As a trainer on my mission, I often talked with other trainers about how training was going. We would share ideas and talk about how our missionaries were doing. Oftentimes 1-2 trainers per flight group would say something like, “It is super easy training this elder. He came pre-trained,” meaning he already understood how to be a missionary.
Most people think that when you enter the MTC, you magically gain a testimony and a deep understanding of the gospel and how to do missionary work. You don’t. You need to learn it. You have two options: learn it before you go, so you can be the most effective missionary possible, or you can procrastinate until you enter the MTC. Procrastination might sound easy, but remember the words of President Kimball.
When I ask for more missionaries, I am not asking for more testimony-barren or unworthy missionaries. I am asking that we start earlier and train our missionaries better in every branch and every ward in the world. That is another challenge—that the young people will understand that it is a great privilege to go on a mission and that they must be physically well, mentally well, spiritually well, and that “the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.”
I am asking for missionaries who have been carefully indoctrinated and trained through the family and the organizations of the Church, and who come to the mission with a great desire. I am asking for better interviews, more searching interviews, more sympathetic and understanding interviews, but especially that we train prospective missionaries much better, much earlier, much longer, so that each anticipates his mission with great joy.” ~President Spencer W. Kimball “When the World Will be Converted”
The top 7 things to do to come “pre-trained” to your mission:
1st: Gain a personal testimony of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice.
You will be spending the next 18-36 months testifying of Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Develop a testimony now. Study His words and teachings. Strive to develop stronger faith in Him. Do all you can to learn of Him, and use His Atonement, for it will be your job to help others to do the same.
I cannot stress how vital it is to have an abiding testimony that Jesus is the Christ and that His atonement is real. This is the cornerstone of our message. Without this, nothing else matters or has reason. No missionary should ever go on his or her mission without a testimony of Jesus Christ and His atonement. This includes repenting of your sins. If done properly, no missionary would need to return home early because of unrepentant transgressions.
2nd: Learn how to communicate with Heavenly Father.
Learning how to pray is vital to life on earth. Prayer is our main line of communication with heaven and our Heavenly Father. So many people “say” their prayers with no intent of the prayer ever reaching God. Or they pray with no intent to obey. They often think God does not care or listen because they don’t have powerful prayers.
As a missionary you will be teaching people how to have powerful and effective prayers. You will be teaching them how to receive revelation though their prayers. Learning how to do these things personally before you go will help with every aspect of the work. The topic of prayer is powerful, and effective prayer is a topic unto itself, but I will briefly summarize 3 things I’ve learned about receiving revelation though prayer:
First. Follow the established patterns (learn how to ask).
Rarely does God give revelation to “what should I do” prayers, but often He will give unto the person who studies out the options, picks one, and then asks, “This is what I think is right. I am going to proceed with it. Is this acceptable?” Praying like this follows the pattern in Doctrine and Covenants section 9. At that point revelation comes. If it does not, proceed with your plan, and if the plan is wrong, God has promised to let you know.
Second. Reverence invites revelation (learn how to act).
Being reverent invites the Spirit, and the Spirit is the gateway to revelation. Kneeling prayers, using respectful language, folding arms, closing eyes, having personal prayers, and having family prayers are huge. If your family does not hold them, take the initiative and start them.
Third. Be specific (learn how convey desire).
Specific prayers get specific answers. Prayer is a principle of effort; the more effort you put in, the more blessings you get out. Instead of, “Please bless everyone the missionaries are meeting with,” a more effective approach would be, “Please bless Michael Goff. Please bless him with a desire to read the book of Mormon and to pray to know of its divinity.” God blesses specific prayers. As my mission president always said, “Pray by name and need.” Taking the time to know names and needs conveys love and caring.
Caring enough about someone to know the names and needs of their loved ones, and then praying for them, is powerful. It shows them you really care. It helps them feel your love and our Father’s love. I’ve seen it countless times. I promise you; few things melt a heart faster than hearing someone pray for you and your loved ones by name and need.
3rd: Read the Book of Mormon and gain a testimony of it.
The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. You will be inviting others to read it and to pray about it to gain a testimony. At very least read the Book of Mormon cover to cover, and pray about it before you leave on your mission.
I cannot tell you how many missionaries come to the field never having read the book! They spend the first 4-12 weeks of their missions just trying to read the book so that they can then share it with others. Gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon is like toppling the first domino of the Restoration; everything else follows it.
Listen to the Testimony of Elder Holland. Who wouldn’t love to testify like him?
4th: Study Preach My Gospel and the scriptures!
Once you get into the field, you will realize that your studies are going to be spent helping others. So learn how to study the scriptures and Preach My Gospel before you go. And study them! Having a knowledge of the doctrines is one of the big differences between a missionary who is pre-trained and a missionary who struggles. If you already know the doctrines you’re going to teach, then your trainer only needs to show you the finer points of missionary work. As a friend who was training once said, “I basically just showed him the mission culture.” This is one I wish I had done better at. I studied the scriptures, but I wish I had spent more time in Preach My Gospel.
Preach My Gospel was “designed beyond the veil and put together here.” ~President Boyd K. Packer~
I recommend starting with chapter 2 of Preach My Gospel (teaching you how to study). Then once you’ve learned how to study, continue with chapter 1. Try to apply each chapter to your life. Preach My Gospel teaches eternal principles which are applicable to all stages of life. The chapters are in order for a reason. I recommend reading PMG at least once cover to cover. After you’ve read it cover to cover once, I recommend an in-depth study of the first 6 chapters, as the doctrines and principles in the first 6 chapters are the most important to understand as you prepare for a mission.
