This category of posts is all about characteristics, traits, skills, and abilities that are needed in order to be an effective missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Gift of Tongues

gift of tongues mormon missionaries teaching a family The gift of tongues is one of the many gifts of the Spirit mentioned in 1st Corinthians chapter 12 verses 7 to 10: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.”

Note: This post on the gift of tongues is part of the language learning series.

Gifts of the Spirit

Moroni chapter 10 in the Book of Mormon contains a list of gifts of the Spirit, similar to the one found in Corinthians. Then Moroni adds, in verse 24, “And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth—that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief.”

These verses of scripture teach us that all of us, if worthy and faithful, can receive these gifts of the Spirit. The Preach My Gospel manual teaches missionaries (and future missionaries) that “the gifts of the Spirit are special spiritual blessings that the Lord gives to worthy individuals for their own benefit and for their use in blessing others. For example, missionaries who must learn a new language may receive the gift of tongues to give them divine help in learning a language…These are only some examples of the many gifts of the Spirit. The Lord may bless you in other ways depending on your faithfulness, your needs, and the needs of those you serve. You should desire spiritual gifts and earnestly seek for them. These gifts come by prayer, faith, and works, according to God’s will.”

Gift of Tongues

As was pointed out in my previous post on learning the language of your mission, as a missionary, you have been called to preach the gospel in a certain language and you have been ordained to accomplish that.  Therefore, you should seek earnestly for the gifts of the Spirit, including the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues to help you speak and understand the language of the people in your mission.

Just because the ability to speak and understand a foreign language is a gift from doesn’t mean it will come easy or without much effort. Part of showing your faith in the Lord will be by working as hard as you can to learn the language. Then, as you live worthy, trust that the Lord will send his Spirit to help you teach, understand, and help others come unto Jesus Christ.

Language of the Spirit

For missionaries that have to learn a new language, as well of those that teach in their native tongue, you will no doubt struggle, from time to time, to express yourself as clearly as you would like.  Remember, in times like these, that the Spirit is able to speak to the hearts of all of God’s children. President Thomas S. Monson taught:

“There is one language . . . that is common to each missionary—the language of the Spirit. It is not learned from textbooks written by men of letters, nor is it acquired through reading and memorization. The language of the Spirit comes to him who seeks with all his heart to know God and keep His divine commandments. Proficiency in this language permits one to breach barriers, overcome obstacles, and touch the human heart” (“The Spirit Giveth Life,” Ensign, June 1997, 2).

Joseph Smith on the Gift of Tongues

The former Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society class manual, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, explains that Joseph Smith taught that the gift of tongues was particularly instituted for the preaching of the Gospel to other nations and languages.  Said Joseph Smith:

“I read the 13th chapter of First Corinthians [at a meeting held on December 26, 1841], also a part of the 14th chapter, and remarked that the gift of tongues was necessary in the Church; … the gift of tongues by the power of the Holy Ghost in the Church, is for the benefit of the servants of God to preach to unbelievers, as on the day of Pentecost.” But, said the prophet, “Be not so curious about tongues, do not speak in tongues except there be an interpreter present; the ultimate design of tongues is to speak to foreigners, and if persons are very anxious to display their intelligence, let them speak to such in their own tongues. The gifts of God are all useful in their place.”

Gift of Tongues to Benefit God’s Children

I’ll conclude with a great scripture from Doctrine and Covenants section 46 verses 24 – 26: “it is given to some to speak with tongues; And to another is given the interpretation of tongues. And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God.”

I know that I was blessed with the gift of tongues during my mission to Argentina.  I worked hard and strived to be worthy and the Lord blessed me with good abilities to communicated in the Spanish language. And, undoubtedly, the Spirit of the Lord was often present in my preaching to bless my hearers with the gift of interpretation of tongues so they could understand me and come to know the plan God has for them.

Learning the Language: Tips for Mormon Missionaries

A large percentage of Mormon Missionaries are sent to a foreign land, and the majority of them, and even some that stay state-side, are asked to learn a new language.  This is the next in a series of posts on learning the language of your mission. This language learning series will be good for both future and current missionaries striving to better master their mission language.

mormon-missionaries-with-manReceiving the Gospel In Their Own Tongue

The Lord declared to Joseph Smith that “every man shall hear the fullness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power” (D&C 90:11). Regardless of the language you are called to teach in, whether it be your native tongue or not, you have been “ordained unto this power.” If you have been called to learn a foreign language, part of your calling is to learn to speak your mission language well so that you can help others come unto Christ.

In order for investigators to feel the truth of your message and seek to gain a testimony of their own, people must be able to understand your message clearly. It is true that sometimes missionaries who do not speak their mission language well are blessed to be able to communicate with people through the Spirit, but such instances are rare. Generally speaking, missionaries who speak the language better are more successful at helping others come unto Christ.

