Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Role of Mission Presidents in Shaping and Motivating Missionaries

One the major things that mission presidents do is to shape the lives of their missionaries by motivating them to serve well. My mission president M. Russell Ballard used to tell us missionaries that the reason we had zone conferences was so he could motivate us to keep working. He told us that missionaries were like a wind-up toy that unwound as we went through the days between conferences from rejection, the cold winters in Canada and the hard work required to sustain our missionary efforts. President Ballard told us that he wished he had a magic wand so he could tap us with it and we would be miraculously wound up and able to go out like the Energizer bunnies.

Gerald J. Day in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism says: "The mission president trains, counsels, assigns, and gives spiritual support to each missionary.... The mission president, under supervision from Church headquarters, establishes mission rules, study patterns, goals, and discipline. His assignment requires constant travel to zone conferences, which are also testimony meetings, at least every six to eight weeks. The president and his wife have direct contact with the missionaries by phone, mail, and personal visits. They continually foster programs of goodwill, service, and understanding."

President Spencer W. Kimball was very clear on the point: "Speaking of the motivating of people, and getting them to work, that's our responsibility--to give. Eloquent sermons may brighten the life; to use expressive words may stimulate; but the evidence of our greatness, the proof of our effectiveness is in the area of motivation, to get them to do something.

I think Brother [Robert]Simpson brought me a little card which is on my desk yet: "Do it!" And I like the thought that is behind it, and I think you need to have one of them on your desk, and when an idea comes to you, get busy and "Do it!" And find a way, if there isn't already one.

If we can stir our leaders in the stakes and the missions to set higher goals and encourage them in their accomplishments, we have proved our mettle. If we can stir missionary leaders to get their missionaries to awaken their souls and then, in turn, to motivate the people to believe and repent; then we have achieved. (Spencer W. Kimball, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 23 June 1978)."

President Kimball clearly taught mission presidents to set the example: "Mission presidents and regional representatives must realize that you can never light a candle unless there is A SPARK FROM WITHIN YOURSELF. You can never give the priesthood unless you have it. You can never convey enthusiasm without a liberal supply. (Spencer W. Kimball, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 27 June 1974)."

President Gordon B. Hinckley tells mission presidents: "I hope, my brothers and sisters, that you can infuse your missionaries with the spirit of capturing every great opportunity that comes their way.... They will have disappointments; you’ll have disappointments. Discouragement can become contagious. You must rise above it and lift those about you. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “First Presidency Trains Mission Presidents,” Ensign, [September 1999]: 76)."

He also told them in 1996 at the mission presidents' seminar: "I would hope that as mission presidents, if you did nothing else during the time you’re in the field, you would strive to create within the lives, the hearts, the souls of your missionaries, a love for Jesus the Christ."

In encouraging the new leaders to create a love for the Savior in their missionaries’ hearts, President Hinckley observed that such a love can come from reading the Bible and the Book of Mormon and by pondering and practicing what one reads.

President Spencer W. Kimball had lots of good advice on how to motivate missionaries: "Millions of people have spoken of Paul and Peter and James and John. You new mission Presidents are to be trusted now with these many precious souls, local and foreign and it will be your privilege to lead these numerous missionaries to the fountain of truth unsullied, unfolded in the majesty of light and splendor from the opening heavens in all the simplicity of its nature. (Spencer W. Kimball, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, June 1977)."

President Kimball said that mission presidents are creators of men: "As a mission president, you will be set apart by a member of the First Presidency of the Church or of the Council of the Twelve to stand foursquare on your own feet with your advisor and supervisor to do the important work in this great day.

You become a kind of creator, taking new people who have been differently trained and making them great leaders and inspired family people, to love the Lord, the Master.

It will be your privilege to take hundreds of boys, barely out of their swaddling clothes, sometimes spoiled and pampered boys, and to change their lives. Yes, to change their lives, to make their lives richer and more meaningful.

You become a creator in the sense that you take the unimproved, untrained, uninspired, sometimes selfish young men, and in two years make of them adults, sons of God. You will take of these young men, unpolished shafts, and make them smooth and attractive. You will, in fact, make of these young men hunters and fishers as spoken of by Jeremiah, for you will act with the Missionary Committee and for the Lord wherein he said: "Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks." (Jeremiah 16:16). You will inspire them that they may so for the Lord what he did when he was on the earth. (Spencer W. Kimball, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 25 June 1976)."

He says to mission presidents "You are not ordinary people. You have been selected from numerous great men and women, and we deem you and your wives to be very special leaders in the kingdom. We expect to turn over to you a goodly share of the missionaries for your care and keeping and training, about 150 to 200 in each one of your missions. They are promising young men and women, and we expect that you, by example and precept, will give them a careful training and leadership which will make them faithful, able, efficient, well-trained leaders in Church government for the rest of their lives." (Spencer W. Kimball, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 20 June 1975, p. 1).

He also says to make sure they have meaningful assignments: "It will be your responsibility to see that the missionaries are inspired, motivated, and indoctrinated. It will be your responsibility to see that the schedules are stimulating and productive. It will be your responsibility to see that your missionaries do not waste time and that you do not use the missionaries generally for errand boys of extra, unnecessary work. There must not be a waste of manpower; there should not be six or eight or ten missionaries in the mission home doing the work there when three or four can do it. Missionaries in the office should also be proselyting missionaries in every mission. Sometimes the productive work of missionaries is diluted as would be a liquid poured into a sieve. (Spencer W. Kimball, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 20 June 1975, p. 4)."

