“Preaching His Gospel,” Ensign, Sept. 2005, 24–29
The guidance of the Holy Ghost has always been critical in missionary work. Although various teaching methods and materials have been used since the organization of the restored Church, the scriptural direction hasn’t changed: “If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14).
In an effort to improve missionaries’ reliance on the Spirit, Church leaders have implemented the Preach My Gospel manual. The manual replaces the six discussions used since 1985, introduces new teaching methods, and emphasizes more effective planning. The manual also replaces the Missionary Guide, the discussions for new members, and the missionary gospel study program.
“This manual is a guide to what a missionary needs to know and to become in order to be a teacher empowered to declare the message of the Restoration to the people of the world,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in a seminar for new mission presidents.
Missionaries no longer memorize discussions for investigators and new members. Instead they study and learn gospel doctrines and principles in five basic lessons and create individualized lesson plans for each investigator or new convert. Other important aspects of missionary work taught in the new manual are planning, goal setting, and using time wisely.
And Preach My Gospel is not only for full-time missionaries. The new manual encourages members and ward and branch leaders to work more closely with the missionaries. Members will find Preach My Gospel useful as they assist the missionaries by giving referrals, inviting the missionaries to teach investigators in their homes, and helping in many other ways.
“[Preach My Gospel] will require greater effort on the part of the missionaries,” President Gordon B. Hinckley told mission presidents in a satellite broadcast. “It will require much of prayer and much of study. … If there is better teaching in the conversion process, there will be greater retention of those who are baptized.”
The Preach My Gospel manual begins with these words from the First Presidency:
“Dear Fellow Missionary:
“We compliment you on the great opportunity you have to be a missionary. There is no more compelling work than this, nor any which brings greater satisfaction.”1
Becoming that future missionary is going to take some real work in the here and now. It will take study and practice and prayer.
“You can’t do missionary work without the Spirit,” says Sister Mary C. Memory of the New York New York North Mission.
Preach My Gospel helps missionaries teach the gospel using their own words. The missionaries have to be worthy of the Spirit so they know what and how to teach.
“I’m learning to feel the message in my heart,” says Elder Mason Warr, serving in the Perú Lima East Mission. “I listen to the Spirit to know what to teach.”
Elder Nicolas Gervic, serving in the New York New York North Mission, agrees: “You teach from the heart.” Elder Gervic is doing well using the new book, but he wishes he had been more prepared to teach.
Gaining a solid testimony of the gospel and the Restoration is essential preparation, says Elder Travis D. Hollingshead, Elder Gervic’s companion. “I really didn’t understand the Restoration before my mission. I knew how important it is, but I didn’t realize how important it is in my life.”
Elder Hollingshead says Preach My Gospel has helped him learn the gospel better so he can teach it better. He is also glad he went to seminary and studied the scripture mastery curriculum. “I am able to answer questions using the scriptures rather than using my own words.” To help youth prepare for their missions, he encourages them to “read the Book of Mormon and gain a testimony of it.”
Elder Paul A. Mann says “Amen!” when Elder Hollingshead talks about seminary. He and his companion, Elder Joel D. Rodriguez, are serving in Yonkers, New York. “Seminary gives you a real understanding of the gospel,” he says. He knows you need to gain a testimony before you can share it with others.
Elder Rodriguez agrees: “Get a testimony of what the gospel is and who Joseph Smith was.” It is easier to teach from the heart when you feel the truth of what you are saying and you really know the gospel.
Elder Mauricio Chavez of the Perú Lima East Mission emphasizes the importance of learning to plan well. “It takes a little longer to plan now,” he says, “but it is more effective. This planning is helping our investigators develop stronger testimonies.”
Elder Chavez’s companion, Elder Ben Beeson, explains, “Because of our planning, we always know how our investigators are progressing.”
The mission preparation these missionaries stress most is staying worthy of the companionship of the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit, they could not teach effectively (see D&C 42:14).
Sister Valeree Price, Sister Memory’s companion, says, “I wish I had prepared better for my mission by putting more emphasis on things that are important.”
