Speaking of missionaries, the Lord declared: “They have been sent to preach my gospel … ; wherefore, I give unto them a commandment, thus: Thou shalt not idle away thy time” (D&C 60:13). Working together in harmony, missionary companions focus their labors by prayerfully setting meaningful goals and planning carefully how to use the allotted mission time to the best advantage for the growth of God’s kingdom.
A missionary’s purpose is to find people and teach them the restored gospel, leading them to have faith in Christ, repent of their sins, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Learning to approach potential investigators in a positive and friendly manner and being guided by the Spirit are important for a missionary’s success. Furthermore, Church members are invaluable and underused resources for finding investigators who will eventually accept the restored gospel. A prepared and organized missionary is more effective in finding, teaching, and baptizing those whom the Lord has prepared to receive the blessings of the restored gospel.
Finding people to teach is a responsibility for missionaries and Church members.
Effective planning, goal setting, and time management help focus missionary efforts and increase success.
■ As a representative of the Savior, you will be finding “them that will receive you” (D&C 42:8). The Lord said:
“Lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men;
“For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say” (D&C 100:5–6).
Missionaries do not carry alone the duty of finding people to teach. They also work with Church members to find investigators. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “The process of bringing new people into the Church is not the responsibility alone of the missionaries. They succeed best when members become the source from which the new investigators are found” (“Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Ensign, May 1999, 106). Your efforts to find people to teach will be multiplied as you seek the help of Church members, serve others, speak with everyone you meet, and use other helpful resources.
■ Members are important in finding investigators who will eventually be baptized and stay active and faithful. Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “Not long ago we did a study on convert baptisms, and only 10 percent of the investigators being taught by missionaries were found through referrals from members. But 60 percent of the investigators who were baptized came from those referrals” (The Role of Members [address at seminar for new mission presidents, June 24, 2003], 3).
■ Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also emphasized the vital role of members in sharing the gospel: “An investigator who is brought to the missionaries through the members is 10 times more likely to be baptized than one the missionaries have found through their own contacting efforts. [Does this figure] catch your attention on the importance of the members’ role in finding people for the missionaries to teach?” (“The Role of Members in Conversion,” Ensign, Mar. 2003, 54).
■ President Gordon B. Hinckley described the benefits of using members to find and support investigators:
“Whenever there is a member who introduces an investigator, there is an immediate support system. The member bears testimony of the truth of the work. He is anxious for the happiness of his investigator friend. He becomes excited as that friend makes progress in learning the gospel.
“The full-time missionaries may do the actual teaching, but the member, wherever possible, will back up that teaching with the offering of his home to carry on this missionary service. He will bear sincere testimony of the divinity of the work. He will be there to answer questions when the missionaries are not around. He will be a friend to the convert who is making a big and often difficult change” (Ensign, May 1999, 105).
■ Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles summarized how Church members can be a support in bringing others to Christ: “Members can participate in the conversion process by finding investigators, by being there as friends during the conversion process, and by bearing testimony at critical points. But after baptism, converts need strength to move from the world they’ve been in into a new environment. And that’s probably where members can most easily serve in missionary work. It’s not difficult for members who understand what the need is and who seek guidance from the Lord to respond to it, whether it’s inviting new members to their home or sitting next to them in sacrament meeting or helping them better understand who we are and how we live” (in “Teaching from the Heart,” Ensign, June 2004, 11).
■ Follow the example of Jesus Christ, “who went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). Watch for opportunities to serve. This service may be planned or spontaneous. Serving others will often lead to opportunities to teach the restored gospel. In every way you serve, you should do so because you love all of the Lord’s children and hope, pray, and earnestly desire to teach them the restored gospel.
The Lord will help you find people to teach. People will be placed in your path who have been prepared for the message of the Restoration. Your good acts and words will help bring people to Christ. Pray and look for opportunities to serve, help, and lift others. While you serve, talk with everyone you meet and encourage them to learn more about the restored gospel.
■ Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Presidency of the Seventy offered the following suggestion to full-time missionaries:
“Open your mouth. The Lord tells us, ‘And thou must open thy mouth at all times, declaring my gospel with the sound of rejoicing’ [D&C 28:16].
“Speak to everyone: shopkeepers, passengers riding buses, people on streets, and everyone you meet” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1998, 53; or Ensign, May 1998, 40).
Your efforts in finding people with whom you can share the message of the Restoration will be aided by your testimony. While looking for people to teach, frequently testify of Jesus Christ and His restored gospel. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles affirmed: “When you declare the truth, it will bring an echo, a memory, even if it is an unconscious memory to the investigator, that they have heard this truth before—and of course they have. A missionary’s testimony invokes a great legacy of testimony dating back to the councils in heaven before this world was. There, in an earlier place, these same people heard this same plan outlined and heard there the role that Jesus Christ would play in their salvation” (“Missionary Work and the Atonement,” Ensign, Mar. 2001, 11).
■ Pray to see and recognize opportunities to serve and teach. Visit with as many people as you can each day. Use every honorable means available to find people who are willing to listen to your message. Pray for help to be bold in speaking with those you meet. Develop the ability to converse in a friendly and nonthreatening manner with others.
■ In many finding situations, you will need to be able to present a message in a short amount of time. Elder Richard G. Scott commented on this skill: “We have missionaries for whom the gospel message is such a part of their very beings that at a corner bus stop they can give a one-and-a-half-minute overview, a five-minute overview. They are much better equipped to begin with individuals at whatever level they are on and to introduce them to the magnificent message of the Restoration” (in Ensign, June 2004, 11).
