I Want to be a Missionary – Right Now!

I was told that a brother in our ward went out knocking doors with his young daughter last Sunday afternoon. What do you think of the appropriateness of this?

The daughter is a real ham who loves attention. I imagine she was thrilled to do this, and it was probably even her idea. (I do not know this, but I would not be surprised). They went out with pass along cards and a Book of Mormon and were tracting the neighborhood just like missionaries. They apparently were not very successful.
I don’t know about you, but this sort of creeps me out.

13 Responses to “I Want to be a Missionary – Right Now!”

  1. 1 Connor October 12, 2006 at 12:56 am

    I don’t know about you, but this sort of creeps me out.

    Me too, but why? Aren’t we all missionaries? Haven’t we all been charged to warn our neighbor? Perhaps the door approach isn’t the best, but it is a bad thing?

  2. 2 Eric Nielson October 12, 2006 at 11:33 am

    I have similar questions and feelings Connor. I would think that many people would view going door-to-door with your cute little kids a deliberate attempt to manipulate them. It may also be assumed that the chldren doing this are being forced into it.

    If individual adults want to do this, it is fine with me, but I would advise not to bring your young children.

    I also think there is the potential for more harm than good to come out of this type of thing. Best leave this direct teaching to trained missionaries.

  3. 3 Bookslinger October 12, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    If it was in their own neighborhood, then I think it was very appropriate.

    If it was not their home neighborhood, then the main caveat would be to coordinate it with the Ward Mission Leader so that the area doesn’t get tracted too frequently.

    You’d probably be surprised at the number of people willing to receive a free Bible or Book of Mormon or DVD.

    If he had taken a box of Bibles and Books of Mormon, instead of just pass-along cards he might have been more successful.

    If he wants more ideas for street-level missionary work, ask him to check out my blog. 🙂

    Other give-away items would be church DVD’s like Together Forever, Joy to the World, Finding Faith in Christ, To This End Was I Born, Heavenly Father’s Plan, Introduction to the Church. Those are $1.50 or less when bought in a case of 50, if the WML or someone wants to combine orders for people.

    Wasn’t it Elder Bednar who said in the Priesthood session of conference in April 2006 to be a missionary now?

    Eric, I sort of disagree with your last statement, on two counts. What the brother was doing was not “direct teaching.” He was making contacts, trying to give out pass-along cards, and if it was in his own neighborhood, he was probably introducing himself as a neighbor. Which is always appropriate.

    Second, if the brother in question is a priesthood holder, Aaronic or Melchizedek, he’s already authorized, in every sense fo the word, for “direct teaching.”

    Even Teachers in the Aaronic Priesthood are authorized for teaching. They wouldn’t call them TEACHERS if they weren’t supposed to TEACH.

    “Potential for harm” ? Sure, there’s potential for harm in everything we do. Anybody, even 19 year olds can say the wrong thing and offend people.

    If he was in his own neighborhood, which sounds like the case since he took his young daughter, this was totally appropriate for him to go around and meet people, and offer them gospel material or information or an invitation. You don’t need authorization to talk to neighbors, and I don’t mean just the immediate next door or across the street neighbors.

    If he was out of his own neighborhood, I hope it was under the aegis of the Ward Mission Leader. And as long as individuals going door-to-door is not illegal in this country, he has a right to do it.

    And if even one of those people they contacted ends up taking the missionary lessons, then his efforts will be successful.

    Also, please fill me in why it was bad that he had his young daughter with him. If she’s baptized, she also has a duty to be a witness of Christ at all times and in all places.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson October 12, 2006 at 5:05 pm


    Outstanding comments again!

    I like how you point out that since this brother is a MP holder he already has the responsibility to teach and preach the gospel.

    The daughter was below baptism age. It was their neighborhood.

    And I am not saying this was bad. It just sort of turns me off for some reason.

