President's Pen 8-29-16 (Keeping the Date)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! We begin with the “End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters, 

We love you!  We look forward to being with you at zone conferences this week and we are grateful for your preparation.  You make a difference every day in someone’s life, keep up the great work!

Over the past year I have closely watched the number of baptismal dates accepted and there are a few things I’ve learned…  For every 100 people we have on date each week, we baptize six on average. I went back in time and I looked at twenty years of data and this same number holds true.  What can we learn from this and is there something we can do to help more keep their date and come unto Christ through baptism?

I often wonder what happens to the other 94 people that at one point said yes, “I’ll be baptized”.  Unfortunately, many fall away between their acceptance of a baptismal date and the date we extend.  There are a variety of reasons that a baptismal date is not kept; they say yes with no real intent to move forward, they say yes and then don’t follow through on their commitments, they say yes and really don’t understand what is expected of them, they say yes and as missionaries we don’t follow up as well as we should.  There are many other possible reasons, but I’d like to emphasize what we can do within our control to help people keep and hold to the date we extend and the accept.

When we faithfully and boldly extend a baptismal invitation, it always comes with two parts… “Will you follow the Savior Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone who holds His authority?”, and if we get the YES we are praying for we ask, “We are holding a baptismal service on xyz date, will you prepare to be baptized on this day?” When a date is given and accepted, we then excitedly share with them that we will do all in our power to help them and guide them to their baptism day.  The question you should ask yourself at that point is, what will I do to make sure they’re ready and what are the possible obstacles that could be put in their path that may get in their way?   

Put you’re yourself in the shoes of the investigator for a moment… From their perspective they might want to know what it means to be ready for the baptismal date they’ve accepted.  “You’ve told me you’ll help me, but what does that really mean?  There is clearly a lot I don’t know and a lot I still need to learn, so how can you best assure me that I can do this and that I’ll be ready?”

Without exception we are looking for our investigators to be prepared and qualify for baptism.  These qualifications are well explained in D&C 20:37, they must humble themselves before God, desire to be baptized, come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, repent of all their sins, be willing to take upon them the name of Christ, have a determination to serve Christ to the end, manifest by their works that they have received the Spirit of Christ unto a remission of their sins (PMG pg. 204). In addition to these qualifications, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have added additional requirements (PMG pg. 204, please review) to ensure they are ready for this important covenant.

We ask a lot of our investigators as they prepare for their baptism day and it is our responsibility to make sure they not only understand the importance of the date they’ve accepted, but to prepare them in such a way that they are truly qualified. One way to do this is to follow the counsel on page 204 of PMG which states, “When an investigator has set a firm baptismal date, schedule when you will complete all the events that lead to baptism and confirmation as listed in your daily planner. Carefully review the Teaching Record to ensure that you have taught the basic doctrines and that the candidates are prepared to address each question in the baptismal interview. Review this schedule with the person in your next meeting. If possible, the person should attend a baptismal service prior to his or her own baptism.”

So how might you share with your investigators what will be expected of them and how you’ll help them? Following their acceptance of the baptismal date I might share something like the following…

“Dear Adrian, we are so excited for your baptismal day.  The date of September 3rd will be the beginning of a new life as you faithfully follow Jesus Christ and His example.  As your missionaries we are here to help you every step of the way.  To be prepared for your baptismal day let us share with you how we’ll help you.  First and foremost, there is still a lot to learn.  We have additional lessons that we’ll share with you that will help you come to understand God’s plan for you, how you can fully live His gospel, why his commandments are here to bless our lives, and how we can best serve in the Church and bless the lives of our families.  We’ll help you take responsibility to learn as much as you can and we know there will still be much to learn, even after your baptism day. 

One thing we want you to know is that we will ask you to demonstrate your faith in Jesus Christ through your actions.  We’ll ask you to pray each day, we’ll ask you to read from the Book of Mormon daily, we’ll invite you to attend church with us and be there with us each week.  We’ll also ask you to live the commandments to the best of your ability.  These commitments you’ll make are between you and God and he will help you keep them.  We’ll follow up with you often as we know you’ll have questions and we want to be right here with you every step of the way. 

Another thing you should know is that as people get closer to God, the more Satan does to stop their progression.  At times you may have others try to stop you on your path to baptism, they could be family, friends, or other acquaintances, but rest assured we are here to help you with any and all concerns that might come up.  Our most sincere desire, as you prepare for your baptism, is to help you come unto Christ as you demonstrate your faith in Him and His Atonement, we desire for you to repent and feel forgiveness for your sins, we know your baptism will cleanse you from sin and that when you receive the Holy Ghost you will be given the greatest gift in mortality to guide, direct, and bless you. 

We ultimately want you to live with your Father in Heaven and your baptism day will put you on this all important path home.  On the back of the pamphlet we are going to write your baptism day in big bold print and we’ll also write on this sticky note your baptism day so you can put it on your fridge.  Each time we see you we’ll talk about this day and do all we can to help you prepare.  We know this is God’s will for you and we also know that through your faith in Jesus Christ, you can make the necessary changes to be ready.  Do we have your commitment that you’ll do all in your power to get ready for this day?  How does it feel to know you are doing what our Savior would have you do?  Why is it important for you to be baptized?”

For those of you that have access to PowerPoint I have attached a file that you might use as a possible approach when they accept a date.  This file isn’t to be shared with the investigators, just an idea for you. (Go into slideshow mode and advance through the animation one click at a time) You could simply take out a blank piece of paper and draw something like this for them.  This isn’t something we need to do for every investigator nor is it something that I expect you to draw out for them, but I do want to make sure you share something like the paragraphs above to help them know the path going forward. 

What will we learn from being more bold about helping them prepare…  Do we see them excited about their baptism date and are they truly committed?  Do they know what to expect and how we’ll help them?  Are they truly interested or is this a fluffy date that will come and go? 

On page 200 of PMG we are blessed with instruction on how to follow up effectively.  I’d like you all to review this page and ask yourself if you’re willing to follow up as instructed.  Use the sacred planning time you have each night to consider the various ways you’ll follow up with your investigators each day. 

Elders & Sisters, we are blessed to invite those we teach to follow the Savior’s example and to be baptized for a remission of their sins.  We have the sacred obligation to ensure they are qualified and prepared.  Let’s recommit and help hold people to a date and do all within our power to get them to the waters of baptism so they can begin the journey on the straight and narrow path to their heavenly home.    This work is true, the Savior lives, and I love it! Love ya!

President Hall