Teaching missionaries how to teach was the focus of a presentation given by Stephen B. Allen, managing director of the Missionary Department, on the opening day of the 2011 Seminar for MTC Presidents and Visitors Center Directors Jan. 13.
"We have learned that in general, missionaries do not clearly understand the purpose of missionary work and struggle to connect all aspects of their work to that purpose," said Brother Allen.
"Missionaries come to their service with varying degrees of gospel knowledge and testimony. Few come knowing how to effectively communicate that knowledge to others."
Brother Allen said the department is completely redoing the curriculum for missionary training centers worldwide. He identified the topics of eight fundamental topics in which the missionaries will be instructed:
"The Doctrine of Christ — Your Purpose"
"The Role of the Holy Ghost in Conversion"
"Revelation through Prayer"
"Revelation through the Book of Mormon"
"Revelation through Church Attendance"
"Teach People, Not Lessons"
"We Invite, They Commit, We Follow Up"
"How to Begin"
The expectation, Brother Allen said, is that missionaries leaving Missionary Training Centers will understand the doctrine of Christ and know how to invite people to be baptized.
"They will have had 10, 20, 50, maybe hundreds of experiences in the MTC feeling the Spirit and learning to know what the Spirit feels like before they ever get to the field," he said.
While the missionary guide Preach My Gospel is a "huge blessing in missionary work," missionaries face a major challenge in implementing it, Brother Allen said. It instructs missionaries to study gospel concepts and then teach from their hearts according to the needs of the investigator.
"They have to extract, run it through their heart, and express it in their own words," he said. "This generation doesn't talk, they text. And they don't read very much, they watch."
Moreover, it has been found that a new missionary's first companion, the trainer, too frequently undoes what has been accomplished at the MTC, saying, "Forget everything you learned at the MTC, because here we don't do it that way," Brother Allen noted.
Six months ago mission presidents were given the eight lessons, and they have been working hard to teach missionaries in the field "these basic foundation stones," he said. "So when missionaries arrive from the MTCs, they'll have these in place."
He explained that the new curriculum has three phases: A pre-MTC training phase gives new missionaries assignments to fulfill from the time they receive their calls. Later, they learn the lessons during MTC training. An in-field training segment follows in which new missionaries during the first 12 weeks receive instruction from their trainers in specific curriculum they are to follow.
During the first phase, newly called missionaries are encouraged to do the following:
Study from the Book of Mormon daily, create a personal profile on mormon.org.
Become familiar with FamilySearch and complete a four-generation family group sheet so they can use it in finding names for temple work.
Watch all six main episodes of the Preach My Gospel DVDs accessible on line. The DVDs show missionaries in actual teaching situations with investigators, giving viewers a glimpse into the conversion process.
Study Chapter 3 of Preach My Gospel containing the missionary lessons and practice giving them to family members.