Member Referrals

I wrote the following in 1985 when I served as a counselor in the NY Rochester Mission Presidency. This was used mission-wide and I frequently, gently give a copy to my full-time missionaries when we are struggling to receive referrals from our members.

How to Receive More Member Referrals

As missionaries, we are constantly asked by our leaders to lengthen our stride and help bring about a dramatic increase in convert baptisms. There are many things we can do to help this: Work more hours, sharpen our teaching and committing skills, pray harder, and learn to tract successfully. All of these things will help cause a percentage increase in baptisms, but they probably won't cause our baptisms to double or triple mission-wide. We know that the key toward dramatically increasing baptisms is member referrals.

Are we as missionaries just to sit patiently waiting for members to shower us with referrals? Why do some missionaries never receive member referrals while others seem to receive many each week? I served as a missionary in the New York Rochester Mission from 1977 to 1979. It wasn't until I neared the latter part of my mission that it became very clear that the key toward having many baptisms rested on what I as a missionary could do to help influence the members to give me referrals. The intent of this article is to suggest many things that a missionary can do to receive many member referrals no matter what ward or branch they serve in.

Know the Members

When you are transferred into a ward, your first objective should be to get to know all of the adult members within three to four weeks. I am terrible about learning names and what I would do is take notes each Sunday to match names with faces. Each week you should be able to learn about 20-30 new names. This is very important for a couple of reasons.

First, this causes you to aggressively seek out the members and you will even get to know those shy, quiet members who have referrals waiting up their sleeves for a missionary to ask for. Many times I hear a missionary comment how they have been in the ward for several months and that the members still think they just transferred into the ward. Obviously that missionary hasn't made the effort to meet all of the members and most members won't give referrals to missionaries they don't know.

Second, as soon as you know all the members, you will quickly recognize any non-member visitors at church. Many members invite people to church but it sometimes never occurs to them to introduce them to the missionaries.

Use Prime Time Member Time Effectively

Just as there are certain hours of the day which are proven to be the best time to find investigators, there are three hours during the week that is the prime time to do member work--at church each Sunday. One of the most important reasons why missionaries are to attend all meetings on Sundays is to do missionary work.

As a missionary in 1978, in the Albany Ward, a wise mission counselor taught me a very important lesson. We had twelve missionaries in the ward and each Sunday we were excited to see each other and talk about what happened during the week. This mission counselor observed that during a sacrament meeting, that all the missionaries were sitting together. He pulled us aside after the meeting and taught us how to use Prime Time Member Time.

Missionary companionships should sit with a different member family in each meeting. I hope to never see missionaries sitting in groups or alone in a corner. You should take every opportunity to relate to the members the great experiences you had during the week. Use the time between meetings to greet the members and get them excited about missionary work. It takes effort! It is much easier to go off and sit in a corner or to joke around with your missionary buddies, but remember, you are at church to do missionary work. You should bear your testimony on Fast Sundays, and actively participate, but not dominate, in classes.

Generate a Positive Attitude About Missionary Work

If a ward thinks it is not a good missionary ward, it won't be. If a ward is not a good missionary ward, but it thinks it is, it will be!

When I was first made a ward mission leader, my ward hadn't had a baptism in over eight months and the members were almost convinced that missionary work couldn't be done there. I made sure that from then on, the missionaries would always talk positively about how missionary work was going. When asked how their week went, they wouldn't say, "pretty tough, all of our appointments fell through," they would instead say, "we are teaching some great people, this ward is great to be in. Missionary work is exciting!" Little, by little, the members became convinced that this was a missionary ward. Testimony meetings wouldn't consist of vacation updates, they would be about missionary experiences. Three months later, the baptisms started rolling in. Not long after that, the ward was leading the mission in baptisms and has been near the top ever since.

Once the members start feeling proud of the missionary effort in their ward, they will want to get on the "band wagon" and do their part. They will give more referrals and go on more splits. But if they don't associate missionary work with good feelings, they will try to avoid it. As you make a conscience effort to generate these positive feelings, those referrals will start rolling in.

Member Visits

As a member, nothing motivates me more to do missionary work than to see a hard working missionary at my door step. When I first moved to New York, I was excited to do missionary work. After several months, the excitement wore off as I became busy with work and family things. We didn't see a missionary at our home for over a year. Finally, some good missionaries started working in our area and they would drop by for very short visits. This made me again think about missionary work in my daily activities and over the next couple of weeks, the missionaries taught three families that I referred. I would have never thought about referring those people if the missionaries would not have visited.

