In a clarion call to improve missionary effectiveness, the First Presidency issued a statement December 2002 calling for the message of the Restoration to be taught by the Spirit as mandated in the scriptures.
"Our purpose is to teach the message of the restored gospel in such a way as to allow the Spirit to direct both the missionaries and those being taught," stated the First Presidency in the statement.
In response, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles created a detailed and comprehensive program that prepares and guides missionaries through every aspect of the work. It builds on the more recent efforts initiated in 2003 to wean missionaries from memorized, rote presentations of the past to relying on spiritual promptings.
The approach is titled, Preach My Gospel, and is detailed in a colorful 230-page publication. It is perhaps the most dynamic revamping of missionary labors since the first missionary discussions were introduced in the 1930s.
In an introductory message addressed to missionaries the First Presidency stated, "Preach My Gospel is intended to help you be a better-prepared, more spiritually mature missionary and a more persuasive teacher. . . . We challenge you to rise to a new sense of commitment to assist our Father in Heaven in His glorious work."
The program is sweeping in its scope and emboldens missionaries with the spiritual tools and knowledge necessary to perform a spiritual work, said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve and chairman of the Missionary Executive Council.
In 13 chapters, Preach My Gospel outlines every aspect of missionary life and brings the worldwide effort of preaching the gospel under one unified approach. Each of the 53,000 missionaries throughout the world has received a spiral bound copy of the book.
"We need great missionaries to fight a battle against an adversary that is destroying all that is good," Elder Ballard told the newly called mission presidents during the 2004 New Mission Presidents Seminar.
"This is a tough world," he continued. "Some areas of the world are not interested in religion. We must penetrate (that indifference). The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have prayed diligently to know what to do. We must lift and prepare missionaries as never before so they can bear powerful testimony. They must treasure doctrines so thoroughly in their hearts that they can teach the reality of the Apostasy and the
Restoration, and the divine translation of the Book of Mormon and the need to keep God's commandments.
"This kind of teaching will lead to a request for baptism," he said.
Preach My Gospel reduces the total missionary curriculum from 676 pages of material previously given to missionaries while in Missionary Training Centers to one book of 230 pages.
Chapter one begins with a description of the purpose of missionary work, then teaches missionaries how to study spiritual truths in chapter two.
Chapter three outlines five lessons to be taught to investigators and new members. The first four of these lessons replace the six discussions previously taught by missionaries. They discuss the Restoration, the plan of salvation, the gospel of Jesus Christ and the commandments, and can be taught in various lengths or in any order, according to the needs of the investigator and the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Following baptism, the fifth lesson reviews the laws and ordinances of the gospel.
As part of each lesson, missionaries are given guides to help them provide information to the depth and degree of interest of the investigator.
With each lesson, a six- to seven-page doctrinal treatise is provided to help the missionary learn and understand and deepen his own testimony.
In addition to other chapters that help missionaries learn to improve their teaching ability and how to be better finders of investigators and how to make and keep commitments, Preach My Gospel provides planning tools to help missionaries increase the effective use of the Lord's time.
To help missionaries concentrate on their investigators and to focus their thoughts in ways that open the channels of revelation, missionaries will spend two to three hours weekly considering how to help their investigators progress.
With the planning tools come guidance for missionaries in how to work with stake presidents, bishops and ward councils, an experience many missionaries have never had prior to their missions.
"Teaching by the Spirit is central to our success," said Elder Ballard, quoting President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, during the mission presidents seminar. "All we do is spiritual, seeking to reach the inner spirit of man and to teach the marvelous doctrines of the Lord."
Preach my Gospel is not only for missionaries, but a valuable resource for the general membership of the Church as well. "There is a great need," Elder Ballard said, "for members to join the missionaries in helping to share the message of the Restoration with far more people."
The new materials are member friendly. Church members can cooperate more fully with missionaries as their friends and acquaintances are being taught. Members should feel more comfortable in giving referrals and in having missionaries come into their homes to teach people with whom they wish to share the gospel.
There should also be greater cooperation between missionaries and wards and stakes in finding, teaching and fellowshipping investigators and in retaining new converts, states the missionary guide.
