgiving that we tend to think He is. Anyone, including a Mormon missionary, who tries to tell you that your rejection of their beliefs is condemning yourself to damnation, clearly doesn’t have an understanding of the fact that God is our Loving Heavenly Father and that no one on this earth has the right to offer judgement of another person on God’s behalf.



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Arden

posted July 24, 2011 at 3:01 pm


Agreed – I definitely got that point from your post. The human connection is what really, truly matters. The key is trying to make a connection in spite of the schism.



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