Saturday, January 12, 2008

Contention between Missionaries and their Mission President

Missionaries may not always agree with what their mission presidents' tell them but the Lord has placed missionaries under his direction to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of all people in its geographic boundaries. The mission president is in charge of the work in the vineyard and directs and guides missionaries in specific tasks. You should never argue with him. The Lord will bless you if you follow his counsel with humility. If you don't understand something he asks you to do ask him to repeat his counsel. Stay in touch with him and remember he is there to help you succeed. The success of the missionaries assigned to his mission is his prime concern. Without you the work can't go forward. The mission president is responsible for the missionary work in his mission and has to answer to the Lord for the work there. So he needs to know how the work is progressing. You are there to assist him. You must have a good relationship with him. Invite the spirit into your relationship so that you can truly represent the Savior.

Every now and then a missionary thinks they know better than their mission president how to convert people. The few times I did things my way without consulting him turned out not as I had planned. Missionaries don't need to be commanded in all things and should take their stewardship seriously. The just need to keep the mission president in the loop so he can give them an assist from time to time.

Roger Merrill points out what can happen when a missionary takes his own path: "This was the place he came to think, ponder, and pray. The president was silhouetted against the red sunset sky as he slowly rocked in the lawn chair. Seen from the back porch of the mission home, the sprawling city was beautiful, but he hardly noticed the view as he thought of the thousands who still ignorantly hungered for the truth.

With Elder Cardon’s release just two weeks away, the president would need a new assistant. Which of the 120 missionaries should he call? One by one, he considered each of the current zone leaders. As thoughts about one elder focused in his mind, he pondered, “In many ways, he is the most experienced and qualified of all my leaders. His zone follows him well, but he is also the source of many of my problems. Sometimes he sets out to accomplish a task (and does a good job), but never reports to me what he has done. I’m always being surprised and having to change plans. I ask him to do something and he never quite carries it out but does what he thinks should be done and tries to convince me that was what was really needed. I’ve discussed these things with him, but he does not seem willing to accept my judgment. No … I think I’d better present another name to the Lord.”

Too often, a talented leader falls short of his potential because of his weakness as a follower. After a time, that leader wonders why he seems never to be fully trusted and why his suggestions meet increasing resistance from his leaders. The ability to earn trust and influence from a servant’s position is an extremely important leadership skill, yet it is consistently overlooked in a leader’s training."

Joseph F. Smith said: "Boys on missions should cultivate amity with all, and more especially with their file leaders and presidents. I hope you will keep on the good side of President Penrose, and all of your companions. Missionaries should all be as members of one family and each should strive to make it pleasant for all the rest. Strife, or differences, or any degree of the spirit of disunion existing among them just so much weakens their influence and impairs their usefulness and efficiency. Avoid carefully giving offense to any, but always be ready to show kindness and sympathy (From Prophet to Son: Advice of Joseph F. Smith to His Missionary Sons, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981, p. 115)."

James E. Faust says: "Your mission president is the Lord’s representative. Do not criticize or demean him, privately or publicly. If you will respect his authority, be obedient, humble, teachable, and follow the mission rules, you will be a successful missionary. For instance, one of the hardest rules to follow is to get up in the morning when your mission president directs. Many young men think the best time to sleep is in the morning. I’m grateful to my obedient senior companion, Elder William Grant Bangerter, who would set the alarm clock to get up early. When the alarm went off, it would jangle my nerves. In the winter it was dark, damp, and cold, and we never had any hot water for bathing or showering. He would cheerfully shower in that cold water; I would start to shiver as soon as he got out of the shower. I could not do anything but follow his example, but I have to confess that I was not quite as cheerful because my teeth were chattering."

In 1982 in a New Era article, Roland R. Wright of the New York City Mission cautioned missionaries to get their moral act together before they get out in the field: "it is vital for missionaries to have “an understanding of the importance of personal righteousness and discipline and the need for being totally honest with themselves and others—especially their bishops and stake presidents.”

