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rongo

Interesting and fun afternoon yesterday

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I am jealous!  Sounds wonderful!  ;)

 

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12 minutes ago, rongo said:

He said he wishes that his neighborhood were much more Mormon than it is (and he lives in Gilbert).

Lol. I have family that live in Gilbert or lived there. When ever I visited there I was struck by how Mormon it was. Aren't the seminary buildings right next to the hish school with release time for seminary?  I would think that in order to get more Mormon than Gilbert one would have to move to Provo/Orem.

Strange to run into someone like that. Is he an ex member? If not what started his interest in Mormonism?

 

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Well..one thing I can say is that I agree with your new friend...a day long training would actually help your missionaries. IMO.  You are in an interesting position here.  Please keep us posted okay?  I find this very interesting.

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22 minutes ago, rongo said:

I met a 43 year-old non-Mormon at a restaurant yesterday for 4 1/2 hours to discuss in-depth questions about "the complicated issues" in Mormonism (his phrase). He is retired and, while an atheist (he doesn't care for the baggage that comes with that label, but he doesn't believe in God), is fascinated with Mormonism and thinks highly of it. His wife is a good sport; he took her to Palmyra and the Sacred Grove last summer, although she says that she is not going to go with him to Nauvoo this summer.:) He has read pretty much everything about Mormonism, and favors the dense and scholarly end of the spectrum. He was referred to me after finding that the sister missionaries have no idea what he is talking about (he is also very kind, and very conscious of planting doubt, and doesn't want to do that --- hence his request to speak to someone who could "handle the conversation."). He is meeting with the mission president next week, and said as we parted that he was going to plead with him to have me do a day-long training with his missionaries about being able to talk with people about the basics of the "complicated issues." I would be surprised if such a thing were approved, and am not sure where I would even begin, given the wide range of background and exposure of 150-200 missionaries.

Incidentally --- and I hadn't known this before meeting with this man ---- the mission president is the brother of Steve Christensen, the bishop who was killed by Mark Hofmann.

I'm trying to remember all that we discussed. The time flew, and I hadn't expected to be there for 4+ hours (he took notes, I didn't). I told him that I would be happy to meet with him again if he wanted to talk, and that he can always contact me if he needs anything. I sent him my notes on the Bremen apostasy and a link to my B.H. Roberts paper, at his request.

Among other things, we talked about (not necessarily in this order):

--- The Hofmann forgeries 
--- Book of Abraham
--- Book of Mormon translation
--- Church discipline
--- women in the Church
--- Snufferism
--- some theology (e.g., required belief vs. open questions)
--- Joseph Smith polygamy
--- Sunstone and Mormon History Association
--- First Vision accounts
--- priesthood ban
--- the temple
--- splinter and offshoot groups
--- convert retention rate, youth rate of loss, missionary early returns
--- my experience as a missionary, and (once he learned that I am a bishop and have been a bishop before) my missionaries' experiences
--- and a lot more

His interest I would say is anthropological (somewhat like Eduard Meyer), but it is a genuine fascination coupled with genuine respect. He doesn't have any patience or affinity for bitter apostates or those who mock Mormonism. He said he wishes that his neighborhood were much more Mormon than it is (and he lives in Gilbert). He's fascinated by the missionaries and the wide range of background and ability (he has only run into one sister so far who even knew what the gospel topics essays are and had read them --- she was from Scotland --- and she said that she hadn't had the opportunity to discuss anything from them with anyone other than him).

Definitely not someone you run into every day . . .:) 

Thanks for sharing what sounds like a highly interesting conversation.  He sounds like a really nice person.  As a former orthodox Mormon and someone who wants to appreciate good in religion without the dogma and supernatural beliefs, I think I would have much in common with him.  I also think that getting the missionaries more familiar with talking about more complicated issues would be helpful, so hopefully that could happen.  