On my mission, when I was transferred into a new area, I would set a goal that before I was transferred out, that I would visit every member family in the area. This meant that I had to carefully plan which families I was to visit. I never used a year-old member list, I always made sure I had an up-to-date list. I didn't care if the member family was active or not, in fact I discovered that most of the referrals came from the partially active families who had more non-member friends. I visited member families who hadn't seen a missionary in years because most of the other missionaries were too busy visiting the very active families who were comfortable to visit and who fed good meals.

Ask the members to pray for specific families that you are teaching. Tell the the day and the time that you will be teaching them. Great miracles will happen with your families and the members well always ask you about the family and feel apart of your success.

In visiting members, it is very important to follow the guidelines set forth by the mission president and it is also important to report on all visits to your ward mission leader. The ward mission leader is the key individual in the ward to help members to do missionary work, so it is important for him to know who you visit and how much missionary work the member family is doing.

Be Your Best Self

How you conduct yourself around members greatly affects how many good referrals you will receive. Whether you like it or not, members always watch and judge missionaries' actions. Many of you have been thrown into an adult world for the first time. Before your mission, most of the people you came in contact with were people in your age group and now in most cases you must deal with people much older than you, yet these people expect from you a greater maturity level than themselves. Your actions speak a lot louder than your words. It is very simple, if you want members to trust you with their referrals, be your best self.

Treat Referrals Like Gold

Some referrals are good, others not so good, but regardless, you must treat every referral like gold! I have given referrals to the missionaries in the past and several times and have not been told of the results nor was I thanked. In fact some of the referrals were never contacted! Nothing discourages a member more than this. I can think of nothing that should be higher priority in your proselyting than handling member referrals and reporting back positive results and expressing your deepest gratitude. Remember the story of the ten lepers.

Pray For the Members and Work Hard

We ask the members to pray for us in our labors, and it is just as important for us as missionaries to daily pray specifically for the members in our area in their missionary labors.

I discovered on my mission, that the times that I was working the hardest, were the times when the Lord blessed me with referrals. I feel that we need to prove to the Lord through our tracting and other activities that we are worthy of his great blessings. Six of my baptisms were people who called me up asking for membership in the church. I feel that if I hadn't been working so hard, that I would have never been blessed with the opportunity to teach those great people.

Be Patient and Loving

Finally, you need to be very patient and loving with the members. Don't blame them for your lack of success, but do credit them for the great help they do give you. Referrals can't be produced for you overnight, but they will come in great numbers if you will concentrate on doing the things discussed in this article.


"And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood which he received under the hand of his father in law, Jethro." (D&C 84:6)
This section also shows the line of authority back to Melchizedek...not through Jacob or Isaac, but through Esaias who lived in the days of Abraham and was blessed by him.

"Arabic tradition, which seems to know Jethro under the name of Shu'ayb, whom it views as a great prophet and preacher who spoke with authority from God." (See Qur'an 7:85-93) (from "Abraham Divided", Peterson p.69)

Peterson explains that the Midianites are an Arabian group of bedouins. They were Ishmaelite traders who took caravans to Egypt, as mentioned in the story of Joseph. Isaiah speaks of their great wealth.

Mount of Transfiguration

> In the JST it identifies the Elias on the Mount as John the > Baptist.

Elder McConkies thoughts:

"It is not to be understood that John the Baptist was the Elias who appeared with Moses to confer keys and authority upon those who then held the Melchizedek Priesthood, which higher priesthood already embraced and included all of the authority and power John had held and exercised during his ministry. Rather, for some reason that remains unknown--because of the partial record of the proceedings--John played some other part in the glorious manifestations then vouchsafed to mortals. Perhaps he was there, as the last legal administrator under the Old Covenant, to symbolize that the law was fulfilled and all old things were done away, thus contrasting his position with that of Peter, James, and John who were then becoming the 'first' legal administrators of the New Kingdom." (DNTC 1:404)

Some have wondered if this is an error in the JST compiled by the RLDS church, but Robert Matthews lets us know that this was in the original manuscript that Joseph Smith created. Others wonder if Joseph yet understood who Elias was, or the many people he could have been, and maybe the manuscript is in error. Who knows? This is a passage that we just don't totally understand.

