President's Pen 9-8-15 (Teaching Effectiveness)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! We begin with the “End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ and the best missionaries in the world!

Elders & Sisters, isn’t it great to be a missionary in Texas Houston South!  We love you, pray for you, and hope you have a great week.

From the recent zone meetings there are a few things I want to make sure you took away.  We are accountable to the Lord for our stewardship.  Please make sure each week you are prayerfully considering your goals, keeping in mind our Standards of Excellence, and being the type of missionaries that “Make it Happen”.   Every week you need to enter your goals in the missionary portal and at the end of the week review where you did well and where you might improve.  In the coming weeks I will be introducing a new accountability process tied to our weekly district meetings to help us all continually improve.  We look forward to your participation and I know that it will bless our efforts. (I have attached the slides from our MLC for your benefit)

One of the many things on my mind as of late is our teaching effectiveness.  In our August Zone Conferences we demonstrated how we can simply and powerfully teach the Restoration.  The same is true for all lessons and I hope each week you are taking the time to role-play them in your companionships. 

I want to make sure we all focus on teaching people, not lessons.  It’s not about how fast or slow you teach the lesson, but that the Spirit guides and directs you on how to ensure that our investigators understand what we’ve taught.  In some cases that may be a 5-10 minute lesson, in other cases it might be at 15-25 minute lesson.  We need to teach simply, but most important we need to know that our lesson was understood. 

A perfect example of teaching for understanding and why it is so important comes from Alma 23:6 “And as sure as the Lord liveth, so sure as many as believed, or as many as were brought to the knowledge of the truth, through the preaching of Ammon and his brethren, according to the spirit of revelation and of prophecy, and the power of God working miracles in them—yea, I say unto you, as the Lord liveth, as many of the Lamanites as believed in their preaching, and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away.

Here’s what I understand from this scripture… If we want people to be converted and never fall away, they must believe and be brought to a knowledge, or in other words, understand what we teach. 

In the Book of Mosiah, Abinadi is teaching the wicked priests about the Israelites and the Ten Commandments.  He tells the priests that he must read them the commandments, as he rightly perceived that they were not written upon their hearts.  In Mosiah 13:32 he asks an important question, “And now, did they understand the law?”  The answer was no, and because they did not understand, their hearts were hardened and they did not progress. 

How does this apply to us?  If we teach lessons and not people, will they come to an understanding of God’s laws and what we are asking them to do? I think you would all agree that we must teach for understanding and, when we do, the Spirit becomes the perfect teacher and confirms what we’ve taught their hearts and minds. 

The question for all of us today is do we teach for understanding and how do we know?  This past week I received a great text from one of our Sisters about a lesson they had.  They were teaching a young man and his dad came into the room and asked what was being taught.  The young man then shared what he had learned and was able to clearly describe the key points and principles.  In a word, he understood. 

Not every lesson will afford us that kind of opportunity, so what do we need to do?  Preach My Gospel teaches that we must listen and ask inspired questions.  How many of us are so quick to cover a principle that we move beyond it with out asking an inspired question?  There are some principles that absolutely require that we ask what they learned.  Do they know why the Restoration was required? Do they know why they must read, ponder, and pray?  Do they know why they should come to church and keep the Sabbath Day holy?  Do they know why they must keep the commandments, chastity, word of wisdom, etc.?  These are just a few examples, and there are many more, but can we hope to keep people in the Church and never fall away if they don’t understand these important doctrines?  We want our investigators baptized, but not so quickly that they haven’t come to an understanding of what they need to know.

Some steps for you to consider as you teach for understanding. 

Do you know the doctrine? D&C 11:21 “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.”

A good measuring stick for you to consider on this point...  Go through every principle in each lesson and ask yourself the question,  “Do I know what this means, can I teach it simply, can I back it up with scripture, can I testify of its truth?”  Put a PMG study plan in place where you might need work.  As a mission we need to spend more time in PMG, please spend the month of September focused on studying Chapter 3. 

Do you ask inspired questions? Inspired questions help you know whether or not you have taught for understanding.  Consider writing down in your study journal or in your PMG the questions you will ask, how you will ask them, and how you will then listen to see if the principle was understood.  Some of the best teachers ask questions in such a way that don’t make you feel like you’re taking a test.  Asking inspired questions should be about drawing the investigator out, not an interrogation.  Create a list of inspired questions you might ask for each principle, role-play them with your companion. 

Do you teach simply?  As we saw in Elder Ballard’s training on teaching the Restoration, there is great power as we teach simply. Are you using words in your teaching that are familiar in Mormon circles that might go over their head? Do you listen more than you talk? Do you repeat the same message in different ways on each principle (talk too much), do you follow the inspired teaching outlines in PMG and in the Pamphlets?  Are you memorized and scripted or are you teaching using your words from the heart? Write down words that you and your companions use that might be unfamiliar to your investigators. Role-play, role-play, and role-play some more.  Make a plan this week for how you’ll role-play every principle in all 5 lessons this transfer. 

I have felt the Spirit witness to me that as we improve our teaching the Lord will bless us in our finding.  As we teach more we will invite more, and as we invite more, more will come unto Christ. 

For the month of September I would like you to make it a personal goal to become more effective in your teaching.  For those of you who are assigned to speak Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Burmese, I’d like you to do what you did in the MTC, SPEAK YOUR LANGUAGE all day at least two-three days a week, sun up to sun down.  We must be able to communicate clearly and effectively. 

I testify that as representatives of Jesus Christ you can have the blessing of having your tongue loosed.  With your righteous desires, you will have the Spirit and the word written in your hearts.  With this you will have the promise that you will teach with power unto the convincing of men.  We love you!

Weekly Mission Update

Elders & Sisters, we’re off to a good start for the month of September, 12 souls entered the waters of baptism this week for a remission of their sins.  Let’s not lose a single one, we RETAIN.  Set a goal, make a plan, and do all you can to invite and help others come unto Christ this week.  We love you!

Saludos y abrazos, have a great week!

President Hall