My Experience Learning Spanish

When I received my call to go to Argentina and learn Spanish, I was a little afraid. I hardly knew a word of Spanish, but I had faith in the Lord that he would help me.  I knew that thousands of missionaries who had come before me had learned to speak a foreign language, and learned it well. And I knew if the Lord helped them learn a new language, he could certainly help me. And thanks to a lot of hard work, early mornings of extra studying, good companions, and the help of the Lord I was able to learn Spanish. (See the post I wrote last year on learning a language for more detail on my experience learning Spanish)

Prepare Yourself Spiritually

Studying and understanding the doctrines of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ will strengthen your testimony and, in turn, increase your capacity to teach and testify convincingly. The strength of your personal testimony will bring converting power to your words. You must, therefore, then learn to express in your mission language what is in your heart and mind. To succeed in this, you must be spiritually prepared and willing to work hard and be obedient to mission rules and the commandments so you can have the Spirit with you.

Below are some tips from the Preach My Gospel manual on ways you can strengthen your faith that the Lord will help you teach and testify in your mission language:

  • Recognize that you have been called of God by a prophet.
  • Live worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
  • Be obedient to the commandments and to missionary standards.
  • Pray sincerely for divine assistance.
  • Study, practice, and use the mission language each day.

Work Hard and Be Persistent

Learning to teach effectively in a new language requires great effort. Do not be surprised if the task seems hard, or if progress comes slower than you expect. It will take time, but if you are persistent, work hard, and seek the Lord’s help, your language skills will grow.

You may be tempted to memorize the discussions or give the lessons word for word from memory, but to truly be effective as a missionary, you must take it to the next level. You must be able to interact well with others, understand the nuances of meaning, deal with uncertainty, and make adjustments as you teach.

As you improve your ability to speak the mission language, the people you meet will listen more to what you say than to how you say it. You will then be less worried about how to communicate the thoughts and feelings in your mind and heart, and you will be better prepared to respond to the needs of your investigators and to follow the promptings of the Spirit.

Continually strive to master the language throughout your mission and even beyond your mission. The Lord has invested much in you, and He may have uses for your language abilities later in your life. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explained,

“We would also hope that every missionary learning a new proselyting language would master it in every way possible. Every missionary in this Church can improve his or her mission language skills. And as you do so, your proselyting and testifying skills will improve, you will be better received and more spiritually impressive to your investigators. Keep pushing on language mastery the entire length of your mission. . . . Don’t be satisfied with what we call a missionary vocabulary only. Stretch yourself in the language, and you will gain greater access to the hearts of the people. They will love you for trying to speak and honor their language” (Missionary Satellite Broadcast, August 1998).

You’re Not Alone in Learning the Language

I’ll conclude with another thought from the Preach My Gospel manual:

You are not alone in learning your mission language. Whenever the Lord gives a commandment, He provides a way to accomplish it (see 1 Nephi 3:7). Seek His help. Be dedicated in your study. In time you will acquire the language skills necessary to fulfill your purpose as a missionary.

The Book of Mormon’s Role in Missionary Work

Last year, I wrote about the power of the Book of Mormon and how it can be used to answer investigators questions. The Book of Mormon plays an important role in missionary work because when people read it with a sincere heart, the Spirit will testify to their hearts that it is true (see Moroni 10: 3-5). And when they know the Book of Mormon is true, they will know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. And when they know that, they’ll also know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only “true and living church” upon the face of the earth today (see D&C 1: 30).

book-of-mormon My Testimony of the Book of Mormon Grew at the MTC

When I was in the MTC, I remember being taught how important the Book of Mormon is in doing missionary work.  I remember at that time sincerely seeking to know why the Book of Mormon was so vital to missionary work. I never doubted the book’s truthfulness, but for a time I wondered why the Lord would go to so much trouble to have the Nephites preserve the record, and for Joseph Smith to translate it. I pondered and prayed about the subject for many days.

Then, I got a letter from my dad in which he bore powerful testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and explained how it had been the instrument in converting many, many souls that he personally knew. It was then that the Holy Spirit taught me that the Lord, if he wanted, could have chosen a different book or a different way to establish his word in the latter-days. But the Lord chose the Book of Mormon to be that instrument. And because the Lord prepared it, if we use it in our teaching, no other instrument brings the spirit more powerfully than the Book of Mormon in testifying of the truth of our message.

Preach My Gospel on the Book of Mormon

This is what the Preach My Gospel manual says about the role of the Book of Mormon in missionary work:

The Book of Mormon is powerful evidence of the divinity of Christ. It is also proof of the Restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith. An essential part of conversion is receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true. As a missionary, you must first have a personal testimony that the Book of Mormon is true. This testimony can lead to a deep and abiding faith in the power of the Book of Mormon during the conversion process. Have confidence that the Holy Ghost will testify to anyone who reads and ponders the Book of Mormon and asks God if it is true with a sincere heart, real intent, and faith in Christ. This witness of the Holy Ghost should be a central focus of your teaching.

