Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A Hat Tip to Bookslinger: He Makes Sharing the Book of Mormon Look Easy

By nature, I'm an introvert. Love hiding in a corner to read versus walking into a crowd of people at a party. Filled with reasons to fear strangers, and plenty of neurons seem to be wired that way. Going on a mission took a lot of faith - no, going was easy. Walking up to people in Switzerland was the hard part. But during that experience, and over the years since then, I've learned something over and over that gives me courage to crawl out of my shell and even sometimes act like an extrovert: people are interesting.

It has grown to the point where I look forward to meeting new people and enjoy chatting with strangers - there is always something to learn, something to take away. If I had a little more faith, there would more often also be something to give. I try, when it seems "feasible" and "appropriate," and have actually shared a few words about the Church with many people and have given away quite a few copies of the Book of Mormon. Too many times, though, I've done the Adversary's arguing for him, finding preemptive reasons why a person just doesn't want to hear anything about my religion or faith, and thus avoided the topic. That old fearful introvert takes over.

Here's an example. On one flight, I was seated next to an attractive twenty-something female. She was absorbed in her Blackberry, hardly acknowledging me as I sat down. "OK, I'll respect her wishes and not bother her," I thought to myself. "Besides, she'll probably think I'm hitting on her if I start striking up a conversation." That was a weird thought, undoubtedly sexist - and not even consistent with my own behavior, since a few months ago I had a marvelous conversation with a girl of similar age who was a professional model on her way to a swimsuit shoot. (Learned a lot about modeling on the flight - and did tell her a few things about the Church. And no, I wasn't hitting on her.) So why should I alter my willingness to talk to someone on the basis of their age or appearance? But she seemed withdrawn, unwilling to talk, and yes, I do try to respect people's wishes.

Halfway through the flight, as the flight attendant brought drinks and a snack (or was this the flight with the surprise glucose injections?), it just seemed impossible for me not to say something. So I just glanced at her and said a of words - I think it was something like, "So, you going home?" Maybe it was something a little more intellectual, like, "Hey, are you on an airplane?" or "Wow, looks like we're moving." I'm not sure. But I finally broke the ice and acknowledged her existence, at the dire risk of offending the great vow of silence that I had vicariously taken for her.

That simple act opened a floodgate. A flood of excited and energetic words followed - she loved to talk and was one of the most outgoing people I've ever met. She had a great story - quite a few of them. A fascinating person. It was one of the best conversations I've had on a flight. And yes, I got to share a little about the Church in the process - not much, but some. Reminded me that many of my assumptions about people reflect my own fears and biases rather than reality. I need to be willing to reach out more and share more.

That brings us to the real topic of today's post, one of the great examples of thinking of others as sons and daughters of God who need the blessings of the Gospel, including the Book of Mormon. He is known by some as "Bookslinger," a man in Indianapolis who is on a mission to get the Book of Mormon to the people's of the earth in numerous languages. Bookslinger keeps a collection of Books of Mormon, and when he meets people, looks for ways to share a Book of Mormon with them, no matter what language they speak. He blogs about it at Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon.

His most recent story, "It can matter where you do your laundry," illustrates his straightforward, thoughtful approach where his love of sharing overcomes the fear of rejection day after day. He's far beyond where I am, but it's a fascinating example to consider. It has inspired me to be a little more giving and brave. The introvert still takes over too frequently. So help me out: if you're sitting next to me on an airplane and I manage to drop a hint that I may have once been in Utah or something, make life easier for us both by just coming right out and saying, "Say, do you know where I can get a Book of Mormon?" I may have one ready to give - or as a backup, I could direct you to Mormon.org where you can order a free copy. But if you're really lucky, you'll be sitting next to Bookslinger. Let him know what language you speak, and he may just be able to reach into his backpack and help you out on the spot!

A big tip of the hat to Bookslinger!

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

did you know he is NOT a current member of the church?

Brian Duffin said...

Anonymous,

While it may be true that Bookslinger is not currently a member of the Church, he certainly is a much better missionary than most who are currently members.

Jeff,

I recall a time in my life--two years before my mission--where I was just as excited and vocal as Bookslinger is about sharing the gospel. My mom used to get after me when I would share a pass along card for the visitors center and invite the cashier down to learn more about the Church. How I wish I posessed that same excuberance and missionary zeal.

I appreciate the reminder to go outside of my comfort zone and open my mouth.

Bookslinger said...

Jeff, thanks for the kind words, and the link. The popularity of your blog and your recommendation is really driving traffic. So double thanks!

Bookslinger said...

Anon at 10:31 pm, You're right; I'm not currently a member. Are you a member in good standing in the LDS church?

Brian, you'd be surprised at how little I actually "share the gospel". What I really do is just "offer books". I was going to say "give out books", but there's a preliminary step, the offer. And only if they agree do I give them something. It's important to me not to foist, shove or impose anything on people.

A key principle of my approach is that once you divorce yourself from the outcome, and you don't consider yourself a failure if they decline your offer, it gives you an air of confidence that allows the other person to be more comfortable in accepting your offer.

There was an article in the Ensign on that concept years ago. Sucess is counted when you make the offer, not whether or not the other person accepts your offer. That's why I number the encounters, not the number of books given out. If I make an offer to someone, that's a success. If I don't make the offer, that's a "missed opportunity."