Gordon B. Hinckley in "We Have a Work to Do" explains: "[A] factor that substantially blesses missionaries so that they may be productive in their sacred service is the caliber of men we have presiding over the missions. Those who serve in these capacities are not novices; they and their wives are mature brothers and sisters of broad experience. They stand as leaders and advisers, teaching the young missionaries and counseling older couples who come to them, protecting them from pitfalls into which they might stumble. (Gordon B. Hinckley, "We Have A Work To Do," Ensign, (February 1988): 5).

He also tells mission presidents to rise above discouragement and see the positive of their overall mission experience: "You are going to get discouraged in this service. I have no doubt of it. I hope you do. It will humble you down a bit. There will be no arrogance in the face of discouragement. But look ahead, my dear brethren and sisters, look ahead to the years down the line and see the flowering of your effort. Because as surely as the sun rises in the morning, this work will come into flower in the missions where you serve. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 23 June 2000)."

President Thomas S. Monson says about missionary success: "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 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 always,” 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)." (Thomas S. Monson, “The Five M’s of Missionary Work,” New Era, [March 2007]: 45).

Robert D. Hales suggests devoted service and testimony can lift missionaries up: "We don't give our testimony, and lives in death in the same manner that Joseph Smith, the martyred Prophet, gave his life. Rather, we give testimony by devoted service in our lives each day to live and to strengthen others. If your missionaries can understand this principle of the gospel, it will make them successful not only on their missions but for the rest of their lives. (Robert D. Hales," Mission Presidents’ Seminar: Apostles Counsel Embarking Leaders," Church News, [2 July 1994]: 5)."

Dallin H. Oaks tell mission presidents they should lead by the Spirit: "A few years ago I heard an illuminating admission by a mission president. He was an educator by profession. When he left his professional position and took up his duties as a mission president, he brought large stacks of professional materials on training and leadership. He intended to use these materials to help his missionaries. At his first mission leadership meeting, he assigned several zone leaders to present some of these materials to the assembled missionaries.

As the meeting wore on, the mission president sensed that something important was missing. He realized, he told me later, that he was trying to accomplish his mission leadership training by following a professional model instead of by doing it in the Lord's way. He stopped a missionary in the middle of his presentation, apologized to him and to the group for making the wrong assignment, and asked a missionary to bear his testimony. As they went forward this new way, the Spirit of the Lord settled over the meeting. Testimonies and resolves were strengthened, and the necessary leadership training was given. The mission president had learned the importance of doing the Lord's work in the Lord's way. (Dallin H. Oaks, The Lord's Way, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991, pp.1-2)."

According to Joseph B. Wirthlin the key to motivating missionaries is teaching them to love the things the Lord does: "Help your missionaries see that they must come to love the things the Lord loves. Their obedience, their service, their commitment will then grow from love for the Lord and not from fear, or habit, or desire to measure up to parents' expectations.

This begins to stretch their hearts to love God's children. . . . Let us never forget that love is the essence and evidence of a true disciple. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, [Mission Presidents’ Seminar], Church News, [30 June 1990]: 4)."

Ezra Taft Benson says: "Motivate your missionaries. Let your missionaries know they are engaged in the greatest work in all the world--saving the souls of our Father in Heaven's children. Let them know they have been called by inspiration and revelation to your mission at this time for a sacred and holy purpose--for truly they have. Let them hear from your lips that they are serving exactly where the Lord wants them, that for them they are in the best mission of the Church, that you have every confidence in them and great expectations for them, that they cannot fail in this work, and that they have been called to succeed and succeed they will. (Ezra Taft Benson, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 25 June 1986)."

He also said on this occasion: "Yes, motivate your missionaries to good works. Expect excellence in their performance. Run a mission that is disciplined but abounds with love--a mission that is on fire, but is sensitive to the individual needs of missionaries.

Let them know of the joy that will fill their hearts when they have taught an investigator with love and with the Spirit, when they have given the baptismal challenge by the Spirit, and when they have seen a wonderful family enter into the waters of baptism. Let them feel of the great missionary spirit of Ammon, who brought thousands of converts into the Church and then exclaimed: "My joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God" (Alma 26:11).

Let them feel of the spirit of the modern day challenging and testifying missionary who prays every morning to "lead me this day to a family that I can fulfill my purpose. I will testify unto them by thy power without hesitancy or fear and will lead them by the power of the Spirit to baptism into thy kingdom."

Motivate your missionaries to labor with all their heart, might, mind and strength--for that is where the joy is--to go home at the end of each day "tired in the Lord" to be renewed by the Lord in the morning.

Motivate your missionaries to be obedient—not because they have to but because they want to in order to receive the blessings of the Lord and to be effective instruments in saving His children. (Ezra Taft Benson, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 25 June 1986).

I agree with John Maxwell who said: "“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I think the best way to motivate missionaries is to show genuine concern for them. Mission presidents need to remember their missionaries in their prayers and stay in touch with them. Communication between mission president and missionaries develops a relationship of caring.

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