“Yes,” says Sister Memory, “we can quote movies, but it’s hard to quote the scriptures. What a waste!”
Elder Jon Hitchcock, serving in the Perú Lima East Mission, says, “The wonderful thing about Preach My Gospel is that everything is in a step-by-step progression. It teaches you how to teach people the gospel, how to feel the Spirit, how to convey feelings, and how to get commitments. It allows you to customize the lessons and make sure you really connect with each person one-on-one.”
The sisters and elders know that teaching from their hearts is challenging. They have to have the Spirit with them always, they have to know the gospel, and they have to carefully plan their lessons and days. But they also know that their preparation is the foundation of their success and that it will help to bring more of Heavenly Father’s children to a knowledge of His gospel.
Preach My Gospel has produced significant results. Success is greater, however, among those missionaries who are most prepared. The best-prepared missionaries, says President Wynn R. Dewsnup of the Utah Ogden Mission, are “those who have had personal spiritual experiences, who have felt the power of personal prayer in their lives, who have been able through personal study and prayer to come to know the Savior in a much more personal manner.”
“Those who have been in the habit of being obedient, who have studied the gospel before their mission, and who have had opportunities in church or seminary to teach it are better prepared to use Preach My Gospel when they get here,” says President Brian D. Garner of the California Carlsbad Mission.
Mission presidents agree that Preach My Gospel has had a dramatic effect on the way missionaries carry out the Lord’s work. “The most visible change we have seen in our missionaries,” says President Kelend I. Mills of the Japan Fukuoka Mission, “has been their ability to be flexible. In response to specific needs they see in an investigator, missionaries feel more now that it is appropriate, even expected, that they should adjust the message and the approach to meet those needs.”
Glendon Lyons, former president of the Perú Lima East Mission says, “The principles in chapter 8 of Preach My Gospel are helping the missionaries learn the discipline of keeping records, establishing goals, and accomplishing those goals. This helps them have greater order in their lives and will continue to bless them after their missions.”
“The most visible evidence of the benefits of Preach My Gospel has been that the missionaries all seem to be leaders,” says President Jeffrey R. Morrow of the New York New York South Mission. One elder wrote in a weekly report to President Morrow, “I have had two or three times more success in the past six months than in the previous year.”
President R. Brent Ririe of the Idaho Boise Mission concurs: “Preach My Gospel has been a tremendous lift to the work. Everything is up—baptisms, obedience, faith, member missionary activity. It is a great day to be a full-time or member missionary.”
So what can parents do to help their sons and daughters enter the mission field prepared to teach by the Spirit? President Nelson M. Boren of the New York New York North Mission emphasizes the importance of “daily family prayer, daily family scripture study, and weekly family home evening.”
“The best thing parents can do to help their children prepare to use Preach My Gospel effectively is to live the doctrines and lifestyle found in it,” says R. Gene Moffitt, former president of the California Anaheim Mission.
“Although specifically inspired and prepared for full-time missionary service,” says President Ririe, “Preach My Gospel ought to become a ‘centerpiece’ resource in every Latter-day Saint home. It is a tremendous resource for family home evening lessons, personal gospel study, and gospel reference. Our 13-year-old son recently received a personal copy and has loved reading, studying, and marking the lessons in chapter 3. He has been inspired by the simplicity and beauty of the gospel and the order in which it would be taught to his friends who aren’t members of the Church.”
President Morrow counsels parents to “emphasize the importance of developing a testimony of the message of the Restoration, of living obediently, and of assimilating the ethic of hard work into their daily lives.” Goal setting is also important, he says, and suggests that “goals for academics, sports, and even earning money will help prospective missionaries learn this important skill.”
Developing good study habits can be crucial for a prospective missionary. President Christopher B. Munday of the England Birmingham Mission emphasizes the importance of personal and companion study time: “A mission is made or broken between the hours of 6:30 and 9:30 a.m., when the missionary studies the gospel.”