I've heard many people familiar with Mormonism comment on just how great Mormons are at the early developmental stages of life, the ethnocentric worldview and the structure and discipline of a coordinated support community.  I agree.  What I hope for the future is to be able to take some of those most positive elements of that structure and grow it into a system that works better for people in other stages of development.  

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23 minutes ago, rongo said:

I met a 43 year-old non-Mormon at a restaurant yesterday for 4 1/2 hours to discuss in-depth questions about "the complicated issues" in Mormonism (his phrase). He is retired and, while an atheist (he doesn't care for the baggage that comes with that label, but he doesn't believe in God), is fascinated with Mormonism and thinks highly of it. His wife is a good sport; he took her to Palmyra and the Sacred Grove last summer, although she says that she is not going to go with him to Nauvoo this summer.:) He has read pretty much everything about Mormonism, and favors the dense and scholarly end of the spectrum. He was referred to me after finding that the sister missionaries have no idea what he is talking about (he is also very kind, and very conscious of planting doubt, and doesn't want to do that --- hence his request to speak to someone who could "handle the conversation."). He is meeting with the mission president next week, and said as we parted that he was going to plead with him to have me do a day-long training with his missionaries about being able to talk with people about the basics of the "complicated issues." I would be surprised if such a thing were approved, and am not sure where I would even begin, given the wide range of background and exposure of 150-200 missionaries.

Incidentally --- and I hadn't known this before meeting with this man ---- the mission president is the brother of Steve Christensen, the bishop who was killed by Mark Hofmann.

I'm trying to remember all that we discussed. The time flew, and I hadn't expected to be there for 4+ hours (he took notes, I didn't). I told him that I would be happy to meet with him again if he wanted to talk, and that he can always contact me if he needs anything. I sent him my notes on the Bremen apostasy and a link to my B.H. Roberts paper, at his request.

Among other things, we talked about (not necessarily in this order):

--- The Hofmann forgeries 
--- Book of Abraham
--- Book of Mormon translation
--- Church discipline
--- women in the Church
--- Snufferism
--- some theology (e.g., required belief vs. open questions)
--- Joseph Smith polygamy
--- Sunstone and Mormon History Association
--- First Vision accounts
--- priesthood ban
--- the temple
--- splinter and offshoot groups
--- convert retention rate, youth rate of loss, missionary early returns
--- my experience as a missionary, and (once he learned that I am a bishop and have been a bishop before) my missionaries' experiences
--- and a lot more

His interest I would say is anthropological (somewhat like Eduard Meyer), but it is a genuine fascination coupled with genuine respect. He doesn't have any patience or affinity for bitter apostates or those who mock Mormonism. He said he wishes that his neighborhood were much more Mormon than it is (and he lives in Gilbert). He's fascinated by the missionaries and the wide range of background and ability (he has only run into one sister so far who even knew what the gospel topics essays are and had read them --- she was from Scotland --- and she said that she hadn't had the opportunity to discuss anything from them with anyone other than him).

Definitely not someone you run into every day . . .:) 

Interesting stuff.  A few thoughts:

  • "A day-long training" to cover these things would be nowhere near sufficient.  There is simply too much information and context required.  Missionaries have time enough to read scriptures on a regular basis, but not enough to delve into topics like most of those above would consume too much of their schedule.
  • The mandate for missionaries is to preach the basic principles of the Restoration.
  • There are ample online resources for an interested person to explore the above topics.  LDS.org includes plenty of material (the Gospel Topics essays are excellent, but there are also manuals and such).  So does FAIR.  And the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.  And BYU Studies.  And Maxwell Institute publications.  And Mormon Interpreter.  Some message boards (though not so much this one these days...).  There are also many, many books published about these topics.

