Mission preparation is more than nailing the look and getting to the MTC on time. Many missionaries find out during their first few days in training that they probably should have done a bit more mental and spiritual preparation before worrying about their sturdy shoes and whether that favorite T-shirt met mission standards.
Thankfully, Preach My Gospel, the primary resource for active missionaries, is available to all members. The book, a replacement for the old rote lesson manuals, is intended for teaching potential investigators. This resource actually serves as the official, fully doctrine-based manual for missionary service as a whole.
As stated in the Introduction chapter, titled “How Can I Best Use Preach My Gospel?”, “All of the chapters in Preach My Gospel will help prepare you to fulfill your purpose as a missionary…. Study the chapters throughout your mission. Apply what you learn. Evaluate your work. Missionaries who strive to prepare themselves daily and seek to improve regularly will receive direction from the Holy Ghost and see blessings in their lives.” Preach My Gospel contains the scriptural doctrine behind essential skills, along with study guides and application activities to address fundamentals of missionary work.
While all of these chapters deserve prayerful study and open discussion, missionaries who have served or who are currently serving have special insight into which chapters they wish they’d looked at more closely before reporting.
A sister missionary from Hawaii, Marcia Makaya, says she wished she’d taken time to study “Chapter 13: How Do I Work with Stake and Ward Leaders”.
“When I attended my first Ward Council meeting as a missionary, I really wished I’d known what went on there and what my role was,” Sister Makaya, who is currently serving in the Arizona Mesa Mission, says. This chapter also shares important information on stewardship responsibilities, and directs missionaries on priesthood duties relating to investigators, new members and less active members.
Also serving in Mesa is Sister Kaela Lloyd of Bancroft, Idaho, who believes “Chapter 6: How Do I Develop Christlike Attributes?” is essential for missionary preparation.
“We report for the mission to be representatives of Jesus Christ,” she says, “but this doesn’t happen without real practice. If more missionaries prepared by studying these attributes, the only culture shock would be missing their moms, not suddenly changing their behavior.”
Andrew Nicoll, who returned from serving in the Texas San Antonio Mission in 2012, reflects back on how helpful it would have been to study principles of spiritual direction in “Chapter 4: How Do I Recognize and Understand the Spirit?”
He says, “Getting an early start on learning about what personal revelation is would have been a huge help.” Scriptures in each of these chapters give specific doctrine applicable to the topic and effective use of the spiritual skill.
Charles Beckert, psychologist and marriage counselor (now retired), worked with struggling missionaries during his years with LDS Family Services.
“You need to use right tools for the right job,” he says. “Serving a mission requires a surprising set of skills, some of which don’t come to mind until [missionaries have] been in the field a few months. The tools, however, have always been there. They just need to know they have them and when to apply them.”
Preach My Gospel was produced to equip missionaries with the tools and the knowledge for effective missionary work. It’s never too early to integrate these true doctrines for missionary preparation.