“Have you ever heard of the Mormons?”

It was a rainy day in the England London South Mission and my companion and I were walking down the sidewalk, hurrying to our next appointment. But this man caught my eye. His name was Renald Whiley, and no he had not heard of the Mormons.

We told him that we were ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ and that we had come all the way from America to share a glorious message with him. We would be back in town the following evening and asked if we could come by his house to talk a little more. He was intrigued enough to give us his name and his address. I don’t remember anything more about the original appointment we were headed to when we found Ron, as they stopped their investigation shortly after.

Ron Whiley, however, was different. He and his wife Ivy were deeply spiritual people who had studied the gospel and were seeking for answers to their questions. We taught the Whiley’s the gospel, they embraced the Book of Mormon and the church and were baptized six weeks and one day after that initial question on the street.

In Ron’s first fast and testimony meeting he declared in his unique Jamaican accent: “I knew that when I meet Elders Hirschi and Covey on Blondedale Street that I was a wanted man, wanted of the Lord. I just had no idea that there were so many wanted men and women in this church.”

There are indeed “many wanted men and women” that the Lord wants in His Church if we as missionaries but learn to open our mouths and talk to the people the He has placed in our path. And we don’t have to be clever or smart or have the perfect question to ask. We just have to create enough interest to have them give us their name and address and of course, be conveniently in the area the next evening.

In this article I’ll share three essential principles of contacting that helped our missionaries in the ELSM dramatically improve our ability to find people to teach.

Let me be the first one to say that doing missionary work through members is and will continue to be the most effective way to conduct missionary work. However, given the reality of missionary work, you cannot count on members to fill your planner and provide all the contacts on your mission. You must have ways in which you find people through your own efforts.

Mastering these principles will change your mission. In my first month my companion and I were teaching just three investigators. One year later we had a teaching pool of fifty-five. As a result of our increased ability at finding we could spend less time looking for people to teach and more time actually teaching.

Contacting Principle 1) Open Your Mouth- Everywhere

I often think about what would have happened if we hadn’t talked to Ron that night. It would have been easy to hurry on to our next appointment, or to rationalize that he was busy and didn’t really want to talk with us anyways. We would have missed meeting a family that was sincerely searching for the gospel and would go on to become a pillar in their ward and community.

This point that is emphasized, most missionaries don’t do because they don’t want to look awkward. But when you think about it, what is the worst thing that can happen? They can tell you no, go away, get lost. For the record, that does happen about half the time. So what? Big deal! If the Ron and Ivy Whiley’s get baptized as part of the whole process, I’ll take that rejection half the time.

Contacting Principle 2) Get people engaged in conversation through Golden Questions’

Everyone has spiritual questions, whether they consciously realize it or not. What is their purpose in life? What happens after they die? How can they strengthen their family? How can they feel greater peace and happiness? The good news is that we have the answers! It’s important to recognize that the gospel message is extremely valuable to the people that we talk with.

However, when we approach people with “Hi we’re missionaries and we’d like to share a message that will change your life” it comes off as salesman-like and people shut down. No one likes to be talked at, especially if the talking came unrequested. They may have questions but aren’t willing to open up when approached that way.

Meeting new people should be less of an advertisement and more of a conversation. Instead of jumping into some spiel, start by asking them “Golden Questions.” Golden Questions are thought provoking questions that you ask potential investigators in order to engage them in a gospel conversation.

            Some Golden Questions could include:

– If there is a question you could ask God what would it be?

– Have you wondered why Mormons build temples throughout the world?

– Do you believe that God speaks to prophets today as He did to prophets in the past?

-Have you ever asked yourself where did I come from? Why am I here on earth? And where am I going after I die?

– Have you ever heard of the Book of Mormon?

– Have you ever wondered why there are not prophets on the earth today? What would you think if I told you that there are prophets on the earth today?

– Do you believe that marriages and families will continue to be together after this life?

– Do you believe that God governs in our affairs?

– How do you stay close to God?

You will have to experiment with the questions that work best for you and your area. I found that my best question was “Have you ever heard of the Mormons?” This question was usually intriguing enough to get people talking. It gave me the opportunity to talk about Mormons and what we did as missionaries. As I continued to ask questions they would often open and share their opinions, values, and beliefs.

Contacting Principle 3) Tailor your message to what most interests them

Once you learn about what they are interested in you should keep your focus there. This may seem obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen missionaries miss this point. Someone may open up about their sister who is sick in the hospital and the missionary will start teaching from the lesson plan about the Great Apostasy.

I love this quote from Elder Holland in Preach My Gospel (pg.185):

“More important than speaking is listening. These people are not lifeless objects disguised as a baptismal statistic. They are children of God, our brothers and sisters, and they need what we have. Be genuine. Reach out sincerely. Ask these friends what matters most to them. What do they cherish, and what do they hold dear? And then listen. If the setting is right, you might ask what their fears are, what they yearn for, or what they feel is missing in their lives. I promise you that something in what they say will always highlight a truth of the gospel about which you can bear testimony and about which you can then offer more.”

Learning to apply these three principles will help any missionary become a more effective finder, whether they are contacting on the street, at the bus stop, or going door-to-door. Check-in next week as I explain the 8-step Door Approach, a framework for utilizing these three principles when tracting. In the meantime, I invite you to check out my website

What experiences have you had with finding people to teach? What “golden questions” could missionaries ask to engage people in gospel conversation? Share below!