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Returned Missionaries Weigh in On President Ballard’s Recent Comments on the Baptismal Invitation

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1 hour ago, MarginOfError said:
2 hours ago, Vort said:

I don't believe that came from "the top".

Why not? Because President Ballard said that was never their intention, and I believe him.

Rather, it was their intention that the invitation be made in the second lesson (and maybe the first). Source: the Missionary Discussion pamphlets. And I believe them.

Likely so. How does this suggest that the apostles, who now claim that it was never their intent to have the missionaries issue baptismal invitations to people who had not been given any exposure to the gospel, were actually secretly (or perhaps openly) intending to have the missionaries issue baptismal invitations to people who had not been given any exposure to the gospel?

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19 minutes ago, Vort said:

Wait a minute. So those actions are what made you think it is what the Brethren intended, or those actions are what made it look like it is what the Brethren intended? I asked the first, but you seem to be answering the second.

To me that is the same question, but I’ll play your game.

yes, my mistake. The action of the Mission President and 70s (who, per churchofjesuschrist.org, “Under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles...travel frequently to meet with and teach Church leaders, missionaries...”) made me think that that what they were saying was coming from the 12

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26 minutes ago, Fether said:

To me that is the same question, but I’ll play your game.

yes, my mistake. The action of the Mission President and 70s (who, per churchofjesuschrist.org, “Under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles...travel frequently to meet with and teach Church leaders, missionaries...”) made me think that that what they were saying was coming from the 12

So...you think President Ballard is equivocating when he claims that was never the intent of the Brethren?

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1 hour ago, Vort said:

So...you think President Ballard is equivocating when he claims that was never the intent of the Brethren?

Nope. the actions I saw made me think that the the Q12 wanted us to invite people to be baptized on first visit. I have since been corrected by pres. Ballard.

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This type of article and the ensuing dialogue always brings back to my remembrance the following verse of scripture, "That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought." (particularly the emphasized portion)

This appears to be another kick against the pricks in hopes to band wagon once again "prophets are fallible." They raise their flag once again.

1) There is nothing wrong with making an invitation to baptism before someone "knows" anything about the gospel. A young lady was baptized in our singles ward due to a invitation to learn and be baptized from a talk during sacrament. The man, if my memory doesn't fail me, was our ward mission leader and he knew a friend had brought a non-member to church. I spoke with her, as I was a home teacher of other sisters in her apartment, and she said, "The invitation to baptism and to learn the lessons pricked my heart. I wanted to know more."

2) Not every decision in a mission is stemming from the apostles and prophets. We had a mission mandate of 30 discussion a week. This was initiated by a Seventy, and I had heard after I returned home the number went up to 40. The "intent" was good. The manner in which it was "accomplished," eh, not so much.

3) What I discovered is that the "intent" and how it is "accomplished" are not always the same when dealing with 19-23 year olds. The "intent" also is not always passed on properly from Prophet/Apostles >> General Authorieties (Seventies) >> Area Seventies >> Mission Presidents >> APs >> Zone Leaders >> District Leaders.

In my mission, 95-97, baptism on the first discussion was introduced in 96 but was not mandated. It was clearly taught if you feel inspired by the Spirit. In my mission, although still under the six discussions, even in the MTC, we were taught to "master" the discussions so that we could teach by the Spirit -- always. The discussions were a "guide" for new missionaries (or better said, had "become" a guide)

In my mission, 96, five minutes discussions were introduced. The invitation to baptism on the first discussion was "always" by the Spirit. The invitation on the second discussion was not "always" by the Spirit as that was part of the curriculum. How people are confusing "intent" I am not sure, but maybe because I was never part of any mandate for the first discussion invitation. I had a hard enough time inviting on the second, but I understood how this invitation allowed people to see that we were serious about teaching and bringing them into the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

So from my minds eye it is very easy to see how they are saying it was "never our intent"....

Although, this whole discussion does cause me to ponder what my oldest son is currently learning in the MTC right now. The moment I am able to speak with him, hopefully will catch his Hangout call this time, I will ask him about this.

Edited by Anddenex

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In the New Testament, they were baptized when they knew nothing more than "Christ Jesus" or "the Messiah" was come.  In the Book of Mormon, those that were baptized did so when they knew nothing more than "hey, this is spiritually good food." None of them had even a Deacon level of understanding of the gospel.  Yet the had faith and believed to the point of baptism.

