I was asked to be a team leader at the LDS education conference in Boston, MA this upcoming weekend. There will be over 600 people at the event at which Apostle M. Russell Ballard, Clayton Christensen and Jet Blue founder David Neeleman will be speaking
As a group leader I was asked to look at the principles that are being presented by the speakers and to think of ways to generate discussion within a group of ten.
I want to post a quick initial thought about each of the principles being presented by Clayton Christensen because I think he has pretty powerful thoughts.
1. We cannot predict — nor should we judge from appearance, language, or lifestyle — who, of all the people we might meet, is prepared to learn of the gospel. Only the Lord knows this.
I have found this principles to be far too true even in the limited time that I’ve been in the church. I could have never anticipated some of the powerful spiritual conversations I’ve had with certain friends I never would have imagined having that kind of connection with. I think that one of the best ways to live according this principle is not be ashamed to mention the role that church plays in our life even to people we think might react negatively. Facebook status updates play a great equalizer in our society in this regard. By being able to convey information to everyone at once we are able to open ourselves to conversations from sources we would not have anticipated.
2. Transforming our relationships with others into deeper friendships as a means of “preparing” them to receive our invitation is not only unnecessary — it often is deceitful. We can invite friends, neighbors, work associates, classmates, store clerks, and fellow travelers to learn. As long as we do so in an open, straightforward way in which they can feel our love for them, they will not be offended.
Indeed, I think it might be harder at times to share the gospel with very close friends out of fear of offending. I’ve had difficulty with this principle in my life, with some friends feeling like I am just getting closer to them in order to have gospel sharing opportunities. Its important to become friends with people because we value what they give to us and how they impact our lives in positive ways.
3. Most people who live in prosperous circumstances have a deeper need to give service than to receive help. We rarely connect with their needs when we suggest that the gospel will help them become better, happier people. But when we ask them to join with us as we serve others in the kingdom of God, it often fulfills an important need in their lives. Just as we feel the Spirit when serving the Lord, they can too — and some of them will realize that something important has been missing in their lives
This principle is one that I think we need to work on at the ward and stake level. We need more service opportunities that are not internal such as home or visiting teaching. I am currently called as an assistant secretary for the Elder’s Quorum trying to find some service opportunities for the Quorum to do as a whole because I think that service is such a bonding experience internally and an opportunity to reach out to others. While people enjoy being invited to social events, there is a deeper appeal to involving others in something that helps others. Of course, I wonder how this applies to college students since MOST of our friends at least are doing some kind of service already and perhaps more service than I am if I discount church related service and callings.
4. People can’t exercise their free agency if we do not give them the opportunity to choose the gospel. We therefore succeed as member missionaries when we invite. Those who we invite succeed when they use their agency to accept the gospel.
I’ve been very good at inviting people to come to church activities, not so good at getting them to meet with the missionaries or truly find out more about the church. I am sure there must be a better way to bridge the two. I recognize that for me this requires more asking. I learned this principle in another area in my life. I have been debating for four years now. I used to never have the guts to ask people to debate with me at tournaments and so always got stuck with whomever else had not been asked. This in turn lowered my reputation and made it harder for me in the future. This semester I broke that cycle by becoming much more aggressive in asking people to debate with me and it has led to much improved tournaments.
5. Most people — even those with graduate degrees from the best universities — don’t know how to pray or how to find answers to their questions in the scriptures. If we teach them how to do these things through “homework” assignments, the Holy Ghost and the Book of Mormon will do the “heavy lifting” of conversion.
I actually just had an eye opening conversation with a good friend of mine. He is an orthodox Jew that has studied theology and knows an immense amount about God in theory. He approached me with a bit of a crisis of faith moment. We had a lengthy conversation about how to know what is God’s will and what is our own desire imposed on the image of God ( a fascinating topic deserving greater exploration). At the end of the conversation I told him that in my view ultimately it was God that had to tell us these answers through conversation with him. He was a bit shocked by this concept. He told me that he could not ever remember asking God for an answer. He is someone that prays three times a day and often asks God for very specific things, but the notion of turning to God for answers or direction was totally foreign. It was like he had never thought of the possibility.
6. Things get done when we have deadlines. If we commit to God that we will find someone to introduce to the missionaries by a specific date, and if we take the commitment so seriously that we become desperate to find someone, then God knows He can trust us to invite him or her — and He will put someone in our path who will accept our invitation.
This is a principle I can improve on considerably. I know that I’ve found that when we pray for opportunities God gives them to us in abundance. What I have not done as much as I should is pray more specifically to be able to have someone meet the missionaries or to bring someone to the church. My prayers in this regard tend to be overly general and I think this dilutes their effectiveness.