Friday, June 6, 2008

To Be A Good Leader as a Missionary You Must Learn to Be A Good Follower

On 13 September 1994 President Howard W. Hunter gave the first telecast by a president of the church to the full-time missionaries gathered throughout the world from the MTC in Provo, Utah. During this historic broadcast he said:

"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."

I wholeheartedly agree that we must all learn to be good followers and learn obedience on our missions and how to follow our leaders. I recently had an email interchange with a mission president that spoke about obedience to a rule. I was impressed that he would follow every rule to the letter. I commended him knowing he must be a good mission president. Mission president have to lead by example. As a librarian I know a lot about following rules. We have rules for everything and procedures. Many times as a missionary I wondered about some of our rules. I heard many missionaries say you can always get forgiveness but you can't always get permission. Now that I look back on that I realize that is a bad attitude to have.

I don't care how long you are a junior companion you need to learn to follow your senior companion. You need to master being the best junior companion you can be. If you want to be a great senior companion you need to learn how to be a great junior companion.

I had a problem with obedience as a missionary which I never was able to overcome. My mission president told me at about my half way point that I would never be a senior companion unless I learned to get along with my companions and I learned the discussions one hundred percent word perfect. I figured he would eventually give me a break but he was deadly serious about it. I ended up a junior companion for two years. I was never a senior companion, district leader or zone leader. I was the companion to a couple of district leaders and for some strange reason a zone leader briefly for a few weeks. I had eleven missionary companions which means I averaged a companion every two months and only repeated companions three times with one missionary named Harry Lodholm. I had companions that lasted one day and none more than my first companion in Italy which was five months at one time.

You don't know what a heavy burden it is to know you aren't leadership material and can't even hack it as a junior companion. I guess my mission president was inspired to never make me a senior companion because the truth of the matter was that I always thought I knew more than my senior companions, district leaders, and zone leaders. I figured how much could a missionary out three months know that was miraculously made my leader when I had been out eighteen months. I wish I had had a photographic memory or had been a cracker-jack memorizer but alas no luck. Hotshot missionaries jumped over me within weeks. It is a humbling experience. I never passed off my discussions one hundred percent word perfect but they became my senior companion. One guy was out three weeks when he became my senior companion.It is a lesson you carry with you your whole adult life when you are passed over for church callings you think back to your mission and know if you had just mastered being an obedient junior companion your ability later in life might have been different. My mission president called me in one day and prophesied to me that my mission would be a mini-life "Whatever you attain on your mission you will attain in life." I figured I would be divorced a dozen times and be an elder until I died. Don't make the mistake I did of kicking against the pricks as Elder Ballard so wisely told me. Follow what President Hunter said and you will have a more pleasant experience. Suck it up and be obedient so that when you are a fifty year old man you won't look back on your mission with regret knowing you just didn't have what it takes to be a good missionary.

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