DNA is the genetic code inside living organisms that determines all their bodily characteristics. DNA determines visible traits like hair color and height, and it is also responsible for unseen things like cholesterol risk factors and mental health issues. The DNA molecules in your cells carry seemingly infinite combinations of atoms, proteins, and gene sequences that are unique to you. Nobody else in the world has the same DNA as you (unless, perhaps, if you have an identical twin, in which case I’ll have to ask a geneticist :). Many scientists say that DNA is what makes you, you.
I’m a marketing analyst by profession and some time ago I was introduced to the concept of “marketing DNA” developed by a guy named Perry Marshall. Like your physical DNA, your marketing DNA is the combination of preferred communication styles and methods that are unique to you, like speaking to others in person compared to using written communication, or using stories and illustrations compared to using charts and numbers. Marketing DNA is a way of measuring and expressing each individual’s “natural persuasion and communication style.”(1) The Marketing DNA concept helps people understand their innate strengths and talents so that they can harness communications methods and styles that are more effective for them personally. By sticking to the marketing DNA that comes to you naturally, your marketing, sales, and communications activities “become easier, less tedious, less frustrating and more rewarding.”(2)
What is Missionary DNA?
While I intend no endorsement of Mr. Perry, as I learned about his idea, I couldn’t help but see many ways in which it relates to missionary work. I think each of us has a Missionary DNA–a natural way that we prefer to communicate and share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with our friends and neighbors. It’s the combination of ideas, activities, words, deeds, and styles that is unique to you as an individual when you do missionary work. No one else has the same missionary DNA as you and by sharing the gospel in ways consistent with your natural talents, you can be more sincere and more effective than if you try to force yourself to do missionary tasks that you’re not naturally inclined to do.
Natural and Normal Missionary Work
With regard to member missionary work, the prophets have often encouraged us to share the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that are natural to us and that flow out of our normal everyday lives. In April 2012, Elder David F. Evans gave a General Conference talk in which he said that when you do member missionary work, “do it in a natural and normal way” (Was It Worth It?). In 1977, then Elder Thomas S. Monson encouraged members “to naturally and normally share the gospel” (Ensign, Oct. 1977).
Referring again to Mr. Perry’s marketing DNA concept, he says there are “lots of tasks you can perform, and do perform, which are slow or laborious because they’re not in your natural groove” while “other people love to do things you hate.”(3) In your career in marketing and communications as well as in your member missionary work, I think it’s okay to focus on the things you naturally excel at, and when it comes to the activities that do not come naturally, leave them to other people who do enjoy them.
With member missionary work, there are thousands of ways in which we can share the gospel message with others. Some of those activities will be suited to your individuals skills and communication preferences, your missionary DNA, and some activities will be less suited for you and more suited to others. With so many types of missionary activities to choose from, it is not only okay to focus on what works for you, it very well may be the best choice. God’s children all have different talents, and if we each do our part, everyone can play a role, though each of us will play a slightly different role, in building the kingdom of God. “For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God” (D&C 46:11)
Skills that are part of the Missionary DNA
The eight core skills that are part of marketing, or in our case missionary work, as identified by Mr. Perry are:
- Dreaming: Dreamers are creative and prize originality. “Inventing, innovating, creating, generating, [and] re-combining” come naturally to these people.
- Doing: Doers are highly productive. They get things done. This kind of person “adheres to plans, follows routines, makes things predictable.” This is “the person who arranges, systematizes, codifies, plans, scripts and stages everything.”
- Words: “Words denotes a person whose strength is either writing or talking.”
- Images: “Images refers to the person who prefers to communicate visually, whether through photographs, drawings, videos, charts, graphs or live demonstrations.”
- Live: These “people are fantastic on the spot. They absolutely shine when the pressure’s on.” If this is you, you like to “get in front of the client and you basically wing it.”
- Recorded: These “people prefer to meticulously script everything they do. Write it, plan it, edit it, produce it to the hilt.”
- Empathy: “People with high empathy have an almost psychic sense of what people want, aspire to, feel, experience, loathe and fear.”
- Analysis: “You’re a data driven person.” You thrive “where everything is measurable.”
These eight skills are often treated as four pairs, or opposite ends of a single dimension: 1) Dreamer/Doer, 2) Words/Images, 3) Live/Recorded, 4) Empathy/Analysis. They are paired this way because most people generally prefer one of the paired traits. For example, most people would lean toward either being a Dreamer or being a Doer but not both. Though it is possible to be a equally strong Dreamer and Doer. But whether it’s marketing communications or missionary work, every team needs bother Dreamers and Doers, Word people and Image people, those who are good Live and those who prefer to be Recorded, people with Empathy and those with Analytical skills.