■ People who are experiencing significant changes in their lives—such as births, deaths, or moving into new homes—are often ready to learn about the restored gospel and make new friendships. For example, missionaries who come in contact with a person who has recently suffered the death of a loved one could share the message that they can be reunited after this mortal life.
■ The worldwide interest in family history may also help you find people to teach. Learn what Church family history resources are available in the areas in which you work. Meet Church members who understand family history, and invite them to help introduce the Church’s resources to non–Latter-day Saints.
■ There are many other honorable ways to find potential investigators. Missionary training will suggest several methods. Prayer and pondering will also inspire other ideas of how to find people to teach and invite them to come unto Christ through acceptance of the principles and ordinances of the restored gospel.
■ Missionaries who prayerfully prioritize their activities are able to accomplish much. The mission president will provide a general schedule appropriate to the culture, including when to arise in the morning, study times, preparation days, proselyting hours, and when to retire in the evening. Missionaries will be responsible to plan their daily activities within mission guidelines in order to accomplish the Lord’s work. Knowing how to schedule the most important missionary activities at the most productive times will enhance mission success. Goal setting will aid in focusing upon the most productive missionary activities.
■ Elder Dallin H. Oaks specified what our first priority should be when he explained:
“Our priorities determine what we seek in life. …
“Jesus taught about priorities when He said, ‘Seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you’ (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 6:38; in Matthew 6:33; footnote a).
“‘Seek … first to build up the kingdom of God’ means to assign first priority to God and to His work. The work of God is to bring to pass the eternal life of His children (see Moses 1:39), and all that this entails in the birth, nurturing, teaching, and sealing of our Heavenly Father’s children. Everything else is lower in priority. … As someone has said, if we do not choose the kingdom of God first, it will make little difference in the long run what we have chosen instead of it. …
“Our priorities are most visible in how we use our time. … With time, we have only one opportunity for choice, and then it is gone forever” (in Conference Report, Mar.–Apr. 2001, 108–9; or Ensign, May 2001, 83–84).
■ As missionaries evaluate their schedules and activities, they should ask, “How much effective missionary work is actually being done?” Elder Oaks explained:
“None of us should be like the fisherman who thinks he has been fishing all day when in reality he has spent most of his time getting to and from the water, eating lunch, and fussing with his equipment. Fishing success is related to how long you have your line in the water, not to how long you are away from the apartment. Some fishermen are away from home for twelve hours and have their line in the water for ten hours. Other fishermen are away from home for twelve hours and have their line in the water for only two hours. This last type may wonder why they do not have the same success as others.
“The same principle applies to missionaries, whom the Master called ‘fishers of men.’ A missionary’s line should drop into the fishing water the moment he or she leaves the apartment” (Introduction [address at seminar for new mission presidents, June 20, 2000], 6).
■ Efforts that lead people to faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end will fulfill the call you received from the Lord. Church leaders have identified some key indicators for helping people experience enduring conversion. You will record and report your progress on these indicators regularly to your mission president:
Referrals received and contacted
Lessons taught to investigators with a member present
Other lessons taught
Progressing investigators (those who have been taught two or more times and are keeping their commitments regarding reading, praying, and so on)
Investigators who attend sacrament meeting
Investigators with a baptismal date
Investigators baptized and confirmed
Lessons taught to recent converts and less-active Church members
■ Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught the importance of planning each day and setting goals with a companion: “Missionaries cannot do this work by just saying, ‘Well, what are we going to do?’ Missionaries have to set goals. In companionship study two missionaries set their goals. They realize that if they have good goals, they will be much more successful in finding, in teaching, in progressing investigators, and in baptizing them so that they can be confirmed and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Planning [address at seminar for new mission presidents, June 25, 2003], 2).
■ Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, encouraged extending beyond what we think we can accomplish as we seek to set and attain goals:
“Our goals should stretch us bit by bit. So often when we think we have encountered a ceiling, it is really a psychological or experiential barrier that we have built ourselves. We built it and we can remove it. …
“… We must not expect personal improvement without pain or some ‘remodeling’” (Deposition of a Disciple , 33–34).
“Goals reflect the desires of our hearts and our vision of what we can accomplish. Through goals and plans, our hopes are transformed into action. Goal setting and planning are acts of faith. Prayerfully set goals that are in harmony with the Savior’s command to ‘teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’ (Matthew 28:19).
“… Do everything within your power to achieve your goals while respecting the agency of others. The ultimate measure of success is not in achieving goals alone but in the service you render and the progress of others. Goals are a means of helping you bring about much good among Heavenly Father’s children. They are not to be used to receive recognition.
“Carefully considered goals will help you have clear direction and will help you fill your days with activities that help people strengthen their faith in the Savior and progress toward baptism, confirmation, and full activity in the Church. Challenging goals will help you work effectively and lead you to stretch and grow” (Preach My Gospel , 146).
■ President Thomas S. Monson, a counselor in the First Presidency, quoted an important principle when teaching about the impact of reporting progress in reaching goals: “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 107).
What specific actions can you take to better prepare to serve the Lord in the mission field?
Whom do you know who is ready for you to refer to the missionaries?
What are some ways you could fellowship others to prepare them to be taught by the missionaries?
What are some ways you could fellowship a recent convert or a member who is less active in the Church?
If you are not already doing so, begin using an activity planner to organize and prioritize your daily activities.
Set and prioritize realistic goals to help you prepare for and progress toward your mission.
Write four different brief approaches for sharing a message of the restored gospel with someone who is not a member of the Church. Practice verbalizing each approach—first with notes and then without.
During the next week, share a pass-along card with someone who is not a member of the Church.
“Love” (pp. 96–97)
“Missionary Work” (pp. 104–6)