Serving a mission can be hard…especially when you’re getting rejected at every door. But buried within the Book of Abraham is something that can help missionaries become effective in whatever culture they’ve been called to take the gospel to.
Abraham was called on a mission to the Middle Eastern, Egypt mission. Talk about a tough mission call. His job was not going to be an easy one because of the traditions of the Egyptians. If you think you have it tough before you’re getting ready to leave on your mission…just take a look at Facsimile #1 in the middle of the Pearl of Great Price and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The Lord taught Abraham personally how he could become an effective missionary to the Egyptians and Abraham wrote it down for you so that you could learn how to be an effective missionary for the people you’ve been called to serve.
Joseph F. McConkie said that, “No teaching device is used more effectively or frequently in the scriptures to expand understanding than, “likening” the principle being taught to something already understood by those being instructed.”
“Likening” is a way to find common ground with people. Take something that they know and understand and then build a relationship of trust upon the concept that both of you understand. Then use that same concept to teach the new concept.
In most cases, finding common ground will be the only way you’ll get others to open their ears to what you’re saying. The white shirt, tie, and name badge immediately conjures preconceived notions about you. If the people you aim to teach don’t have their ears open and their heart softened toward you, it won’t matter what you say or how powerfully you say it.
So with Abraham, the Lord knew that he would have no success in Egypt unless he learned this one lesson.
In Ur of Chaldees, the Lord schools Abraham on the most effective way to get the Egyptian people to listen to his message. He does this by first teaching Abraham about astronomy. The entire first seventeen verses of Abraham chapter 3 deals with stars and planets and their relationship with one another. Abraham is probably confused out of his mind! Abraham is saying to himself, “what in the world does all this have to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ? I’m a missionary, not an astronomer!”
The Lord is saying in effect, “Abraham…I’m going to show you something cool. Something that the Egyptians can actually relate to so that they won’t just want to beat you up or slam the door in your face. Egyptians love astronomy…and if you want to gain their trust, there is no better way than to “talk astronomy” with them.
By verse 18, Abraham is probably amazed at what he’s learning about astronomy. But then the Lord uses the words “as, also” to transition from astronomy (something that the Egyptians are obsessed with,) to the plan of salvation (something they have no idea about and would probably reject.)
Abraham has just learned that unless he can get the attention of the Egyptians, and establish common ground with them, he’ll have no chance of teaching them about Jehovah. That was the day that Abraham learned what it means to be a real missionary. First you’ve got to be real. You’ve got to get to know the people you teach. And you’ve got to find common ground with each of them to effectively open their hearts to your message.