Sunday, December 1, 2013

President's Weekly Letter #63

I love playing and watching basketball.  My participation in the game in high school included daily play while being coached with team competition in the State Athletic Association program.  I then played for 41 years after high school in church leagues, city leagues, year round early morning workouts, summer games, other tournaments and pick-up games.  Competition was always tough and the exercise to exhaustion was invigorating.

To me, basketball is more than a game, it is an art form.  Game strategy is always intriguing and I enjoy seeing individual but especially team performance under various game situations.  I have always been impressed with the hours of practice and work my teams and all teams put into running the offense.  We always had a number of plays with predetermined ball and player movement.  The purpose was always simple and the same; to score the ball by taking our best shot on each possession.  Our best shot increased our chances of scoring.  A well executed offense produced open shots and won games.  To run the offense and get the shot on the basketball floor requires work, time, effort, team organization, money, game trips, personal sacrifice, practice time, drills and training.  All are done to score the ball and win the game. 

Similarly, it is interesting to me how much work, time and effort is put into missionary work.  On your mission you saved money and people pay money for you to be here.  You gave up 2 years of your life.  We have apartments and a mission organization to support you.  The church operates the Area Office, MSF funding program, the missionary department, travel office and missionary health programs.  The church has many employees, volunteers, capital investments and the list goes on and on; all to support full time missionaries to be out with the people to bring them to Christ.

PMG p. 156 states, “Nothing happens in missionary work until you find someone to teach.”  I visualize all these investments by the church, parents and missionaries are focused on the missionary teaching.  In addition, you spend hours of finding just for the opportunity to teach or, to use the basketball analogy, to take the shot. Teaching is central to everything we do.  The moment you teach someone, all the effort and expense that you and others have expended are on the line and as you teach you take your shot.  If you teach with power, conviction, persuasion and the spirit, you will likely make the shot and be invited back for more lessons.  We cannot afford to muff the shot in this mission.  We do not get enough shots as we average only about 5.0 lessons per week per companionship.

It is the spirit that converts, so why is it then important to work at or even care how well we teach?  Just how bad can your teaching of doctrine and teaching style be before it hinders the spirit?  The Lord answers this very simply as a commandment with a promise:

“Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men” (D&C 11:21).

“Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85).

I am convinced that “treasuring up in your minds” the words of life is more than reading through the lessons.  Treasuring means careful study and a probably doing the extra work of memorizing.  Investigators need gospel concepts contained in the lessons to be presented in a simple, clear and understandable way.  PMG does that.  You must work at it to become an effective teacher.  You obtain his word by learning and memorizing the lessons and I guarantee if you do, your tongue will be loosed and the spirit will dictate what to say and you will have a wealth of lesson concepts to draw from.  If you want to learn Dutch, “Memorize simple statements from the lessons or brochures that convey key gospel principles.” (PMG p. 130)

What and how we teach is interesting.  Elder Holland told the Europe Area mission presidents last winter in Frankfurt that it is essential for the missionaries to know the lessons frontwards and backwards.  Elder Maynes stated in a mission presidents training last September that we ask missionaries not to teach by rote presentation (PMG p. 175) of memorized scripts but to use their own words as directed by the Spirit.  Their own words sometimes wander off the lesson material with frequent examples that only the missionary could think up.  They give their own version so often they are teaching a memorized lesson anyway but it is not as outlined in the lessons in PMG.  Elder Ballard pointed out that the number of times faith, repentance, baptism and the Holy Ghost are mentioned in the 1st lesson is for a purpose, not by accident, and it is important to teach as it is outlined.

For almost a year now I have asked each missionary to memorize the lessons in PMG, not to teach memorized recitations but memorize to really know concepts of doctrine in the order presented.  This way you will know the lessons frontwards and backwards.  So when teaching with your own thoughts you are empowered to remember required doctrine concepts and can fluently and smoothly shift from one to the other in your own words.

Remember the Mission Vision states:

“Each missionary will be an effective and highly skilled missionary, who has repeatedly practiced, studied, exercised and re-trained to have internalized his or her skills.  Each will excel from his or her thorough knowledge and use of Preach My Gospel.  Each will understand and master the basic techniques to effectively work with people.  Each will be personable, diligent, obedient, hard working and humble servants who are in tune with the spirit.  Each will teach clearly and testify convincingly to motivate all with whom they come in contact”
Memorizing the lessons takes more work, but will give you more capability to make each lesson count.  Each lesson is your shot and will be taught with power, conviction, persuasion and the spirit if you are prepared.  As you consider your ability to teach and the importance to making each shot count, consider the following statement by President Hinckley as it relates to your teaching:

“I speak of the need for a little more effort, a little more self-discipline, a little more consecrated effort in the direction of excellence in our lives.  This is the great day of decision for each of us.  For many it is the time of beginning something that will go on for as long as you live.  I plead with you, don’t be a scrub!  Rise to the high ground of spiritual, mental, and physical excellence. You can do it.  You may not be a genius.  You may be lacking in some skills.  But so many of us can do better than we are now doing.  We are members of this great Church whose influence is now felt over the world.  We are people with a present and with a future.  Don’t muff your opportunities.  Be excellent.”  (President Gordon B. Hinckley) 
President Robinson

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