As a missionary trainer, I often talked in group settings with other trainers about their experiences and how their missionaries were doing. Often, one to two trainers would say something like, “It’s super easy training this one elder. He came pre-trained. He already knows how to be a missionary.” For that elder, home was the Missionary Training Center long before the MTC.
Most people think that when you enter the MTC, you magically gain a testimony of the gospel and a deep understanding of how to do missionary work. The truth is, you don’t. Those things must be learned, and preferably, learned early. President Kimball, in his talk “When the World Will be Converted,” reasserts this:
“I am asking that we start earlier and train our missionaries better in every branch and every ward in the world. That is another challenge—that the young people will understand that it is a great privilege to go on a mission and that they must be physically well, mentally well, spiritually well, and that “the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.”
I am asking for missionaries who have been carefully indoctrinated and trained through the family and the organizations of the Church, and who come to the mission with a great desire. I am asking for better interviews, more searching interviews, more sympathetic and understanding interviews, but especially that we train prospective missionaries much better, much earlier, much longer, so that each anticipates his mission with great joy.”
Nobody has to go into the mission field untrained or unready. In the spirit of that, here are the top seven things, according to elders, sisters, and missionary presidents I’ve talked to, that you can to do to come “pre-trained” to your mission:
1. Gain a personal testimony of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.
You will be spending the next 18-36 months testifying of Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Develop a testimony of Him now. Study His words and teachings. Strive to develop stronger faith in Him. Do all you can to learn of Him, and use His Atonement, for it will be your job to help others to do the same.
I cannot stress how vital it is to have an abiding testimony that Jesus is the Christ and that His atonement is real. Without this, nothing else matters or has reason. No missionary should ever go on his or her mission without a testimony of Jesus Christ and His atonement, and that includes a testimony of repenting of your sins.
2. Learn how to communicate with Heavenly Father.
Learning how to pray is vital to life on earth. Prayer is our main line of communication with heaven and our Heavenly Father. So many people “say” their prayers with no intent of the prayer ever reaching God, or they pray with no intent to obey. They often think God does not care or listen because they don’t have powerful prayers.
As a missionary, you will be teaching people how to have powerful and effective prayers. You will teach them how to receive revelation through prayer. Learning how to do these things yourself before you go will help with every aspect of the work.
Follow the established patterns. Learn how to ask. Rarely does God give revelation to “what should I do” prayers, but often He will give unto the person who studies out the options, picks one, and then asks, “This is what I think is right. I am going to proceed with it. Is this acceptable?” At that point, revelation comes. If it does not, proceed with your plan, and if the plan is wrong, God has promised to let you know.
Know that reverence invites revelation. Learn how to act. Being reverent invites the Spirit, and the Spirit is the gateway to revelation. Kneel, use respectful language, fold your arms, close your eyes, have personal prayers, and have family prayers. If your family does not hold family prayers, take the initiative and start them.
Finally, be specific and learn how convey desire. Specific prayers get specific answers, and prayer is a principle of effort. The more effort you put in, the more blessings you get out. Instead of, “Please bless everyone the missionaries are meeting with,” a more effective approach would be, “Please bless Michael Goff. Please bless him with a desire to read the book of Mormon and to pray to know of its divinity.” God blesses specific prayers. As my mission president always said, “Pray by name and need.” Taking the time to know names and needs of others conveys love and caring, and praying about them is powerful. It shows them you really care. It helps them feel your love and our Father’s love. I’ve seen it countless times. I promise you that few things melt a heart faster than hearing someone pray for you and your loved ones by name and need.
3. Read the Book of Mormon and gain a testimony of it.
The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. You will be inviting others to read it and to pray about it to gain a testimony. At the very least, read the Book of Mormon all the way through and pray about it before you leave on your mission. I cannot tell you how many missionaries come to the field never having read the book! They spend the first 4-12 weeks of their missions just trying to read the Book of Mormon so that they can then share it with others. Gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon is like toppling the first domino of the Restoration: everything else follows it.