Thanks,

-Smac

 

 

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1 hour ago, rongo said:

His interest I would say is anthropological (somewhat like Eduard Meyer), but it is a genuine fascination coupled with genuine respect. He doesn't have any patience or affinity for bitter apostates or those who mock Mormonism. He said he wishes that his neighborhood were much more Mormon than it is (and he lives in Gilbert). He's fascinated by the missionaries and the wide range of background and ability (he has only run into one sister so far who even knew what the gospel topics essays are and had read them --- she was from Scotland --- and she said that she hadn't had the opportunity to discuss anything from them with anyone other than him).

Definitely not someone you run into every day . . .:) 

It is truly refreshing when two people with different worldviews can come together and discuss a topic like religion or politics without getting into a huff and yelling at each other! I'm sure you learned a lot about this gentleman too.

On your list there was no mention of Jesus, did you discuss him at all?

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37 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Interesting stuff.  A few thoughts:

  • "A day-long training" to cover these things would be nowhere near sufficient.  There is simply too much information and context required.  Missionaries have time enough to read scriptures on a regular basis, but not enough to delve into topics like most of those above would consume too much of their schedule.
  • The mandate for missionaries is to preach the basic principles of the Restoration.
  • There are ample online resources for an interested person to explore the above topics.  LDS.org includes plenty of material (the Gospel Topics essays are excellent, but there are also manuals and such).  So does FAIR.  And the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.  And BYU Studies.  And Maxwell Institute publications.  And Mormon Interpreter.  Some message boards (though not so much this one these days...).  There are also many, many books published about these topics.

I am not sure how missionaries wouldn't have time for a bit more in depth training.  Unless of course they are inundated with investigators.  Their entire lives for two years are centered around the gospel.   Instruction in more gospel topics would seem to be common sense.

But I agree that missionaries are to proclaim the first principles of the gospel, not answer every question on every point of doctrine and history.  But at the same time, as the point of contact for those interested in the Church they should have resources for dealing with these concerns.

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1 hour ago, CA Steve said:

Strange to run into someone like that. Is he an ex member? If not what started his interest in Mormonism?

He's never been a member. He is originally from Texas, and simply is fascinated by our history, doctrine, and current issues. His neighbor is in his local bishopric, and they are good friends. He gave his neighbor a copy of Rough Stone Rolling two years ago, but he hasn't read it yet . . . ;) 

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What better times in their lives could there be than during their mission to study about the church?

Instead of avoiding this material on their missions, we should be spoon feeding it to them at every opportunity. 

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8 minutes ago, CA Steve said:

What better times in their lives could there be than during their mission to study about the church?

Instead of avoiding this material on their missions, we should be spoon feeding it to them at every opportunity. 

Woot...I feel like finally!! Yes...I feel sorry for those who only have the knowledge perhaps that I had...this would do the world of good.  You might lose a few missionaries..but why wouldn't you want the ones that really want to serve and believe?  I don't believe it...but it was my choice..they are giving a couple of years of their lives and have a right to know.

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2 hours ago, JLHPROF said:

I am not sure how missionaries wouldn't have time for a bit more in depth training.  Unless of course they are inundated with investigators.  Their entire lives for two years are centered around the gospel.   Instruction in more gospel topics would seem to be common sense.

"Gospel topics" seems fairly broad.  I think the call here is for missionaries to be better trained in addressing some frequently-brought-up controversies regarding the Church and its history, is that a fair statement?

If so, perhaps you have a point.  My son is currently serving as a Church Service Missionary in the Provo MTC.  He spends his days in the "Referral Center" text chatting online with people from all over the world.  He has become fairly well-versed in dealing with controversial issues.  That is to say, he is generally aware of them, and of the Church's general position of them, but then they direct discussions back to "the basics."  Otherwise, he and the other missionaries would likely end up getting mired in contention and endless debates (not unlike this board, actually).

So perhaps the focus should not be principally about the substance of criticisms and concerns, but rather about how to briefly acknowledge such concerns, and then direct discussions back to "the basics."  The fellow in the OP would probably not be satisfied with that, but then that is what individual research and study is for.

