Sunday, October 7, 2007

Missionary Companions

Gordon B. Hinckley and Armand S. Coulam, British Mission, 1932

I have forgotten to mention before, that the fleas are my best companions. I call them companions because they stick to me so close. (Matthew Cowley quoted in Henry A. Smith, Matthew Cowley: Man of Faith, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1964, p. 48).

The Lord has commanded, “Ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel, two by two” (D&C 42:6). Your teaching will be more powerful and interesting if you and your companion work together in unity. As you plan and study each day, discuss how you will teach so that you can be united and teach with one voice.

Your teaching will be more powerful if you and your companion alternate giving brief portions of the lessons. Avoid falling into a routine when presenting the message. Support your companion by offering a second witness to the truths of which he or she has testified. Follow your impressions when the Spirit prompts you to say something. As companions, be ready to yield to each other so that you do not hinder the guidance of the Spirit. When you speak, maintain eye contact with the investigator. When you are not speaking, pray for your companion and carefully observe the investigator’s responses. (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, pp. 178-179).

No one can do this work alone. We work in pairs. “In the mouth of two or more witnesses shall [all things] be established” (2 Corinthians 13:1). We work together. There is no place for prima donnas in the mission field. Our efforts are largely team efforts, and what a marvelous thing it is to learn to work with other people. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Gifts to Bring Home from the Mission Field,” New Era, [March 2007]: 4).

I remember interviewing a discouraged missionary. He was having trouble with a language which was not his own. He had lost the spirit of his work and wanted to go home. He was one of 180 missionaries in that mission.

I told him that if he were to go home he would break faith with his 179 companions. Every one of them was his friend. Every one of them would pray for him, fast for him, and do almost anything else to help him. They would work with him. They would teach him. They would get on their knees with him. They would help him to learn the language and be successful because they loved him.

I am happy to report that he accepted my assurance that all of the other missionaries were his friends. They rallied around him, not to embarrass him, but to strengthen him. The terrible feeling of loneliness left him. He came to realize that he was part of a winning team. He became successful, a leader, and he has been a leader ever since. That's what each of us must do for one another.

Paul wrote to the Romans, "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak." And then he added these significant words, "And not to please ourselves" (Romans 15:1). There is a sad tendency in our world today for persons to cut one another down. Did you ever realize that it does not take very much in the way of brainpower to make remarks that may wound another? Try the opposite of that. Try handing out compliments. (Gordon B. Hinckley, "Strengthening Each Other," Ensign, [February 1985]: 3).

Recently another General Authority was my partner for mission tours to dusty places. On occasion, when I returned from a morning shower, I found to my surprise that this considerate companion had shined my shoes. Gratefully I wondered if each of the thirty thousand missionaries now laboring in the Lord's service would have, and be, as kind a friend as he was to me, thoughtfully rendering simple acts of courtesy to a companion. (Russell M. Nelson, CR O'86, Ensign, [November 1986]: 68).

For a number of years, while I had responsibility for the work in Asia, I interviewed each missionary one-on-one. I asked each what virtue he or she saw in his or her companion and would like to put into his or her own life.

When I raised that question, almost invariably the missionary, an elder for example, would stop with a surprised look on his face. He had never thought of his companion that way before. He had seen his faults and weaknesses but had not seen his virtues. I would tell him to pause and think about it for a minute. Then the answers would begin to come. Such answers as, "He's a hard worker." "He gets up in the morning." "He dresses neatly." "He doesn't complain."

It was a remarkable thing, really. These young men and women, for the most part, had been oblivious to the virtues of their companions, although they were well aware of their companions' faults, and often felt discouraged because of them. But when they began to turn their attitudes around, remarkable things began to happen. (Gordon B. Hinckley, "Strengthening Each Other," Ensign, [February 1985]: 3-4).

As I have met with many groups of missionaries throughout the mission, I find a tendency for missionaries to tell their faults to their companions, their friends, and sometimes in public. There is not place in the mission field to publicize your weaknesses. When you have something that is disturbing you, you should go to your mission president. To him you may unburden yourself, confess your sins and your weaknesses. You may tell him your hopes and aspirations, but there is no reason why you should tell every companion the fact that you might have smoked a few cigarettes in your life before you came, or that you had taken the name of the Lord in vain, or any other of your weaknesses. We go forward on the assumption that you are worthy to do this work. If there is something of major importance in your life that had not been adjusted before your coming into the mission field, then certainly you should make those adjustments through your president. Don't tell the saints. That does not do anyone any good. It does not mean you are being hypocritical.

You had some weaknesses, you repented, and those weaknesses are no longer a part of your life, and you are living in conformity with the program of the Church. (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. by Edward L. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, p. 96).

Be grateful for your companions. I thank the Lord and will always be grateful for my companions in the mission field....[Of one companion with whom he spent 15 months] What a wonderful young man he was. How I loved him, and I hope he loved me. We became fast and good and wonderful friends. (Gordon B. Hinckley, First Presidency Trains Mission Presidents,” Ensign, [September 1999]: 76).