Once you’ve read Preach My Gospel, I recommend at least reading the Gospels in the New Testament, but I highly recommend reading the entire Bible before you leave. It is the companion volume of scripture to the Book of Mormon, and a greater gospel understanding will come as you study all the scriptures.
5th: Be active in missionary work before your mission!
Hastening the work of salvation does not start when you’re set apart as a full-time missionary. Nor does it end when you’re released. Learning and applying the doctrine that every member is a missionary and has missionary responsibilities before your mission will add power to the authority you will hold. After all, Christ said, “Come, follow Me,” not, “Go, do that.” Here are 3 things to help you learn and do your missionary duty:
- First: Do your home and visiting teaching.
Do you home and visiting teaching. It is just that simple. Trust me; on your mission you will spend much time and effort helping people understand the importance of doing home/visiting teaching. How can you ask someone to do theirs, if you refused to do yours? Where is your moral high ground if you say, “I did not do this, but you should.” Do your home and visiting teaching, and gain a testimony of it. It will add power to your invitations to do home/visiting teaching.
“Missionary work is but home teaching to those who are not now members of the Church, and home teaching is nothing more or less than missionary work to Church members.” ~Harold B. Lee~
- Second: Go out with the ward/full-time missionaries.
Few things will prepare you as well for a mission as gaining hands-on experience. It teaches you how to teach the doctrines of the gospel. Real teaching will teach you far faster than reading or role plays. It will also help you to understand the different roles everyone plays in conversion/retention/reactivation. This knowledge is what you will be applying as a missionary for the next 18-36 months. It is imperative to learn it. The sooner, the better.
- Third: Invite your friends.
As a missionary, you will learn that members are the key to finding new investigators. You will encourage them to invite their friends to church, to activities, and to meet with you. As you invite your friends to do these things before your mission, you will be able to gain personal testimony of this aspect of missionary work. It will allow you to declare, with the Holy Ghost as your witness, that it works, that it has blessed your life, and that it will bless the lives of the members you’re inviting to follow your example.
6th: Pay attention in seminary/Sunday School/institute.
The lessons taught to you about the gospel are designed to help you learn and apply the gospel. The “Scripture Mastery” program of seminary is designed to give you a basic grasp of the scriptures and their teachings. I know so many missionaries that lamented, “I wish I had paid attention in seminary.” I even had some companions who were trying to memorize the scripture mastery verses because they realized the power that comes from quoting the scriptures word for word. There is POWER when someone can quote the words of the prophets and the scriptures.
7th: Worship in the temple.
Worshiping is so much more than just attending. If you’re not attending the temple, developing that habit is a good start. If you only have a limited use recommend, do baptisms and confirmations as often as is reasonable.
Prepare for the temple now. As you prepare for your mission, also take temple prep. Ideally as soon as you have your mission call, you will talk with your bishop and start planning a date to go to the temple to receive your endowment. This is where taking temple prep. as you work on your papers is huge. Once you have received your endowments, take full advantage of the House of the Lord before you leave. As you attend His house, you will gain the perspective of why we do missionary work and that baptism is not the end goal.
8th: (BONUS) Study and learn about the priesthood and the Restoration.
Our church is the only church on earth that has all the rights, powers, and keys of the priesthood. This is the claim we make: that the priesthood and the keys have been restored. If this is true (and it is true), everything we teach will lead others to use the priesthood and the atonement, and return to be with God. If our claim to priesthood is false, we are just like the rest of Christianity – good ideas, but with no authority.
Study the priesthood and the Restoration. Learn about priesthood keys. Learn about the ordinances that are available to both members and nonmembers. Learn so that you can explain how the priesthood works. Learn about the powers of the priesthood that you have been endowed with (every missionary has been endowed with priesthood power in the temple, both elders and sisters). Elders should also learn about the office they’ve been ordained to. Learn about your responsibilities and the powers God has entrusted to you. Remember the words of President Benson:
“Give me a young man who has kept himself morally clean and has faithfully attended his Church meetings. Give me a young man who has magnified his priesthood and has earned the Duty to God Award and is an Eagle Scout. Give me a young man who is a seminary graduate and has a burning testimony of the Book of Mormon. Give me such a young man, and I will give you a young man who can perform miracles for the Lord in the mission field and throughout his life.” ~President Ezra Taft Benson~
These 8 things; when combined with developed social skills, a positive mental attitude, and a desire to work hard and be humble; lead to prepared missionaries who can hasten the work of salvation from day one. Always remember though, it is very important to listen to your trainer and to understand that their job is to train you. As my mission president put it to a group of new missionaries, “You are being trained. You are not here to train you trainers.” At all times strive to be humble and willing to learn. With proper prior preparation, and with the help of your trainer, you can be a great instrument in the hands of the Lord.
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM “MY LIFE BY GO GO GOFF”
Written by Jeremy Goff.
Jeremy Goff was born in Denver, and raised in Orem Utah. He served a mission in the Manchester New Hampshire Mission (’12-’14). He is passionate about many things, he blogs, loves food, family, politics, and religion. He travels the country working, and shares the Gospel along the way.