Mission presidents agree that one of the most important things a teacher of young people can do to help them prepare for missionary service is to give them the opportunity to teach. Several mission presidents mentioned that young people learn how to teach by the Spirit largely by watching those who know how to teach in this manner. This places a great responsibility on the teachers of youth. If they understand that the way they teach their classes from week to week can affect thousands of people who will be investigating the Church, they will seek the Spirit and make every effort to teach with power.
Many teachers and leaders are returned missionaries. President Steven C. Meek of the Mexico Mexico City South Mission says, “They need to share with their young people the life-changing experiences that happened to them on their missions.”
“Always, always, be an example of what a missionary should be,” says President Ririe. “Maintain dignity in all you do and say. Maintain dress and grooming standards that are consistent with how a missionary should appear. Include the youth in the ward or branch mission plan, and include missionary work on every youth agenda. Be a missionary-minded youth leader.”
President Dewsnup counsels bishops and branch presidents to allow prospective missionaries to speak as often as possible in sacrament meeting or other meetings. “Young men should be encouraged to obtain their Duty to God Award. Encourage them to continue reading the Book of Mormon and to gain a personal testimony of it,” he suggests. “Also give them the opportunity to be involved in baptismal services. There is a great missionary feeling and an outpouring of the Holy Ghost during baptismal services.”
“Get the young people out with the missionaries to teach, to tract, or to visit active members to ask for referrals,” adds President Moffitt. “Probably the best resource for helping young people serve missions and be well prepared for their missions is the missionaries themselves.”
“I am so grateful for Preach My Gospel,” says President Boren. “Not only will missionaries be better missionaries, bring more souls unto Christ, and be happier in their service, but the skills and attitudes they learn will help them become better fathers, mothers, husbands, and wives and also better sons and daughters of God. This is more than a manual for doing missionary work. Its teachings are much deeper than that.”
In Preach My Gospel, the First Presidency gives this challenge: “Rise to a new sense of commitment to assist our Father in Heaven in His glorious work. … The Lord will reward and richly bless you as you humbly and prayerfully serve Him. More happiness awaits you than you have ever experienced as you labor among His children.”2
Missionaries and mission presidents testify this is true.
Help children develop good study habits.
Have family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening.
Allow children to teach family home evening lessons.
Live principles that missionaries teach.
Emphasize attending seminary, reading the Book of Mormon, and gaining a testimony.
Help children learn to set goals and make commitments.
Limit time spent on TV and video games.
Invite missionaries to teach in your home.
Develop a deep love for and a knowledge of the restored gospel, especially of the Savior, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon.
Gain your own testimony, be worthy of the companionship of the Spirit, and heed His promptings.
Practice having a good attitude and being kind to others, especially your siblings.
Gain a strong desire to serve.
Study the Book of Mormon daily, and know it well.
Go to seminary! Learn the scripture mastery verses.
Learn how to use scripture tools such as the Topical Guide or Guide to the Scriptures.
Some Practical Ideas
Learn how to do simple chores like making your bed, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of your clothing.
Eat well, stay healthy, and take care of yourself.
Try to do well in school so you know how to study.
Take a missionary preparation class.
Work with the missionaries when possible.
Obtain the Preach My Gospel book (item no. 36617), and start studying it.
Learn a second or third language.
Save up and know how to budget your money.
Teaching and Planning Basics
Learn to use a simple planner and be organized. Plan your homework and your time.
Fulfill your Church callings. Be a good home teacher.
Develop teaching skills. Share the gospel whenever you have the opportunity.
Use your Duty to God and Personal Progress requirements to gain teaching experiences.
Use opportunities in family home evening or other settings to learn to teach.
Practice setting and achieving goals.
Give young people opportunities to teach their peers.
Teach by the Spirit—young people learn by example.
Share your life-changing experiences.
Involve prospective missionaries in baptismal services.
Give young people a copy of Preach My Gospel.
Encourage reading the Book of Mormon and gaining a testimony.
Ask prospective missionaries to speak in meetings.
Help young people learn leadership skills by giving them opportunities to serve.
Encourage young people to work with the full-time missionaries.