D&C 63:21 tells us that we only have a portion of what took place on the mount, "the fulness ye have not yet received."

I personally am of the opinion that Joseph Smith hadn't yet come to a understanding of who this Elias was, and that John the Baptist was on the Mount.

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Did Mulek really exist? In Omni 1:14 we find that the people of Zarahemla were discovered and that Mosiah was told by there leader, Zarahemla, that they came out of Jerusalem at the time of Zedekiah and that this Zarahemla related to Mosiah their genealogy "according to his memory." (Omni 1:18) Later Mosiah tells us in Mos 25:2 that these people were descendants of a Mulek. And in Helaman 6:10 and 8:21 we find out that this Mulek was a son of Zedekiah that wasn't slain. This fact appears in the record 100-125 years after the merger of these two nations. In no place in the Book of Mormon text do we find the name "Mulekites." This name was invented my the early church members.

I do not recall all the reasons why some feel that these people may not have really been descendents of Zedekiah, but some include:

- No mention of a son of Zedekiah surviving in Jer 39:4

- Zarahemla may have been trying to impress Mosiah so he would accept his people.

- Neither Zarahemla nor any of his line ever tried to claim kingship by virtue of their descent from Judaic royalty.

Some reasons why they may have truly been descendents:

- The prophet Nephi seemed to believe it (Hel 8:21) and Mormon seemed to also since he mentions it in the abridgement (Hel 6:10)

- The FARMS reprint "Bible Prophecies of the Mulekites" (SOR-57) by John L. Sorenson follows Orson Pratt in claiming that Mulek's relocation to the New World was the fulfillment of prophecy in Eze 17: 22-24:

According to Sorenson (and Pratt), the tender one was Mulek, cropped from Zedekiah's young twigs. Sorenson also considers the possibility of a play on names that makes this interpretation even more convincing:

"The evidence that this "tender twig" was Mulek of the Book of Mormon is made more convincing by a revealing play on words involving his name... Assuming that the spelling of the name as given by Joseph Smith reasonably reproduces the distinctions of the ancient language, it becomes clear that Mulek is probably what is termed a Pu'al form of Hebrew verb, and therefore would be read as passive...

If we read the name as muleq (with final letter goph). the meaning would become "to break off, nip off." ...To the Semitic mind with its love of word play this situation would be perfect. The faithful followers of Prince Mulek would have been reminded at every mention of his name that he was both their king and also the plucked-off twig of Ezekiel's prophecy."

Sorenson also shows a list of some of the inhabitants of ancient Mesoamerica who claimed to be descended from trees: the Chiapas Mayas, Mixtecs, and Zapotecs. He also quotes Paul Henning as saying that tribal names of Zapotec, Chichimec, Quiche, and Cakchiquel all make reference to trees in some fashion.

- Sorenson mentions in JBS 1:1 that at La Venta, carved on stone is a person of high social status, facial features appear to non-Mormon art historians as a Jew.


Yes, Elder McConkie defined a mystery as:

"Any gospel truth, however simple that is not understood, or beyond spiritual capacity to understand." (MM p.164)

It is also my understanding that many mysteries (truths not yet understood) just won't be revealed to us, no matter how hard we try until that time when the Lord shall come, and "shall reveal all things." (D&C 101:32)

"The discussion of mysteries and doctrines only partly revealed can await the coming of the Lord...Whether we are right or wrong in the field of the mysteries will make no difference so far as our individual acts are concerned, and will neither exalt nor damn us, providing we do not make a fetish of our notions or get off on a tangent and destroy ourselves." (Joseph Fielding Smith, DS 1:305-6)

Yes, I know many scoff at statements like this a cop-out, or a weak reason for ending any discussion. I say, let them scoff, the statement is true. Our limited minds, intelligence and knowledge just cannot comprehend all things at this time. Because our minds cannot understand all the details of God's foreknowledge or omniscience, does this mean that we must believe in a much more limited power to satisfy our limited minds right now. Does this mean that we must avoid discussing these things and seeking after answers? No, but we shouldn't be surprised if the answers just do not come.

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> "All in all, we're just another brick in the wall." (Pink Floyd, > 1980?)

With all due respect to this Mr Floyd, but I thinketh he preacheth false doctrine.

