Burning Bosom

Theology, History, Culture, Politics & Life from a LDS (Mormon) Perspective

The Parable of the Faithless Soil

Posted by Jon on March 28, 2008

In the scriptures, specifically Section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants, we read that “the field is ripe already to harvest…” However, the experience of my own mission to France was, to put it lightly, quite the opposite… at least that’s how I felt at the time. It took a while after the mission to come to the realization that the field may have been ripe, Harvestingbut all that didn’t matter if the farmers stopped believing there is a crop (or didn’t work in the field to try and make it grow).

The beginning of this realization came a little more than a year into my mission. My zone leader invited me to a bishopric council meeting which he attended monthly. As happened every time missionaries were in attendance the missionaries were asked if we had any investigators, and where they were in the discussions.

The last straw for me happened during Bishopric’s council. The zone leader at the time invited me to attend with him that week since I was in town for the meeting (I was in a separate town where we met in a small room for “independent Sunday School” with only about 10 members in the town). The bishop asked if we had any investigators coming to church that week. Before we could answer, the Relief Society President at the time sarcastically blurted out, “Ha, yeah elders, do you have anyone coming EVER?” She laughed as she said it, and it made me furious with to see her lack of faith in our ability to succeed.

After leaving the meeting I decided to do what any hard working missionary would do, prove her wrong! OK, so that’s not exactly a “righteous desire,” per se, but it did motivate me to do more. I’ll get back to what happened in this area and what we, as missionaries, did to bring about change.

It also taught me a greater lesson. One that I’ve carried with me since it happened. Personally, I believe their are people earnestly seeking the truth and to have Christ in their life throughout the globe. This is even in France, a country that many believe to be nearly devoid of any potential converts. So here is my perhaps controversial opinion: The Lord wants to bless His people, and he wants people to join His church. If I have you thinking “what’s so controversial about that?” just wait, there’s more.

I also believe that the Lord blesses us for our faith, and holds back blessings when we lack faith. In this same regard, it is my belief that when members do not believe missionaries will find people to teach and baptize, they won’t. Well, they may, but it definitely makes it a more arduous process for the missionaries. If the ward is not ripe with faith and all the good virtues the Lord asks of His disciples, then why would He bless them to harvest souls.

This is why I called this post “The Parable of the Faithless Soil.” How can a farmer reap what he’s sown, if he knows the soil is not fertile? At best, his harvest will only provide a couple good stalks. On that same note, why would the Lord want to plant those who are righteously seeking the truth in a field missing such a key and vital nutrient as faith. That was my experience in many of the areas I served in France. That members didn’t believe we would find anyone. Their lack of faith was holding them back.

So what did we do to change things in the ward in France? First, we had to start by drinking the religious Kool-Aid ourselves. We focused as a zone on increasing our faith that the Lord did want us to find those seeking the truth. We then went to work with the members to “prepare the soil.”

We were fortunate to have one sacrament meeting each month where we gave the talks and prepared special musical numbers. For a few months in a row we preached to the members that for us to succeed, they needed to believe we could AND that the Lord wanted to bless them with new members to help grow and strengthen their ward. We also took this message to their homes, and anytime we had any activity with them we made sure to speak positively about our efforts. It didn’t take long before we were seeing the fruits of our labors.

We didn’t experience a conversion similar to what Ammon did, but we did see five inactive members start coming back to church and had two baptisms in a span of three months. That was seven more members than the ward had seen in several months. What was more miraculous, the small group that met for “Independent Sunday School” in a small town on the Italian border, welcomed three new members in less than a year. The faith of those members was astounding.

Do I believe France will ever produce the amount of converts that any country in Latin America does? No. Do I believe the Lord has people He would like missionaries and members to find, even in France? Absolutely. Is it because the members and missionaries lack the faith to find them? Partly. I’d be lying if I didn’t think pride also played a role. But I do think the lack of faith is a major contribution to the missionary cause being so slow.

So what say you? Is it faith? Bad missionaries? Pride? France in general? I stand by my comments, but look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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3 Responses to “The Parable of the Faithless Soil”

  1. I’ll be honest, it really seems like a cop-out to say that there were few baptisms because of the lacking faith of the ward. What about when missionaries first arrived to these countries, when there were no wards or branches? Why did the missionary work explode in England and crawl in France? As a missionary (also in France), it seems like “not having enough faith” is always the answer when things aren’t going the way we wanted.

    I recall being in the tiniest villages in France, and turning the corner only to find a Kingdom Hall (Jehovah’s Witnesses equivalent of a Mormon chapel). Our nearest chapel would sometimes be 30 minutes away by car, and there, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, was a building and a congregation. Is this because they have greater faith? I’m not sure; all the Jehovah’s Witnesses I’ve met seemed very interested in proof in the Bible over old-fashioned faith.

    Just a thought.

  2. Stan Way said

    Jon, I agree with everything you said (as long as I understood it correctly ;o)

    Odd as it may seem, I think Henry Ford said it best:

    “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

    On my mission I found that when I really believed we’d find people behind doors to get baptized, well lo and behold we did. But when I didn’t, we didn’t. Plain and simple. – I’m honest enough to say that I didn’t at all time, and still don’t all the time have the faith required to bring about so many of the things we’re under covenant resposibility to do as Latter Day Saints.

    Faith = Results

    Those who don’t see results will probably get angry at this. – To them I’d cautiously quote the Lord when he said “the wicked taketh the truth to be hard.”

    So lets all buck up and be honest enough to admit that at times we’re faithless, but we can have fertile soil if that’s what we truly want.

    I hate to add one last thought…But consider The Observer Effect. What you look for is what you get…I think it applies spiritually also.

    Again, thanks for the post though.

  3. zehill said

    Jon and Stan Way (#2) — You talk like baptisms and activations are a blessing or reward to the missionaries or members of the ward (i.e., if a missionary and ward have faith, God will bless them with a baptism). I don’t think it works that way. Shouldn’t missionary work be about helping people that want help, not accruing blessings for ourselves? I believe that if God has someone in France that He knows would like to join the church, God won’t keep blessings away from that person just because a missionary or member lacks faith. How just or merciful would that be?

    I think the observer effect applies. I also think that the vast majority of converts join the church to fill a need and that when we “have faith” we look and act more positive, upbeat, and happy, which people notice and are attracted to if that’s what they want or need. I think the people in France don’t feel the need.

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