Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Principle of Invitation

Good morning, brothers and sisters. My name is Katie Schrecengost and I have recently returned home from serving a mission. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today. I was very excited when I heard that my topic was going to be the principle of invitation, because that is basically what you do all day every day as a missionary.
            The very first thing that they teach you in the MTC is your missionary purpose. It is “to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel, through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.” I remember that our teacher taught us took look at the verbs in that sentence. The verbs that apply to missionaries are “to invite” and “to help.” The verbs that apply to the people being taught by the missionaries are “to come” and to “receive.” Now we know that every member is a missionary, so this is not just a purpose for the missionaries to learn and internalize, it is for all of us. We all need to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel.  Today I would like to focus on inviting.
            One reason that we know invitation is so important is because it is what the Savior did throughout His entire ministry. The scriptures are full of accounts of Christ inviting others, whether it was inviting others to believe on His words, to follow Him, to repent, or to be healed, it was always an invitation. He never forced or pressured anyone to do anything. In Matthew 11: 28-30, Christ offers the most beautiful invitation.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This is the invitation that the missionaries extend around the world. And this is the invitation that we can share with our family and friends. In my experience, the more that I accept this invitation and rely on the Savior to ease my burdens, the stronger my own desire is to share the gospel and this wonderful gift that is offered to us. When I think about how much my Savior has done for me, it breaks my heart to know that there are people out there who don’t know Him. Who haven’t recognized His love and help in their lives. 

In 2 Nephi 26:33, we read,

“…And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

We know that Christ atoned for everyone, and therefore, this message of the gospel is intended for every human soul, but sometimes, inviting people to learn more can be scary.  It is titled, That We May Rejoice Together. It tells the story of two sister missionaries who were brand new to an area and were basically starting from scratch. They were really excited to go out and work, so they worked really hard and found 40 people to teach! That’s amazing. But, they soon realized that out of those 40 people, none of them were prepared to progress, or to change in order to grow closer to Christ. They eventually had to stop meeting with all 40 people and were right back where they started. They realized that they must be doing something wrong, and one day while studying together they came across John 4:35-37.

“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.

And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.”

They realized that in missionary work, there are actually two jobs. The sowers and the reapers. We, as members, are the sowers. We are out building relationships with people, inviting them to things, being their friends, and the missionaries are the reapers. They are the ones who teach the gospel. So these two sister missionaries decided to teach the members in their ward short lessons from Preach My Gospel about how to do missionary work. As they began to work with the members, they saw many miracles.
When I was serving in Mesa, Arizona, my companion and I read this article, and decided to follow the example of these sisters. We made up a series of short lessons to teach to the members to help them with their own missionary work. We first shared this article with them and explained that their most important job is to “invite.” If you want to help the missionaries, the best thing that you can do is simply invite. And there are lots of things that you can invite your friends to. It doesn’t have to be a sit-down lesson with the missionaries, it can be to mutual or family home evening, or even just dinner at your home. When the members and missionaries truly work together, that is when miracles occur. And, like the title of the article, that is when we all will rejoice together. We promised the members that we would see miracles in the ward if they would do their part and invite. The very week that we started teaching these lessons to the members we had 3 new investigators, all who were invited by their friends to meet with the missionaries!  I can testify of the miracles and joy that missionary work brings. There is no greater feeling than helping a soul come unto Christ. It is both our privilege and responsibility to do so.
Sometimes, however, we let our concerns hold us back from doing missionary work. I’d like to quickly go over a few things that sometimes stop us from doing missionary work.
            The first thing that can hold us back from doing missionary work is simply not knowing how. Have you ever had a friend and you thought “oh she’s such a good person, the gospel we be so great for her” but you had absolutely no idea how to bring it up? I have two suggestions for you, first I will quote a title from a talk given by Elder Nelson, “Ask the Missionaries, They Can Help!” The full-time missionaries in your ward have been specially trained to teach you a lesson about inviting your friends to learn more about the gospel. I can promise that there’s nothing they would love more than to help you share the gospel with your friends. My second suggestion is to read Preach My Gospel. It is an amazing resource that our church leaders have encouraged us to study daily along with our scriptures. I have seen a power and spirit come into the lives of members who study Preach My Gospel.
            The second concern that we often have about missionary work is that I have no time. I know that we are all busy. It’s a valid concern, but we don’t need to schedule a 3-hour block of time each week to go and knock doors. The majority of missionary work that we do is during our daily activities. It is in the grocery stores and at band practice and in our neighborhoods that we will find opportunities to invite, if we are truly seeking them.
            A third concern is a fear of rejection. This is very understandable. No one likes being rejected. And if you want to do missionary work, you are going to be rejected a time or two, that’s just the way it is. But, I have always found comfort in John chapter 15:18-21, where the Savior explains to His apostles that He has been rejected and persecuted as well.