…The Book of Mormon, combined with the Spirit, is your most powerful resource in conversion. It is the most correct of any book on the earth (see introduction to the Book of Mormon). It teaches the doctrine of Christ plainly, especially in the lessons you teach investigators. Use it as your main source for teaching the restored gospel.

…A central purpose of the Book of Mormon is to convince all people that Jesus is the Christ (see title page of the Book of Mormon). It testifies of Christ by affirming the reality of His life, mission, and power. It teaches true doctrine concerning the Atonement—the foundation for the plan of salvation. Several of those whose writings are preserved in the Book of Mormon saw Christ personally. The brother of Jared, Nephi, and Jacob saw the premortal Christ. Mormon and Moroni saw the risen Christ. In addition, multitudes were present during the Savior’s brief but powerful ministry among the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 11–28). Those who know little or nothing about the Savior will come to know Him by reading, pondering, and praying about the Book of Mormon.

The following is a great video, created by the Mormon Messages team at the LDS Church, on the promises of the Book of Mormon that the reader can gain a personal witness of its truthfulness by faithful reading and prayer.

Leadership Part 2: Captain Moroni

This is the second in a series of three articles on leadership. In the first article on leadership (see Leadership Part 1: Jesus, the Perfect Leader), I quoted President Kimball saying that the scriptures contain many examples of effective leaders that we should study. In that spirit, I’d like to share with you the following excerpt from Hugh Nibley, where he gives a wonderful example of the leadership by Moroni, the military captain of the Nephites, which we learn about in the Book of Mormon.  Nibley’s speech, called Leaders to Managers: The Fatal Shift, was delivered at the BYU commencement ceremony on August 19, 1983.

Captain-Moroni-Raises-Title-Of-Liberty“Moroni was the charismatic leader, personally going about to rally the people, who came running together spontaneously to his title of liberty, the banner of the poor and downtrodden of Israel (Alma 46:12, 19—21).

We are often reminded that Moroni “did not delight in the shedding of blood” and would do anything to avoid it, repeatedly urging his people to make covenants of peace and to preserve them by faith and prayer. He refused to talk about “the enemy.” For him they were always “our brethren,” misled by the traditions of their fathers. He fought them only with heavy reluctance, and he never invaded their lands, even when they threatened intimate invasion of his own.

He never felt threatened, since he trusted absolutely in the Lord. At the slightest sign of weakening by an enemy in battle, Moroni would instantly propose a discussion to put an end to the fighting. The idea of total victory was alien to him—no revenge, no punishment, no reprisals, no reparations, even for an aggressor who had ravaged his country. He would send the beaten enemy home after battle, accepting their word for good behavior or inviting them to settle on Nephite lands, even when he knew he was taking a risk. Even his countrymen who fought against him lost their lives only while opposing him on the field of battle. There were no firing-squads, and former conspirators and traitors had only to agree to support his popular army to be reinstated.

With Alma, he insisted that conscientious objectors [the people of Ammon, parents of Helaman’s 2,000 Stripling Warriors] keep their oaths and not go to war even when he desperately needed their help. Always concerned to do the decent thing, he would never take what he called an unfair advantage of an enemy.

Devoid of personal ambition, the moment the war was over he “yielded up the command of his armies . . . and he retired to his own house . . . in peace” (Alma 62:43), though as the national hero he could have had any office or honor. For his motto was, “I seek not for power” (Alma 60:36), and as to rank he thought of himself only as one of the despised and outcast of Israel. If all this sounds a bit too idealistic, may I remind you that there really have been such men in history.”

Here is an LDS-Church-made video about one of the battles that Captain Moroni led:

In the same talk quoted above, Nibley give some other characteristics of what he called “true leaders.”

“Leadership is an escape from mediocrity. All the great deposits of art, science, and literature from the past, on which all civilization has been nourished, come to us from a mere handful of leaders. For the qualities of leadership are the same in all fields, the leader being simply the one who sets the highest example; and to do that and open the way to greater light and knowledge, the leader must break the mold. “A ship in port is safe,” says Captain Hopper speaking of management, “but that is not what ships were built for,” she says, calling for leadership.”

ship-in-port-at-st-thomasIn conclusion, said Brother Nibley, “True leaders are inspiring because they are inspired, caught up in a higher purpose, devoid of personal ambition, idealistic, and incorruptible.” That higher purpose, of course, is the work of the Lord.  This is why missionaries who truly understand the divine work they are doing, bringing souls to Jesus Christ, have the potential to be among the greatest of leaders. May you follow the example of Captain Moroni, and always stand up for your God, your religion, your freedom, and lead by the light of Christ, in your missionary work and in all aspects of your life.

Leadership Part 1: Jesus, the Perfect Leader

As a missionary, you will have countless opportunities to lead: as a senior companion, as an example to the members in your area, as a district or zone leader. Surely each of you future missionaries are among the noble and great ones the prophet Abraham saw in vision of whom the Lord said, “these I will make my rulers.” Leadership is a quality you will need in order to be successful as a missionary and in life.

