Bill Pringle - Bill@BillPringle
Sacrament Meeting talk
by Bill Pringle
April 27, 2003
In the Mormon Church, we fast at least once a month. We don't eat for 24 hours, missing two meals. During that time, we are encouraged to pray about things that are important to us. We then take the money we would have spent on food (and more, if we can afford it) and donate it for use with the poor. Sometimes, we are also asked to fast and pray about specific things. In this case, we had been asked to fast for Missionary work in the area. I was asked to speak specifically about fasting, but also related fasting to the topic of Missionary work.
My topic today is Fasting.
I want to start off by saying that I have a firm testimony of Fasting
When I was first teaching Primary many years ago, I got into the habit of fasting each Sunday, and praying that I would be able to teach a good lesson. There were many times when I felt that I was able to teach a much better lesson that I could have otherwise. I could often feel the Spirit helping me in my calling, and I am sure that fasting played a very big role in that.
Let me start out by answering the question: "What is fasting?"
Fasting is more than just not eating. When we fast, we are praying about something that is very important to us. Whatever we are praying about is called the purpose of our fast.
Fasting is a powerful way to pray.
Sometimes we say a quick prayer silently. Sometimes we stop and bow our head to pray. And sometimes we kneel to pray.
But when we really want to pray, that is when we fast.
We should start and end our fast with a meal.
We pray at the start of the fast, and then we pray at the end of the fast.
We should also pray many times during the fast.
The way I remember to pray often during the fast is when I feel hungry, it reminds me I'm fasting, so I say another prayer about the purpose of my fast.
We have been asked to fast for Missionary Work
What kind of Missionary Work are we supposed to be doing? Well, I can tell you what we are not expected to do.
We are not responsible for converting people. Converting people is the responsibility of the Holy Ghost.
We are not responsible for teaching the Gospel. Teaching the Gospel is what the Missionaries are supposed to be doing.
So, what kind of missionary work are we supposed to be doing?
Our job as members is to declare the gospel.
The important thing is that people know you are a member of this Church.
When people find out you are a member, then those who Heavenly Father have prepared will start asking you questions.
We should not worry about converting people. Nor should we think something went wrong if our friends don't join right away.
Most converts have had several experiences with the Church before they join. That's what happened in my case. I remember hearing about the Mormon Church a couple of times when I was a kid, and a couple of times when I was an adult before I was interested enough to look into it further.
Maybe all you are supposed to do is be one of those contacts. We may never realize how much we have helped people join the Church.
So, now that we know we are supposed to proclaim the Gospel, how do we go about doing that?
As some of you may know, the latest Harry Potter book went on sale about a week ago. Sister Pringle and I were fortunate in that we had to buy two copies of the book: one copy for us, and one for our daughter, who was on vacation with her family when it came out. That meant that we each had our own copy to read.
Well, Sister Pringle is a much faster reader than me, so she finished it a couple of days before I did. And she would keep asking me: "Where are you in the book now". She really wanted to talk to me about the book, but had to wait until I was done.
When we have something we really like, we often want to share that with other people. We want to tell them about a book, or a movie, or a TV show that we like.
Missionary work is much the same. We really like the Church, and we want to tell others about it. So, we should look for Missionary opportunities where we can share the Gospel.
What Missionary opportunities do we have?
Well, I guess it depends on whether you are a kid or an adult. Let me talk to each group for a minute.
I will start off with the kids.
Kids, from what I have been told, you are already great missionaries. Many of you are here because you had a friend who was coming and enjoyed it, and they invited you to come, too. I think you are great missionaries.
Now, kids, do you want to be even better missionaries? Then I would suggest that you try to get adults to come to church with you. If your parents, or aunt or uncle, or even older brother or sister aren't coming, then try to get them to come to Church more often.
If you have to give a talk, ask them to help you. If you are supposed to do something for Primary, or Young Men, or Young Women, then ask them for help. Ask them to look at what you have done and make suggestions.
Church is a much happier place when the whole family is there to enjoy it.
Okay, now let me talk to the adults.
Adults sometimes feel uncomfortable talking about the Church.
Don't feel pressured. Remember, you aren't trying to convert anybody. You only want them to be aware that you are a member. If they have been prepared to receive the Gospel, they will start asking questions. If they have not been prepared, they will say something like "that's nice" and show no further interest.
