In his concluding message at the 2016 Seminar for New Mission Presidents on June 26, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles focused on the vital and timeless missionary duty of finding people to teach.
“Missionaries cannot teach if they don’t have investigators,” he said. “Even if your missionaries have the best possible teaching skills, missionary work cannot prosper unless those missionaries also have people to teach.”
Preach My Gospel, he added, has many great teachings on finding. It should be a primary resource. Use it constantly with the missionaries. One key truth taught there: “Nothing happens in missionary work until you find someone to teach. Talk to as many people as you can each day.”
The guidance of the Spirit is important, said Elder Oaks. “But, like most revelation, that guidance comes when we are on the move. Seek to establish a mission culture of continual finding. If you do, it will have a profound influence on the success of your missionaries.”
Preach My Gospel, he added, also teaches missionaries to be prepared to teach brief summaries of restored truth — allowing the Holy Ghost to bear witness that the missionaries are the Lord’s servants. Oftentimes, such a message can be presented in a minute or less. People are accustomed to short, powerful statements.
“Help your missionaries develop brief approaches to speak to people on the streets or in places where they gather — approaches that will be interesting to the people they encounter.”
Elder Oaks spoke of his own experience serving in the Philippines where the people are friendly and open to being approached on the street. Missionaries there could ask people if they would like to know why they left their homes and schools, far away, to go to the Philippines. Many responded affirmatively.
The importance of members in finding is also emphasized in Preach My Gospel.
“The best finding is done when we work with members, and the first and essential step in working with members is a close and cooperative relationship with stake presidents and district presidents. Cultivate that relationship,” he said. “Do not think that work with members just means asking members for referrals. President Russell M. Nelson recently told us what a highly successful mission president in Korea told him about this. Said this president, ‘I tell the missionaries never to ask for referrals. They should work to earn the confidence of the members and the referrals will come.’ ”
Elder Oaks also testified of the value of service projects in finding. “What an opportunity for missionaries to get acquainted with nonmembers as they work shoulder-to-shoulder with them! Further acquaintanceship and teaching can develop naturally as they desire.”
Missionaries can also find people to teach by simply going where people congregate.
“Just last month, when Elder M. Russell Ballard was visiting missions outside the United States, he saw public parks crowded with people enjoying conversations on the summer evenings and no sign of the numerous missionaries in close proximity to these places. Missionaries should go where the people are.”
• Please see Church News for week of July 3 for other reports on the 2016 Seminar for New Mission Presidents.
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