4. Study Preach My Gospel (PMG) and the scriptures!
Learn how to study the scriptures and Preach My Gospel before you go. And study them! Having a knowledge of doctrine is one of the big differences between a missionary who is pre-trained and a missionary who struggles. If you already know the doctrine you’re going to teach, then your trainer only needs to show you the finer points of missionary work. As a friend of mine who was a trainer once said, “I basically just showed him the mission culture.” This is one thing I wish I had done better at. I studied the scriptures, but I wish I had spent more time in Preach My Gospel.
I recommend starting with chapter two of PMG, which teaches you how to study. Once you’ve learned how to study, continue with chapter one. Try to apply each chapter to your life. PMG teaches eternal principles which are applicable to all stages of life. I recommend reading PMG at least once cover to cover. After you’ve read it cover to cover once, I recommend an in-depth study of the first six chapters, as the doctrines and principles in the first six chapters are the most important to understand as you prepare for a mission.
Once you’ve read PMG, read the Gospels in the New Testament, and I highly recommend reading the entire Bible before you leave. It is the companion volume of scripture to the Book of Mormon, and a greater gospel understanding will come as you study all of the scriptures.
5. Be active in missionary work before your mission!
Hastening the work of salvation does not start when you’re set apart as a full-time missionary, nor does it end when you’re released. Learning and applying the doctrine that every member is a missionary and has missionary responsibilities before your mission will add power to the authority you will hold. After all, Christ said, “Come, follow me,” not, “Go, do that.”
Do your home and visiting teaching. On your mission, you will spend much time and effort helping people understand the importance of doing home/visiting teaching. How can you ask someone to do theirs if you refused to do yours? Gain a testimony of teaching. It will add so much power to your invitations to others to do the same. As Harold B. Lee said, “Missionary work is but home teaching to those who are not now members of the Church, and home teaching is nothing more or less than missionary work to Church members.”
Go out with the ward/full-time missionaries. Few things will prepare you as well for a mission as gaining hands-on experience. It teaches you how to teach the doctrines of the gospel. Real teaching will teach you far faster than reading or role play. It will also help you to understand the different roles everyone plays in conversion/retention/reactivation. This knowledge is what you will be applying as a missionary for the next 18-36 months. It’s imperative to learn it, and the sooner, the better.
Invite your friends. As a missionary, you will learn that members are the key to finding new investigators. You will encourage them to invite their friends to church, to activities, and to meet with you. As you invite your friends to do these things before your mission, you will be able to gain personal testimony of this aspect of missionary work. It will allow you to declare, with the Holy Ghost as your witness, that it works, that it has blessed your life, and that it will bless the lives of the members you’re inviting to follow your example.
6. Pay attention in seminary/Sunday school/institute.
The lessons taught to you about the gospel are designed to help you learn and apply the gospel. The “Scripture Mastery” program of seminary is designed to give you a basic grasp of the scriptures and their teachings. I know so many missionaries that lamented, “I wish I had paid attention in seminary.” I even had some companions who were trying to memorize the scripture mastery verses because they realized the power that comes from quoting the scriptures word for word. Don’t underestimate the opportunity to learn in a class setting.
7. Worship in the temple.
Worshiping is so much more than just attending. If you’re not attending the temple, developing that habit is a good start. If you only have a limited-use recommend, do baptisms and confirmations as often as is reasonable. Mostly, prepare for the temple now. As you prepare for your mission, also take temple prep. Ideally, as soon as you have your mission call, you will talk with your bishop and start planning a date to go to the temple to receive your endowment. This is where taking temple prep. as you work on your papers is huge. Once you have received your endowment, take full advantage of the House of the Lord before you leave. As you attend His house, you will gain the perspective of why we do missionary work and that baptism is not the end goal.
These seven things, when combined with developed social skills, a positive mental attitude, and a desire to work hard and be humble, lead to prepared missionaries who can hasten the work of salvation from day one. Always remember, though, that it is very important to listen to your trainer and to understand that their job is to train you. As my mission president put it to a group of new missionaries, “You are being trained. You are not here to train your trainers.” At all times, strive to be humble and willing to learn. With proper prior preparation, and with the help of your trainer, you can be a great instrument in the hands of the Lord.
This article appeared first on mylifebygogogoff.blogspot.com and has been republished with permission