Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Power of Slogans, Symbols, and Jingles in LDS Missionary Work

It is interesting how much power and focus mission presidents place on slogans, and symbols in the LDS missionary program. I guess since most elders and sisters have grown up with a strong indoctrination in television and the Internet that they are easily motivated by such mnemonic reminders. It really is organizationally effective to come up with themes in missions to focus elders and sisters on ways of moving toward a goal of fellowship and baptizing people in to the Church and such devices can keep their minds on the prize that the slogan or symbol represents.
In the case of missionaries it is usually the conversion of new members.

A few years ago I went to the Harvard Educational Leadership Seminar where they use Bolman and Deal's framework from their book Restructuring Organizations. The concept is that there are four frameworks in which organizational managers function: the technical, the human resources, the political and the symbolic. The technical would be the nuts and bolts of how a mission runs. The human resources would be the relationships between the mission president, the missionaries, the members and the investigators. The political would be the reporting structures in the mission and between the mission president and the church and the missionaries and the church such as ward correlation. The symbolic is some slogan, symbol or jingo used for motivational purposes.

According to Bolman and Deal a first class mission would be one in which the mission, vision and objectives are in close alignment to one another. In the case of the symbolic it would be something like the Pennsylvania Philadelphia or the West Indies Mission share which is that missionaries are Band of Brothers. The band of brothers slogan focuses on the conduct of the missionaries and if they are faithful the end result.

Sister Robison in the West Indies Mission reported on Thursday, 4 December 2008 on her blog:
One of the mottoes for the West Indies Mission is "Band of Brothers"

We can say that because we don't have young sister missionaries and us older sister missionaries are quite happy to be part of this powerful group.

There is quite a bond among the missionaries in this mission. I often overhear them ending phone calls with 'love ya brother' and I have never seen so many manly back slapping hugs in my life!

I noticed an example of this brotherly attitude towards the work of bringing souls into the kingdom as I looked over the elders' weekly success stories. The elders share a success story each week in an email to President Robison. The assistants select a few of them and send a collection back out to all the missionaries so they can see the blessings happening around the mission. I post some of them on the mission website here but wanted to share these two together to tell the a complete story.

Elder Holmstead (San Juan, Trinidad) – Well we were having a rough time in our focus area and decided to change it to a place called Bagladesh and it was so fun. We found a lot of kind people but not anyone to really baptize. Then at church, few weeks ago, a lady named Anita showed up whom we gladly went to teach, and she was amazing! She was very prepared, however, the only problem was that she got deported from Trinidad to Guyana but she said she would find the church and she did. She is one of last week’s 66, and boy am I happy. We were in Bagladesh for one reason, her being that main reason, and now she is a member!

Elder Dayton (Rose Hall 1, Guyana) (The story behind Elder Holmstead’s) We had received a referral from the office elders of a lady who was pretty much ready for baptism but had recently moved from Trinidad to Guyana. The first week we couldn’t get a hold of her and didn’t have any luck finding her. Just the other day, I saw an unfamiliar face in church so I began to talk with this lady. It took me a minute to put it together that this was the referral we couldn’t get a hold of. Right there on the spot I asked her if she wanted to be baptized after church. She responded without hesitance and a confident "yes." We did absolutely nothing but watch her be baptized...that is the definition of the Lord knowing who he wants in his church and getting them there.

When people are baptized in the mission they put up their hands and yell Hurrah for Israel. They might also break out and sing Called to Serve. In the picture above the mission president sets the example of baptizing a new member who he taught. The actually have a shuttle bus that takes large groups of people to be baptized with their families, friends, and groups of members. It is a pretty contagious movement sweeping the Caribbean where the missionaries are literally baptizing dozens of new people. Missionaries are excited and motivated to fill the bus or the ocean with the baptized and potential baptizee.

In the Daejeon Korea Mission we discover the power of using visual symbols can achieve real results:

