Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A letter from an MTC teacher to his brother and niece,

"I've been at the MTC for nearly three years now and in that time have been taught by literally hundreds of missionaries. The other day I was asked by my stake president what patterns I see across all these young people. An easy question to answer. I shared with him the following list. 

1. They don't know how to engage people in meaningful gospel conversations.  They can talk and tell you all kinds of stuff and then say, "Does that make sense?" but they have no idea how to  engage people in those  discussions. As a result, investigators remain passive observers and largely uninspired.  By the way, Sisters are much better at this than most Elders. 
2. They don't know the basic doctrines of the restoration or, they don't know how to explain them in uplifting ways . For instance I get the entire First Vision in a 20 second version as if Joseph went to the mailbox and then went back home. No passion, no feeling and certainly zero appreciation for this miraculous opening of the last dispensation.  It's all I can do to sit there without reaching across and slapping them! 
3. Related to #2, they cannot begin to connect the dots of what they are saying. They can say, "If you read and pray you will come to know the Book of Mormon is true," but when I say, "I haven't prayed in 30 years and why would I pray about a book? I'll read your book but why would I pray about it, and what the heck is the Holy Ghost?" ... they are left speechless. They can spit out the words in pretty mechanical fashion but there's very little knowledge or personal experience behind those words. 

I'm fully aware that we're dealing   with 18-20 year-olds and they will not teach like Elder Holland. Still, I am struck with how utterly clueless many of them are. After a lifetime in the church, Sunday school, seminary, home evenings and many seem to have picked up very little gospel knowledge much less a testimony about the scanty knowledge they possess. I'm not sure how many of them got passed their bishop. The mission field is going to be a very difficult adjustment for them until they get a clue. 

 I am in no way suggesting that Madi fits into this category.  Still, I am asked all the time what I'd suggest missionaries do to better prepare for what they will be doing for the next 18 months  to two years.  Since I may not see her much between now and when she leaves, I offer the following suggestions. If they are helpful, great. If she already knows this, delete the email and go directly to Mr. Mac ... or the Sister missionary equivalent. 

1. Go on splits with missionaries as often as she can.  If there are none in your area, have her go to temple square where there are dozens she can hang with as they share the gospel with people from all over the world.  Also, if there are exceptional gospel teachers in your ward, have her meet with them, ask them how they prepare to teach, how they think up effective questions, how they engage people in their gospel conversations, etc. Very few of us have good models of effective teaching. There are mighty few effective teachers in the church.  And even as you prepare your Gospel Doctrine lessons, do it with her by your side. "Here's the lesson material, so let's think through how to best present it, what needs to be taught and why, how to engage people, how to invite the Spirit, etc.  These need to experience it, observe it and practice it, like any other skill in life. 
2. Three books I'd suggest she read. Searching the Scriptures by Elder Gene R. Cook. The single best book I've read on how to study and learn from the scriptures and then use that knowledge in teaching the gospel to others. Next, Principles and Practices of he Restored Gospel by Victor L. Ludlow.  A tremendous gem I recently discovered that clearly teaches gospel doctrines in very practical and powerful ways.  I still suggest A Marvelous Work and a Wonder and old classic. New missionaries don't understand the apostasy or restoration, so their teaching of these crucial doctrines comes across canned and shallow, not effective by any means.
3. Finally, I'd say that of all gospel doctrines least understood, perhaps by us all, is the Atonement.   The better Madi can understand it, ponder it and experience it, the better she'll be at helping non-Christians in Japan catch a vision of who the Savior was an why His Atonement was necessary.  I suspect that will be the central challenge in Japan among a primarily non-Christian nation. The best sources I've come across are Believing Christ by Stephen Robinson and more recently, The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Calister . If I can be of assistance in any way as she prepares, don't hesitate to reach out."

Submitted By Madi

1 comment:

  1. This is a great letter. Thank you for posting it for others to see. I will take any advice I can get to better prepare to serve the Lord.