Monday, September 22, 2014

President's Weekly Letter #104

Clarity and Power
I am impressed with PMG because it helps you have clarity and power in your missionary work.  Upon arrival in Holland on my first mission, I was given a small book containing the 6 Missionary Discussions which I was to memorize plus I had to purchase another small book, Hugo’s Dutch – Self Tuition in Three Months, at a book store to use to study the language.  I came here not even knowing how to say, “Goede dag.”  My senior companion kept track of me.  That was it!  Six months after arriving in Holland, I started feeling comfortable with the language and participating in lessons; I was then about where today’s missionaries are after the MTC plus one transfer in the country.  From the first day, we worked a full schedule of proselyting and teaching.  My first city was Den Haag and my trainer was Elder Britton from Salt Lake City, Utah.  It was tough.  I studied while biking and even during appointments.  It was a flat footed, difficult start. 

Home sick and naïve, I entered the Mission Home in Salt Lake City on 17 June 1968.  The Mission Home then was way different than the MTC today.  It was located on North Temple across the street from the Salt Lake Temple on part of the lot where the Conference Center is now located.  All missionaries going somewhere in the world stayed there for about 6 days while most of the 12 Apostles came in to speak to us along with other speakers.  I remember flying to Amsterdam with a lay-over in New York.  My life had changed forever and I could not even contemplate 2 ½ years away from home.

On the plane, I sat next to a social worker from Chicago.  Somewhere over the Midwest, after settling in, finishing small talk and eating the peanuts, he said, “Well, we are going to be here a while, you might as well tell me about your church.  What do you people believe?”

That question is a missionary’s dream but I am embarrassed to admit, I muffed the shot.  I did not even hit the rim.  I remember wishing I had paid more attention in priest’s quorum while I fought to think of something interesting to say.  Even reciting the 12 Articles of Faith did not come to mind.  I said, “Well, we believe people go to one of the 3 degrees of glory after they die…”  The whole discussion went quickly down-hill from there.  He was patient but soon realized I was incoherent and he went to reading.

I was not prepared.  I like to think that I would have presented the Gospel of Truth much better to him if I had studied and followed PMG.  But, PMG did not exist back then.  The 13 Chapters in PMG contain wonderful doctrine and training in all aspects of a missionary’s life and when you learn and do the material taught, you will be a successful missionary.  Effective study is where good teaching and excellence on your mission begins.  The Lord gave us the following mandate as we do his work:

15 Again I say, hearken ye elders of my church, whom I have appointed: Ye are not sent forth to be taught, but to teach the children of men the things which I have put into your hands [Scriptures and PMG] by the power of my Spirit;
16 And ye are to be taught from on high. Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power, that ye may give even as I have spoken.  (DC 43:15-16)

During the 7th Transfer this year, beginning 16 September 2014, the mission will be studying Chapter 2 of PMG, Effective Study in accordance with the annual Mission Training Schedule.  You have received a brief outline of some of the training material that I want you to focus on along with the other parts of Chapter 2 during District Meetings and Zone Trainings this transfer.  This is a great opportunity to improve your study time thus improve your teaching.

The target you are shooting at during study is: effective teaching for understanding.  As you study remember to stay focused on a few specific concepts during each teaching session.  Teach from the scriptures.  During each teaching session, teach concepts in the order presented in PMG so you build on the foundation of knowledge that your investigators already understand.  Realize your planning is inspired so trust that inspiration during teaching by staying on the planned teaching topic.  Keep it simple by telling them what you are going to teach them, teach them and then tell them what you just taught them.  Use a written lesson plan.  Again, your target during study and preparation time is effective teaching for understanding.  Knowing this will improve your accuracy as you nail your lessons.

I enjoy playing golf.  The sport is difficult to do well and requires a commitment of preparation time and effort by the golfer to achieve excellence.  Think of the precision required to control a small ball with a small club head mounted at the end of a long shaft.  The physical inputs required in the golf swing include mental, body position, muscles, balance and hand/eye coordination.  Everything in the body must fire at the right instant and in the right order for a successful golf shot.  Once the ball comes off the club face, its landing spot is all decided.  To take a golf shot, I step back and look down the fairway visualizing the shot, I take a practice swing and then I set up my stance for the shot.  I can see that small ball down there on the ground and the small club head.  If my target is the ball while being perfectly struck with the club head, I will spray the balls I hit all over the fairway.  The target in my head must be the area on the fairway that I want the ball to lie after the shot or the pin in the hole on the green.  Your target in an effective planning session is effective teaching for understanding not what you are learning.

After teaching lessons, always evaluate your performance.  Be tough on yourselves.  Ask yourself: Does the investigator know what they learned?  Can they tell you afterwards what you came to teach them? – Why would they invite you back?  It does not have to be complicated.  Someone once asked Slick Willie Sutton, the famous bank robber in the 1930’s, why he robbed banks. “I rob banks because that’s where the money is,” he said.  The simplicity of this answer is obvious and even today in Medical School, students learn Sutton’s law:  when diagnosing, one should first consider the obvious.  It is applicable to any process of diagnosis, such as debugging computer programs or assessing missionary lessons.  With your companion, you should diagnosis your lessons.  Then use your study time to create better teaching for understanding.

President Robinson

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