Bishops, ward mission leaders and members of ward councils will profit in their callings by following the counsel of the book, continues the publication. To help missionaries hone their teaching skills, missionaries are challenged to teach three lessons daily. On some occasions, Elder Ballard said, this may require teaching less-active members, part-member families and active members.
Speaking during a Worldwide Priesthood Leadership Training broadcast January 2003, President Gordon B. Hinckley said that if missionaries observed these principles, "there will come a new force into their teachings."
Continuing, he said, "If missionaries will cultivate the Spirit of the Lord . . . they will be guided to say those things and teach in such a way as to respond to the needs of those they teach."
Preach My Gospel is available at Church Distribution Centers for $6 a copy.
Chapter 1: What Is My Purpose as a Missionary?
Help others come unto Christ by receiving the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
Chapter 2: How Do I Study Effectively and Prepare to Teach?
Study is an act of faith requiring the use of personal agency. Getting good results from your study depends on having a strong desire to learn, studying with "real intent," hungering and thirsting "after righteousness," and searching for answers. . . .
Chapter 3: What Do I Study and Teach?
The lessons in this chapter contain the essential doctrines, principles and commandments that you are to study, believe, love, live and teach. They are what the living prophets and apostles have directed you to teach. They are organized so that you can help those whom you teach clearly understand the doctrines of Christ.
Chapter 4: How Do I Recognize and Understand the Spirit?
You will succeed in your work as you learn to receive and follow personal revelation. . . . God will help you as you try to recognize and understand the Spirit through diligent scripture study. He will guide you to people who will receive your message. He will give you power to deliver your message.
Chapter 5: What Is the Role of the Book of Mormon?
The Book of Mormon is powerful evidence of the divinity of Christ and proof of the Restoration. . . . As a missionary, you must first have a personal testimony that the Book of Mormon is true. This testimony can lead to a deep and abiding faith in the power of the Book of Mormon during the conversion process.
Chapter 6: How Do I Develop Christlike Attributes?
Christlike attributes are gifts from God. They come as you use your agency righteously. Because you cannot develop them without His help, ask your Heavenly Father to bless you with these attributes. With a desire to please God, recognize your weaknesses and be willing and anxious to improve.
Chapter 7: How Can I Better Learn My Mission Language?
Learning to teach effectively in your mission language requires effort. Learning a language takes time. Be patient with yourself. Seek the help of your companion, members, investigators and other missionaries. . . . Strive to master the language throughout your mission and after you return.
Chapter 8: How Do I Use Time Wisely?
You are assigned to do the Lord's work in a specific area. He wants you to watch over your area with love and great care. . . . Meaningful goals and careful planning will help you accomplish what the Lord requires of you. As you care for your assigned area, you will account to Him and to your mission leaders this sacred trust.
Chapter 9: How Do I Find People to Teach?
The doctrines and principles in this chapter will strengthen your faith that the Lord is preparing people to receive you. . . . He will lead you to them or will lead them to you. . . . Usually you do not know who these people are and initially they may not recognize that you are the Lord's servant. . . .
Chapter 10: How Can I Improve My Teaching?
Learn to rely on the Spirit to give you what you should say and do. By studying and applying the teaching skills in this chapter, you will become a more capable instrument in the hands of the Lord. The Spirit will be able to draw upon the talents you have developed to help you teach more powerfully.
Chapter 11: How Do I Help People Make and Keep Commitments?
Commitment is an essential part of repentance. It is the act of obligating oneself to a course of action and then diligently following through on that decision. When people are genuinely committed, they have "real intent," meaning that they fully intend to do what they committed to do.
Chapter 12: How Do I Prepare People for Baptism and Confirmation?
The purpose of your teaching is to help others develop faith in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. . . . The baptismal interview is the way established by the Church to ensure that each candidate meets the Lord's standards for baptism and is prepared to receive the Holy Ghost.
Chapter 13: How Do I Work with Stake and Ward Leaders?
You have the great opportunity of working with many leaders and members during your mission. . . . These are important relationships. . . . Understanding the basics of how to work within the ward organization will help you.