Clayton Christensen's missionary website: everydaymissionaries.org
Elder Clayton Christensen
Recently Released Area Seventy
Now the second thing I wanted to recommend to you is to become people that God can trust . And the only way I can describe this, is just to recount a couple of experiences that had taught me the difference between being a person that God can’t to being a person that God could trust. For some reason, in 1984 when Elder Ballard gave his famous talk inviting us to set a date as a commitment to the Lord by which we would find somebody for the missionaries to teach, I just really felt in my heart that that challenge was something that I needed to accept. And so, since 1984, every year, I set initially just one date and then two and now, I try to set three dates every year as commitments that by that date, I will find somebody for the missionaries. And so I’ve been about this for 24 years now, and in every case the Lord has helped me find somebody. And every case has gone through the very same cycle. So I set a date, months out and because the date is months out, I feel no tension at all and just don’t talk to people about the Gospel. And then about two months before the date I start to feel the pressure. And so I begin to use in my every day conversations “Mormon” words. So I’ll talk about how tired I am because I’m the Bishop on Sunday or my children who are on missions or when I was at BYU or I’ll just try to salt “Mormon” words into my speech. And every time I do that it is as if I’m opening the door inviting people to come in and have a conversation about the Church. And most of the time, they recognize that I’ve opened the door and they don’t come in and that’s fine. Every once in a while they’ll say, “Oh, you’re Mormon?” and that gives me an opportunity to say, “Yes, I am” and explain what a wonderful Church it is. And I talk about it a bit, and it just seems appropriate that I can open another door and I can invite them to come to our home. Well what always happens is that I keep opening those doors and nobody walks in. So then about 6 weeks before the date, I start to panic and begin to pray every morning and every night and fast every Sunday that God will help me find somebody. And then right at the very end, always at the very end, I find somebody.
Now, let me give you just a couple of examples of this. This would’ve been 2003; I set a date of October 15th. I had just been called to serve as an Area Seventy and had gone through the cycle of doing everything I could, but nobody was interested. I sent emails to all people that you just wouldn’t imagine of being interested in the Church. But I was just so desperate. And I got back the month before October 15th and I decided, you know, I’m doing everything I can to serve this Church and I just don’t have the time to find somebody by October 15th. And so just this once, I’m going to let it slip. And then I realized, “Buddy, if you let it slip just this once, next time you’re going to be even busier and it will be even easier to let it slip.” And so I changed the way I prayed. And the way I prayed was I told Heavenly Father that, in fact, I was killing myself to do everything I could to serve in the Church. And I had made this commitment to find somebody and I had failed. And I told God that he had to bring somebody and stick them in my path. And I promised him that when they were in my path, I would invite them. And so I fasted every Sunday and prayed every day in this way and on October 12th there was an LDSSA fireside at the Cambridge chapel that Christy and I had been asked to speak at and there had come into the room a really beautiful Spirit. When the fireside was over we were walking down the aisle and about halfway up, this young woman came to me who was a student at our school and she said, “Excuse me Professor Christensen, but I understand that sometimes when people want to know about your Church, they can go into the home of a member and have missionaries teach them about what you believe. Is there any way that I can do this in your home?” And I just started to cry and she had no idea how desperately I had prayed and fasted and I realized something when that happened, that as I had become older and more experienced and “more mature” in the Gospel, my maturity and sophistication had caused me naturally to exempt myself whenever my rational mind told me that something was going to be difficult. In other words, I would say, “While most people most of the time ought to follow that rule, but in my particular circumstances, because I am doing everything I can, I am exempt from doing what they’ve just asked me to do.” And that’s the kind of person I had become. And I realized, when I had this experience, that that’s just the wrong mindset. The right mindset is that when we become so busy when we’re doing everything we can to build the Kingdom and we are asked to do some more for the Lord, then that is the time to pray for and expect miracles. And that’s what we really need to do.
