“Preach My Gospel”– The New Missionary Guide

December 6, 2004 | 34 comments
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The new missionary manual is out and available for browsing. In line with the move to cut down on materials, the manual serves as the gospel study source, the discussions, and the missionary study guide, with a bit more to boot. Some things I noticed:

[** since this posting, the Church has changed their internet site and so the links no longer work. I don’t know if they host the handbook somewhere else on the site or if they just decided it wasn’t for posting, either way, the links in this article no longer function **]

Per the discussion of English, those not fluent in English are to spend time each day studying it. The manual states �If you do not speak English, you should study it as a missionary. This will bless you during your mission and throughout your life. Learning English will enable you to help build the Lord’s kingdom in additional ways and will be a blessing for you and your family.� (Language is discussed in this section, scroll down a little).

Time for exercise is now an equal partner, getting its own 30 minute slot in the schedule (scroll down a little). Language study time, for those learning a foreign language, is specifically mentioned as deserving 30 to 60 minutes a day. I like this because, although exercise and language study were mentioned in the old materials, they often got put to the side for lack of more specific instruction. Of course, should one do all this study in the morning, and if one needs 60 minutes a day of language training, Missionaries will not be leaving the house until 11:00 in the morning!

The lunch hour is now for lunch and “additional study�, so maybe that’s where the language study is supposed to fit in. Also, missionaries are to head in at 9:00, unless they are teaching a lesson, in which case they are to return by 9:30. This ties up a nice loose end from the old book. I like my rules clear and well-stated.

I found the parts of the manual I looked at to be better than what I remember we had as a missionary. It seems more focused. The chapter headings are designed as questions to be answered, such as “How do I use Time Wisely?� and “What is the Role of the Book of Mormon?�. Each week, missionaries are to consider the different missionary techniques they used and decide which ones were effective and which weren’t. And then progress.

The 5 lesson headings are:

The Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

The Plan of Salvation

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

The Commandments

Laws and Ordinances

Each missionary is supposed to think through how to teach these ideas either as on overview (3-5 minutes), a short form (10-15 minutes), or the full form (30-45 minutes). Each lesson has sub-principles that include a list of scriptures for the missionary to use as he prepares his lessons. Suggested outlines are provided, but they are only suggestions. As best I can tell, lesson order is no longer important, nor does all of one lesson need to be taught in a single sitting. The goal is to prep them for baptism by covering a set of basic doctrines and having them keep the standard commitments to read, pray, etc.

All in all, I like this book. I think it could provide fruitful study for any member wanting to review some basic doctrines and get some advice on reading the scriptures and basic time management.

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34 Responses to “Preach My Gospel”– The New Missionary Guide

  1. Rosalynde Welch on December 6, 2004 at 12:40 pm

    I want to look at all this material more fully, but I think, in theory at least, it’s a good move. I like the idea of missionaries tailoring their lessons to the exigencies of personality and circumstance, which should, in the mouths of good missionaries, result in more effective teaching. In the mouths of clueless missionaries, though… I shudder to think. Last year a pair of elders were teaching the discussions to a colleague of mine from graduate school, and decided, inexplicably, to teach the fourth discussion based on the “Proclamation on the Family.” The result was disastrous, and my friend ended the discussions, unable to accept the church’s stance on homosexuality. She may have rejected the gospel for that reason no matter how or when the doctrine was introduced–but packaged in the Proclamation, together with all the gender essentialism and roles and everything, she just rejected it outright.

    Perhaps this method will train missionaries to be more sensitive to the positions of their investigators in their presentations.

  2. Ben S. on December 6, 2004 at 12:44 pm

    This new book is for the ward missionaries as well. I quite like it. IT has a small section on the Protestant reformers, and seems much less… scripted, or mechanical, which means that missionaries now must actually know what they’re talking about:)

  3. quinn on December 6, 2004 at 12:45 pm

    i think that it is great that the missionary manuel has changed…i personally always thought that the old missionary manual was very manipulative….which in turn lead to baptizing many people that had no idea what the gospel was about. Hopefully, with this new book, the missionaries can revert back to the old days where they listened to what the people said, in stead of following some formula.

  4. Rob Garrett on December 6, 2004 at 2:24 pm

    Though only able to peruse the new manual, I am pleased that some issues have been addressed. Sadly, there are what remain for me some of the same problems as before. All I have to say is that I was so happy that my mission pres. had the foresight and understanding to allow us to go without memorizing the discussions, and instead do what the new manual suggests: a “teaching by the spirit” approach. I also appreciate the more flexible daily schedule.