A missionary, whether young or old, junior or senior, who finds a brother in fault should reason with him, and urge him to desist. That is well but not enough, since a fraternity attempts to preserve the welfare of each member; therefore the condition of the slipping member should be called to the attention of the...mission president. This would not be tale bearing, but a summoning of proper forces to help the brother overcome his weakness. When he confesses and turns from his evil ways, he is forgiven and the fault is no longer held against him. Many terrible consequences have come from one missionary trying to hide the mistakes of another. It must not be done; it is dangerous; it is not the method of a true fraternity. (John A. Widtsoe, The Successful Missionary, Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1947, p. 74).

Treasure your companions. They have something to offer you if you will learn. Look for the good in them, and help them. Help one another. Get on your knees and pray to the Lord and ask Him to bless you. Never leave your apartments in the morning without asking for the directing and protecting guidance of the Lord. And never come back to them in the evening and go to bed without getting on your knees and thanking Him for the blessings of the day. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Hamilton, Ontario, missionary meeting, Aug. 8, 1998).

Let every missionary remember the words of a wise man of old: "He that coverth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy," The duty of the members of a true fraternity is to report, protect and forgive their erring brethren or sister. That must be the method of our missionary brotherhood. The brotherhood must be kept clear; else its sacred work will suffer and be valueless. (John A. Widtsoe, The Successful Missionary, Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1947, p.74).

I have in mind elders now on missions, anxious to excel their associates, each wants to get the most “red marks” of credit, and so he will exert himself beyond his strength; and it is unwise to do it. The Lord will accept that which is enough, with a good deal more pleasure and satisfaction than that which is much and unnecessary. It is good to be earnest, good to be diligent, to persevere, and to be faithful all the time, but we may go to extremes in these things; when we do not need to. (Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, October 1912).

The new missionary should understand that compulsion is not used in the mission field, but that, instead, tried ideals are held aloft, for his imitation. His senior companion is only attempting to learn in the mission field; and every newly arrived missionary must be taught the methods of work. Willingness to be taught during the first few months of missionary life increases the missionary's later efficiency. (John A. Widtsoe, The Successful Missionary, Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1947, p. 72).

Temptation is everywhere. It’s everywhere in this world. There are those who would like to entrap the missionaries if they could. Each of you has a companion. Why? Well, for one reason the Savior said, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall [all things] be established.” (Matthew 18:16.) Another is for your mutual protection, so that you can protect one another. When you are together, it isn’t likely that both of you will go wrong. One of you might be tempted. The other will pull him up and straighten him out and give him strength to resist. Subtle are the ways of the world. Clever are the designs of the adversary. Be careful. You want to go home in honor. Don’t step into tragedy. Transgression never was happiness. Sin never was happiness. Evil never was happiness. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Philippines Manila/Quezon City Missionary Meeting, 31 May 1996).

Missionaries must obey mission rules and learn to be good followers. We encourage you to obey the mission rules. Follow them specifically all the way through and you will be successful. You will learn that to be a leader you must first learn to be a good follower. You will never learn the principles of leadership until you learn how to follow them. You may feel that you know a lot more than your senior companion, but he is your senior companion and you should follow him in righteousness. This is one of the greatest lessons in life—-to learn how to follow your district leader and zone leader and especially your mission president. (Howard W. Hunter, The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, ed. Clyde J. Williams, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997, p. 252).

It is particularly important that you train your junior companion in industry. Tract with him as never before, regularly, intelligently. Teach him from your experience how to secure contacts, how to follow them up, how to meet people and impress them. Follow without deviation the recommend routine of a missionary's day: Early to rise, prayers, the study hour, the tracting period, visiting friends and saints, study, preaching, prayers, and early to bed. Do not slip upon any of these things, for the lessons you teach your companion will guide him hence forth and he will pass them on to others. (John A. Widtsoe, The Successful Missionary, Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1947, p.69).

As a senior companion put yourself in the place of your young elder in all of your planning. Let his missionary goals be a guide in all of your decisions. It may mean some sacrifices for you who have "gone through the mill" and some repetition of principles and procedure now familiar to you, but the joy of helping to fashion and shape a mighty messenger of truth will compensate you for your self-denial and the blessings of heaven will descend upon your. (John A. Widtsoe, The Successful Missionary, Independence, Missouri, Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1947, p.69).

Above all, teach your charge, for such he is, the necessity of drawing near to the Lord for daily help. Pray with him, morning and night. Lift his thoughts to the things of the spirit. Kindle within him a feeling for the greatness of the cause in which he is engaged. Teach him how to walk with the spirit that proceeds from the Lord. (John A. Widtsoe, The Successful Missionary, Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1947, p. 70).