We have several mottos and sayings in our mission that help missionaries to focus on their goals and experience continual success. In fact, President Perriton has been given the nickname by many of the Korean members of President 2Bae plus Alpha - 2Bae meaning "two times" or double, and "Alpha", meaning "plus at least one more". We had a mission goal to achieve 2Bae plus Alpha baptisms in the year 2008 over what we had in 2007, and the missionaries, wards and stakes became very familiar and excited about our goal. We came within a hair's breath of achieving the goal mission-wide, and in many areas of the mission the goal was surpassed. So we decided to repeat the goal for 2009 and created a visual reminder for missionaries and members to have and carry with them, engraved on their own little plate of brass! We distributed the medallion in either a coin or key fob style for a Lunar New Year gift. Most things on the medallion are printed in both Korean and English. The colored segments on the outside of the 2 bae plus alpha side contain the names of all of the Stakes and Districts of our mission. The scripture in the green circle is from Mark 9:23 - "All things are possible to him that believeth". The blue and red yin and yang design are typical of the unity and harmony symbol depicted on the Korean flag.(The small KDM in the center is for Korea Daejeon Mission) The Chinese character on the red half says"jung", a word that describes a perfect relationship of love and trust, the character on the blue is "il shim", meaning "of one heart and one mind". As we work together with members in these attitudes, our success grows exponentially!
It is interesting that Stephen Covey again has some inculcating power as they have chosen the slogan with their symbol of "End in Mind," which is one of the seven habits of highly effective people and ingrained in Mormon culture from his popular book. The end in mind is the bringing of souls unto Christ.

Mike Murray declares that the Most Important Missionary is You slogan and says in his official newsletter:

Dear Missionaries,

Our vision is to help BUILD THE CHURCH in the Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission by inviting others to Come Unto Christ and become proactive, temple-endowed members of the Church.

We have learned that we can only succeed in this noble vision by partnering with the leaders and members of the wards and branches in which we serve.

The most important area in the entire mission is the area in which you are now assigned. The most important missionary companionship in the mission right now is you and your companion. The most important missionary is YOU.

Why is this?

It’s because it all starts with you. The success of our mission is based on adding up the success of each missionary. Success, as defined in Preach My Gospel, is measured primarily by your commitment to find, teach, baptize, confirm and retain people. Your commitment is easily measured by observing your daily effort.

This is a mission of very high expectations. We have learned that we are all capable of doing much more than we ever imagined. Within each of us is a seed of divine greatness. We each have the extraordinary potential to become gods and goddesses in the hereafter. Achieving this potential is not a slamdunk. It requires self-mastery and development of our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual talents.

A mission of high expectations is also a mission of personal accountability. With the help of the scriptures, Preach My Gospel and the Holy Ghost, we will teach you correct principles. Your 18 months or two years of missionary service should become a personal learning laboratory – as you open yourself to new discoveries of who God is and how He desires to help you become your very best.

Personal accountability is fundamental in God’s eternal plan. We will all stand before the Lord at the last judgment and give an accounting for what we have done with the opportunities He has given us (see Alma 5:15-19; D&C 137:9). This principle of accountability will bless you if you:

• Approach your goal setting and planning with the idea that you wil account for your efforts to your mission leaders and to the Lord through prayer.
• Feel personal responsibility for the sacred trust the Lord has given you.
• Set meaningful goals.
• Choose to be proactive in accounting for your work to the Lord and to your mission leaders. Don’t wait to be asked. Don’t require others to follow up with you frequently. Have a desire to account for your labor.
• Accept full responsibility for your efforts. Never blame others for difficult circumstances or lack of progress.
• Seek to learn from your leaders, and invite them to suggest ways you can improve.
• Be motivated to do your best work.

Personal accountability is a principle that influences how you begin, how you think and feel about the responsibility the Lord has given you, how you approach your work, and how well you endure. The attitude you have toward your mission experience is a reflection of your love toward your Heavenly Father and His Son and your respect for the priesthood.

A proactive missionary will ask throughout his or her mission: “What more can I do?” You will discover that there is always more to do, and that the Lord will give you the ability, energy and insight to do it.

You have the potential of being a successful missionary every week of your mission. Choose now to make this happen. It will require diligence, perseverance, self-discipline, commitment, patience, effort, and faith.

A missionary who lacks faith might as well go home. What is faith? It is an absolute, undeniable trust that the Lord has helped you, is now helping you and will continue to help you in all that you do as a missionary. It is believing that Heavenly Father’s work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of all people. To achieve His purpose, all people must come unto Christ. He promises missionaries that He “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” (D&C 84:88).

When a missionary has this kind of faith, he or she is unafraid. They lack fear. They trust completely in God. They will “go and do” with boldness. They will dig deeper into the needs of their investigators. They will sacrifice and give all they have. They will think things, say things and do things –guided by the promptings of the Spirit and the determination to serve – that they could never have done before.
By focusing on each individual missionary he is attempting to get them to transcend themselves and do the extraordinary. Mission presidents throughout the world could emulate these three missions and their mission presidents as the focus on the symbolic aspects of missionary work in united missionaries in the cause of bringing souls onto Christ.

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