Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mission Presidents Shouldn't Be Ashamed If They Don't Know the Answer

Thomas S. Monson gave some interesting advice to mission presidents in his self-published autobiography On the Lord's Errand:
President [J. Reuben] Clark [Second Counselor to President David O. McKay], in his message [to us], suggested that a mission president should not, in response to questions, be embarrassed to say, "I don't know." He said, "We get in difficulty if we think we know all the answers." He then illustrated with an experience from his own life concerning a mission president who had brought an investigator to visit with President Clark, the investigator having about ten questions unanswered. To each question, President Clark had responded, "I don't know."

He then said, "Brother Monson, if a member of the First Presidency can answer don't know" to ten consecutive questions, a mission president should not hesitate to respond, I don't know.' He may then send the question to the First Presidency but should not be surprised if he receives an answer back that we don't know, either. There are many things that the Lord has not yet revealed to the First Presidency."
It stands to reason that even mission presidents encounter questions to which they don't have the answer. I know for a fact that many times leaders just make the best response they can which might or might not be accurate. It might cause less problems if we could just say "I don't know."


S.Faux said...

"I don't know," has an undeserved bad reputation. In fact, it is one of the best answers that teachers can ever give. Such an answer speaks volumes in terms of honesty. In a way it says, "When I do have answers, I have real justification for making them." It says, "I have more studying to do, and so do you." It says, "I am not omniscient and I don't pretend to be." Sometimes it says (depending upon the context): "Your question is out of line." Other times it says, "Great question. I have not thought about that before."

The phrase "I don't know" is among the most powerful three words in the teaching world. Gospel Doctrine teachers ought to try it, maybe more often. Idle speculation accomplishes little, unless the goal is to run in circles.

Thanks for the reminder. I will try to use the phrase several times today.

Clean Cut said...

Amen. Important point.