Missionary growth outpaces general Book of Mormon fund

The Book of Mormon is touching the hearts of more and more investigators as missionaries testify of its truths in cities across the world.

With ongoing Book of Mormon television and magazine announcements in major metropolitan areas outside of Utah, missionaries are finding increasing numbers of people who are familiar with the book and interested in its message, according to missionaries.Today, the Church's nearly 49,000 full-time missionaries use the Book of Mormon as they seek to fulfill President Ezra Taft Benson's plea to "move the Book of Mormon forward now in a marvelous manner."

Each month each mission in the Church receives an allocation of copies of the Book of Mormon, provided by the general Book of Mormon fund. The fund is created through the contributions of members in the United States and Canada made on the regular donation slips.

Unfortunately, however, contributions to the Church's Book of Mormon fund have not kept pace with the increasing number of missionaries. Supplies of copies of the Book of Mormon to missionaries have been curtailed by about one-third during the past year, according to leaders of the Church's Missionary Department.

Elder David B. Haight of the Council of the Twelve, chairman of the Missionary Executive Council, said:

"President Ezra Taft Benson has called upon all Church members to flood the earth with the Book of Mormon. Opportunities continue to open for us to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations of the earth.

"The number of missionaries distributing copies of the Book of Mormon is increasing, putting a severe strain on the Book of Mormon fund. This sacred volume is having a major impact throughout the earth, and we invite those who desire to contribute generously to the general Book of Mormon Fund."

Sherman M. Crump, managing director for the department, emphasized the importance of the Book of Mormon:

"The Book of Mormon is used in missionary work to help people feel the Spirit. It is the center of missionary work. Missionaries invite people to read it and pray for a confirmation that it is the word of the Lord.

"We use it to answer questions; we use it with the Bible; we ask investigators to read it regularly and we share feelings about their reading, and about specific passages. We use it to help people develop loving and caring and eternal families, so it is the major tool.

"When there are not enough funds, missionaries don't have an adequate number of books. The program is not designed for missionaries to pay for the books out of their own pockets because they are on equalized monthly living amounts. They don't have another source for the books."

Missionaries in the Texas Dallas Mission, for example, are among those who face a shortage of books, said Pres. Wm. Rolfe Kerr.

He noted that recently fewer copies of the Book of Mormon have been supplied to the mission, especially for missionaries teaching in minority languages.

"So far the shortage hasn't been serious, but we are concerned about it. Some missionaries have been picking up copies of the Book of Mormon from investigators who turn them away. But we hate to do that because we never know when the Book of Mormon will make a difference."

He said the Book of Mormon is basic to missionary work. "We make the Book of Mormon the focus of the very first discussion.

"We also train our missionaries to make reference to it on every subsequent contact, and to make sure the investigators are reading it and praying about it, with the anticipation that as they do this, their knowledge and testimony of the Book of Mormon will lead them to the conviction of the Restoration of the gospel itself.

"So the Book of Mormon is central to the conversion process, and central in our effort to train missionaries."

He said that two missionaries serving in Dallas who use the book effectively are Elders David Justus of the Elyria Ward, Cleveland Ohio Stake, and Alain Zumbach of the Geneve Saleve (France) Ward, Geneva Switzerland Stake.

"We try to start conversations on the streets, and ask people if they have heard about the Book of Mormon," said Elder Zumbach. "Many of them have already seen the Book of Mormon commercials on television."

"We don't just teach the Book of Mormon; we testify of the Book of Mormon the whole time," said Elder Justus. "When people feel that spirit, they want to read the book."

He explained that many of the people in their missionary area are people who don't have a lot of hope. "They are usually good people who are God-fearing and who attend a church, but they don't have happiness.

"Our investigators are usually very excited about the Book of Mormon and very anxious to hear more.

"We really want them to learn to love the Book of Mormon because we want them to be converted, not just baptized."

Elder Justus explained that both he and his companion are converts through the Book of Mormon. Elder Justus described himself as a "truth-seeker," who explored other religions for a time. He said as 1990 arrived he had a good job, a new car, and nice apartment, but "I wasn't really happy. My only New Year's resolution for that year was to be happy.

"I was a restaurant manager at the time, and I noticed that one of my employees was always happy. I asked her why she was so happy.

"She gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon and made an appointment with the missionaries." He read the book and gained a testimony of its truthfulness. "Everything in my life changed. I found that my love for the Book of Mormon applied to everything in life."

Elder Zumbach explained that a few years ago he was a university student who considered himself an atheist. Then his friend gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon to read. "I had never prayed before, until I found a scripture in the Book of Mormon that said, `Whatsoever things ye shall ask the Father in my name shall be given unto you.' (3 Ne. 27:29.)

"I tried to exercise that. I began to pray, and each of my prayers was answered."

Later he was given other Church books, and, studying them with the Bible, "my faith really increased. After each time of reading the Book of Mormon, my heart told me it was true. I decided to try Moroni's promise and ask God if it was true.

"It is very hard to describe with words the feeling I had. I felt God told me through the Holy Ghost that it was true."

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