While to some it may seem like “the work of salvation” is about missionary work, the Church takes a much broader view. In this chapter of Handbook 2, the work of salvation is defined as including “member missionary work, convert retention, activation of less-active members, temple and family history work, and teaching the gospel.” Clearly salvation doesn’t end with baptism.
This chapter includes sections on each of the above five areas, but before diving into them, it gives an overview of responsibilities. Member missionary work is the responsibility of the Ward Mission Leader; temple and family history work the responsibility of the High Priest Group Leader and teaching the gospel is the domain of the Sunday School President. And what of convert retention and activation of less-active members? Given that no specialist exists in the ward or branch organization, the hand book suggests that these responsibilities be assigned to the counselors in the bishopric. Is it strange that these two areas aren’t otherwise assigned in the ward organization?
I’ve organized my comments on the rest of the chapter by the sections they relate to. Because of time constraints and the number of comments, I’m only looking at the first two sections today.
Member Missionary Work
- In 5.1.1, the ward council is tasked with preparing and following a ward mission plan. I’m sure most wards have such a plan (its in the handbook, so you’d think most wards try to follow it, so…), but I have to admit, while I can imagine some items (goals, what resources and effort will be needed to reach those goals), I don’t know a lot about what would be in such a plan. Can anyone share what kind of things might make up a ward mission plan?
- 5.1.2 includes a list of member missionary duties: 1) find & prepare investigators, 2)assist missionaries in teaching, 3)fellowship, 4)prepare themselves & their children to serve full-time missions.
- The discussion of Ward Missionaries in 5.1.4 includes some interesting policies:
- Ward missionaries don’t need assigned companions.
- But, they shouldn’t go out alone.
- Ward missionaries are called for a specific term of service (they are?) and
- Ward missionaries don’t wear name tags.
- Some additional policies that I didn’t know:
- The mission president holds the keys for baptizing and confirming converts (5.1.6)
- Splits are discouraged! (“Normally, full-time missionary companionships are not separated to work with ward members.”), but when they do happen, those who split with missionaries must follow mission rules (5.1.6)
- Seems obvious, but “Baptisms of family members should not be delayed so the father can receive the priesthood and perform the baptisms himself.” (5.1.7) I wonder how many times that happened before the policy was developed!
- One major ethical difficulty that can arise with both missionary work and convert retention is the possibility of manipulation—such as seems possible with the idea of fellowshipping. The assumption the handbook makes is that it is done out of genuine concern for the member being fellowshipped. But if that concern isn’t present…
- In 5.2.2, the handbook emphasizes that “each new adult member receives a calling or other opportunities to serve.” Since many callings almost require that a member have a certain amount of experience, I wonder if it might be useful to have a list of callings that new members can fill. And, this statement implies two different categories of service: callings and other opportunities to serve. Is the difference just a matter of formality and whether the “opportunity is short-term or ongoing?
- Section 5.2.2 also clarifies some still-common misconceptions about the priesthood, saying “brethren ages 12 and older are ordained to the appropriate Aaronic Priesthood office soon after their confirmation, normally within a week” and “Brethren who are worthy to be baptized and confirmed are also worthy to receive the Aaronic Priesthood.” Furthermore, the idea that adult men should wait a year before being ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood is apparently no longer true. Instead, adult males should be ordained elders “after they have served as priests, developed sufficient understanding of the gospel, and demonstrated their worthiness. No specific time as a member is required.”
- The handbook specifically suggests that priesthood and auxiliary leaders should visit recently baptized who don’t make it to Church each week. If only this was done more faithfully.
- There is a kind of hand-off of responsibility from the full-time missionaries to local leaders that is mentioned in section 5.2.6. In a sense there are potential problems with this hand-off, as missionaries are not always concerned with how well converts progress after baptism (the point at which their responsibility largely ends) and local leaders don’t always connect with converts until the baptism. This section is part of the attempt to bridge some of this difficulty, along with the idea that members and ward missionaries should be involved early in the process.
- I found one odd policy statement in 5.2.9, where the handbook states that “In his regular meeting with the mission president, the stake president may give a report on the progress of new members in the stake.” What seems strange here is the hierarchy. As I understand it, Stake Presidents normally report to Area Presidents, not to Mission Presidents. And since Mission Presidents normally report to Area Presidents also, aren’t Mission Presidents and Stake Presidents at about the same level? I know that probably makes the hierarchy a bit more inflexible than it is, but I still wonder a little at this (not that its earth shattering or anything). I suppose Mission Presidents are kind of on a half-level between stake/district presidents and the Area President.
The above should give us plenty of things to discuss. I’ll try to get the rest of chapter 5 next week.
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