Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hitting the Ground Running

By Rodger Dean Duncan

One normally does not have a "by-line" on a blog. But in this case two of us are reporting to you while only one of us is doing the writing. So to help us avoid convoluted language patterns, I (Rodger) will provide the "voice" for our blog posts.

As some of you know, we came to Texas three times last year on what we called “reconnaissance missions.” Two of those trips were before we even applied for missionary service. We met a lot of the Church members down here and began to familiarize ourselves with Waco, which has grown tremendously since the early 1960s when I attended Baylor University.

This past week was full of activity getting to know the Waco area members and acquainting ourselves with the opportunities here.

Our apartment does not have an actual fireplace, so to warm
our visitors we added a "virtual fireplace" on our TV screen,
complete with the crackling sound of burning wood.
Tuesday’s District Meeting at the Waco Stake Center (in nearby Hewitt, Texas) was, again, very impressive. The young elders (does that sound like an oxymoron?) conducted the meeting and did an excellent job. They are mature, well prepared, and very focused on the most critical spiritual and performance issues. We were impressed by their instruction and by the way they involved everyone in the room.

The first half of the meeting included reports on progress of investigators—people of other faiths (or no particular faith) who are being taught the gospel of the restoration by the missionaries.

It seems that a key to success here (as everywhere else in the Church) is member involvement.

At this point, there is evidence that many members here do not yet have the vision of their covenant responsibilities to spread the gospel.

Part of the challenge may be the language we often use. Throughout the Church we seem to talk about missionary “work.” We would do well to regard it as missionary “covenant.” And all baptized and confirmed members have made the covenant, not just those who temporarily wear missionary tags.

Rather than send members on a perpetual guilt trip for not giving referrals to the full-time missionaries, we’d like to help them catch the vision of the multiple ways they can comfortably and naturally share the joy of accepting (and living) the restored gospel. It can begin with something as simple as inviting the missionaries to bring an investigator (or less active member) into an active member’s home for teaching a lesson. Fellowshipping—early and often—is a key to helping people feel comfortable and welcome as “fellow citizens” in the gospel community.

The second half of the District Meeting focused on goal-setting. Elder Shields (one of the District Leaders) did a great job of introducing this subject, including a short video featuring relevant counsel by Apostles Ballard and Scott. Then he asked me to provide some instruction on the subject. Using the SMART Goal Tutorial adapted from one of my books, I challenged the missionaries to:
  • Prayerfully consider personal goals that are most relevant to the success of their ministry.
  • Use the SMART Goals framework to transform the goals from mere aspirations to achievable objectives.
  • Discuss their goals in their weekly companionship inventory.
  • Return and report their experience at the next District Meeting. 

I emphasized that any goal worth achieving is likely to be challenging. I mentioned that we live in a world where people seem to want instant gratification. But worthy goals are about long-term benefit to us and to the people whose lives we wish to influence for the better. The elders seemed to welcome the instruction, and several expressed appreciation for learning a goal-setting approach that replaces guilt with hope and high expectations.

On Wednesday evening we took Elders Shields and Coats with us to a dinner appointment in the home of Brother and Sister Clements of the Waco 2nd Ward. The Clements are in their late 60s, married only three years ago, and are devoted missionaries. They are great people and very hospitable. Rean said our time in their home reminded her of the wonderful Saints we knew in Texas not long after our marriage 47 years ago.

After dinner at the Clements home, we returned Elder Shields and Elder Coats to their car. Then we drove to the home of David Hodson, President of the Young Single Adult Branch. This New Year’s Eve party included about 40 members of the YSA Branch, as well as a couple of non-members. In addition to some good conversation with the YSA members, we had a nice visit with President and Sister Hodson as well as with Michael Estrada and David Gleason, counselors in the branch presidency. We were asked to speak in a YSA sacrament meeting later this month. I was also asked to speak at a special fireside that will likely be scheduled some time in February. To get maximum mileage from this fireside opportunity, we will suggest that members of the Hewitt and Waco 2nd Wards also be invited, along with their non-member friends.

This relationship-building is very important as we establish confidence with the local members so they will respond positively to our proactive efforts to help them.

My conversation with Brother Gleason seemed to open up a good public service opportunity. He works in nearby Temple, Texas, for Baylor Scott & White Health Care System. This is a non-profit organization with a national reputation for excellence. (Baylor Hospital merged with Scott & White to enable both entitles to deal more effectively with the onerous burdens of Obama Care). I offered to do a pro bono leadership workshop for his organization. As it turns out, his manager is Kevin Graves, System Vice President of the entire 34,000-person organization. Kevin, now based in Dallas, was recently released as president of the Oklahoma City Stake where I previously served as stake president. We believe this unexpected “connection” is more than coincidence. Brother Gleason and I will pursue this possible opportunity for community outreach.

On Friday we hosted Elder Shields and Elder Coats at our apartment for lunch. We had a lively and helpful discussion on missionary efforts in the Waco 2nd Ward. We are very impressed by the devotion and maturity of these elders. Based on our discussion, I have several ideas on how to accelerate the work in the ward (and stake). This coming week we’re hosting President and Sister Christensen (of the Waco Stake) for dinner at our apartment. That may provide a good opportunity to broach some of the ideas.

The seasonal lighting at Baylor's Old Main is very festive.
On Friday evening we visited with a wonderful sister who’s 80 but looks more like a beautiful 60. She was baptized 22 years ago and was active for many years. But about a year ago she took offense from ward members. When she was assigned to organize a ward activity and the promotion of the event was not what it should have been, no one came. Her feelings were hurt and she has not been in Church since. This woman is very intelligent, has a professional background, and is a delight to visit. Because she is from Wales, Rean engaged her in a conversation about her own Welsh background, and I told her about my visits to Wales on a special Church assignment in the 1970s. We also gave her loving counsel about not allowing an offense—real or imagined, intended or not—to jeopardize the blessings of full activity in the Church. We invited her to return to activity, and she promised to join us at Church. This morning we drove to her home and picked her up to take her to Church. She was greeted warmly by the members and seemed to feel very welcome. We will continue to work with her, and we’re confident she will continue to attend. We will follow through to ensure that she has reliable home and visiting teachers.

It’s amazing how the simple principles of love and caring provide the healing ointment for people’s spiritual ailments.

To help set the tone for the New Year, you may wish to see "Wise Men Still Seek Him: Modern-Day Story of the Wise Men."

Love to all.

Elder and Sister Duncan
Texas Fort Worth Mission
The Church of Jesus Christ
   of Latter-day Saints


  1. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experiences. We love you!

  2. Mercy me --you can make us think! You are just a wonderful writer! Thanks

    I did like that cartoon!

  3. Thank you for including me in your updates. I am glad to hear that you are settling in and "hitting the ground running!"

    I especially love this line: "It's amazing how the simple principles of love and caring provide the healing ointment for people's spiritual ailments." That's truth that has no boundaries.

    Best wishes for you two in 2015!