“Missionary Open Houses Share Gospel Message,” Ensign, May 1996, 111–12
Stakes across the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico recently hosted missionary open houses featuring the missionary broadcast aired on 25 February 1996 with Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Local leaders reported that the combined broadcast and open house presentations strengthened members’ missionary efforts and introduced many nonmembers to the blessings of the Restoration.
Those who attended the broadcast and open houses caught a glimpse of the blessings that come through living the gospel, and many commented on what they felt. “You speak of Jesus Christ not as an abstract being about whom you’ve read but as someone whom you’ve visited,” remarked an investigator who attended an open house held by the Hammond Ward, Albany Ward, and Amite Branch in Louisiana. “We felt a very strong, good feeling and would do anything to get this feeling back,” said a couple at the open house. Another investigator added, “I felt communication—not just from mouth to ear but from heart to heart.”
To introduce nonmembers to the blessings of the gospel, stakes tailored their open house presentations to meet the individual needs of their areas. The Casper Wyoming Stake had displays by different organizations, including Young Men, Young Women, Primary, the priesthood, and Relief Society, that explained how the organization helps its members come to Christ. Stake mission president Millard Smathers invited a nonmember friend from work to come to the broadcast and open house. After viewing the broadcast, he accompanied her to view the displays. At the end of the evening, President Smathers simply asked her how she felt about what she had seen and heard. When she said she felt good, he invited her to hear the missionary discussions, and she accepted.
“Members are the key to missionary work,” emphasizes Earl Brundage, first counselor in the Ogden Utah Burch Creek Stake missionary presidency. With more than 160 members attending the stake’s open house, the stake mission presidency decided to include a display where members could receive instruction on giving a Book of Mormon to a friend. They also made copies of the Book of Mormon available to help the members get started.
“The Book of Mormon is the most powerful conversion tool,” Brother Brundage said. “At the missionary broadcast the Spirit was so powerful there was not a better time to encourage members to do missionary work. One woman came to the table and said, ‘We need a Book of Mormon because we are going to pray as a family and give one out. We don’t know to whom yet, but we are going to give one out.’” At the open house 46 copies of the Book of Mormon were distributed to members committed to sharing them with their friends.
Other stakes reported similar successes as they involved members in their open houses. The Slidell Louisiana Stake had various programs helping prepare members to invite their friends and families to the broadcast and open houses. They conducted Sunday School classes about being member missionaries, identified designated members as escorts for investigators at the open houses, and met with members to invite them to bring their families and friends.
“We needed training, practice, and action from individuals,” said Slidell stake mission president Dan Shearer. Because of extensive preparation and member support, almost 600 people attended the four open houses held in the stake. More than 50 of them were nonmembers, several of whom have begun taking the missionary discussions as a result. “Success like this goes a long way with the members. They are really excited,” President Shearer said.
To accommodate those wishing to attend the open houses in the Knoxville Tennessee Stake, individual wards and branches taped the broadcast and then held their open houses on different dates. This year almost 500 people, including 55 investigators and several less-active members, attended nine open houses held throughout the stake.
To prepare for the open houses, stake and full-time missionaries distributed printed invitations that members could give to friends. The missionaries also invited current and former investigators, and public affairs representatives advertised the open houses in local newspapers.
“Those attending really enjoyed the testimonies,” said Frank Holland, first counselor in the Knoxville stake mission presidency. “Investigators said they could really feel the humility of the speakers and they could feel the Spirit.”
One couple attended an open house in response to an announcement in a newspaper. Stuart Clark, Knoxville stake mission president, noticed the couple when they came in and introduced himself to them. He escorted them throughout the evening, answering questions and introducing them to the members and full-time missionaries. “When I asked them how they felt about everything, they said, ‘Very good. We are glad you had this open house that we could come to,’” President Clark said. Since the open house, the couple has begun the missionary discussions and has attended Church meetings each Sunday.
“Our message to the world is [that Christ’s] gospel has been restored today through Joseph Smith to help us find happiness,” Elder Ballard told thousands watching the prerecorded broadcast. “The best thing about living a Christ-centered life is how it makes you feel inside. Real and lasting happiness comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
During the broadcast, Elder Ballard discussed the blessings of the Restoration and interviewed prominent members of the Church, including Steve Young, quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers; J. Willard Marriott, chairman and president of Marriott International, Inc.; Catherine M. Stokes, health care administrator for the Illinois Department of Public Health; Steven R. Covey, lecturer and best-selling author; Sharlene Wells Hawkes, former Miss America; Ariel Bybee, singer with the Metropolitan Opera; Dale Murphy, retired two-time baseball MVP for the Atlanta Braves; the Osmond Brothers, entertainers; and Jon M. Huntsman, chairman of Huntsman Chemical Corp.
“The broadcast focused on people who are well known, who have had success in their pursuits in life, yet have kept such a simple, wonderful testimony and focus,” said Sherman M. Crump, managing director of the Missionary Department. Each person shared the ways the gospel permeates both personal and professional life.
“As we focus on him and strive to live his commandments,” Elder Ballard emphasized, “Christ becomes the center of our lives and we obtain his promised peace and happiness.” As a result of the broadcast and members’ diligent efforts in hosting open houses, more families and individuals have gained the peace and happiness found in Jesus Christ and his restored gospel.