President Spencer W. Kimball, 12th President of the Church, said, “there are many individuals waiting to be touched and loved if we care enough to improve in our” leadership skills.  You can begin now to improve your leadership skills, and you will then become a more effective missionary once you reach the mission filed.

Today, I am posting the first of three articles on leadership. I will start by focusing on the greatest example of leadership that we can emulate, that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the perfect leader. President Kimball gave a landmark address on leadership in 1983 in his talk called Jesus: The Perfect Leader.  In it, he said, “I want to point out a few of the attributes and skills he demonstrated so perfectly. These same skills and qualities are important for us all if we wish to succeed as leaders in any lasting way.”Jesus-Washing-The-Apostles-Feet

  • Fixed principles: “Jesus operated from a base of fixed principles or truths rather than making up the rules as he went along. Thus, his leadership style was not only correct, but also constant.” “His was not a long-distance leadership…Jesus said several times, “Come, follow me.” His was a program of “do what I do,” rather than “do what I say.” He walked and worked with those he was to serve.”
  • Understanding others: “Jesus was a listening leader. Because he loved others with a perfect love, he listened without being condescending. A great leader listens not only to others, but also to his conscience and to the promptings of God. Jesus was a patient, pleading, loving leader.” “Because Jesus loved his followers, he was able to be candid and forthright with them. He reproved Peter at times because he loved him, and Peter, being a great man, was able to grow from this reproof.”
  • Selflessness: The Savior “put himself and his own needs second and ministered to others beyond the call of duty, tirelessly, lovingly, effectively. So many of the problems in the world today spring from selfishness and self-centeredness.” Jesus “taught us that there can be no growth without real freedom. One of the problems with manipulative leadership is that it does not spring from a love of others but from a need to use them. Such leaders focus on their own needs and desires and not on the needs of others.” Jesus-Fishermen-Come-Follow-Me
  • Shared Responsibility: “Jesus was not afraid to make demands of those he led. He had the courage to call Peter and others to leave their fishing nets and to follow him, not after the fishing season or after the next catch, but now! today!…Jesus trusts his followers enough to share his work with them so that they can grow. That is one of the greatest lessons of his leadership. If we brush other people aside in order to see a task done more quickly and effectively, the task may get done all right, but without the growth and development in followers that is so important.”
  • Eternal Potential: “Jesus let people know that he believed in them and in their possibilities, and thus he was free to help them stretch their souls in fresh achievement. Jesus believed in his followers, not alone for what they were, but for what they had the possibilities to become.”
  • Accountability: “A good leader will remember he is accountable to God as well as to those he leads. By demanding accountability of himself, he is in a better position, therefore, to see that others are accountable for their behavior and their performance. People tend to perform at a standard set by their leaders.”
  • Wise use of time: “Jesus also taught us how important it is to use our time wisely. This does not mean there can never be any leisure, for there must be time for contemplation and for renewal, but there must be no waste of time. How we manage time matters so very much, and we can be good managers of time without being frantic.”

President Kimball concludes with a plead to learn from the leadership examples in the scriptures:

Christ-Healing-The-Sick-At-Bethesda“The scriptures contain many marvelous case studies of leaders who, unlike Jesus, were not perfect but were still very effective. It would do us all much good if we were to read them and read them often. We forget that the scriptures present us with centuries of experience in leadership, and, even more importantly, the fixed principles upon which real leadership must operate if it is to succeed. The scriptures are the handbook of instructions for the would-be leader.”

“If we would be eminently successful, Jesus is our pattern. All the ennobling, perfect, and beautiful qualities of maturity, of strength, and of courage are found in this one person…we will find it very difficult to be significant leaders unless we recognize the reality of the perfect leader, Jesus Christ, and let him be the light by which we see the way!”

Work Hard, Obey, and Love Others

When I was in the Missionary Training Center (the MTC), one of my instructors challenged us missionaries in the class to write down three personal goals that would guide us in our daily missionary efforts. This request mormon-missionary-handbook-personal-goalscame on the day when they introduced us to the Missionary Handbook, commonly called the “White Bible”.  (Can someone tell me if they still have the White Bible, or if those rules have simply been included in the Preach My Gospel Manual?)

The MTC instructor wrote on the chalk board: “As a missionary, I, always and without conditions:” and then asked us to fill in the blanks. These are the three goals I chose:

  • I will work hard
  • I will be obedient
  • I will love others

Daily striving to live up to these three goals served me well on my mission; it brought success, safety, and joy.  Living by these goals has also brought blessings to my personal and professional life after my mission.

Work Hard

A good work ethic was something my parents always taught me to have.  I can remember my father telling me a story from his mission how he had to be in the hospital for a few days and he regretted not being able to be out on the streets working.  He encouraged me to make the most of every day on my mission by working as hard as I could. While I can’t claim perfection in this area, with very few exceptions, I did work as hard as I could each day, and I attribute much of my joys and successes to that attribute.

three gordon b hinckley photos President Gordon B. Hinckley shared the following experience regarding the importance of working hard on his mission:

“I was not well when I arrived. Those first few weeks, because of illness and the opposition which we felt, I was discouraged. I wrote a letter home to my good father and said that I felt I was wasting my time and his money. He was my father and my stake president, and he was a wise and inspired man. He wrote a very short letter to me which said, ‘Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter. I have only one suggestion: forget yourself and go to work.’ Earlier that morning in our scripture class my companion and I had read these words of the Lord: ‘Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.’ (Mark 8:35.)

