Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Feed the Starving VS Missionary Work - It's a simple choice.

I have often heard the question raised concerning the church and whether it is sufficiently committed to the starving in other countries. Some question whether the money spent on missionary work would be better put into welfare services.
There are 3 things I would like to present in consideration of this question.
Firstly, on my mission I remember coming across a couple who, though not interested in hearing about the church, mentioned their experience in going to a country then in the news for its starving. They said that they questioned the locals and they told them that before the news reporters and cameras came the only group there helping out was the Mormons. And that as soon as the reporters came and the other aid agencies turned up the Mormons left. This would indicate that the church is doing much more than people realise.
Secondly, Christ presented that learning true doctrine was more important than works _
Luke 10:38 "Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
Christ could have spent his last years feeding the starving etc. Yes, he fed those following him, and did great miracles of service. But he didn't go out and feed the starving. His focus was primarily missionary work. Why did he teach and demonstrate that truth was more important than food?
The third point on the issue answers this last question (in regard to this matter). I remember, not so long back, hearing the cries of the people of a particular country. "Help us, we are starving and this great warlord is killing us," they said. So in went the US and some other countries to help these poor people. These people cheered as the troops came in to their aid.
But it soon became apparent to me that what they were anticipating was that these troops would join them in killing their old enemies. Instead the troops stood in the way of their enemies attacking them, in their defence - not attack. This also meant that the troops were in their way of attacking the warlords they hated and wanted to kill. They soon came to realise this and hated the troops for getting in their way. The troops had to leave to save themselves from being killed by those they came to save.
Their fields were sand because they hadn't planted: They were too busy killing and hating. So they starved. But in spite of this, their hatred was so strong against their enemies that they would not stop and create peace in order to obtain food. It is like reading of the Jaradites and Nephites in the end. Seeing their destruction coming they still would not repent.
Feeding them to keep killing each other without realising that they must stop or starve is nothing like a solution. What these people need more than anything else is the gospel of Jesus Christ. In order that all the world doesn't become the same, and that these types of people may change, missionary work is the priority.


Anonymous said...

good post.
but Unicef won't agree

Equality said...

Interesting thoughts, DT.

I think your use of the Mary/Martha story is misplaced, however. Nobody was starving in that instance. I think the point of that story is that there are things in life that are more important than the mundane busywork of everyday life that we all often get bogged down in. There is a time for sitting with friends and family and talking and letting the daily chores go by the wayside momentarily.

Your point about Jesus not doing more to help the poor and feed the hungry and effect political and social change might be viewed as an indcitment of Jesus.

I would argue that the missionaries would be more effective at getting people into the church if their focus shifted to service-oriented missions. The focus on teaching and baptizing and the sales-oriented approach of the current missionary system is a dismal failure. Some have posited that a full-time mission is really about molding the missionary for a lifetime of church service and that any converts the missionary obtains are a byproduct of the more fundamental goal of securing the conversion of the missionary. If so, I'd argue that the young men serving missions would see more personal growth through service-oriented missions than through endless tracting.

Doug Towers said...

You've brought up some good points for discussion, equality.
I did wonder if someone would challenge my use of the Mary/Martha story. After all, as you say, they weren't starving.
I have used it because I feel it demonstrates Christ as stating that what you create in your heart (by learning and obeying new religious concepts - doctrine) is more important than works. Martha was feeding them physically, whereas Christ (to me) felt that spiritual food was more important than a meal. It was only used to demonstrate that relationship of spiritual to physical.
The relevance to the subject is from the point of judging whether spiritual missionary work is better than physical welfare work.
I mentioned Jesus, in regard the hungry, to quote an authority that shouldn't be argued, not to pose a question of his integrity. As you say, perhaps that is best qualified in case someone misunderstands.
How missions should be conducted is probably a subject all of its own. And perhaps that would be a good point for a future post. But to the point within this of service missions vs proseliting, I think that missionary work has gone a bit that way of recent times anyway. Proseliting missionaries have been encouraged to get into service projects and helping people. So I think the church agrees with you in that regard. But conversion of the heart to Christ is still the thing that will save the world in this time, and us individually in the resurrection. Therefore I feel that focus should remain.