Helping Missionaries Meet High Expectations

  By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer

  • 29 January 2014

Elder James B. Martino of the Seventy addresses a session of the 2014 Seminar for New MTC Presidents and Visitors’ Center Directors.  Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.

Article Highlights

  • Help missionaries experience a change of heart that will direct their purpose..
  • Help missionaries obtain a doctrinal understanding of who they are and who they can become.
  • Understand what need goals and actions missionaries need to keep them connected to the missionary purpose.

The purpose of missionary service as defined in Preach My Gospel is to “invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”

Many missionaries can recite that verbatim.

“But the real questions we have is how do we get this to sink into the hearts of the missionaries,” said Elder James B. Martino of the Seventy as he addressed a January 15 session of the 2014 Seminar for New MTC Presidents and Visitors’ Center Directors.

“And what I mean by that is where it truly becomes that which motivates them to work harder, to be obedient, to open their mouths, and to become righteous missionaries,” he said. “It’s getting it into their heart that is the key.”

In doing that, he said, there are three things to focus on.

“One, we’ve got to look for that change of heart that will direct their purpose.

“[Second,] we’ve got to have missionaries that have a doctrinal understanding of who they are and who they can become.

“And third, we’ve got to understand what goals and actions keep the missionary connected to the missionary purpose.”

Elder Martino gave a scriptural example of a young man who obeyed his father’s directive that the family depart into the wilderness, leaving their belongings behind, who went back to his hometown to retrieve things his father asked him to get, and who was asked to help build a boat and depart for a promised land.

Many Book of Mormon readers would identify that person as Nephi, but Elder Martino said he was actually talking about Laman.

“Did Laman’s actions change his heart?” he asked. “No. He went through the motions, but he was complaining and murmuring, and he did not receive a change of heart that brought about conversion.”

Helping missionaries understand from an eternal perspective who they are and what their potential is can help them meet high expectations, Elder Martino said.

“No missionary should ever have a mission president [or MTC president or visitors’ center director] that will accept mediocrity,” he said. “Every single missionary deserves someone that will expect excellence. If they don’t learn it in the mission field, where are they going to learn it?”

He quoted from Doctrine and Covenants 4, which enjoins those who embark in God’s service to serve Him with all their heart, might, mind, and strength.

“We have to teach them to give their all,” he said. “We’re not always asking them to work harder. Many times it’s to work smarter. But it’s to work with all their heart.”