The fourth article of faith:

  • Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
  • Repentance
  • Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.
  • GotHG

Nowhere in here does it say that they need to have a firm understanding of the plan of Salvation or the workings of the priesthood or anything else that people are talking about on this thread. (forgive me if I didn't read ALL the posts.  I read most of them).

It seems everyone is ignoring what baptism actually is.  Do they have faith in Jesus Christ to the the point of being motivated to repentance? Then they need to be baptized.

For some reason, we think of baptism as a formality to become a member of the Church.  Tangentially, this is true.  But scripturally, the first fruits of repentance is baptism.  That is why we baptize.  For the remission of sins.  And this desire can and DOES exist in first or second discussions with the misisonaries.

Peter and his compatriots joined Christ after a simple invitation to put down their nets and follow Him.  They didn't even know who He was.  But they felt the Spirit.  Even after walking with him day by day for three years, they still didn't get the gospel.  After the resurrection, they just went back to fishing.  Then Jesus had the conversation "Lovest thou me more than these?"  Baptism was REALLY early in this process.  They didn't know a THING!!

We are sent out to gather the lost sheep.  Those who have been prepared are those who are humbled to the point of repentance.  But repentance is only possible through Jesus Christ.  And the gate by which we enter is baptism.  If missionaries forget that, then we truly are only interested in numbers.

Edited by Mores

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3 hours ago, Mores said:

In the New Testament, they were baptized when they knew nothing more than "Christ Jesus" or "the Messiah" was come.  In the Book of Mormon, those that were baptized did so when they knew nothing more than "hey, this is spiritually good food." None of them had even a Deacon level of understanding of the gospel.  Yet the had faith and believed to the point of baptism.

The fourth article of faith:

  • Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
  • Repentance
  • Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.
  • GotHG

Nowhere in here does it say that they need to have a firm understanding of the plan of Salvation or the workings of the priesthood or anything else that people are talking about on this thread. (forgive me if I didn't read ALL the posts.  I read most of them).

It seems everyone is ignoring what baptism actually is.  Do they have faith in Jesus Christ to the the point of being motivated to repentance? Then they need to be baptized.

For some reason, we think of baptism as a formality to become a member of the Church.  Tangentially, this is true.  But scripturally, the first fruits of repentance is baptism.  That is why we baptize.  For the remission of sins.  And this desire can and DOES exist in first or second discussions with the misisonaries.

Peter and his compatriots joined Christ after a simple invitation to put down their nets and follow Him.  They didn't even know who He was.  But they felt the Spirit.  Even after walking with him day by day for three years, they still didn't get the gospel.  After the resurrection, they just went back to fishing.  Then Jesus had the conversation "Lovest thou me more than these?"  Baptism was REALLY early in this process.  They didn't know a THING!!

We are sent out to gather the lost sheep.  Those who have been prepared are those who are humbled to the point of repentance.  But repentance is only possible through Jesus Christ.  And the gate by which we enter is baptism.  If missionaries forget that, then we truly are only interested in numbers.

Bingo!

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14 hours ago, Mores said:

In the New Testament, they were baptized when they knew nothing more than "Christ Jesus" or "the Messiah" was come.  In the Book of Mormon, those that were baptized did so when they knew nothing more than "hey, this is spiritually good food." None of them had even a Deacon level of understanding of the gospel.  Yet the had faith and believed to the point of baptism.

The fourth article of faith:

  • Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
  • Repentance
  • Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.
  • GotHG

Nowhere in here does it say that they need to have a firm understanding of the plan of Salvation or the workings of the priesthood or anything else that people are talking about on this thread. (forgive me if I didn't read ALL the posts.  I read most of them).

It seems everyone is ignoring what baptism actually is.  Do they have faith in Jesus Christ to the the point of being motivated to repentance? Then they need to be baptized.

For some reason, we think of baptism as a formality to become a member of the Church.  Tangentially, this is true.  But scripturally, the first fruits of repentance is baptism.  That is why we baptize.  For the remission of sins.  And this desire can and DOES exist in first or second discussions with the misisonaries.