“Those words of the Master, followed by my father’s letter with his counsel to forget myself and go to work, went into my very being. With my father’s letter in hand, I went into our bedroom in the house at 15 Wadham Road, where we lived, and got on my knees and made a pledge with the Lord. I covenanted that I would try to forget myself and lose myself in His service.

“That July day in 1933 was my day of decision. A new light came into my life and a new joy into my heart. The fog of England seemed to lift, and I saw the sunlight. I had a rich and wonderful Ezra-Taft-Bensonmission experience, for which I shall ever be grateful” (“Taking the Gospel to Britain: A Declaration of Vision, Faith, Courage, and Truth,” Ensign, July 1987, 7).

President Ezra Taft Benson also talked about the need for missionaries to work hard: “I have often said one of the greatest secrets of missionary work is work! If a missionary works, he will get the Spirit; if he gets the Spirit, he will teach by the Spirit; and if he teaches by the Spirit, he will touch the hearts of the people and he will be happy. There will be no homesickness, no worrying about families, for all time and talents and interests are centered on the work of the ministry. Work, work, work—there is no satisfactory substitute, especially in missionary work” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 200).

Be Obedient

Obedience, to the commandments and to the mission rules, is a vital component of faithful missionary service.  Great power comes to missionaries that are obedient, and therefore your mission leaders will stress the importance of keeping the commandments and rules in the Missionary Handbook. Elder Dennis B. NeuenschwanderI know that I was protected by keeping the missionary rules, and the Lord blessed me, my companions and our investigators in the process.

Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander of the Seventy spoke of the importance of obeying the mission rules: “Mission  rules are important in the same way commandments are important. We all need to keep them, understanding that they give us strength, direction, and limits. The smart missionary will learn the intent of the rules and make them work for him. Your mission is a time of discipline and single-minded focus. You will be required to go without some things common to your current lifestyle: music, TV, videos, novels, even girls. There is nothing wrong with any of these things, …but then again, there is nothing wrong with food either, unless you are fasting, in which case even a teaspoon of water is improper” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 59; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 43).

Love Others

Missionary work is one of the purest acts of love we can do for our fellow beings.  We must love the people we have been called to serve in order to be effective servants of the Lord. We should give sincere friendship and treat others with love and kindness, even if they do not immediately accept the gospel.

mormon-missionary-with-boy Early in my mission, a leader shared the insight that if we are not having joy, then we are not doing missionary work correctly.  I found that to be true.  When we do missionary work out of a sincere love for our fellow beings, we enjoy it, for we are helping others receive the magnificent blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, blessings of happiness in this life and in the eternities.

The following scriptures are what the Lord has said regarding love and missionary service.

  • D&C 12:8 “And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care.”
  • D&C 18:15-16 “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”
  • D&C 121:41 “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.”

Conclusion

As a missionary, you will have many rules, but perhaps the most important may be the ones you set for yourself. Work hard, obey and love others served me well, and perhaps it will help you to.  But in the mean time, be thinking about this question, in case one of your MTC instructors asks you to fill in the blanks: “As a missionary, I will always and without conditions: ________.”

Open Your Mouth

public speaking open your mouth One of the most important and most constant tasks you must do as a missionary is to continually open your mouth.  Open your mouth and testify of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.  Open your mouth and give testimony of Joseph Smith and his First Vision of God the Father and his Son.  Open your mouth and testify of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.  (See Bring Souls unto Me, by Elder L. Tom Perry, May 2009 Ensign)

Open Your Mouth: A Commandment to Missionaries

The Doctrine and Covenants is replete with scriptures commanding missionaries to open their mouths and preach the gospel.  Almost always those scriptures contain a promise from the Lord that they will be blessed to know what to say if they take that step of faith and open their mouth.  Here are a few:

  • jesus the christD&C 24:12, Oliver Cowdery is called to preach the gospel and the Lord says, “At all times, and in all places, he shall open his mouth and declare my gospel as with the voice of a trump, both day and night.”
  • D&C 28:16, again, to Oliver Cowdery the Lord says “And thou must open thy mouth at all times, declaring my gospel with the sound of rejoicing.”
  • D&C 30:11, John Whitmer is called to preach the gospel and the Lord says, “Yea, you shall ever open your mouth in my cause, not fearing what man can do, for I am with you.”
  • D&C 33:10, to Ezra Thayre and Northrop Sweet the Lord says it three times: verse 8 “Open your mouths and they shall be filled,” verse 9 “Open your mouths and spare not,” and again in verse 10 “Open your mouths and they shall be filled.”
  • D&C 60:2, to the elders of the Church the Lord says, “But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man.”
  • D&C 71:1, to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon the Lord says, “it is necessary and expedient in me that you should open your mouths in proclaiming my gospel…according to that portion of Spirit and power which shall be given unto you, even as I will.”

