President's Pen 10-30-17 (Simplify, Intensify, Testify S.I.T)

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 that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! We have been blessed by the Lord to bring many souls unto Christ this year and I am grateful to each of you for your faithful efforts.  We now enter a season where hearts are turned to family, gratitude, and thanksgiving.  I invite each of you to consider how the Lord blesses you each day, to have a greater spirit of gratitude, and to live in thanksgiving.  Demonstrate your love to the Lord by diligently seeking out those he has prepared, invite them to repent and turn their hearts towards God, and invite them to follow the Savior into the waters of baptism for a remission of sins. 

In our effort to teach people and not lessons, I wanted to remind you of some of the great teaching we received from Elder Craig W. Zwick when he visited our mission in February of this year.  He introduced us to the Simplify, Intensify, and Testify approach to bring more power to our teaching.   To sum up why this method is helpful, consider the words of Elder Holland…

“Without the discipline of memorized, pre-set lessons, there is a great risk—and we see it in every mission we visit—that the missionary can be unfocused, he will wander, will teach with much, much more complexity than investigators need or want. In the end, this means he (she) will drone on for three or four times as long as a teaching discussion should last. Missionary lessons ought to proceed in such a way that every few minutesI mean few, like one or two—a question is asked or a testimony of a principle is born or the other companion takes over.”

 In the missionary lessons, there are 42 celestial principles we teach our investigators.  Each of these principles are well known to us, we study them in detail, and we want to teach them well.  Because we do know so much about these topics, it is easy to feel like we need to explain them in great detail and expound upon what we know.  The reality, however, is that the more we talk, the more complex the message becomes, and the less people want to hear.  Thus, we must make sure we teach the message simply, intensify (strengthen) what we teach through our personal conviction (or use of a brief related scripture), and bear bold testimony, in the name of the Savior, that we know it to be true.  When we master this teaching approach, not only will our teaching be memorable, but it will be taught from your heart, and the Spirit will bear witness to your words. 

Here’s an example of how to apply this approach… Take one of the principles and simply state it, “God is our loving Heavenly Father.”  What now follows is a brief and heartfelt witness of what this principle means to you.  “I know God knows me and that you and I are literally His spiritual sons and daughters.  He hears my prayers and yours, He knows my name and yours, He desires that you and I are happy.  He loves all of us and He demonstrated that love by giving us His Son, Jesus Christ, to help you and I return to our heavenly home.  I love what the Apostle Paul taught the Romans in the New Testament, “The Spirit itself beareth witness to our spirit, that we are the children of God.”  I know and testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, that you and I have a loving Heavenly Father…  At this point, you can either ask a question, “What does it mean to you to know that God knows and loves you?”, your companion can then testify, “I also know God loves and knows me.”, and then he/she moves on to the next principle or you can transition to the next principle if that is how you’ve planned your lesson.

Here’s another example… The simple principle, “The Savior, Jesus Christ came to the earth to establish His Church and to save you and me from sin and death.”  The message (intensify), “The Savior came into the world at time where the people had again rejected the prophets and their teachings.  As part of Jesus Christ’s mortal ministry, he reestablished His Church by calling twelve apostles, He gave them His authority to teach, baptize, and lead His Church. (you can show the picture of Peter as well as use the box in the pamphlet).  He lived a perfect life, performed many miracles, and then showed His perfect love to you and me by taking upon our sins, pains, and sorrows.  He also suffered and died on the cross so that you and I, through the power of His resurrection, can live again.”  I testify and know that Jesus Christ loves me and you personally.  As John the Beloved teaches us, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” and this was so that you and I can be saved and return to God.  I know this is true, I have experienced the Savior’s love in my life, and as one of His representatives, I know that His love and sacrifice are extended towards you.”  At this point, you again, might ask a question, have your companion briefly testify and teach the next principle, or continue teaching. 

Can you see how your teaching can have a greater impact if you speak from your heart and give a powerful witness of what you know? You don’t have to over teach!  You will leave them with the pamphlet to study and you will invite them to pray and ask God if what you have taught them is true.  You will then tenaciously follow up to learn about their experience.  The Spirit will have a greater impact on the hearts and minds of those you teach if your lessons are directed towards their needs and if they are brief and simple.   Simplify, intensify, testify… 

Now here’s an additional caution from Elder Holland, “Cold, memorized lessons or sleep-inducing rote presentations won’t do in the world we face today. We must have enthusiastic, inspired teaching that is tailored to the people who are receiving it.”   How can you avoid the trap of being rote and tailor the message?  I invite you to take all 42 celestial principles, and in your own words, practice teaching each principle in one or two minutes.  State the principle, intensify and personalize it to the investigator’s needs (add a scripture for emphasis as inspired), and then bear a bold and powerful witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, that it is true.  If it helps you to get started, you might use a 3x5 card to write down your thoughts.  The pamphlets are also a wonderful resource to guide you as you improve your teaching.  You might also ask the members to allow you to come into their home for brief visits and to have them give you feedback on how effectively you are teaching.

Elders & Sisters, the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ is in its plainness and simplicity.  We are not here to expound on everything we know nor expect these good people to remember everything we’ve taught.  We need to follow Elder Holland’s counsel to stay focused, teach simply, and be concise.  When you teach with power and authority, the few words we do share will enter into their hearts as the Spirit testifies of the truths we teach.  I invite you to simplify your teaching, to intensify what you teach through heartfelt and personal statements (adding scriptures as another witness), and to then boldly, and I mean with true conviction, in the name of Jesus Christ, testify that what you have taught is true.  I promise you that as you do this you will awaken people to the message the Restoration, more investigators will have you return to their homes, and the Spirit will witness the truth of what you teach.  Love ya!

President Hall