 “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.”

While rejection isn’t fun, you can learn to not take it personally. It is hard when something so important to you doesn’t turn out to be very important to someone else. But we have to remember that all we can do is invite, and the rest is out of our control. When we know that we have done our part, we can have inner peace and feel good about ourselves, regardless of the outcome. My absolute favorite section of Preach My Gospel is titled “No Effort is Wasted.” In that section we read, “When people do not accept the gospel, do not be discouraged…Disciples of Christ feel sorrow when people choose not to repent, but they maintain a vision of who they are and what they are doing. They continue to diligently move forward.” In chapter 1 of preach my gospel, it also says “When you have done your very best, you may still experience disappointments, but you will not be disappointed in yourself. You can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you.” I can strongly testify of this principle. I have been rejected countless times, but I can promise you that in missionary work, the positive always outweighs the negative. The blessings always outweigh the sacrifice, and the joy always outweighs the sorrow.
            The last concern I want to address is not wanting to offend others. I once saw a bishop come in to teach sharing time in primary. He sat down in front of all of the kids and said “I’m so happy to be here with you today, there’s just something I need to do first before we start.” He then pulled out a big package of chips ahoy cookies and started to eat a cookie. He commented on how delicious the cookie was and decided that he would eat another. At first, the kids were amused, but they became quickly upset that the Bishop wasn’t sharing his cookies with them. Eventually he stopped and said, “oh, I’m sorry! Did you want a cookie?” The kids all answered “yes! Of course!” He said, “Oh, I thought it might be awkward if I offered these cookies to you. I didn’t know if you would want any, and I didn’t want to offend you by offering. Would you be offended if I offered you a cookie?” The kids said “No! That’s silly!” This bishop then went on to explain that even though we love the gospel as much as that chips ahoy cookie, we are afraid to offer it to our friends, because we don’t want to upset them. The truth is, if our motivating factor is love, we will never offend someone by extending an invitation. Even if the person rejects the invitation, they will know that you invited them out of love, and they will be grateful.
            I can testify that love is the most powerful motivator there is. On my mission I used to try to imagine the people as members of my family. If I loved the woman walking down the street as much as I love my little sister, how willing would I be to share the gospel with her? That kind of love doesn’t always come right away, especially for strangers. But it can come, with God’s help. I know that our Heavenly Father can and will help us to love those around us if we truly desire it. And I testify that the best way to increase your desire to do missionary work is to increase your love for those around you.
            I would like to close with a story that illustrate how a simple invitation can change a person’s life. This story is about a woman named Melody. One day my companion and I knocked on Melody’s door. It was a door that we had knocked on many times and had never received an answer. We knew that Melody was a member of the church and that she had not been to church for quite some time. Well, on this particular day she answered the door and was surprisingly very kind and invited us to come back and see her the next day. So the next day we returned and taught her a lesson about prayer. The lesson was nothing extraordinary, but the Spirit was there, and I believe that she felt God’s love for her through us, and her heart was softened. We invited her to come to church that Sunday. She began to cry and she explained to us that she knew the church was true and that she needed to come back to church but that she was afraid. She didn’t know anyone in the ward and she was afraid to go alone. Well, we promised her that she would not be alone and that would we be saving a seat for her in sacrament meeting that Sunday. To our great surprise, she came to church that Sunday, and as far as I am aware, she has come to church every Sunday since that day. She has accepted a calling and is preparing to go back to the temple. All because of a simple invitation.

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