Emulating the Savior Is Essential in Missionary Work
Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
- Obedience is the key to having the Spirit.
- Emulate Christlike attributes to better reach out to those around you.
- Identify a particular attribute—and then work on making that attribute your own.
“Missionaries are most effective when they are obedient to the commandments and the mission rules. Their obedience is key to their having the Spirit.” —Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president
“It’s essential that missionaries learn and seek to emulate the attributes of Christ,” taught Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson in her January 13 instruction at the 2016 seminar for new MTC presidents and directors of visitors’ centers and historic sites.
The Young Women general president began by asking the new presidents, directors, and their wives to identify several essential attributes of Christ.
One said love and charity—two attributes that a missionary must develop to truly serve the people he or she teaches.
Another said obedience. The Savior was unfailingly obedient to the will and commandments of His Father. His great desire was to obey His Father’s will.
“And so it is with full-time missionaries,” said Sister Oscarson. “Missionaries are most effective when they are obedient to the commandments and the mission rules.”
“Their obedience is key to their having the Spirit,” she said.
Selflessness, said another sister, is also a defining attribute of Christ that missionaries must share if they are to put the needs of their investigators and missionary companions above their own.
Sister Oscarson said new missionaries experience a host of feelings when they report to a missionary training center. Some become homesick. Others battle thoughts of inadequacy. A few may be self-centered. All such feelings, in some way, could be defined as fear.
“Fear is not mentioned anywhere as a Christlike attribute,” she said.
It’s key that MTC presidents and their wives, along with directors of visitors’ centers and historic sites and their companions, help the missionaries replace fear with the attributes of Jesus Christ. Sister Oscarson noted that Preach My Gospel, chapter 6, is an excellent resource to discover the attributes of the Savior.
Focus priesthood, Relief Society, and one-one-one lessons with the missionaries on developing Christ’s attributes, she taught. Challenge each elder or sister missionary to identify a particular attribute—and then work on making that attribute his or her own.
Mission, visitors’ center, and historic sites leaders and their wives should also share with the missionaries the sacred attributes they are working on.
“The most important thing you can do is to be an example yourself,” she said.
A missionary may speak the mission language like a native or teach the discussions with great skill. “But if they are not like the Savior Himself, they will not be able to touch lives,” she said.
Sister Oscarson shared the experience of a California woman who had hostile feelings toward the Church. She owned a Book of Mormon but refused to read it. While traveling she stopped by the St. George Temple Visitors’ Center. She immediately felt warm and welcome.
“A church so full of love for Christ and each other can’t be as bad as I thought,” she decided. She later accepted the missionary discussions and was baptized.
That experience, Sister Oscarson said, “is typical of what can happen in a brief time in a visitors’ center.”
Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson speaks at the 2016 seminar for new MTC presidents and visitors' center directors. Photo by Jason Swensen.