    What has for quite some time been a thorn in my side however, is how quickly these prospective members are pushed through the preparatory process. Does it seem like the approch the Church is taking is to first get them in and then teach them all about it? This goes against everything rational in me. Before I commit to even purchasing a television, I have to compare and understand every detail of each model. I just cannot imagine commiting to baptism after only a few meetings. I even noticed the manual directs missionaries to introduce temples and temple ordinances in the 5th discussion: which incidentally isn’t taught until after baptism. I very much appreciate the coversion processes of Judaism and the Jehovah’s witnesses, where instruction and preparation usually takes years. True this means slower growth, but retention rates would be the same or greater than they are now I believe. The only reason that I can fathom for baptizing converts so quickly is that it means less temple ordinance work to be done in the future.

  5. CJ on December 6, 2004 at 2:34 pm

    Rob,

    I would have to agree with you, although I have to figure (and hope) that the Brethren truly do know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Examples of rushing to baptism before conversion were legion in my mission, but it was the defined standard operating procedure and thus hard to avoid. It always took me aback that I was asking someone to accept the entire gospel plan and change their lives after two to three short meetings with some foreign strangers. All in all, though, from what I’ve seen of the new guide (flipping through it here at work), I think it is a step forward in allowing greater flexibility (which leaves more room for inspiration) and also requiring greater preparation from these missionaries that have passed the “raised bar” test.

  6. The Only True and Living Nathan on December 6, 2004 at 2:45 pm

    A designated exercise time. Heh. I wonder if I would have been able to fit that in, in between spending 2-3 hours biking all over Tokyo?

  7. Frank McIntyre on December 6, 2004 at 3:02 pm

    Your area covered all of Tokyo? You must be really old…

  8. Gilgamesh on December 6, 2004 at 3:11 pm

    From the way I understand it, the quick conversion rationale is based on the workings of the spirit. The spirit is strongest when a new truth is introduced, and the force of that expereicne diminishes over time. For non-members, the workings of the spirit are strongest as they hear the gospel for the first time. After that the adversary begins to gnaw away at those feelings, trying to rationalize them, which would lead to people not joining the church that may have early in the teaching process. My mission president alway explained, we need to get them baptized and get the Holy Ghost so they can take on the temptations that will come to lead them away.

    That is how I have had it explained to me, and it makes some sense.

  9. CJ on December 6, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    I can get behind that :)

  10. The Only True and Living Nathan on December 6, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    okay, not ALL over Tokyo… just the southern half of it.

  11. Charles on December 6, 2004 at 3:27 pm

    I don’t know how other Wards are doing it, but we will be making it available to all leaders and organizations with the option of every member having a copy of it. What I’ve seen is really nice.

    Yes, there is no lesson order and the final lesson regarding laws and ordinances is supposed to be intermixed with the other lessons. The idea is that by the time the 4th discussion is done, the missionaries will have touched on everything in laws and ordinances.

    Its also the new member disscusion book as well. I think it is really well done and will challenge the missionaries to really relay thier own testimonies and teaching methods rather then just reitterating a set form of discussion.

  12. Janey on December 6, 2004 at 6:46 pm

    Gilgamesh said, “My mission president alway explained, we need to get them baptized and get the Holy Ghost so they can take on the temptations that will come to lead them away.”

    It’s a nice idea, and I heard it from my mission president too, but retention remains one of the Church’s biggest problems. Perhaps the Holy Ghost doesn’t provide as much staying power as we would like.

    I think the new flexible format is a great idea. Have they gotten rid of the Missionary Manual Study Guide? Is that all folded into the same document now?

  13. Ben Huff on December 6, 2004 at 7:05 pm

    What evidence do we have that quick conversion is the intended ideal, in the minds of leaders, beyond anecdotes about this or that mission president?

    My theory about quick conversion is two-fold:
    a) there are people for whom this works great. Typically these are people who have become prepared in other ways than contact with the missionaries.
    b) otherwise, the missionaries just don’t have a very strong sense for what conversion is, and they know how to give the six discussions and baptize people who say “yes”, and otherwise they just have to hope the spirit and the members do the rest. Just having a strong grip on the doctrines and scriptures, and learning to talk to strangers about the gospel graciously, and living the mission lifestyle is already a pretty tall order for most nineteen- or twenty-one-year-olds. Then add a foreign language and culture . . . Aaaaagh!

    Plenty of missionaries in my mission had far from mastered the training materials we did have; there is only so much we can expect missionaries to digest.

