Mission Leadership Council was on the Sabbath Day and receiving revelation through Church Attendance. We tried a photo in front of the mission home this time. Front: Elder Davis, Sis. & Pres. Eaton, Elder Rodgers; 2nd Row: Sisters Alder, Syphus, Clark, and Taylor; 3rd Row: Sisters Muir, Goaslind, Judd, and Heaton; 4th Row: Elders Maxwell, Russell, Garner, Myers, Meyer, and Grandstaff; 5th Row: Elders Berkheimer, Bennett, Kim, Ludlow, Grant, and Dold;Back: Elders Thomas, Downing, Freeman, and Erekson
Our incoming missionaries are Front: Sisters Loeak & Singer, Pres. & Sister Eaton, Sisters Davis and Frischkneckt; Middle: Elders Nelson, Allen, Brice, Lee-Wen, Li, and Nelson; Back: Elders Vuyk, Willardsen, Chambers, Davidson, Mousser, and Polson
Simple Formula to Facilitate Conversion
I always enjoy reading your letters, but these last few weeks have been especially delightful as you’ve focused on helping investigators seek learning by faith. I particularly love how you are helping them discover principles in the Book of Mormon that can bless their lives.
So what will you do personally to sustain these changes? How will you make sure that helping investigators act to seek learning by faith—especially using the Book of Mormon to do so—is something that becomes engrained in what we do? What can we do now so that missionaries in this mission a year from now are still helping investigators discover truths from the Spirit for themselves?
Let me suggest a three-step formula to apply to every investigator for the rest of your mission. If you use it daily, I believe it will soon become a lasting part of you and of this mission. I am encouraging zone leaders and district leaders to use these questions with you about one investigator each week during your calls. The purpose of their calls is not to audit or inspect your plans but to collaborate with you and help you help your investigators. Here are the questions:
1. What is each investigator’s real need?
2. What doctrine or principle—especially one from First Nephi—can best meet their need?
3. What questions can we ask to help them discover those truths for themselves?
Identifying real needs. Preach My Gospel repeatedly says that we must teach to meet the needs of our investigators. But to do that, we must know what those needs really are. Occasionally, an investigator’s greatest needs are obvious, but often, they are hidden. As Preach My Gospel states:
"Sometimes people’s concerns are like an iceberg. Only a small portion is visible above the surface. These concerns can be complex and difficult to resolve. For this reason you need to follow the Spirit and respond in a manner best suited to the situation. Pray for the gift of discernment and follow your impressions. Heavenly Father knows the hearts and experiences of all people (the complete iceberg) and will help you know what is best for each person."
When you help others resolve their concerns, first seek to understand their concerns by asking questions and listening. Rely on the Spirit to help you know how to help them resolve their concerns.
To this analysis, I might add that we need to look beyond behavioral issues, such as drinking alcohol or not attending Church, to discern what mistaken belief or lack of belief gives rise to the behavior. Recently, I taught a wonderful less-active member with the assistants. What stood between him and the temple seemed to be smoking. But as we asked questions, we learned of some deeper concerns that helped explain why he had not yet been able to overcome his habit. First, after smoking for over 40 years, he doubted it was possible for him to stop. Second, his lack of faith in his ability to overcome that habit kept him from truly pouring out his heart in prayer, he said. He didn’t want to kneel down and really pray because he was afraid of what God would tell him. Yes, overcoming his smoking habit was a need, but to know how best to meet that need, we had to understand these deeper issues that were beneath the surface.
Identifying the principle that can help. When we discover our investigators’ real needs with the help of the Spirit, we can then ponder what doctrine or principle can best help them meet their need and overcome their problem. We can point them to principles anywhere in the scriptures, but when we can draw them from the first few chapters of the Book of Mormon, it will be especially helpful. It will allow us to give them a reading assignment that can jump start their reading of the entire Book of Mormon. Certainly there will be times where we will include other scriptures to help them. But like most of you, as I have searched First Nephi recently for principles to help our investigators, I have been impressed. The Lord inspired Nephi and Mormon to fill those early chapters with examples of such critical principles as walking faith, doing hard things with God’s help, resisting the mockery of the world to receive God’s sweetest blessings, making sacrifices to receive blessings, and obtaining confirming revelation from God for ourselves.
Helping them discover the principles. This final step is beginning to come naturally already for some of you. You have learned that if you can help investigators discover truths for themselves, they will retain and cherish them so much more than if we simply teach the doctrine or principle to them. Thus, coming up with simple but inspired questions is a critical step in the process of helping investigators act and seek learning by faith.
Occasionally, you may do this when using a scripture chain with investigators during a lesson. For example, before studying 1 Nephi 4:6, the story of the brother of Jared and the 16 stones, and D&C 50:24 together, you might ask your invest to ponder this question: “What can these scriptures teach us about walking in faith?” More often, you will give investigators a reading assignment that includes several chapters from First Nephi, with a question that applies to more than one verse or chapter. You might assign 1 Nephi 1 – 5 and ask, “What can we learn from the example of Lehi and Nephi about receiving direction from God in our lives?” (Incidentally, that last question could be a pattern or formula you could use to create many other questions: What can we learn from the example of ___ in these chapters about [and then mention the principle or topic you want them to ponder]?)
This summer, Elder Bednar told mission presidents, “If we always do what we have always done, then we will always get what we have always gotten. May I suggest that what we have always done and always gotten were good in their time but need to improve as the Lord is quickening the pace.” I genuinely believe that helping investigators discover principles from the Book of Mormon for themselves is a change that will help us get results we have never gotten before. I pray this simple three-step pattern will help you cement some of the wonderful changes so that we can help bring about more lasting conversions in this mission than we have ever seen before.