President's Pen 3-20-17 (Simply Paced)

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,

We love ya!  We look forward to being with you at zone conferences this week.  We will share with you the Easter initiative, “Prince of Peace” and discuss how we can help all those we come in contact with feel the peace that comes through the Savior and His gospel.  Keep up the great work!

A question I am often asked by our missionaries is what they can do to help an investigator that seems to stall in their progression.  To respond to this question, I’ll share with you some wonderful instruction given by the Prophet Nephi, “For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more…” As you break down this scripture you will see the pattern of how the Lord instructs us and what is required on our part to learn wisdom, receive more, and progress.

As we apply this instruction to our assignment as missionaries, we can follow the Savior’s pattern by teaching our investigators line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.  When I sum up this style of teaching it tells me we need to be simple, simple, simple…  The Apostle Paul gives us a perfect example of this approach as he shares with the Corinthians, “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hither to ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” (1 Cor 3:2)  Our investigators are like the babes that Peter makes reference to, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” (1 Peter 2:2)  Teaching simply is like milk to those that we hope to help hearken and lend and ear to the Lord’s counsel.  As they lend an ear to the Spirit, they will learn wisdom and then be ready to receive more.  We are not “gospel doctrine” teachers who need to expound and share more than they are able to bear. If we want to help people progress, we need to keep plainness and simplicity at the heart of what we share.      

If we help investigators progress by teaching line upon line, we also need to consider how fast we pace through the lessons.  The message of the Restoration is a powerful wakeup call to all who will listen.  Some doctrines from this lesson are more easily understood, but apostasy, the First Vision, priesthood authority, the Book of Mormon, the true nature of prayer, and how the Spirit can be felt and heard will be very new for most.  In addition the principles taught, there are four major commitment invitations that are necessary for an investigator to progress:  “Will you pray to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet?”, “Will you read and pray to know the Book of Mormon is the word of God?”, “Will you attend church with us this Sunday?”, and “Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone that holds His authority?”.  Let’s just say that this is a lot of milk to drink and yet for an investigator to progress, the first three invitations are an absolute must!

When missionaries ask me about an investigator that has stalled, I ask a series of follow up questions to help me understand what the heart of the issue might be.  In most cases, I go right to the basic principles of the Restoration and the status of the first three invitations we extend: “Are they praying, are they reading, are they coming to church?”.  In most cases the investigator hasn’t sincerely prayed yet, hasn’t taken the time to read, ponder, and pray, and hasn’t attended church.  I then ask what we’ve done to help them recommit to these important invitations and I’m told that we’re following up and that we keep recommitting them.  This is wonderful and good, but what I often learn is that the investigator has also been taught the Plan of Salvation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and even the commandments.  Instead of going line by line, we teach more lessons and jump further ahead than necessary.  If this is the case, and despite our best intentions, we have given a lot of meat for someone who hasn’t been willing to hearken unto basic precepts, lend an ear to counsel, or gained enough wisdom to receive more. 

What do I recommend?  We need to slow down before we can speed up!  After the first lesson, and before I go any further into important gospel truths, I would set goals and make plans to help them progress by recommitting and helping them pray, read, and come to church.  If they haven’t prayed to know if Joseph Smith is a prophet, I might go back and again teach the principle of prayer, the why, what, and how. I will likely spend some time helping them understand how the Spirit will respond to their sincere prayer.  I may even ask them to pray right there and then so we can help them move forward.  If they haven’t read, I will take the time to read with them, explain what we’re reading, help them apply it to their lives, and declare my witness that the Book of Mormon will open the windows of heaven to them.  I will review Moroni’s promise with them and invite them again to pray to know if what they have read and pondered is true.  If they haven’t come to church, I will teach them a very focused lesson on the importance of the Sabbath day.  I will help them understand the why of the Sabbath and testify of how obeying this commandment will help them receive promised blessings.  I will again invite them to church and do everything in my power to help them come and have a wonderful experience.  I will listen to the Spirit as they might need a lesson on increasing their faith to act, or repentance to change, but I’ll not move too quickly as I know they can’t progress until they at least read, ponder, and pray.   If I’ve done these things and I still see no progress, I will let them know we’ll move on to other investigators and follow up with them in a month or two. 

Until an investigator can lay hold on upon the line upon line, and here a little there a little precepts of prayer, Book of Mormon reading, and church attendance, they won’t progress.  They will likely learn a lot, love your visits, and feel the Spirit, but they won’t be ready to receive more.  You will need to be sensitive to their needs, ask inspired questions, resolve concerns, simply reteach, and extend bold commitment invitations to act.  Let the Spirit work through you and guide your efforts as you testify to them why these acts of faith will help them be prepared to receive more.  Be bold and let them know what blessings they’ll miss out on if they choose not to act.  Give them a clear choice!

Elders & Sisters, teaching simply will allow for investigators to digest the milk they need, “that they may grow thereby.”  Their progression will come as they hearken unto simple precepts and listen to the Lord’s counsel. Promise them that the Spirit will give them wisdom and that more knowledge will surely come.   Keep your first lesson short, you might have to come back again to finish it, don’t feel like you have to rush and cover it all.  Don’t move too quickly to other gospel truths until you see their willingness to keep the basic commitments you have extended.  Avoid the temptation to move on to other lessons when they’re not ready for meat.  Don’t fear the idea of re-teaching principles, especially the faith principles that will allow the Spirt to take the message into their hearts.  I invite you to review the investigators you’ve taught in the past and the current investigators you’re teaching and ask whether or not you’re moving too quickly or teaching simply enough.  Adjust as needed and set goals and make plans to help them progress at the rate they are willing to learn.  As you do this, I promise that you will be able to find those that will open their hearts and minds to the truth.  Be patient, kind, warm, and loving, but also help them understand your purpose is to help them come unto Christ through your invitations to act.  This work is true and I love that the Lord knows us well enough to teach us line by line and at the pace we need to receive all that He has in store for each us of.  Love ya!

President Hall