Peter and his compatriots joined Christ after a simple invitation to put down their nets and follow Him.  They didn't even know who He was.  But they felt the Spirit.  Even after walking with him day by day for three years, they still didn't get the gospel.  After the resurrection, they just went back to fishing.  Then Jesus had the conversation "Lovest thou me more than these?"  Baptism was REALLY early in this process.  They didn't know a THING!!

We are sent out to gather the lost sheep.  Those who have been prepared are those who are humbled to the point of repentance.  But repentance is only possible through Jesus Christ.  And the gate by which we enter is baptism.  If missionaries forget that, then we truly are only interested in numbers.

I'll just presume the "everybody" part of this otherwise excellent post meant "some people". ;)

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On 7/9/2019 at 5:18 AM, Mores said:

None of them had even a Deacon level of understanding of the gospel.

If the parents at home and the Primary organization at Church have been doing their job, most deacons should actually have a pretty solid grasp of the basics. So a deacon-level understanding isn't really a bad thing. Apropos of nothing. Just saying.

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19 minutes ago, Vort said:

If the parents at home and the Primary organization at Church have been doing their job, most deacons should actually have a pretty solid grasp of the basics. So a deacon-level understanding isn't really a bad thing. Apropos of nothing. Just saying.

Since you put "the parents at home" in the mix, I'd dare say that this should read:

"If the parents at home [...] have been doing their job, most deacons should actually have a pretty solid grasp [a very high understanding] of the basics [the gospel]. So a deacon-level understanding isn't really a bad thing [should be an amazingly educated well-versed thing].

About the time I hit Jr. High and ended up with some Jehovah's Witness buddies who just loved to Bible bash with us every day at lunch time I realized how much I actually knew about the gospel. And whereas I might (a very strong emphasis on that word) have been smarter than the average bear (I was an extremely A.D.D. child though who didn't pay attention to diddly), when you grow up in a home where the parents are doing their job (as in actually having Family Home Evenings and the like) and have the details of the gospel repeated to you your whole life, your grasp of the gospel ought to be extremely high by 12.

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On 7/8/2019 at 11:19 PM, Vort said:

What specific actions make you think that the brethren intended to get missionaries to ask people to be baptized before those people had ever even been introduced to the most basic aspects of the gospel?

In 1968 the discussions that were scripted and we were required to memorize, had the baptismal challenge midway through the first discussion. Basically by that time only the First Vision had been taught. 

So for Ballard to say that he doesn’t know how early invitations began is disingenuous. 

These invitations were scripted. 

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14 hours ago, mrmarklin said:

In 1968 the discussions ...

I am unaware of any "formal discussions" from 1968.  You may have made a typo.  Did you mean 1986? 

Quote

... that were scripted and we were required to memorize, had the baptismal challenge midway through the first discussion.  Basically by that time only the First Vision had been taught. 

  • The invitation to be baptized was in the second discussion.  Not the first.
  • The first discussion taught the first vision and the BoM.  It also taught our general beliefs on God & Christ, as well as the precedence and importance of prophets.  Finally, it taught about the Holy Ghost as a witness of truth.  and that last part was meant to help them gain a testimony of everything else that was taught.
  • Investigators were encouraged to read 2 Ne 11 and Moroni's promise before they met for the 2nd discussion.
  • They were committed to:
Quote

Pray to know that "the BoM" is true.  Pray to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

***

Quote

So for Ballard to say that he doesn’t know how early invitations began is disingenuous.  a lie.

Let's not beat around the bush.  That is what you meant. How easy it is to so quickly judge others.  Look at the facts.

Quote

These invitations were scripted. 

Not any more than any other lesson manual is.  And there isn't anything wrong with that.  The scriptures are indeed scripted for us to tell the story of God's dealings with mankind.  And how often do we repeat certain lines vebatim?  Does that mean we act exactly as they did in the Bible?  Well, when was the last time you sacrificed an animal to the Lord?  How about keeping a woman from speaking in church?  But. but. but. IT'S SCRIPTED!!!

  • While memorization was encouraged in the 1986 discussions, it was not "required" to be repeated verbatim -- at least I'm unaware of any missionary in my mission who actually memorized them besides me.  Memorization was simply a suggested method used for learning them in the first place.  And it was certainly helpful in learning new languages.
  • The instructions explicitly given in the second discussion (leading up to the invitation to be baptized) stated:
Quote

During this discussion you need to help the investigators feel the presence of the Holy SpiritThis will prepare them to make the commitments that lead to conversion and baptism.

I honestly don't know where anyone got the impression that you're supposed to extend the invitation "regardless of whether they feel the Spirit or not."  There was even an explicit statement:

Quote

Whenever the Spirit prompts you that the investigators are ready, invite them to commit themselves to be baptized.

You might want to get facts straight before you call an apostle a liar. 

 We need not jump to negative conclusions (inevitably leading to false accusations) simply because we don't wish to incorrectly assume positive conclusions (which I thought was considered an admirable trait).  It is perfectly fine to say "I don't know" or "I guess he made a mistake."  But now that we find that it was neither a mistake, nor a lie, how do you feel about what you said?

Edited by Mores

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4 hours ago, Mores said:

I am unaware of any "formal discussions" from 1968.  You may have made a typo.  Did you mean 1986? 

  • The invitation to be baptized was in the second discussion.  Not the first.
  • The first discussion taught the first vision and the BoM.  It also taught our general beliefs on God & Christ, as well as the precedence and importance of prophets.  Finally, it taught about the Holy Ghost as a witness of truth.  and that last part was meant to help them gain a testimony of everything else that was taught.
  • Investigators were encouraged to read 2 Ne 11 and Moroni's promise before they met for the 2nd discussion.
  • They were committed to:

***

Let's not beat around the bush.  That is what you meant. How easy it is to so quickly judge others.  Look at the facts.

Not any more than any other lesson manual is.  And there isn't anything wrong with that.  The scriptures are indeed scripted for us to tell the story of God's dealings with mankind.  And how often do we repeat certain lines vebatim?  Does that mean we act exactly as they did in the Bible?  Well, when was the last time you sacrificed an animal to the Lord?  How about keeping a woman from speaking in church?  But. but. but. IT'S SCRIPTED!!!

  • While memorization was encouraged in the 1986 discussions, it was not "required" to be repeated verbatim -- at least I'm unaware of any missionary in my mission who actually memorized them besides me.  Memorization was simply a suggested method used for learning them in the first place.  And it was certainly helpful in learning new languages.
  • The instructions explicitly given in the second discussion (leading up to the invitation to be baptized) stated:

I honestly don't know where anyone got the impression that you're supposed to extend the invitation "regardless of whether they feel the Spirit or not."  There was even an explicit statement:

You might want to get facts straight before you call an apostle a liar. 

 We need not jump to negative conclusions (inevitably leading to false accusations) simply because we don't wish to incorrectly assume positive conclusions (which I thought was considered an admirable trait).  It is perfectly fine to say "I don't know" or "I guess he made a mistake."  But now that we find that it was neither a mistake, nor a lie, how do you feel about what you said?

Don’t know how old you are Mores, but in 1968 the discussions were scripted and expected to be memorized.  Challenge to baptism was midway through first discussion. 

If you are unaware of any formal discussions in the sixties, you need to do more research. 

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A couple of unrelated thoughts:

1) A lot of the discussion has been about what exactly Pres. Ballard meant by this early invite. As many have noted, the official missionary publications and instructions and training have long included/expected a baptismal invitation within the first few lessons. From my time in the early '90s, an "optimal" timeline would be first contact -> schedule two lessons per week and baptismal invite is before the end of the 2nd lesson (first contact to baptism invite ~1 week) -> continue 2 lessons per week until 6 are completed and the investigator attends church at least once and so on (first contact to end of lessons ~3 weeks) -> baptism shortly after lesson 6 (first contact to baptism 3-4 weeks). I cannot say how many people I talked to were really ready for the baptismal invite after the 2nd lesson. Some that I judged were ready really weren't, and some that I judged not ready were. Is this the kind of practice Pres. Ballard is talking about in this talk, or is he talking about some of the other rumored scenarios ("come join our baseball team. If you want to join our baseball team, we have this initiation where we dunk you in a swimming pool, then you will be an official member of the team").