2 hours ago, JLHPROF said:

But I agree that missionaries are to proclaim the first principles of the gospel, not answer every question on every point of doctrine and history.  But at the same time, as the point of contact for those interested in the Church they should have resources for dealing with these concerns.

I will talk with my son tonight and find out what resources the Referral Center uses (if any).  Some things he has learned from me (hey, I've been studying and arguing about the Church's controversies for 20+ years, so I can't help it if some of my findings/conclusions have rubbed off on my sons and daughters), but perhaps they have some things that other missionaries could use.

Thanks,

-Smac

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2 hours ago, JLHPROF said:

I am not sure how missionaries wouldn't have time for a bit more in depth training.  Unless of course they are inundated with investigators.  Their entire lives for two years are centered around the gospel.   Instruction in more gospel topics would seem to be common sense.

But I agree that missionaries are to proclaim the first principles of the gospel, not answer every question on every point of doctrine and history.  But at the same time, as the point of contact for those interested in the Church they should have resources for dealing with these concerns.

The issue before in teaching missionaries was consistency.  We have seen what happens normally at church and seminary where individual interpretations and misunderstandings creep in no matter how correlated material is.  Correlated material may even have the same issues, though not as much I hope.

However, now that even missionary work is being done online, it would make sense to me to include in study times online classes for missionaries.  This could work well in areas where teaching during the day is very limited.  A few hours a week would amount to a substantial exposure and it could be control from SLC to avoid getting into extreme theories.  They could even set up at a chapel or some place else where they are waiting for opportunities to teach or serve.

I do think it would be very helpful for missionaries to be taught how to interact supportively without being drawn into the turmoil themselves with someone going through a faith crisis or to learn how to both do sensible research and how to teach sensible research.  This wouldn't mean they have to spend a lot of time dealing with controversies themselves, but rather they help investigators develop the tools to maintain an active, rather than passive testimony, including how to deal with controversy and possible conflict with loved ones who either never believed in LDS doctrine or loss their faith.  

Many FairMormon questions are more about how to keep a relationship going when someone is attempting to convince one that the Church is a fraud; they ask for knowledge about the claims, but just as often how they can manage to interact with faith without damaging the relationship (the answer is generally don't proselyte or make topics off limits if discussions can't stay friendly).  Missionaries are in my experience commonly appealed to in the same way for help in dealing with critics among one's loved ones or coworkers.  A basic supportive but nonconfrontative interaction could probably be taught (I am thinking of how easy some of my basic psych courses on interviewing clients were to learn).

Edited by Calm
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3 hours ago, smac97 said:

Interesting stuff.  A few thoughts:

  • "A day-long training" to cover these things would be nowhere near sufficient.  There is simply too much information and context required. 

I agree. I don't really see a way to do this in a "mission conference" type setting, given that they are all over the map in terms of preparation, exposure, and background. No matter how it's done, it could end up planting doubts where none exist because of prior experience. 

The mandate for missionaries is to preach the basic principles of the Restoration.

True, but I think included in this mandate is intelligently discussing aspects of the Restoration of interest or concern to those the missionaries teach.

There are ample online resources for an interested person to explore the above topics.  LDS.org includes plenty of material (the Gospel Topics essays are excellent, but there are also manuals and such).  So does FAIR.  And the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.  And BYU Studies.  And Maxwell Institute publications.  And Mormon Interpreter.  Some message boards (though not so much this one these days...).  There are also many, many books published about these topics.[/quote

I think it's punting on our part to say, "There are so many resources, people should have no need to ask the missionaries or expect that they would know." Good, better, best: it's best if our missionaries can all intelligently discuss even the "complicated" issues --- best of all for themselves, actually. There would be fewer future apostates than there are now.

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2 hours ago, snowflake said:

On your list there was no mention of Jesus, did you discuss him at all?

