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Kirby: Service makes sense in spreading Mormon gospel

By Robert Kirby

| Tribune Columnist

First Published Jan 22 2014 05:29 pm • Last Updated Jan 29 2014 02:29 pm

Apparently The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a surplus of missionaries. After the faith changed the age at which Mormons are allowed to serve, its missionary population increased by more than 40 percent.

Missionaries have swamped the church’s training centers, dormitories, even some missions. What to do with them all?

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John Fowles on the blog bycommonconsent.com suggests increasing the number of charitable hours missionaries perform. Currently it’s four hours per week.

Fowles suggests putting this additional labor force to work volunteering with charities to care for the poor and needy during the day. Why not four hours or more per day? In the evening the missionaries could put their white shirts and neckties back on and go tracting.

Lots of other faiths already do this. For example, the Hallelujah Lord Holding Snakes church (which I just made up) sends volunteers to Mukistan (also made up) to dig a well or build a school as a left-handed way of introducing the good news.

It’s like the Peace Corps except that those who don’t get saved — regardless of how much healthier and educated they become — still go to hell.

With a large volunteer army willing to be called to anything, Mormons could do the same with our missionaries. Instead of preaching all day, missionaries would harvest crops, dig ditches, hand out rations, sort clothing, smuggle arms, etc.

It makes perfect sense to me, probably because I served my mission during the "Preach Corps" years. Back then, missionary work consisted of knocking on doors 52 hours a day.

Note: Yeah, I know there are only 24 hours in a day. But when you’re beating doors late at night with a companion who has no idea that "moderation in all things" applies to him as well, it feels like there are way more. At least 48.

We knocked on doors until our knuckles wore out. Some elders carried golf balls, pieces of wood or some other object to rap on the door. Going door to door was tedious — not to mention ineffective for those getting knocked as well as those doing the knocking.

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Considering we actually communicated something about the gospel every 250 doors, it seemed a really poor return for the investment.

There will be objections to this, of course. Some people insist the only way the missionaries could have found and converted them was because they caught them at just the right moment.

"I stayed home from work that day, which I normally never did, and it’s the exact day the Lord led the missionaries to my door. Coincidence? I don’t think so."

Please. If Heavenly Father wanted you to have the gospel, he would have found a way to get it to you. He’s God. You can’t hide from an omnipotent being.

If you hadn’t been home, God could just as easily have hit you with a bus and had your nurse be Mormon. You could have fallen down a manhole and landed on a Mormon. A shark could have bitten off half your butt and …

Never mind. The point is that there are lots of ways to spread the gospel. Service makes the most sense. That way you’re still getting something done between the doors (and hearts) that actually open.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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