Your One in a Million Missionary DNA
Now it’s your turn to figure out your own missionary DNA. Think about the way you prefer to communicate, work, or otherwise utilize the eight skill areas mentioned above. It is likely that some of these areas are strengths of yours and some are weaker areas. Do you tend to come up with big ideas (a dreamer)? Or do you prefer get your hands on a project and get things done (a doer)? Or both? Get a piece of paper or a virtual note pad, and list the eight traits and then beside each trait, list it as a High, Medium, or Low strength of yours, according to your own personal style preference. As Mr. Perry says, there is no right or wrong answer here, no good or bad, “there is only your preferred way to communicate and persuade.”(3)
Here is how I scored myself. Your results will vary:
- Dreaming = High | Doing = High
- Words = High | Images = High
- Live = Medium | Recorded = High
- Empathy = Low | Analysis = High
With eight skills being scored three ways (High/Medium/Low), there are 6,561 different combinations. If those eight skills were scored on a scale of 1 to 10, there would be 100 million different possibilities. So you see how your missionary DNA could be considered unique and personal to you? Your combination of missionary skills is truly one in a million.
Member Missionary Activities for Every DNA
Now that you know your missionary DNA, the next step is to figure out what member missionary activities fit well into your style. There are thousands of ways to share the gospel, so which of those ways requires the same or similar skills as you possess? This step can also be used to identify activities that are not suited for your skill set. I have thought of 36 member missionary activities and scored each of them on the eight communication skills with a three-point scale (High/Medium/Low). The chart below (click it to enlarge it) shows to what degree this variety of member missionary activities use one, many, or all of the skills discussed.
Now, as an example, I’ll apply this chart to myself. In order to be most effective in my member missionary efforts, I am trying to find and focus on those activities that are high on Dreaming, Doing, Words, Images, Recorded, and Analysis, and those that are low on Live and Empathy. Or, if I can’t find a perfect match, I should at least try to find the activities which demand skills relatively close to what I am good at. We see that “Posting your testimony online”, “Building a website about missionary work”, and other missionary work on social media are activities that are well suited for my missionary DNA. It’s no wonder I’ve been running a mission prep website for nearly ten years 🙂 Of course, the activities that are conducive to your missionary activity will be different, so check out the chart and find them, or use your imagination and these principles to think of your own ways to share the gospel in an effective, natural, normal way for you.
I have also created an interactive version of the chart above on Google Sheets. The interactive version makes it easier to select a member missionary activity that is right for you. Simply use the filter controls along the top to select skills and levels that are right for you, and the chart will then only display the activities with those same skill levels. Click the filter icon in the top left (it looks like a funnel), then select “create new temporary filter” and that will enable the column filter controls. And if you’ve thought of member missionary activities ideas that aren’t on my list/chart/spreadsheet, tell me what they are by commenting below or contact me and I’ll add them to the list. Also please note that I have scored the activities based on my own opinion, so if you think I scored something wrongly (e.g. I gave it a High and you think it is a Medium), let me know and I’ll reconsider the scoring.
As you probably noticed, I focused on member missionary activities in this article and not full-time missionary activities. While many of these concepts apply to full-time Mormon missionaries, the fact of the matter is that they have relatively less flexibility in the activities they do, especially compared to members who have much flexibility in choosing the gospel-sharing activities they participate in.
Another thing to note is that unlike physical DNA, I do think your missionary DNA can change. The Book of Mormon prophet Moroni that through humility, and no doubt plenty of concerted effort, and with the help of the Lord, “weak things” can “become strong unto” you (see Ether 12:27). President Ezra Taft Benson confirmed that the Lord can bless and strengthen us beyond our natural abilities:
“God bless us that we may serve so that we will never have any serious regrets, that we will know we have been magnified even beyond our own natural talents.” “We cannot fail in this work. He will magnify us even beyond our natural talents. Of this I bear humble testimony, based on personal experience as well as on observation and familiarity with the promises of the Lord.” (Keys to Successful Member-Missionary Work, September 1990)
There are times when I have felt inspired by the Spirit of God to do missionary activities that are not my natural strength. And when the Lord commands, we should always obey. I have found that through time and patience and hard work, many of the missionary tasks that were once difficult for me, now come much more easily. So in discussing the concept of your missionary DNA, I’m not suggesting that we can always avoid doing missionary tasks we don’t like. I am suggesting, however, that when we have options, let’s focus on doing member missionary activities that are consistent with our strengths. By so doing, we will be more authentic, more filled with the Spirit of God, and more effective instruments in the hands of God in building His kingdom.
1) Perry Marshall Reveals the Secret to Building the Perfect Sales and Marketing Team by Adam Kreitman,