The Power of Inviting
Inviting someone to do something can be powerful. Why, partly because we are giving them the opportunity to act, that is to be agents for themselves, to act instead of being acted upon. An invitation shows respect to the individual and their agency, in that we are inviting as opposed to telling or demanding. An invitation gives us the opportunity to make a choice. It causes us to think,evaluate and then decide. This process of thinking, evaluating and deciding opens the door for us to receive inspiration. When we are confronted with a choice the Holly Ghost is given an opportunity to influence our decision. Without a choice (think, without an invitation) it is if we are moving forward on autopilot (think, “being acted upon”). It is when we are at the crossroads of choice that the Holy Ghost can guide us in our decisions, if we are listening.
When we stray from inviting and insist on telling or compelling we effectively close the door on the Holy Ghost and his enlightening influence. We also put ourselves in the roll of the adversary whose goal was to destroy the agency of man. In the pre-existence we fought fiercely to maintain our agency, so it is no wonder that we react negatively to someone telling us what to do as opposed to inviting us or encouraging us.
In the last session of General Conference the word invite, or a form of invite, was used 32 times. In my coordinating council meetings and with other General Authorities I have frequently heard the council “May I suggest…” There are many ways to invite others without using the word “invite.” Christ extended an invitation when he said “Come, follow me.” And when he said, “Be ye perfect, even as I or my Father which is in Heaven is perfect.”
Just as we cannot live on bread alone, we don’t want to limit ourselves to only inviting. When should we instruct instead of invite? This is a very good question that places us at the very crossroads of choice. Each time we must use our agency to decide when to instruct and when to invite. We must; think, evaluate and then decide which method would be best. Should we invite our children to brush their teeth or should we instruct them to brush their teeth. Should we invite our children to refrain from dating until age 16 or should we instruct them to wait until age 16? Should we invite our spouse to apply the breaks for an unseen elk crossing the road or should we tell them to “SLAM ON THE BRAKES!” Should the Church invite us to keep records of baptism and priesthood ordinations or should they instruct us to keep records. Obviously, there are many times when “instructing” is more appropriate then “inviting.”
I doubt that there is a set of rules for when to use one or when to use the other. However, I believe that “instruction” works well for explaining rules, procedures and methods. I think it is also works well in a parent to child relationship in regards to stewardship responsibilities. It is also the most effective method in the workplace for training employees and giving assignments. You will never hear your boss say, “I invite you to come to work on time.”
On the other hand, I believe that “inviting” works best when people have already been taught correct principles and you want to create an opportunity for them to exercise their agency. As they exercise their agency it causes them to; think, evaluate and decide. The opportunity for growth is extended. The power of the invitation comes from the exercising of agency coupled with the divine influence of the Holy Ghost as an invitation is considered.
When those with whom we live and work have been taught correct principles and are of an accountable age, it is more Christ like and more effective to invite, then it is to tell or instruct. It shows that we respect their freedom to make choices and decisions and it shows that we understand the principle of agency. It subdues our rebellious nature to resist being acted upon. When we want someone to behave in a certain fashion or change an undesirable behavior we must choose which to use; instruct or invite. If it is a child, instruction may be the most appropriate as you are still teaching correct principles. If it is an adult, an invitation may be the most appropriate. We are told that it is difficult if not impossible to change someone else. However, as the Holy Ghost enters the equation during the inviting process, change can take place. When an invitation should be extended but we choose something more compelling, we usually end up exercising unrighteous dominion by telling, instructing or coercing. When we do that we miss out on the blessings of peace, trust and inspiration from the Holy Ghost.