Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Differing Levels of Being a Preach My Gospel Missionary: Possible Source of Mission Hierarchy

I think an interesting certification process being done in the Arizona Phoenix Mission makes a good discussion for today's blog. By examining it I am not calling in to question what is being done in a specific mission under inspiration, however, I am examining it in light of barriers to learning that some like myself experienced on a mission in the past and would if called in the future. Maybe for this mission at this specific time with the learning style of the learners it is an effective method. I don't know if it is transferable to other places nor if it comes from higher up.

I have often wondered the rationale of leaders for establishing ways of selecting people for positions. I was taught while working on a doctorate degree in education that it is basic human nature that someone will end up on top i.e. using marbles instead of money as source of barter. Even in learning we give respect to those who have advanced degrees or doctorates as being intellectually superior. I recently came across a mission that awards a missionary's mastery of the Preach My Gospel manual as being a way to separate the men from the boys. There are level 1, level 2, level 3, level 4, and level 5 Preach My Gospel Missionaries.

I don't fault the mission president since we come from a highly competitive society in the United States. In some countries they don't measure achievement with standardized tests like we do but have a more collaborative approach. I don't want to get in to the merits of both systems since there are pluses and minuses to each. In learning how to do a technical process the update method is considered superior. In an analytical process when you delve in to self-actualization and philosophical dimensions there is evidence for the Bloom Taxonomy. I only read the briefest of accounts so I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say he is acting under inspiration and probably he does both in his approach.

When I was a missionary you had to know your Rainbow Discussions one hundred percent word perfect or you would have languished as a junior companion for your whole mission. I was very happy when they went to a more open form of learning where you could literally keep them open which took a lot of pressure off of missionaries. With the newer Preach My Gospel program missionaries now learn key concepts and can hit the mission on the fly. I was impressed that the leaders discovered that the Spirit was a better way to go with a simpler degree of memorization that concentrated on the first principles or basic principles of the gospel. It is not always clear that mastery of content means that a person can intuitively use what they know in real life applications.

I came across a mission that rewards missionaries for their level of proficiency in knowing the Preach My Gospel manual. In the Arizona Phoenix Mission they have five levels of proficiency. I am not sure of the requirements but I would have to assume it has to do with scripture mastery and rote memorization of the manual. If you have the ability to learn I think it is probably a way to get missionaries to continue to immerse themselves in the manual.

President Paul Beck writes:
In the mission we give our missionaries an opportunity to increase their knowledge of the scriptures and Preach My Gospel (an inspired study guide on how to preach the gospel). We have 5 different levels of recognition they receive on their path to being a Gospel certified missionary. We have had an increase of missionaries who are pushing themselves to receive their recognition. Three have reached level 5.
I think it is a very hard certification when only three missionaries can achieve the highest level. I think there must be something about achieving it and I am sure missionaries must be proud to receive their certificates at the various levels. What about those who can't? What must they feel?

I think all three of my daughters who have served missions would have had little problem getting to the top levels. I on the other hand would have probably gotten only the first or second level. I suspect that certification is tied to callings in the mission and I would have probably been a junior companion or maybe at best a co-companion since now it is more politically correct to make an elder or sister out over a certain period of time a co-companion so as not to demoralize them for the rest of their lives like I was.

I am sure since only three have been awarded the highest level there must be many at the 3, and 4 level who hold leadership positions. I wonder if there are any at the level 1 or level 2 that are district leaders, zone leaders, or assistants to the president.

I read the mission president's description of his calling where he says where much is given much is required. I feel for his particular mission this is probably an inspired program. As an adult educator who realizes though that a few will have learning challenges and even with a doctorate today I would still flunk out on rote memorization that a few elders and sisters will inevitably be at the bottom of the certification chain like me. In a few years when I go on a couple's mission I will check to make sure I don't serve in a mission where I would feel less than one of the best. Otherwise I will have to suck up my pride and admit kids a third my age are just plain intellectually superior which just might be the case.

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