Opening Your Mouth is Difficult but Necessary

For many missionaries this commandment to “open your mouth” is not easy, which is probably why the Lord mentions it again and again in the scriptures.  Many missionaries, including myself as a young missionary, are shy and unsure of themselves.  Many are called in preach the gospel in lands where they don’t speak the native language.  The excuses for not opening your mouth as a missionary are many but all are rooted in “the fear of man” rather than trust in God.  As noted in the scriptures above, when missionaries open their mouths to declare the gospel the Lord will be with them and help them know what to say.  But it is not until missionaries take that necessary step that the Lord will use them as an instrument in his hands.mormon missionaries knocking doors

Door Knocking

The most common way for missionaries around the world to open their mouths is by knocking on doors or tracting.  In Argentina we did some door knocking, but not a lot.  The primary way in which we opened our mouths in my mission was talking to people on the bus or in the street. In Argentina, the missionaries didn’t have cars or bikes for transportation, everywhere we went we either walked or took the bus.  This was the case for most other Argentines as well, therefore we constantly came across people in the streets and on the bus.  It was difficult for me at first, to strike up a gospel conversation in these instances, but I learned to use both of these methods effectively as a missionary.

argentina bus colectivo Bus Contacting

During my first couple of weeks in Argentina, I was far too shy and unsure of my language skills to sit down next to a stranger and begin a conversation about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I watched my companion do it time and time again as we rode the bus traveling to teaching appointments or other errands.

After a week or two, my senior companion challenged me to sit down next to someone on the bus and talk to them.  Reluctantly, I did it, and my first attempt was actually rather successful.  The man I sat down next to was friendly and even gave me his name and phone number so we could come by his home later for more discussions.  This interaction gave me additional confidence and I continued opening my mouth to testify to strangers on the bus for the rest of my mission.

Of course not everyone we met on the bus was this nice, many people would not talk to us, would get up and move to another seat, or tried to argue with us (don’t argue with people).  Regardless of whether or not my testimony was received, I always tried to open my mouth on the bus and testify of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the message of the restored gospel.mormon missionaries street contacting

Street Contacting

Street contacting is what I would categorize as talking to people in everyday situations in just about any scenario as you go through the day.  Talking to people we pass in the streets, or that you bump into at the grocery store, the attendant at the photo store, or any number of other situations.  Throughout my mission it took continual effort to open my mouth in these instances, which nearly encompassed the whole day.  Of course, wherever you go, you wear that missionary name tag and there is no time off from being a representative of the Lord.

If we missionaries hadn’t opened our mouth, though, and shared our message in everyday situations, we never would have met and baptized the Almada family.  The conversion of Juan Carlos Lopez, who we first met in the street, never would have happened without opening our mouths.  And the Godoy family, a wonderful couple with two children, were baptized because we struck up a conversation at a photo development store.

godoy family baptism rosario argentinaConclusion

“Therefore, verily I say unto you, 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) I testify that this is true.  Open your mouth every chance you get and testify of the Lord and his restored Church and the gospel message that you carry.  If you do, the Lord will bless you with the right words, and he will guide you to the right people, and the Spirit will penetrate the hearts of your listeners and testify of the truthfulness of your words.  You will be blessed and the Lord will be able to bless many others as you become an instrument in his hands.

Magnify Your Calling

I have been trying for many years to read all the way through the Old Testament.  It is the only part of the standard works that I haven’t read in its entirety.  I’m about 85% done now (page 1,009 out of 1,184), and I’ve been reading in the book of Jeremiah.  I read a verse that caused me to give new meaning to the term magnify your callingJeremiah 48:42 “And Moab shall be destroyed from being a people, because he hath magnified himself against the Lord.”

When I read this verse, it made me realize that to magnify your calling means to magnify the work the Lord has called you to do and not to magnify yourself. When I was in college, writing about the meaning of magnifying your calling, I expounded on how it meant to do your best to fulfill your calling in the way in which the Lord would want you.  And surely that is a major part of what it means.  But it was clear to me, as I read the scripture above, that you should not perform your calling in an effort to get praise or any worldly gain and therefore magnify yourself.  To magnify your calling from the Lord you should perform your calling with a desire to bring glory to God and serve him by serving his children. LDS edition of the holy bible

Take a look at how the term magnify is used in the scriptures in relation to callings:

  • The prophet Jacob in the Book of Mormon said, “And we did magnify our office unto the Lord.” (Jacob 1:19.)
  • To Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the Lord said, “Attend to thy calling and thou shalt have wherewith to magnify thine office…In me he shall have glory, and not of himself, whether in weakness or in strength” (D&C 24: 9, 11)
  • “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord.” (Luke 1: 46)
  • “Let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me.” (Ps. 35: 26)
  • “Remember that thou magnify his work, which men behold.” (Job 36: 24)
  • “Shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it?” (Isa. 10: 15)

