By Daniel Singer
Missionaries in the Utah, Provo Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are using one of the most powerful missionary tools available to them — LDS students at Brigham Young University.
“Virtually all the investigators we find at BYU come from member referrals from students,” said President R. Bruce Merrell of the Utah Provo Mission.
Four sets of missionaries serve on BYU campus, two pairs of elders and two sets of sisters.
Missionaries said they feel lucky to be in an area where LDS members share their religious views.
“Students are very helpful,” said Elder Stuart Keller, a missionary from San Diego, Calif. “This is the most helpful area I have ever been in. Many people [who come talk to us] have roommates who are returned missionaries. They feel welcome, and they can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost. They want to know more [about the church] so they ask a roommate. Sometimes the roommate asks them if they”d like to hear the gospel.”
Elder Keller said he and his companion teach four investigators a week, on average, and the primary source of these contacts are referrals from BYU students.
Missionaries are not the only group benefiting from student member referrals, members also feel blessed being involved with missionary work.
Dr. Lawrence Flake, a professor of Church History and Doctrine and former president of the Missouri, Independence Mission, teaches two classes of Introduction to Mormonism, a class for non-LDS students at BYU. The class is not a proselytizing medium, but Flake feels rewarded to tell people about the doctrines of the church.
“It”s so much fun; I get to teach 50 remarkable people some of the beliefs of the church,” Flake said. “It”s a nice thing to see how they react to their exposure to the gospel. I get invited to two to three baptisms a semester, but my greatest piece of advice for the students is for them to get involved with the student wards where they are living. They will meet people and make friends.”
Flake said even if investigators do not join the church, the church will benefit from investigators positive experience at BYU.
“Many of these students are foreign students, and regardless of whether they join the church or not, by virtue of graduating from BYU they become ambassadors of the LDS church if they return home,” Flake said.
Dr. Randy Bott, a former mission president and professor of Church History and Doctrine said member missionary work is essential to growth of the church.
“The Church will grow 100 times faster if we could just get our members to open their mouths and give people the chance to accept or reject the Gospel,” Bott said.