It's like with a cat that you want to sit on your lap. If you don't care if it jumps on you or not, and don't care when it leaves, it will comfortably sit on your lap. As soon as you try to force it to sit on you, it will avoid you.

Bookslinger said...

By the way, several bishops, ward mission leaders, stake presidents and mission presidents have been aware of my book distribution thing, and my membership status, and none have told me to stop giving out material.

Bull Moose said...

Bookslinger, I appreciate the phrase "offer books" because that's exactly how simple it is. I love reading Bookslinger's blog and hearing how easy it is to follow the direction of the spirit in finding people to "offer books" to.

A ward I was in a few years ago had a prgram we called "Flooding the Ward." One Sunday every corner we would gather as families and friends and go out in our neighborhoods door to door, introduce ourselves, and offer a book. What I found is that by introducing my family as their neighbors, and having a book in my hand held out to them, most people would gladly take it. My kids had a great opportunity to be directly involved with missionary work.

I have to admit that without the organized effort, my personal efforts have waned. But I still get inspiration to keep up my efforts through Bookslinger's blog.

Keep it up Brother!

gentlyhewstone said...

This is not the first time someone has blogged about Bookslinger and someone has commented about his "membership status."

Such an apparent incongruity seems to raise suspiscion and curiosity, but the bottom line is this: not only isn't it any of our business, it doesn't matter about the missionary work we're talking about here.

He loves and appreciates the Book of Mormon, he takes the directives of our prophets to flood the Earth with the Book of Mormon seriously, and he's clearly conducting himself with the utmost integrity, despite the ongoing implications about his character that slither into comments sections whenever he comes up.

Did no one else notice that it was Bookslinger that Elder Ballard was holding up as an example in last July's Ensign?

Keep up the great work, Bookslinger. It's easy to respect someone who devotes so much of his life to sucha great cause.

Anonymous said...

Bookslinger, this is Anon 10:31 PM.

Until January 2009, I was a member of the LDS church. I am presently a member of the Episcopal Church.

What would an LDS mormon think of one of their church members distributing, say, the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer

Bruce in Montana said...

Thank you Bookslinger for being such a great example for us all. Keep up the good work.

Bookslinger said...

Episcopalian Anonymous at 1:58 pm:

I don't think that's a very good parallel. A better parallel question might be:

What would Episcopalians say about an ex-Episcopalian distributing the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (that he paid for out of his own pocket) ?

The Epicopalian priest would probably say "Cool, dude."

Gentlyhewstone:

I don't mind the comments because I'm the one who originally brought it up on a few blogs in the 'nacle. It was mainly in the context of how disaffected members (or ex-members) can resolve their problems within the church's framework and come back. Though I realize that my set of circumstances doesn't directly correspond to many others'.

But ya know, no Mormons have asked me to shut up, or stop attending meetings, or stop giving out material (books, magazines and videos) to non-members, or get out of their hospital room when I visit.

Joseph Antley said...

I am not concerned about Bookslinger's membership status. It's noen of my business. I just wish I was a little more like him and would better share this important aspect of my life with others.

Bookslinger, I've followed your blog for a long time and have a link to it on mine so that some of my readers will hopefully see what you're doing. Props!

lorenhops said...

I've been following Bookslinger's blog for a little while now. He's doing an awesome job. I had no idea that he was not currently a member. While I agree with the general consensus in principle that this fact is none of our business, I still find it utterly fascinating. Not a member, and spreading the gospel probably better than 99% of the ones who are, amazing.

ama said...

This was a very well-written and enjoyable post to read. Thank you for that!

Bookslinger reminds me of a guy I wrote about last year who is a baptist preacher that preaches from the Book of Mormon. It's a very similar and intersting story. Feel free to check it out:

http://graceforgrace.com/2008/06/06/baptist-preacher-believes-in-book-of-mormon/

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that it is odd that you are an ex member but still distribute the Book Of Mormon. I certainly don't mean to be rude but is there some underlying mental problem going on here? It does seem to be the work of a confused man distributing church material from a church he is no longer a member of without offering an explanation. While I understand it is a personal matter, people's curiosity and suspicions are quite understandable.

Bookslinger said...

anon at 5:36: You want people to discuss their mental problems? You go first.

Tony said...

Thanks for showing us all the power of the Book of Mormon bookslinger, and telling anonymous how it is while you are at it.

As a convert, I admire your faith even in your circumstances. You are surely among one of the many reasons I love the Gospel and this Church. Have a wonderful week!

Roxy said...

My very best friend happens to be very popular amongst the missionaries in our area. He is a convert who served his mission in Louisianna who is extremely extroverted when it comes to the Gospel. Everyone knows him because I'm pretty sure he's almost memorized both the BoM and D&C and is almost there with the Bible. He is never afraid to share his thoughts and opinions and every time I'm with him, he's always talking to someone on the street, on the bus, on the phone...probably even in his dreams!

And then there is me. I am the complete opposite. I never share any of my thoughts (unless asked to do so), never talk to strangers (unless they talk to me first), and haven't even finished reading the bible completely! Yes, I do have a lot of work to do, but I have to remind myself and others who know this person too, that this is not a competition, but that God would be so happy to see us share the Gospel with others in our lives. I mean, that's how I became a member!