In virtually every instance of of its usage in the scripture, magnifying your calling is in the context of magnifying it unto God instead of unto yourself.  It’s not enough simply to magnify our callings.  You must magnify your calling unto the Lord.gordon_b_hinckley

Magnifying Your Missionary Calling

President Gordon B. Hinckley said that every missionary has the responsibility to magnify his calling to teach the gospel plan to the peoples of the earth.  “That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.” (D&C 88: 80)

Said President Hinckley, “when we live up to our high and holy calling, when we show love for God through service to fellowmen, when we use our strength and talents to build faith and spread truth, we magnify our priesthood. When, on the other hand, we live lives of selfishness, when we indulge in sin, when we set our sights only on the things of the world rather than on the things of God, we diminish our priesthood.” (Magnify Your Calling, Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 1989)

My Day with Mario

When I had been in Argentina for two months, and my Spanish language skills were still very weak, I spent the day taking the lead with the missionary work in our area.  My senior companion was gone for the day working with the zone leaders in their area, while they arranged for me to spend the day working in our area with a 17-year-old boy from the branch named Mario.

gazano missionary work elder smith with marioI was very nervous about this arrangement, but I fully expected Mario to help me and do a lot of the talking.  Well, as it turned out, Mario hardly said a word all day. We had a couple of first discussions scheduled that day, but the people weren’t home when we got there.

We spent the majority of the day knocking doors and street contacting.  Being a member who would soon be going on a mission, I thought Mario would help do more of the talking, but with each person we encountered, I did all the teaching.  When it was apparent that I was only going to get moral support from Mario, I was seriously tempted to just go home and spend the remainder of the day in our apartment.

But I persevered because I knew the Lord expected me to magnify my calling unto him, and that he would support me.  At times I felt like a bumbling fool, but despite my weaknesses that day we talked to at least 100 people, and of those, we taught 12 charla cortas.  (Charla cortas means “short discussion.” This was a metric we reported each week and to qualify, the exchange with the person had to be 5 to 10 minutes and we had to talk about most of the principles of the first discussion.)  From those 12 interactions, we were able to set four appointments for a first discussion.

I know the success of that day came because I sought to magnify my calling.  At the end of that day, I felt the strong impression that had my senior companion been with me, that the results would have been the same.  Though my companion was fluent in Spanish and a far more experienced teacher than I, it is the Lord’s work and it is his Spirit that touches peoples’ hearts and does the real work of conversion.  It was humbling to realize that because I sought only to magnify my calling unto God, and not worry about my own perceived weaknesses, the Lord was able to work through me.

And so it will be with each of you, as you seek to humbly magnify your calling as a missionary, and seek only to glorify God as you teach people the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, you will become an effective tool in the hands of the Lord.

Learning a Language: My Experience Learning Spanish

Many Mormon missionaries are asked to serve in places far from their home where they are required to learn to speak a foreign language.  Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the people of the world, each in their own language, is a mandate from God.  In a revelation to Joseph Smith the Prophet in 1833, the Lord said, “For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power.” (Doctrine and Covenants 90:11)

My Language Learning Story

Prior to my mission call, I had studied French in high school, and when I filled out my mission papers, I indicated that experience and my desire to go to a non-English speaking mission.  I knew that despite two-years of French in high-school, my ability communicate in a foreign language was very poor, so I was a little apprehensive about really learning to speak a new language.  But I found faith and strength in the fact that so many missionaries had gone before me and had learned to speak a new language.

When I received my mission call to a Spanish speaking country, Argentina, I knew the challenge would be even greater than I previously thought.  After spending nine weeks at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) learning Spanish, I found myself in Argentina.  Hearing the people speak there, I wondered if they taught me the wrong language, because I could barely understand anything.  In fact, soon I found out that Argentine’s don’t speak Spanish, they speak el Castellano (Argentina’s version of Spanish). elder pinto and smith rural argentina

The missionary daily schedule has built in 30 minutes of language studying each day, but for me, I found that wasn’t helping my language skills improve fast enough.  So for the first six months I spent in Argentina, I got up a half hour early to get a full hour of language studying each day.  My companions were a big help as well.  Both of my first two companions were native Argentine’s.  The first spoke English, but the second spoke no English.  I had only been in Argentina for three months when I was placed with my second companion.  Those days of pure Spanish speaking, so early in my mission, were very difficult, but undoubtedly helped my language skills tremendously.  I can remember dreaming in English, and then waking and dreading when I realized I had to communicate entirely in Spanish.

With time, my comfort with the Spanish language improved.  In fact, in the later half of my mission I got frequent compliments on my language skills.  One brother, in the Arroyito Ward of Rosario, paid me the ultimate compliment when he said that it took him a few minutes of listening to me speak before he realized I was an American.  He said I had a very good “Porteno” (Buenos Aires) accent.  But those language skills never would have come without hard work and blessings from the Lord of the gift of tongues.