His real passion is the complicated issues of the Church, and he isn't searching for truth or meaning as it concerns God or Christ. He was relishing his opportunity to finally be able to discuss at length these things.

The sister missionaries are covering everything on the basics end, and their next appointment is tomorrow night . . . ;) 

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2 hours ago, CA Steve said:

What better times in their lives could there be than during their mission to study about the church?

Instead of avoiding this material on their missions, we should be spoon feeding it to them at every opportunity. 

I fully agree. I think missions are an excellent opportunity to teach them about these things in a faithful atmosphere and way.

My second mission president allowed me to borrow all sorts of books from the mission home that weren't in the missionary library. I appreciated that, because I had read the standard works a zillion times already by the end of my mission.

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37 minutes ago, rongo said:

I fully agree. I think missions are an excellent opportunity to teach them about these things in a faithful atmosphere and way.

My second mission president allowed me to borrow all sorts of books from the mission home that weren't in the missionary library. I appreciated that, because I had read the standard works a zillion times already by the end of my mission.

I noticed a book on Masonry in the library of my mission president. When I asked what it was about I was solemnly informed that I didn't need to know about that, which, of course, had the exact opposite impact.

 

46 minutes ago, rongo said:

No matter how it's done, it could end up planting doubts where none exist because of prior experience

I like Calm's suggestion above for weekly internet training sessions. Something like that a couple of hours a week would go a longs ways to better inform the missionaries and would be easy to set up. And if  lessons provided by the Church itself planted doubts, then the problem isn't the doubter. At some point we need to step forward and stop worrying about how members are going to react to new information released by the church itself. 

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4 minutes ago, CA Steve said:

I noticed a book on Masonry in the library of my mission president. When I asked what it was about I was solemnly informed that I didn't need to know about that, which, of course, had the exact opposite impact.

LOL. I think I actually read "Mormonism and Masonry," by Cecil McGavin, from the mission home. I'll bet that was the same book in your mission president's library.

The very first home that let us in knocking on doors as a greenie in northern German was a Mason. While my German wasn't yet good enough to know most of what was going on, I did figure out that Freimauer was Mason, since "Mauer" is wall, and "frei" is free. Free+wall = freemason. 

Yeah, acting like "You don't need to know about that" is not a good way to keep people from wondering. 

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4 hours ago, rongo said:

I fully agree. I think missions are an excellent opportunity to teach them about these things in a faithful atmosphere and way.

My second mission president allowed me to borrow all sorts of books from the mission home that weren't in the missionary library. I appreciated that, because I had read the standard works a zillion times already by the end of my mission.

Although there are certainly exceptions, Most LDS missionaries are expected to be naive and unsophisticated so as to make room for the Holy Spirit -- which is the primary means of conversion.  Other churches do require advanced theological and language training (at least in NT Greek), along with ordination to the ministry before being sent out on a mission.  Many of them are married and have small families when sent out for the first time.  The Holy Spirit is kept at arm's length.  The whole notion of conversion is utterly different.

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7 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Although there are certainly exceptions, Most LDS missionaries are expected to be naive and unsophisticated so as to make room for the Holy Spirit -- which is the primary means of conversion.  Other churches do require advanced theological and language training (at least in NT Greek), along with ordination to the ministry before being sent out on a mission.  Many of them are married and have small families when sent out for the first time.  The Holy Spirit is kept at arm's length.  The whole notion of conversion is utterly different.

The Spirit is the most important, but I don't think being well-prepared and aware and having/inviting the Spirit are mutually exclusive. That's actually best on the good-better-best continuum.

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10 minutes ago, rongo said:

The Spirit is the most important, but I don't think being well-prepared and aware and having/inviting the Spirit are mutually exclusive. That's actually best on the good-better-best continuum.

As I said, there will be exceptions, and I have known some of them, but the whole theory and attitude is so different in Mormonism that I just can't see any acceptance of the sort of sophistication expected of Protestant ministers, or of Jesuits.  The CES considers that a basic heresy, and BYU would never allow anything like a Protestant or Roman Catholic seminary to be established.  There is an element of fear which goes along with that.  Fear of apostasy, even though I don't think it justified.