Well then just last year, I had a date for August 31st and had gone through the very same cycle. I was relaxed, then I got tense and had invited a bunch of people and nobody accepted. I had been fasting and praying every day and week and then about four days before the date, I was talking to a member of our faculty who had been one of my doctoral students, just a very bright man. And we were talking about the departure of Kim Clark to BYU-Idaho and Steve Wheelwright to BYU-Hawaii and Boris said, “You know I’ve been watching you Mormons” (we had about five LDS people on our faculty) and he said, “and it’s clear that you people find so much happiness in your marriages. So my girlfriend and I decided about three years ago that we would get married. And then I saw how much happiness you found with your children and we decided to have children, we have two. And then I saw how you didn’t work 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, but you’re all gone by 6 PM and you never work Saturdays and Sundays.” And he said, “So I made a promise to my wife that I would never work Saturdays, Sundays or evenings anymore.” And he said, “And you wouldn’t believe this, but now I go to Synagogue every Saturday, because I see you guys go to Church every Sunday.” It was really a moving account that he gave. And then he came back with the kicker, which was, “But there is a difference between you guys and me.” He said, “It’s clear that you do what you do because you love God…I do what I do because I fear God.” And I thought that the Lord had just put this man right in my path, and so I went to my office and composed an email and told Boris that he could come to love God as we had indeed come to love God and invited him to come into our home to meet with the missionaries. Two days later, I visited him in his office and asked him if he’s thought about it and he said he had and he was just very gracious in thanking me for caring enough to invite him and then he turned me down flat and said that he was just quite confident that he, within Judaism, was going to be able to come to love God. And you could just hear the air hissing out of my balloon. As I went back to my office, I just wondered, I had two days before my date, where in the world would I find someone.
And then the next day I had to drive from Boston to Bridgeport, Connecticut where we were writing a case about a company down there called Pitney Bowes. I had engaged a new doctoral student from Hong Kong to go down with me and in the course of going down, he just happened to make a comment about how the Episcopal Church at Harvard Square had shut down through the summer. And he said, “I cannot believe that a church would just cancel itself when it was not convenient for people to attend.” So, I never would’ve ever picked this guy out as having any interest in the Church, but I asked him about his background with the Episcopal Church, which was very strong in Hong Kong and then I told him that the LDS church had a chapel right next to Harvard Square and if he had any interest in coming to the meetings with us. He said “Yeah, I’d love to do that.” And then I said, “Well, before you go the meetings, we ought to just teach you about what we believe, if you would come to our home,” and he said he would love to.
Well then that evening, when I got home, I was discussing with my family, about why is it that God always strings me out to the very end and that’s when I find somebody. And our son Spencer, who’s a very observant guy, he said, “Dad, I think I know what’s going on because I’ve seen this happen enough. When you’re a long ways away from the date you’re so relaxed about it that God can’t trust you. He doesn’t know that if he puts somebody in your path, that you will invite them or not. But as you get closer to the date, two things happen: One is that you’re serious about your commitment and 2 is that as the date gets closer you become desperate and when you become desperate, that’s when God can trust you. And we call that Spencer’s “Principle of Desperation” and that’s a very important part of this practice; there were a lot of people who heard Elder Ballard’s challenge, set dates, were relaxed about it at the beginning and were relaxed about it all the way through and they never found anybody and I think that maybe, what he forgot to teach us was, which I have learned the hard way, is that when I become desperate to bring souls unto Christ, then God can trust me; and he can put somebody in my path with the confidence that I will invite them to accept the Savior.
I was talking about this with my friend Kim Clark, before he got spirited away to Rexburg and how inviting people into our home had brought a Spirit into our home that I just couldn’t bring there in any other way. And Kim said, “You know, there is a way to visualize what happens. Let us just imagine that you were a General in an army and you had a limited number of state-of-the-art weapons. Who would you give your weapons to? You give your best weapons to the soldiers who are on the frontline engaged in direct combat with the enemy and those soldiers who are in administrative assignments: fixing soup, driving the trucks, keeping inventory, they wouldn’t need to have the state-of-the-art weapons.” And Kim said, “I think that when you begin to share the Gospel with others, it is as if you physically reposition yourself right on the frontline, engaged in direct combat with Satan in the war over the souls of the children of men. And there just isn’t any way you can win that, if you don’t have the Spirit of God with you, and because you reposition yourself, you feel the Spirit with you all of the time.” And then he said, “One of the dangers in our Church is that so many of us get given administrative assignments and we just depend upon our plain ole self and our plain ole talents to succeed in those assignments and we don’t require the Spirit to be with us on a daily basis.” And that really has been an experience, brothers and sisters; as long as I keep myself geographically right on the frontline, I feel the Spirit in my heart every day and I feel to promise you that God will bless you in the same way. And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Monthly Temple Trips
One ward takes all their investigators and recently baptized members to the temple each month. Some members stay with the investigators and share about the temple while the newly baptized members do baptisms for the dead.
Activity day girls invite their friends, classmates, cousins, etc to a daddy-daughter dance. At some point they watch the Mormon Message "Heavenly Father, Earthly Father", Or a neighborhood has a dance and all aged dads and daughters attend.
Christmas Around the World:
Choose several different countries to showcase. Have food, activities, and people who share about how the celebrates. Invite the neighborhood
Pie in the Park:
During the summer the neighborhood gets together every couple of weeks and watches an outdoor movie on a blow up screen. The ward supplies the pie.
Pot Luck - weekly or biweekly
Close off a neighborhood street and have a pot luck dinner.