The Gift of Tongues

President Thomas S. Monson once said, “Make it known to the young people that it is not certain that the Lord will direct their paths to do missionary work in an area where the language they have learned is spoken. But if they are called to a completely different country, they will at least have the advantage of having learned well a second language. Learning another language is then usually not so difficult for them, because they have learned how to study and therefore will make rapid progress, especially when they are guided by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Elder Jacob de Jager said, “Some missionaries go to the Missionary Training Center to learn a foreign language with great fears because they are afraid they will not be able to learn the language of their assigned mission area. Let me relieve these fears. I have seen the very practical approach of language teaching in the MTC, and I believe in the gift of tongues. Miracles happen when missionaries learn to speak in a foreign language by the power of the Spirit.”

mtc missionary training center provoPresident Joseph F. Smith received the gift of tongues when, as a young man, he went out on his mission. He said: “I was in a foreign land, sent to preach the gospel to a people whose language I could not understand. Then I sought earnestly for the gift of tongues, and by this gift and by study [I am sure he put in a lot of hours], in a hundred days after landing upon those islands I could talk to the people in their language as I now talk to you in my native tongue.” (Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939, p. 201)

Source: “Become Acquainted … with Languages, Tongues, and People” By Elder Jacob de Jager, Oct 1982.

Ideas for Language Learning

Learning to speak a new language is not easy, but there are some things future missionaries can do to be more prepared for this trial. Steven R. Wright, one time director of language training at the Missionary Training Center, said, “be sure to do these three things: study the language regularly and faithfully, use the language whenever possible, and seek divine assistance.” Here are some further suggestions from Brother Wright:

  • Take a language class. Study at a local university, take an adult education class in the evening, or try a home-study course offered by a reputable school.
  • Speak the language. Instead of merely learning about the language, have a goal of being able to speak well and understand well. Practice the language with family members or friends who have served a mission or traveled in a foreign culture and have learned this language as a second language.
  • Learn about people and cultures. Read about the people and the country. Visit with someone who is from the country or who has been there. If possible, travel to the country to gain firsthand knowledge of it.
  • Study vocabulary at home. Vocabulary is the most important area when beginning to study a foreign language. Buy a dictionary, label your home with names of objects in the new language, and practice until the words become yours. Purchase a Book of Mormon in the new language and compare familiar verses in English.

The Power of the Book of Mormon

merindlisbacherThe second area I served in during my mission was called the Rural Ward in the city of Santa Fe. I had an experience there that I will always remember that taught me the power of the Book of Mormon. One day we had an appointment to teach a first discussion to a man named Eduardo and his family. We were doing splits that day, so I went to the appointment with one of the zone leaders, Elder Rindlisbacher (he and I pictured to the right). We arrived at the appointment and sat down with the family in an outdoor terrace area.  To our surprise, the family had invited a friend to the appointment.  This friend turned out to be their preacher, and he had come ready to contend with us.  Initially, the preacher sat back and listened as we began teaching the first principles of the discussion (God the Father, Jesus Christ our Savior, Prophets, etc.).  But soon the preacher began to ask contentious questions in an attempt to stump us, and before long he was lecturing to us and we could hardly get a word in.

After listening patiently for 15 minutes or more, I finally decided to pull out the Book of Mormon and read some passages from it.  I did this in an attempt to testify of the truthfulness of our teachings, more than to directly answer his questions.  To my surprise, at the moment I pulled the Book of Mormon out of my bag, the preacher became quiet. I suddenly found myself with a captive audience, so I read a verse or two of scripture from the Book of Mormon and testified that the book was of God, that it taught of Christ, and is a testament to the truthfulness of the Mormon Church.  After that day, we unfortunately never taught that family again. Yet I will never forget that moment, nor the power of the Book of Mormon displayed that day to touch hearts through the Holy Ghost and silence opposing forces.

ETB_EzraTBenson_stUse the Book of Mormon to Answer Objections

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “We are to use the Book of Mormon in handling objections to the Church… All objections, whether they be on abortion, plural marriage, seventh-day worship, etc., basically hinge on whether Joseph Smith and his successors were and are prophets of God receiving divine revelation.

“Therefore, the only problem the objector has to resolve for himself is whether the Book of Mormon is true. For if the Book of Mormon is true, then Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith was his prophet, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, and it is being led today by a prophet receiving revelation.” (A Witness and a Warning, 4–5).

Conclusion

bookofmormonI know that the Book of Mormon is true.  I have read it, I have prayed about it, and I have received a witness from God that it contains the words of Christ.  It is perhaps the most powerful tool missionaries have because it brings the Spirit, which then teaches, testifies and converts hearts and minds.  You will be a more powerful missionary by studying the Book of Mormon and knowing it well enough to use it frequently in your teaching.  And for you future missionaries, I encourage you to read and gain a personal testimony of the Book of Mormon now.  By so doing, you will be a more prepared missionary, and thus a better instrument in the hands of the Lord.