    For what it is worth I tracted like mad on my mission. All the baptisms I had come diretly from it. I just wonder if people might feel a little manipulated with a small girl along. And it just seems odd to me. I certainly could be the one off base here. I am not necessarily right on this, and this good brother is not necessarily wrong.

  5. 5 Bookslinger October 12, 2006 at 6:41 pm

    Eric, you’re a trained (and likely licensed) engineer in corporation, right? If your personality is congruent to your career, I would guess that you tend to do only the things that you were taught/trained to do, and are authorized to do, and that are coordinated through an overarching hierarchy of authority (your company under a legitimate contract, etc).

    I understand some of the psychology differences between engineers, and research scientists. And even in those two broad categories, there are those who blaze new trails, and those who do nothing but plod through what they were trained to do.

    In the LDS church culture, things are so organized, that many, if not most, members only do that which is assigned and coordinated. People who “think outside the box”, like I sometimes do, and like the brother who went tracting with his daughter did, often scare those who are more “just go with the flow” type.

    There is room in society, and in the church, for both types of people. There are trailblazers, and there are those who want to only follow the well-worn trails. The world needs both types.

    But sometimes the trailblazers get into dicey situations, there’s always that risk in going places and doing things that no one has been before.

    And sometimes there is natural friction between the trailblazer and the trail-follower. The first may seem reckless to the second, and the second may seem timid, overly cautious and frightened to the first. But both are needed.

    I find it rather wholesome that the father took his little daughter to meet people in the neighborhood. Who knows, maybe he did pass it by the WML beforehand, or maybe he was inspired to just do it.

    Once when I travelled to another city, I stopped by the mission office there to pick up some Books of Mormon that I had drop-shipped to the mission office to meet me there. The mission president was there, and I asked something like “Do you mind if I give out Books of Mormon at the restaurants I eat at in town?” And his answer was something like “Duh!”

    What’s there to complain about in the case of the guy taking his daughter tracting? I suppose some guy could call up your bishop and say “Hey! One of my neighbors, who is a member of your church, and his 6 year old daughter knocked on my door and tried to give me a pass-along card!”

    Do you remember an old old video or film-strip called “It all started with Thad” ? “And a child shall lead them.”

    It would be so cool if it was the daughter’s idea to go tracting.

    Ya know, I’ve sometimes been tempted to borrow someone’s small child as “bait” to go meet women at malls. Most people like little children. I think they are a fair “tactic” to use. People trust married men and daddies more than they do men on their own with no children.

    When I give out books at restaurants, having a female dinner companion usually helps. That way the waitress/hostess has a degree of confidence that I’m not using the book gift as a means of hitting on them, or expecting a favor.

  6. 6 Bradley October 13, 2006 at 12:07 am

    Many people are turned off if they think you only want to talk to them or be their friend to convert them. To me, the wisdom of this JW-style tracting adventure is defined by how well this man already knows the people in his neighborhood. If they are already his friends, I’d commend him for his actions. If he doesn’t plan to associate with people in the future who he contacted that were uninterested, I’d think he’s on the wrong track.

    Missionaries, who are temporary residents, are in a whole different category of social relationships.

  7. 7 Eric Nielson October 13, 2006 at 8:41 am


    What are you, some kind of genious? You have me and this good brother pegged as to our personalities. Am I that transparent? Or do you ‘know’ everyone instantly?

    I am the tried-and-true engineer type. I like things simple and straight forward. To me the best design is the simplest that works. It probably does not surprise you that my career is headed toward the project management side other than the design side.

    This good brother is an engineer as well. I do view him as reckless and an impulsive decision maker. In a way I do not ‘trust’ him. He may hit a home-run once in a while, but he will strike out as well. I am more of a singles hitter who rarely strikes out.

    For me, if I got the idea that someone were using their daughter or a child or a puppy as ‘bait’ it would be a huge turn off to me. I would feel that I could never trust anything they had to say about anything. I may be different from most people in this.


