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Last Thursday, after attending a Congressional reception on Capitol Hill, I boarded the Metro’s Blue Line for my subway trip back home. To my surprise, at the next stop, a couple of Mormon missionaries got on the train and sat down. Fortunately, the seat was available right behind them—which I took. After a few minutes, I leaned forward, tapped one of them on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, could you tell me if there is a living prophet on the earth today?” I wish I would have had a picture of their faces as their heads whipped around and they stared at me incredulously. I started to laugh and introduced myself. We talked briefly and they got off at the next stop, leaving me laughing to myself about what had just transpired.
“What if,” I thought to myself, “it was really just that easy?”
Wouldn’t it be great if, in reality, we could just station missionaries at strategic points around the city, the country or even the world like traffic cops or park rangers, and people would come up to them and ask them the key questions they were hungering to have answered? Questions like, “Why is there suffering in the world?”, “Does God really answer prayers?’ or the simple but timeless question which so plagued 14-year Joseph Smith, “How can I know which church is right?”
Unfortunately though, for reasons I don’t fully understand, people don’t tap some stranger on the shoulder on the subway, at work or at school in their quest for spiritual nourishment. They usually just continue on, living as the saying goes, “lives of quiet desperation.”
How can you help? How can I help? There’s a middle ground between the unabashed boldness of those called to share the gospel as their “full-time job” and those of us who are not.
We can be the bridge between them. A couple of days ago, I was having lunch with the mission president and I marveled how artfully he transformed a routine conversation with our Russian waiter into a gospel conversation, securing his commitment to attend this week’s BYU Singers concert at the Visitors Center and promising that, if he came, there would be a missionary from his homeland there to meet him.
After the invitation had been extended and accepted, I thought to myself, “Now, I could have done that!” Yes, I could’ve, but I didn’t—not because I was afraid to but because I just didn’t think of it. We have been told to “seek out the elect” and share the gospel with them. I think that, too many times, we think we are better equipped to decide who the elect actually are than the Savior who said simply, “Go ye unto all the world.”
I have read with great interest this week of the extensive coverage surrounding the selection of Benedict XVI as the new Catholic “CEO.” In light of the protests surrounding his conservative doctrinal viewpoints, he responded, “Accept that this is our faith… The Church isn’t here to be constantly changed by the world; rather, she is here to change the world.”
I thought that was a pretty good response. As members of our ward, how are we changing the world in our part of the field? As a ward mission leader, some of my ward members’ efforts were more visible than others. Regardless of whether I knew that they were “actively engaged in a good cause,” the most important thing was that they knew you were.
This week, after months of searching, I was finally able to find a copy of an out-of-print CD called “Field of Souls,” by an obscure artist named Wayne Watson. The words of the title track touched me in how succinctly they described the gamut of our missionary efforts:
We work the field of souls
Together you and I
Some fields are blooming now
Other fields are dry.
We are not the same
But differences aside
We will work the field of souls
Together, you and I.
One is off to foreign soil
To work a distant land;
Another anchors close to home
To hold a neighbor’s hand.
Who has served the Father most?
And who has labored best?
That life devoted to our God
That devotion will be blessed.
One shouts the gospel in the streets
For everyone to hear.
He’s bold to everyone he meets
The Word is loud and clear
Another cries alone and prays
In silence on her knees
Before the throne day after day
Where human eyes don’t see.
The “field of souls” is all around us. You may be the parent who prays every night that a “prodigal son” will return to the gospel fold; one who shares the joy of the gospel with neighbors and friends; or one who is supporting the efforts of one laboring on “foreign soil” as the song says. However big or small your contribution, the important thing is that you are consciously making one.