Do you speak well of missionary service and point out its value and greatness; or do you emphasize the mistakes made by the missionary staff and others? Do you speak of the sacred character of missionary work, of its heaven--high objective, of its marvelously beneficial effects upon the missionary, as do you must about it? Your point of view may become your junior companion's opinion of missionary life and purpose. You have not become sacred, of that I am sure; but if you have, secure some sweetness, or report that you are unfitted to guide a young missionary. I certainly hope that if you allow yourself to depart from approved missionary ways and spirit while training the new elder, he will recognize your error and unworthiness and turn upon you and rend you with his contempt and continue to follow the straight and narrow missionary way in spite of you. (John A. Widtsoe, The Successful Missionary, Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1947, p. 69).

You tell me that the elder whose senior companion you are, has just come into the mission filed, that as a missionary he is not a week old. You are certainly fortunate; I really envy you. Now, you have almost the greatest opportunity for your mission. The help and training that you give your junior elder will perpetuate your ideals. On his tongue of those whom he will train, your views and experience will continue to be a mission force long after you have been released. That is how the teacher lives, generations after the school has closed. That is one form of eternal life. (John A. Widtsoe, The Successful Missionary, Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1947. p. 67).

The training that a missionary receives during the first two or three months of service determines very largely his course of action throughout his mission. Habits begotten in the beginning, whether for good or evil, are not easily shaken off "As the twig is bent, so the tree is inclined," is absolutely true in the training of missionaries. The responsibility for starting this young elder correctly in his sacred work is yours, for you are his senior companion; and you may not shirk it. (John A. Widtsoe, The Successful Missionary, Independence, Missouri: Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1947, p. 68).

Two of the most important means for encouraging a missionary to develop worth-while goals are the inventory session and the personal priesthood interview. Each pair of missionaries should hold an inventory session every week (as outlined in the Missionary Handbook). In these sessions, each missionary should decide on his personal goals for the coming week and put them down in writing. He should discuss these goals with his companion and seek help in meeting them. If these sessions are held faithfully and with the proper spirit, they can do a great deal to overcome conflicts between companions and encourage the kind of purposeful growth that comes from setting and achieving worthy goals. (Ezra Taft Benson, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 27 June 1974).

Never permit contention in your companionships. Some of your missionary companions will be your life’s dearest friends. Be the kind of companion you would like to be with. Be unselfish in your relationship with your companions. When there is contention, the Spirit of the Lord will depart, regardless of who is at fault.
Each of us is an individual with unique strengths and talents, different from any other person in the world. Each of us has weaknesses. In a harmonious companionship, there is teamwork—where one is weak, the other is strong. As a boy, I learned to drive a team of horses. If one horse was balky, the other could not pull the load alone. So it is in a missionary companionship. Each must pull his share of the load. (James E. Faust, Conference Report, April 1996).

I recall a missionary standing up and saying, "I have been in the mission field nine months, and I have had five companions." With a quivering chin and a choked-up voice, he said, "Never once in nine months have I had a companion who told me he loved me or appreciated what I was doing for him. I hope and pray that someday, somehow, I'll have a companion who will tell me that he loves me and appreciates me."

No matter where we come from, no matter what our family conditions are, we should learn and be appreciative of those circumstances which can build and lift us.
(Marvin J. Ashton, What Is Your Destination?, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book , 1978, p. 100).

Think of the promise made to the Prophet Joseph Smith [and] to Parley P. Pratt and his associates being sent into the Indian Mission. "I myself will go with them and be in their midst. I am their advocate with the Father, and nothing shall prevail against them." (D&C 68:12).

What a promise to have Christ for a missionary companion and a promise that they cannot fail! (Spencer W. Kimball, Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 3 October 1974).

I hope you and your companion are true to each other. I hope you feel you have the best companion in the world. I hope you draw close to each other as companions, that you uphold and sustain each other before the Saints, before our friends, before the world. I have seen many examples of this, but one of the most impressive occurred in Philadelphia some years ago. I had been in a meeting of agricultural leaders all day, and in the evening I left my hotel to mail a couple of letters. As I walked into the post office I heard the strains of a familiar Mormon hymn coming through the window from the opposite side. I dropped my letters in the box, walked over to the window, and looked out, and there were two young men in dark suits standing on the steps of the post office holding a street meeting. One of them was speaking and the other was holding in one hand two hats and in the other some copies of the Book of Mormon and some tracts. When they finished their meeting I went out and introduced myself. Then I said to the young man who was holding the hats and the copies of the Book of Mormon, "What were you doing while your companion was speaking?" His answer was most satisfying. He said, "Brother Benson, I was praying to the Lord that he would say the right thing that would touch the hearts of the people who were listening."

That is the kind of support I am referring to. When you reach the point where you can enjoy and rejoice in the success of your companion, even when that success exceeds your own, then you have got the real missionary spirit, the real unselfish spirit of love, the spirit of the gospel. When you can rejoice in the success of your companion, then you have a spirit that will make you effective as a missionary. Then you will really be truly, truly happy. Then you will have lost yourself in the service of this wonderful gospel, in service to our Father's children--the greatest work in all the world. (Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1974, pp. 65-66).