    I guess this would go for Bookslinger as well. Do you feel that the church should encourage this type of missionary work from it’s members? Should we be more like the JW’s? When I hear church leaders talk about member missionary work it usually has to do with set-a-date and similar approaches. Here I go following again!

    In all honesty I would rather knock on strangers doors than to invite a co-worker or neighbor to hear the discussions. But I would not take a young child along as ‘bait’, even if they wanted to go. To me that seems like a lack of integrity. But perhaps that is my problem in other areas of my life.

  8. 8 Bookslinger October 13, 2006 at 2:37 pm

    There is room, and time, and place for both approaches, a) friendshipping your friends and immediate neighbors into the church, and b) just being upfront about asking people, even strangers, if they want to learn what we believe. There is nothing wrong with approach b.

    We don’t know that brother’s door approach or what he actually said, so I don’t want to assume he was offering friendship as a cover to “just” trying to get them to convert. Maybe he was very upfront about his desire to share the gospel, and what we believe about it. Nothing wrong with that. Just give the other person a chance to say “no thanks”, and if they do, you say “have a nice day” or “see ya around” and go on to the next door.

    I think a door approach for the sole and obvious purpose of sharing the gospel, and nothing else, is still better than never contacting that person at all.

    The thing is, there’s just not enough time and members to friendship the whole earth. Maybe in Utah, where there are more members than non-members, then all the non-members can have LDS friends.

    But in the rest of the country, there aren’t enough members to be friends with every non-member. We have to go out and seek “the elect” as commanded in the scriptures. “The elect” in that commandment are those who are ready, or are already seeking, and who will recognize the truthfulness of the message.

    Sometimes members and fulltime missionaries know by revelation who is ready. The Spirit can point out a person or a house to let the missionary know to go there. But most times, we have to use a scatter-gun approach, and contact everybody to make sure we find the few who are ready.

    Is it worth it?

    I’ve given out Books of Mormon or other church literature to over 700 people in the last 28 months. One of them is now investigating the church and has committed to baptism.

    My feelings at the missionary discussion where he expressed his belief in the restored gospel and willingly committed to be baptized confirm to me that it IS all worth it.

  9. 9 Connor October 17, 2006 at 12:44 am

    Wow, excellent comments from Bookslinger. Eric, I do see your point about being potentially manipulative by bringing the little girl along – I didn’t even pick up on that in my first read of the post. If it were me, I’d probably leave her at home and go on my own.

  10. 10 Bookslinger October 22, 2006 at 5:52 pm

    Taking the little daughter along may be influential, but is it manipulative? There’s a difference.

    There is such a thing as a righteous influence which is not manipulation.

    There’s something about accepting the gospel as a child that makes me think taking her along was rather appropriate.

  11. 11 Connor November 1, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    That’s true – I guess it all depends on the personal intentions of the father. If he brought his daughter along to better get a “foot in the door”, I think that’s manipulative. But I do understand and agree that there can be righteous influence that isn’t classified as manipulation…

  12. 12 Dennis West November 30, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    This is a difficult subject to decide on.

    On one hand, I have to admire the brother for taking the initiative to go out and spread the word, especially without necessarily being instructed to. And taking his daughter along can only help her get enthusiastic about it. But what if someone was actually really rude? I served my mission in Arizona and wouldn’t want my kids to experience some of the things I did.

    The other part of me remembers the words of King Benjamin that all things should be done in wisdom and in order. Is it appropriate for general members to take it upon themselves to go tracting without the knowledge of the Bishop or Ward Mission?

    I can’t think of any problem with someone visiting their neighbors and letting them know that they’re members and inviting them to learn more. But there are a lot of ‘techniques’ of tracting that the church frowns upon, such as “hi, we’re conducting a survey, and…”

    It would be a good idea if the church was involved to at least offer some guidance and support.

  13. 13 Eric Nielson December 6, 2006 at 6:53 am

    Well put Dennis. Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. I agree with you.

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