“In the rare case where a missionary hasn’t fully cleared the slate with his bishop, he carries a burden of unrepented sin into his mission. Such a burden makes it impossible to follow the Spirit, bear testimony, and feel good about oneself, and so the work seems hard." He also said: "“If a missionary is homesick or lovesick, it’s easier to get discouraged. Criticizing and faultfinding can also lead to discouragement. Missionaries have to be willing to sacrifice.”

In the same article President Dean Robinson said “Be obedient to the small rules. “Don’t be just plain lazy, and avoid the temptation to be constantly thinking about yourself.”

Elder Thomas S. Monson says: "Now, a word about mission presidents. Their philosophy is that of a teacher who says, “No one fails in my class.” They’re responsible for the missionaries’ success. Every missionary wants success, and the mission president shows him how to achieve success.

He helps each missionary to work, but more significant yet, he helps each one to work effectively so that the kingdom of God will grow under his inspired direction.

Remember: “I am with you alway,” said the Lord (Matthew 28:20). In addition, the great promise found in the 84th section of the Doctrine and Covenants is yours: “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (v. 88)."

Missionaries need to believe that their mission president is there to lift them up not tear them down. You should be humble and take counsel from your president. Give them the benefit of the doubt when they disagree with you. Place any differences in the hands of the God and he will make them right. Don't be afraid of talking to your mission president. At lot of contention arises when we don't seek clarification. Remember that your relationship with him might last a lifetime. Even after your mission you should keep the channels open so that you can develop eternal friendships. Missionaries and their mission presidents should have a genuine relationship that lasts into the eternities.

Gordon B. Hinckley in 1999 shared this about missionaries and a mission president he knew who :

"My heart reaches out to you missionaries. You simply cannot do it alone and do it well. You must have the help of others. That power to help lies within each of us. But you must do all you can. You must be anxiously engaged. When you are not working on referrals of members, you must be developing those referrals yourselves through tracting and related means.

I spoke at the funeral of a dear friend the other day. Some years ago he served as a mission president. He felt totally inadequate when he arrived in the field. He was sent to succeed a very good man, a man of great ability, an excellent leader, and a very able president.

When this new man took over the mission and made his first tour of meetings with missionaries, he said to them: “I never served a mission as a young man, and so I don’t know what you are going through. But do your best, your very, very best. Say your prayers and work hard and leave the harvest to the Lord.”

With that kind of spirit and that outreach of love, a whole new attitude spread through the mission. Members got behind the missionaries. Within a year the number of converts had doubled."

The mission president wants each missionary to be successful in their teaching endeavors since he can't possibly teach the thousands of investigators in his mission field himself. He wants to be able to coordinate your efforts by having you report what is happening in an area then he can suggest adjustments to direct your effort if they are not on track or encourage you to continue when you are on track. Missionaries need a lot of positive reinforcement since the work can be tedious, hard and discouraging. That is what weekly emails, zone conferences, visits and transfers are for. Mission presidents are there as a resource to direct, encourage, and uplift missionaries. The mission president has to answer to the Lord for everything done in his mission. He is responsible for the conversion of new members over the age of nine.

Mission presidents place missionaries where they can do the most good in bring souls unto Christ. Mission presidents are men of god who need the spirit daily. Missionaries need to pray for their mission president each and every day. Mission presidents need to pray for their missionaries each and every day. When the spirit is in their lives then contention cannot coexist. Missionaries and mission presidents need to lay down their wills in order to represent the Savior with pure unfeigned love for one another.

After thirty years we put together a small book of comments from all the missionaries in the Toronto Canada Mission. The majority of them said "Elder Ballard is like a father to me." We may argue a little with our own dads but we need to remember to respect them and follow our mission president who has a lot more experience in life and the mantle of authority for the work in a particular part of the vineyard. It will make us be better future church leaders if we can follow their counsel. The Lord will bless obedient servants. Sometimes missions are a test in obedience for many of us when we promote our own agendas. I loved my mission president for his devotion to the cause. Remember love drives out contention. When missionaries and their mission president love one another then miracles happen in the mission field.

No comments: