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Alfred Gunn: LDS missionaries remind us that the church is open and welcoming to all

A plaza, built on a section of Main Street by the Mormon Church, is shown Oct. 7, 2000, in Salt Lake City.
A plaza, built on a section of Main Street by the Mormon Church, is shown Oct. 7, 2000, in Salt Lake City. AP

The missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints visited my home last evening, as they were visiting some of my neighbors. The snow was still on the ground and it was cold, but these two young men were out hoping to share their incomparable message of the Living Christ. Their visit inspired my thoughts today.

I invited them in, of course, always pleased to share their sweet spirit and always impressed with their maturity and preparation at such a young age. I know that to qualify to serve a full-time mission of two years they must be personally worthy.

The way the Lord said it was, “Faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.”

They qualify, and I love the purity of their lives and the truth of their message.

I was once a young missionary, not walking in snow but sweating under the heat of three Brazilian summers. Oh how I loved the people of Brazil as we visited in humble homes.

On another note, apparently I make the mistake that many members of my church make. We think that people not of our faith have some understanding of our Christ-centered beliefs. But in a nationwide study, pollster Gary Lawrence found that nearly half of the people he studied thought Latter-day Saints were secluded and mysterious and had “weird beliefs.”

It is not that they find their Latter-day Saint acquaintances weird so much as a general suspicion of those they don’t know. When Lawrence queried folks, “What is the main claim of Mormonism?” only one in seven could describe anything close to the idea of restoration or reestablishment of the New Testament church that Jesus had organized.

Sharing the results of surveys such as this, Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, noted that our missionaries cannot assume that most people have even a basic understanding our beliefs.

The Apostle Paul testified that things of the Spirit of God are spiritually discerned. God answers prayers, and our missionaries invite the humble to come unto Christ and find out for themselves. I am thankful that my own great-great grandmother opened the door to LDS missionaries in England 165 years ago. Her faith brought her and nine of her children across an ocean and a continent.

While I am a descendant of pioneer members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, about half of the members of my large congregation in Gig Harbor have joined the church in their own lifetime, often because they opened the door to the missionaries. But we each had to find out for ourselves that God has restored the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We share the same testimony that God lives and is our Heavenly Father; that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world; that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet and that The Church of Jesus Christ is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the Earth today.

I know this by my experience — all of my experience. I know this by the evidence, and the evidence is overwhelming. I know it by study, and, most surely, I know it by the Spirit and power of the Holy Ghost. Any humble person may know the same truths by the same Spirit.

And so these young missionaries leave home, school, jobs, family and friends to go wherever the Lord calls them to serve in mission areas throughout the world, including here in the Washington Tacoma Mission. Their greatest joy is to teach and invite families to come unto Christ and partake of His goodness and grace. They shared that message and a prayer with me as they visited last evening.

This church may be marvelous and unique, but it is not “secluded, mysterious or weird.” It is open and welcoming, and all are invited. The church website, LDS.org, contains every talk given in general church conferences for the last 35 years and addresses gospel topics of every kind. At mormon.org find “beliefs,” FAQ’s and an opportunity to meet with missionaries if you wish.

On Faith columnist Alfred Gunn, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Gig Harbor, can be reached by email atalf.gunn@gmail.com. See also www.lds.org.
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