That's okay. All you want to do is introduce them to the Gospel. If they are interested, you will know.
There are lots of opportunities to proclaim the Gospel.
You can almost always introduce some Gospel or church related statement into most conversations.
For example, almost every Monday, somebody comes up to you and asks: "How was your weekend?" All you have to do then is mention something that happened at Church.
For the last month I have had lots of chances to do just that. People would ask how my weekend was, and I would answer:
Really nice. My wife and I have been asked to attend a small congregation in South Philly.
The next week:
We went to South Philly for the first time. It was nice.
I got to substitute teach a class in Primary, and I have been called to be a Primary teacher.
I got to teach my first class on Sunday. There were two really great kids there.
It was really great! I got to teach a bigger class, and my wife and I got to give talks in Sacrament meeting.
If nobody asks you, that's okay. Just walk up to them, smile, and say to them "How was your weekend?" and see what happens.
Some people worry that others will be offended if they aren't interested. I doubt it.
For example, a friend of mine at work told me about a TV show he saw on the Discovery Channel the other day. He thought I might enjoy it, and even told me later when it was on again.
My wife and I started to watch it, but we didn't like it. I wasn't mad at him because we didn't like the show. In fact, I thought that it was really nice of him to think enough of me to tell me about it.
In the same way, some people we tell about the Church will be interested, and others won't. The choice is theirs, but I doubt very much if they will be mad at you for talking about the Church. All we should try to do is make sure people have the chance to learn more about the Church.
Sometimes the opportunity comes up when we least expect it. For example, there was a woman at work whose father was Romanian. She told me that her father was missing the old country. Now, I might not look like it now, but when I was younger, not only could I walk, but I could dance, too. In fact, I used to do a lot of International Folk Dancing. I have albums at home that I am sure absolutely nobody in this congregation wants to hear. :^)
Anyway, I made a tape for her father of Romanian folk songs and dances. She said he was acting twenty years younger. He loved the tape. He would listen to it over and over, and tell her about the songs.
She was so grateful that one day she came up to me and gave me a really nice bottle of wine, and told me that she wanted my wife and I to enjoy the bottle of wine together. I thanked her for the thought, but then explained that we were Mormons, and so we didn't drink wine. I then told her that what I would like best is if she and her father would enjoy that bottle of wine together while they listened to the tape. She was very touched, and not only she, but her father then knew that I was a Mormon.
She never showed any interest in the Gospel, but I am sure that if she heard anything bad about the Church, she would know better.
In fact, I had exactly that experience with another friend of mine. For some time now, I have run a web site for a singer/songwriter by the name of Cheryl Wheeler. She has absolutely no interest in the Church, but she knows I am a Mormon. She told me once that she was talking to somebody who started to say something bad about Mormons. She stopped him and said "I don't think that's true. I have a friend who is a Mormon, and he's not like that at all." As I said, she hasn't any interest in the Church, but who knows? Maybe that person will become interested in the Church sometime because of what she said to him. And all because she knew that I was a Mormon.
And last, but not least. I am developing a web application for somebody at work. He is a devout Catholic, but seems fascinated about the Church. He keeps asking me questions about what we believe, how the Church works, etc. He seems quite fascinated with this Branch. Maybe I can talk him into coming down here some time so he can get a better idea of what we are like.
Maybe he will join the Church, maybe he won't. At least I know that he has been given the opportunity to learn about the Gospel.
Again, I am not trying to convert anybody to the Gospel. If they join, that would be great, but we never know what will be the results of the seeds that we plant along the way. And that, to me, is what Missionary work is all about. Spreading the Gospel.
Now, since President Smith has never heard me give a talk before without me mentioning Hebrew or Greek, I guess I should close with some Greek. As many of you know, Philadelphia is Greek for "City of Brotherly Love". It is only fitting that we, in the City of Brotherly Love, show our love for our fellow man by helping to spread the Gospel.
Open your mouths. Let people know who you are. And be prepared to recognize those who are interested in learning more about the Church. It is a great feeling to help somebody accept the Gospel.
This coming Fast Sunday, it is my prayer that all of us fast and pray to find those who have been prepared to hear the Gospel, and that we have the courage to speak out and let them hear the message they are waiting for.