How do we measure our missionary work? Is it in number of invites given? Books of Mormon given? Baptisms? Changed hearts and minds? I recently had the opportunity to follow up on an experience I had sharing the Book of Mormon over a decade ago. It was embarrassing, and it reminded me of several other embarrassing efforts at sharing the Book of Mormon. Though I might have garnered praise by some measures for these “successes,” I can’t help but feel that they were ultimately counterproductive by other measures. Not only did these episodes fail to yield a baptism, I am quite sure that in the end they turned off the recipients of my sincere zeal forever.
I have had two close friends join the church and later marry in the temple. In neither case did I give them a Book of Mormon within days of knowing them. I never bore my testimony in the canned, traditional sense. I don’t think I ever even invited them to church (though I have done my fair share of all of these things with many others). The difference, I think, was that I was an honest conversation partner, openly addressing the challenges of Mormonism, and sincerely a true friend in ways that were recognized by my non-Mormon friends.
Success in missionary work for me is no longer measured by tangible numbers such as those reported on a weekly progress sheet. Rather, it is measured in more eternally and temporally significant things like a softened heart, a changed attitude, and a favorable impression. These are the conditions that help Mormonism and Mormons flourish.