I've had similar feelings at times, usually in very large crowds. But I think these feelings are somewhat healthy because it brings to our "remembrance, the greatness of God, and (our) own nothingness..." (Mosiah 4:11)

What should we do? Call "on the name of the Lord daily, and stand steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come...that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God...and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you..." (Mosiah 4:11-12)

"The least, the most inferior spirit now upon the earth, in our capacity, is worth worlds." (Brigham Young, JD 9:124)

Think about the glorious things that the Lord showed to Enoch, Abraham, Moses. Why? "This high value which the Lord puts upon the souls of men as made known in these modern scriptures, he also revealed to his ancient prophets. To impress upon their minds the worth of a human soul, he gave some of them a glimpse of the magnitude of his creations and then explained that they were but ancillary to the accomplishment of his purpose....

"Now the answer to this profound question: What is man that he should be of such inestimable worth? --comes only by direct revelation from heaven. So important is it that it is communicated to men by God himself and angels sent by him." (Marion G. Romney, CR 1978)

So again, the way we learn that we are more than a brick or an ant is through revelation...we then come to an understanding of just what an impact we can make in this world and upon the souls of many. This then brings to our understanding the potential we have and what we can truly achieve.

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In 3 Ne 12:48 (also Matt 5:48) we find

"Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect." Did he mean it?

"This is a mandate from the Lord...he would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and not attainable. Perfection is an achievable goal." (Spencer W. Kimball, MOF 208)

This leaves little room for argument, right? OK, I also know about the "perfect in one commandment at a time" argument. (You can be perfect in the Word of Wisdom, tithing...etc.) Mark E. Peterson expressed this in 1950, Bruce R. McConkie did too in 1976. But is this a cop out?

"Nobody becomes perfect in this life...There are many things people have to do, even after the grave to work out salvation. We're not going to be perfect the minute we die. But if we've charted a course, desires right, appetites bridled, doing our very best, we'll go on to everlasting salvation in Father's kingdom." (Bruce R. McConkie CR 1976)

And from Joseph Smith:

"When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principals of the Gospel...But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave." (TJS p. 348)

This sounds great. Does it mean I can "eat, drink, and be merry" and that God will "beat me with a few stripes" and then let me into his Kingdom? (2 Ne 28:7-9) Nope, it is heresy to think that we can delay our repentance and do it after this life and still make it into the Celestial Kingdom.

"There can be no salvation without repentance. There are a great many the church who have an idea they can go through this life doing as they please, violating the commandments of the Lord and yet eventually they are going to come into his presence. They think they are going to repent perhaps in the spirit world." (Joseph Fielding Smith DS 2:195-6)

I think the key words are:

"But if we've charted a course, desires right, appetites bridled, doing our very best, we'll go on to everlasting salvation in Father's kingdom." (Bruce R. McConkie CR 1976)

Stephen E. Robinson also teaches some interesting ideas in "Believing Christ." He feels that perfection is a goal, but we can't do it on our own.

"Taken together, Christ and I make up a new creature....Christ and I, are perfect. I do not mean that we can become perfect later on. I mean that from the moment the partnership is formed...from this moment the partnership is celestial...True this is not individual perfection, which will indeed come later (much later), rather it is perfection in Christ." (p.25-26)
I have some doctrinal difficulties with some of his ideas, but they are worthy to consider and it is a very good book.

"No one shall ever reach such perfection unless he is guided to it by Him who is perfect. And guidance from Him is to be had only through prayer." (Marion G. Romney)

"There can be no salvation without repentance. There are a great many the church who have an idea they can go through this life doing as they please, violating the commandments of the Lord and yet eventually they are going to come into his presence. They think they are going to repent perhaps in the spirit world." (Joseph Fielding Smith DS 2:195-6)

Elder McConkie had some thoughts on this subject:

"Perfection is of two kinds--finite or mortal, and infinite or eternal. Finite perfection may be fained by the righteous saints in this life. It consists in living a godfearing life of devotion to the truth, of walking in complete submission to the will of the Lord, and of putting first in one's life the things of the kingdom of God. Infinite perfection is reserved for those who overcome all things and inherit the fulness of the Father in the mansions hereafter. It consists in gaining eternal life, the kind of life which God has in the highest heaven within the celestial world....when our Lord told the Jews, 'Be ye therefore perfect...', hew was speaking of ultimate eternal perfection in his Father's kingdom." (Bruce R. McConkie, MD p. 567-8)

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