Perhaps Pres. Ballard is being intentionally vague, so that someone doesn't get the idea that a certain minimum time needs to pass. Pres. Ballard says that he wants the person to learn something about our faith and feel the Spirit before being extended the invite. Those kinds of things may happen very quickly (hours or days), and others need longer (cue Eeyore, "Days, Weeks, Months...who knows?"). Perhaps it is not about a calendar based time frame, but an event based time frame that we should be considering. The difficulty from the missionary's perspective is judging when those events have occurred.

2) Some have mentioned the scriptural examples where the only real requirement is a commitment to follow Jesus Christ. In many ways, I will agree that this can be the only requirement for baptism. However, Pres. Ballard specifically also mentions the idea of "retention". Reading between the lines, I think Pres. Ballard is looking for something more than just a commitment to follow the Savior. I think he is looking for a commitment to follow the Savior and actively participate in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Perhaps someone like PrisonChaplain might be better able to comment, but I see two very different commitments there. Are we content with baptizing people who are committed to the Savior but not committed to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? If we expect a commitment to the Church as well as the Savior, should we raise the bar a little bit on what happens before inviting to baptism?

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3 hours ago, MrShorty said:

I think he is looking for a commitment to follow the Savior and actively participate in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Is there a really a difference?

Perhaps the perquisite knowledge needs to be understanding that there is no difference.

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@The Folk Prophet Like I said, someone like PrisonChaplain might be better able to comment on the difference between committing to the Savior and committing to a specific Christian Church. We, with our "Mormon Exceptionalism" and "One True Church" claims have often said that they are not different. If one is unwilling to commit to this Church, then one is not truly committed to the Savior. And, we take a certain amount of flak from other Christians for these kinds of claims.

Is there a difference? I'm sure there is a believable, logical sequence that leads one to conclude that one who commits to follow the Savior must commit to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, I cannot look at someone like PrisonChaplain and convince myself that he/she is not committed to the Savior because he/she is unwilling to commit to this Church.

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27 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

the difference between committing to the Savior and committing to a specific Christian Church.

Only if there aren't certain presumptions in place. The presumption missionaries (and we) should have is that this is Christ's church. It's not "a" church. It is His church. That is the understanding to which I refer which I think is perquisite to a baptism commitment.

30 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

And, we take a certain amount of flak from other Christians for these kinds of claims.

So what?

31 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

I'm sure there is a believable, logical sequence that leads one to conclude that one who commits to follow the Savior must commit to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Of course there is. The logical sequence is as follows: A spiritual witness of the truth of the Joseph Smith as a Prophet and The Book of Mormon as the word of God leads to the logical conclusion that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's church.

34 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

However, I cannot look at someone like PrisonChaplain and convince myself that he/she is not committed to the Savior because he/she is unwilling to commit to this Church.

Which isn't really the point or what I said -- so maybe there's some misunderstanding here. I'm talking about our perspective as members of Christ's church and how we should approach committing others to baptism based upon their commitment to Christ and His church. That is, obviously, contingent on their actually believing that this is Christ's church.

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@The Folk Prophet I think we are saying the same thing, then. The idea I was trying to convey was that, while scripture may say (as others have pointed out) that all that is required is a commitment to follow Christ, I think Pres. Ballard was also concerned that they should also be on their towards some level of commitment to the Church. In response the question I posed, I see you saying that we should not be content with baptizing those who are not committed to the Church even if they are committed to the Savior.

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On 7/11/2019 at 5:14 PM, MrShorty said:

However, I cannot look at someone like PrisonChaplain and convince myself that he/she is not committed to the Savior because he/she is unwilling to commit to this Church.

This means that you seem to have a different idea of "commitment to the Savior" actually is. 

Think about what Atheists say about "believing" and "heaven".

Quote

So, you're telling me that I could take care of my family, give to the poor, love my neighbor, serve the community as much as possible, and be the perfect example of a good person, but I still won't go to heaven because I don't believe in God (or Christ)?

So, I guess we just shouldn't bother with that whole "believe in Christ" thing.

Edited by Mores

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3 hours ago, Mores said:

This means that you seem to have a different idea of "commitment to the Savior" actually is. 

That is very possible.

3 hours ago, Mores said:

So, I guess we just shouldn't bother with that whole "believe in Christ" thing.

I don't think that's what I am trying to say. I think Pres Ballard wants to see people genuinely committed to following the Savior. I think he is also concerned by those who don't simultaneously commit to the Church.

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