In a conversation with Church magazines, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Charles Didier of the Presidency of the Seventy explained that there are many things that can help you be part of “the greatest generation of missionaries.”1 You’re probably doing some of them already.
“If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach” (D&C 42:14).
It is essential that the greatest generation of missionaries have the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Having the Spirit is absolutely necessary to missionary work. We may share our beliefs or explain the doctrine, but it is the Spirit that touches hearts and converts people.
“A missionary must be living so that the Spirit can prompt him or her,” Elder Richard G. Scott tells Church magazines.
But recognizing and obeying the promptings of the Holy Ghost aren’t things missionaries learn automatically at the Missionary Training Center (MTC). They have to be learned by experience, beginning as early as possible.
“Young people preparing for missions must stay as far away from the boundaries of sin as they can,” says Elder Scott. “That gives them the fullest happiness as they prepare; it assures them the greatest capacity to be led by the Spirit.”
When we make mistakes, sincere repentance is necessary for us to enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost again. Unfortunately some sins will keep you from taking your place in the greatest generation of missionaries.
“There are some activities that will rule youth out from the privilege of being missionaries,” Elder Scott says. “They may have repented, but if they’ve done certain things, they are going to be asked to just get on with their lives.”
“Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men” (D&C 11:21).
Have you ever heard the saying “You can’t draw water from an empty well”? Obviously, a well isn’t much use without any water in it.
The same goes for missionaries. What good is a missionary who has nothing to say? The Holy Ghost can’t bring to your memory a scripture that will touch someone’s heart if you haven’t studied the scriptures yourself. And you won’t be able to testify about the blessings that come from keeping the Sabbath day holy if you haven’t been living that commandment.
“Teaching by the Spirit means there needs to be an investment of time and effort,” Elder Scott says. “It isn’t saying, ‘Well, I’m just going to go out there and wait for the Spirit to tell me what to do.’ You have to store the gospel—especially the message of the Restoration—in your mind and heart.”
Before entering the MTC, missionaries should have read and gained a testimony of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Prospective missionaries should understand the significance of the Atonement, the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel, priesthood authority, living prophets, and the ability to receive revelation. They should have developed a prayerful relationship with God.
“Before we can declare the word, we must obtain the word” (see D&C 11:21), Elder Charles Didier explains to Church magazines. “Some think that obtaining the word is going to happen in the mission field. It is very difficult to acquire a spiritual background based on the scriptures in the mission field because a mission is so demanding.”
That kind of spiritual background comes from personal prayer and scripture study, obedience to the principles of the gospel, and attendance at Church meetings and Mutual. Seminary and the scripture mastery program are also priceless aids in understanding the gospel.
“We really wish and pray that the missionary would come with that kind of preparation,” Elder Didier says, “so we can add and supplement instead of creating a knowledge that is not there.”
“I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor” (D&C 88:81).
One of the best ways to learn to share the gospel tomorrow is to share it today.
“Everyone can do something,” Elder Didier says. “There are so many different ways to do missionary work. Write a letter; share a Church video; give pass-along cards to friends. Youth can fellowship or help in the activation process. If the youth can start thinking about missionary work now, when they go into the mission field, they will have so much the advantage because they have done it before.”
“Going out and working with the full-time missionaries is another way youth can prepare and learn to be more responsive to the Spirit,” says Elder Scott. “Teaching and testifying with the missionaries, in quorum meetings, or to their friends will help them feel the guidance of the Spirit. Those are all wonderful preparatory experiences.”
Just be warned: once you start, you might not be able to stop.
“Once you begin, missionary work is exciting,” Elder Scott says. “It’s stimulating. It’s not a burden. It is a thrilling experience.”
“Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85).
The Church is adjusting its approach to missionary work to emphasize teaching by the Spirit and focusing on individual needs.
“The curriculum has not changed,” says Elder Didier. “Missionaries still have the same six discussions. What we’re asking is for the missionary to prepare an outline during personal and companion study, personalized for who will be taught that day.”
“They’re going to teach the investigators according to the investigator’s needs,” says Elder Scott. “And every investigator is different.”
Missionaries are now being encouraged to explain the gospel in their own words, and they can adapt the order in which they present gospel principles in the discussions.
“Missionaries aren’t just memorizing one message to be given all the time, like turning on a tape player,” says Elder Scott. “They are to fill their minds and hearts with the basic doctrine, the supporting scriptures, and how that relates to their own experiences that they can call upon. We now have missionaries who are much better equipped to introduce individuals to the magnificent message of the Restoration.”
In the MTC, missionaries are learning in their native languages how to prepare outlines, how to teach with their own words, and how to teach by the Spirit. Those who must learn other languages spend much of their time learning the content of the discussions in their native language.
“That means that when missionaries get to the mission field, a companion is much more important in helping them with their continued study of a language and in beginning to adapt what they have learned to be able to teach portions of the message,” Elder Scott says.
You can take your place among the greatest generation of missionaries the Church has ever had. It will take effort and dedication. It will take faith and sacrifice. Becoming the greatest generation of missionaries tomorrow begins with being the greatest generation of youth today. It is well within your grasp.
“Most of today’s teenagers have extraordinary capacity and spiritual acuity,” says Elder Scott. “The world is getting worse, but our capacity to teach the gospel is improving. And these youth are going to be part of that well-prepared group who go out and have an exciting time in the mission field, forging a path that will help them from now to eternity as they bring families and individuals securely into the kingdom of God on earth.”
“The sequence of steps to possessing the power of God in teaching the gospel is to first seek to obtain the word; then comes understanding through the Spirit, and finally the power to convince.
“How do you obtain the Spirit? ‘By the prayer of faith,’ says the Lord. Therefore, you must pray with sincerity and real intent. Pray for increased faith. Pray for the Spirit to accompany your teaching. Ask the Lord for forgiveness. Your prayers must be offered in the same spirit and with the same fervor as were the prayers of Enos in the Book of Mormon. …
“To obtain the Spirit, you will have to search the scriptures daily. The Book of Mormon tells us about some of the most successful missionaries who have gone forth to preach the gospel—Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni—the four sons of Mosiah. They were men of God who had prepared themselves to do the work.”
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994), “Keys to Successful Member-Missionary Work,” Tambuli, Apr. 1991, 4–5; see Ensign, Sept. 1990, 4–5.
“These are ‘perilous times.’ We battle literally for the souls of men. The enemy is unforgiving and relentless. He is taking eternal prisoners at an alarming rate. And he shows no sign of letting up.
“… And so, as the people of Ammon looked to their sons for reinforcement in the war against the Lamanites, we look to you, my young brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood. We need you. Like Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors, you also are the spirit sons of God, and you too can be endowed with power to build up and defend His kingdom. We need you to make sacred covenants, just as they did. We need you to be meticulously obedient and faithful, just as they were.
“What we need now is the greatest generation of missionaries in the history of the Church. We need worthy, qualified, spiritually energized missionaries. …
“… We don’t need spiritually weak and semicommitted young men. We don’t need you to just fill a position; we need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate missionaries who know how to listen to and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Greatest Generation of Missionaries,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2002, 47.