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10 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

As I said, there will be exceptions, and I have known some of them, but the whole theory and attitude is so different in Mormonism that I just can't see any acceptance of the sort of sophistication expected of Protestant ministers, or of Jesuits.  The CES considers that a basic heresy, and BYU would never allow anything like a Protestant or Roman Catholic seminary to be established.  There is an element of fear which goes along with that.  Fear of apostasy, even though I don't think it justified.

I don't think anyone is arguing for a high "level of sophistication." Just simply knowing or having heard of issues would be enough. It would be so much better than the default setting right now, where most members and missionaries have never heard of any of these. I think knowing at a very basic level about these things (not highly sophisticated) would have a huge positive influence. That doesn't require sectarian seminary training at all. 

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This should really start with teaching the members. There's no need to have a separate outside the normal channels attempt to fill in a few people.  That most missionaries have no clue about most of the things you list speaks to the failure of the Church to allow room to talk about them, and the failure of the Church to inform.  let's face it, the Church has failed in getting good, pertinent, usable information out there in so many cases.  Learn from that, fix the problem, overhaul it all and let the chips fall where they may.  I think what stops the Church from this is the fear of faith casualties, exploding.  Well, you have to fix what you broke.  

 

 

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Why would anyone assume there is a formula for inviting the spirit that might require some level of naivete or lack of sophistication.  The spirit leaves the more intelligent the conversation gets?  Is the spirit limited in such a way.  From my experience, the spirit is present when people are connecting experientially.  

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17 hours ago, rongo said:

I agree. I don't really see a way to do this in a "mission conference" type setting, given that they are all over the map in terms of preparation, exposure, and background. No matter how it's done, it could end up planting doubts where none exist because of prior experience. 

A good point.

17 hours ago, rongo said:

True, but I think included in this mandate is intelligently discussing aspects of the Restoration of interest or concern to those the missionaries teach.

Perhaps the best way to start would be to have the missionaries incorporate the "Gospel Topics" essays into their regular studies.  Several of these touch on the most commonly-raised controversies in the Church's history (polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, MMM, etc.).

17 hours ago, rongo said:
Quote

There are ample online resources for an interested person to explore the above topics.  LDS.org includes plenty of material (the Gospel Topics essays are excellent, but there are also manuals and such).  So does FAIR.  And the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.  And BYU Studies.  And Maxwell Institute publications.  And Mormon Interpreter.  Some message boards (though not so much this one these days...).  There are also many, many books published about these topics.[/quote

I think it's punting on our part to say, "There are so many resources, people should have no need to ask the missionaries or expect that they would know." Good, better, best: it's best if our missionaries can all intelligently discuss even the "complicated" issues --- best of all for themselves, actually. There would be fewer future apostates than there are now.

I'm still not persuaded that expecting missionaries to be able to delve into a broad swath of controversial topics is feasible.  Take a look again at the list in the OP:

Quote

Among other things, we talked about (not necessarily in this order):

--- The Hofmann forgeries 
--- Book of Abraham
--- Book of Mormon translation
--- Church discipline
--- women in the Church
--- Snufferism
--- some theology (e.g., required belief vs. open questions)
--- Joseph Smith polygamy
--- Sunstone and Mormon History Association
--- First Vision accounts
--- priesthood ban
--- the temple
--- splinter and offshoot groups
--- convert retention rate, youth rate of loss, missionary early returns
--- my experience as a missionary, and (once he learned that I am a bishop and have been a bishop before) my missionaries' experiences
--- and a lot more

There is way, way too much stuff here.

I think the missionaries should stick with the basics, and possibly incorporate studying and ability to address the substantive information found in the "Gospel Topics" essays.  

Thanks,

-Smac

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