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Monday, October 21, 2013

Members, Missionaries, and, Of Course, Cellular Respiration

by Shawn Tucker (bio)

Note: please read this first paragraph as if it were written by a non-specialist and non-scientist, because that is exactly the case.

Cellular respiration is how cells break down food molecules like carbohydrates and fats in order to get energy. Cells use this energy (in the form of ATP) to power processes like cell growth, the contraction of the muscle cells, the transmission of nerve impulses, and the maintenance of body temperature in warm-blooded animals. When oxygen is used, the process is called aerobic respiration; when oxygen is not present it is anaerobic respiration. But there are remarkable differences in what aerobic and anaerobic respiration yield. Aerobic respiration produces between 36 and 38 ATP, while anaerobic only produces 2 ATP. In addition, anaerobic respiration produces lactic acid. So, when you do a lot of aerobic exercises, your cells have plenty of oxygen and produce a lot of energy. If you have not been exercising, cells resort to anaerobic respiration, you have much less energy, and the lactic acid is what causes your muscle cramps.

While I'm sure that the comparison is clear to everyone, humor me as I state the obvious. Cellular respiration is an excellent analogy for member missionary work. Members are oxygen. Missionaries can do missionary work without members (although in my opinion that is not exactly the Lord's plan). When missionaries do missionary work alone, it is like anaerobic respiration—it produces very little results and lots of side-effects. The lactic acid or painful side-effects of this anaerobic work could include low new member retention, low enthusiasm for missionary work among members, increased conflicts between missionaries and members, and missed blessings for everyone.

Think about the alternative: aerobic missionary work with the oxygen of members. Members get to see missionaries in action, renewing their appreciation for how difficult it is, how much faith it requires, and how remarkable those servants are. Members also often get a chance to share a testimony or insights. Members get to meet new people, people who may feel drawn to the gospel, and they also get to extend the hand of fellowship. Often, very often, members have particular experiences and insights that can be crucial for an investigator or new member. When members work closely with the missionaries, the members and the missionaries become energized about the work.

When I recently went out with the missionaries, we met with a man who had spent many years as a preacher. After about an hour, it was clear that he was not really interested in a dialogue, but, in response to one of his few questions for us, I was able to share part of my testimony. It was remarkable how that experience, which may seem unsuccessful from a certain point of view, renewed my testimony and re-energized me to work with the missionaries.

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