When missionaries can’t preach: A touching story from the Ensign

In response to new Russian laws, LDS missionaries serving there may no longer teach the gospel to investigators in their homes, or in the homes of members of Church. Elders and Sisters can’t go door to door, or talk to people in parks, or hand out copies of “The Book of Mormon” on the bus. ALL proselytizing is restricted to inside the Church building. Deseret News reported that the Church is no longer sending ‘missionaries’ to Russia. We are, however, sending ‘volunteers’. This isn’t the first time that the Church has asked elders and sisters to serve as volunteers instead of doing traditional missionary work. The Ensign shared this touching story in 1988 of a sister who ‘volunteered’ at a Vietnamese refugee camp on Palawan:

This is an excerpt from We Couldn’t Preach, but We Could Love

The plane glided above the peaceful green islands below. I looked out of the window in awe. Surely we were headed for paradise! One month earlier, my mission president had informed me that I would be sent to serve in a Vietnamese refugee camp on Palawan, an island between Vietnam and the Philippines. My companion had come from one of the refugee camps in Thailand, where she had been serving with twelve other LDS lady missionaries. She was strong, reliable, and full of charity. I remembered my introduction to her at the airport. I had heard that lady missionaries sent to the refugee camps ran the risk of losing their missionary discipline, and I was almost certain that she had. I feared that my new assignment would cause me to lose mine.

“Sister …” I had started nervously.

“Please call me Ruth,” she politely replied.

I winced.

“What’s your name?” she asked, smiling.

“Annette.” The word—my own name—sounded strange to my lips.

“Annette, I’m sure we’ll work just fine together.”

“Um, excuse me, but shouldn’t we call each other ‘Sister’? After all, we’re still missionaries.”

“Yes, we are, but you will soon realize we’ll have a greater advantage among the refugees and other volunteers in the camp if we go by nonreligious titles.”

“But what about the gospel. … Surely we can talk about the gospel?”

“No, Annette, I’m afraid we cannot say anything about the Church—except its name.”

“But … but … how will we convert people?” I was really flustered now.

“You will be surprised what a great reaction these people will have to our example. They notice immediately that we’re different from the other volunteers in the camp. Our standards and our values are obvious, and that’s what will help us most.”

I had still been flustered. Why weren’t we allowed to preach in the refugee camp?

Read the rest of this story in the March 1988 Ensign