|Deepest, Truest Reason to Share Gospel:|
So Families Can Be Sealed Eternally
Akron, OH—A recent visit by a member of the Ninth Quorum of the Seventy provided stake conference goers in the Akron Ohio stake with a powerful lesson on how to not lead a church discussion.
“It was really life-changing instruction,” said Samantha Craig, “I mean, I took careful notes because he made just about every mistake imaginable!”
Sister Craig and others explained that Brother Todd Jenkinson’s youth fireside, stake leadership meeting, and adult session of stake conference featured what were meant to be gospel discussions with the audience. “I’m sure he’s a good, inspired man,” said Craig, “but when you start a youth fireside by saying that you didn’t prepare anything and you’re just going to rely upon the Spirit, well, you had better bring some great Spirit or those kids are just gonna tune you out.”
Most in attendance acknowledge that Brother Jenkinson failed to bring “some great Spirit” to that meeting, and many of his young audience did indeed tune out. What added to the awkwardness were when Brother Jenkinson called the youth out for being on their phones, but his efforts to seem fun and playful failed to mask his genuine annoyance.
Another mistake Craig and others noticed was Brother Jenkinson’s habit of asking what seemed like open questions, but for which he clearly had very specific answers in mind. At one point, Brother Jenkinson asked the youth, “what is the most important reason why we share the gospel with our friends?” One bright, cheerful young woman shot up her hand, was called on, and replied, “so that they can avoid the dangers and evils of the world around us.” Brother Jenkinson told her that that is a good reason, “but there is an even deeper reason why we share the gospel.” Another youth replied that it is “so others can have Christ’s blessings.” Again Brother Jenkinson acknowledge that that is an important reason, but then directed the youth to a scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants. After reading about eternal blessings, Brother Jenkinson clarified that the “real, deep, scriptural reason” why we share the gospel is so that those around us “can one day go to the temple and be sealed as families.”
“Um, okay, I guess that is true,” said youth participant Alma Campbell, “but those other reasons seemed good too, but, um, I guess they are not as right....”
In addition to using what seem like open questions to play what we could call the “Guess What I’m Thinking” game, Brother Jenkinson also had a habit of uncomfortably “restating” what some speakers meant. In the stake leadership meeting, when discussing how to minister to ward members, one member said that “we minister by loving members for who they are,” to which Brother Jenkinson said, “and by that you mean we love them for what they can be and what the Lord wants them to be.” Another member said that “I try to be patient yet reliable,” to which Brother Jenkinson said, “what this dear brother means by that is that we are loving enough to know when to not take no for an answer.” While this seemed to get to the points Brother Jenkinson saw as important, it left many participants more than a little uncomfortable.
Another common technique was “careful” scripture analysis to get at the points Brother Jenkinson wanted to make. After studying a scripture from the Old Testament, Brother Jenkinson asked members of the stake presidency what it meant. When all three failed to make the imaginative connection Jenkinson had in mind, another member, with plenty of prompting from the visiting Authority, noted how the flying serpents symbolize the fear and discouragement that get in the way of “true ministering.” Brother Jenkinson praised the member who made the comment, following that praise up with a joke about the relative spiritual insight of stake members in contrast with the stake presidency. It was an awkward attempt at humor that largely fell flat.
While many members found some inspiration in Brother Jenkinson’s “discussions,” others found them quite frustrating. Still, members like Samantha Craig felt very inspired. “It isn’t every meeting,” said Craig, “where you see a leader make almost every possible mistake, you know, bringing them all together so you can see them, remember them, and avoid them.”
Craig concluded, “it is amazing how the Lord uses His chosen vessels!”