    But that said, I would like to see a serious training document on understanding and helping along the conversion process. This might be theologically controversial, and it might be more than many missionaries can digest along with all the other stuff. But it would be very interesting, and some missionaries would be able to make good use of it, even be hungry for it.

    To really learn what missionaries need to know to do their job well, they either need an associate’s degree in doctrine and ministry before they go, or they need the equivalent education delivered in a semi-monastic study abroad program along the way!

    I’m excited about the new missionary guide, and I’m interested to see what’s next : )

  14. Ben Huff on December 6, 2004 at 7:17 pm

    Maybe if the missionaries get used to designing their own lessons, then we can start letting them teach more lessons beyond the standard discussions, where appropriate? In Japan we often spent three to four 60-90 minute meetings on each of the six discussions, plus in between we would often meet just to read the Book of Mormon together and talk about it.

    Anyway, the shift to tailoring the curriculum to the investigator is key IMHO. Next it would only be natural to start having a much richer discussion of how to learn what the investigator’s needs are, to be responsive to them.

  15. clark on December 6, 2004 at 8:01 pm

    I agree with Ben. A lot of the problem with missionary work is, in my humble opinion, the fault of members. (And I fault myself at that, although we’ve had a non-member move in next store)

    The other problem I think some have raised is that the discussions are a little American-centric and work better in some cultures other than others. I don’t know how the brethren are reacting to this. However I’ve read analysis for a variety of sources that our problems in Europe may be as much a problem with how we approach missionary work there as with the Europeans themselves.

    Some cultures we seem to do better in than others and I think having unique discussions for those cultures, along with aids to naive missionaries, might be very helpful. However I also recognize the problems with that not to mention the extensive trial and error associated with determining what would work… So don’t take that as a criticism. It probably is the case the brethren are trying and just haven’t quite found what works and is compatible with the gospel just yet.

    The problem as Ben suggested, is that while the ideal is targeting the discussion to the investigator, that is often very hard, especially for 19 year olds for whom a lot of what they encounter is very alien. Heavens, I went stateside and a lot of what I encoutered seemed like alien territory. On the other hand it was Louisiana…

  16. John T on December 7, 2004 at 4:56 pm

    “It’s a nice idea, and I heard it from my mission president too, but retention remains one of the Church’s biggest problems. Perhaps the Holy Ghost doesn’t provide as much staying power as we would like”

    Interesting. Are there some serious articles that discuss the retention problem? I noticed in Elder’s Quorom the sign-in sheet had several pages of names, yet only about 15 people were present. As an investigator, I think this infomation is important.

  17. Adam Greenwood on December 7, 2004 at 5:22 pm

    A decent number of people are elsewhere in the ward working, some are absent, but the majority on that list are probably no longer active in the church, which is a crying shame. We keep their names around, though, so we can contact them from time to time, hoping that some day they’ll be ready to pick up where they left off.

    We do better than most US denominations in this respect, but as the Prophet repeatedly reminds us, so what?

  18. Jeremiah J. on December 7, 2004 at 5:44 pm

    Ben: My feeling is that missionaries understand what conversion is better than most other members do, though I think few of us understand it well. In my experience, members tend to equate conversion with “continuing to be active in the church forever with a modest level of maintenence from the ward.” Missionaries tend to equate conversion with being willing to take upon oneself the name of Christ through baptism. Disciples of Christ have been and will be backsliders, as evidenced by church history and the scriptures (see Jacob 5). Falling away, especially among those who have very little socialization into the church, does not seem to me to be evidence of a faulty missionary program, or bad missionaries. But socialization into the church does not seem to be a fair requirement for bapitism. So perhaps we need to think about what constitutes a normal level of retention even as we try to double our efforts to pursue the one lost lamb.

  19. tyler durden on December 8, 2004 at 12:33 am

    a few years ago, elder bradford of the seventy came to my mission. he held up the old missionary guide, talked about being the head of the committee that produced it, and proclaimed it to be the worst thing that has ever happened to missionary work in the church.

    i don’t recall any missionary feeling a bit disappointed

  20. Anne on January 16, 2005 at 2:03 pm

    Where did the.pdf file of _Preach_My_Gospel_ go? Anyone download a copy?

  21. Thomas T. Wilson on January 19, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    I would like to share my testimony with you of the inspired nature of the new “Preach My Gospel” manual. It is no coincidence that the two brethren who were so essential in the completion of this work, Elder Haight and Elder Maxwell, held on just long enough to see its completion. By all natural explanations they both should have died years ago. The extension of their lives was miracoulous and this book is miracoulous. Some have made comments about how they think its a good idea. Of course it is, it came from God. Are you members of this church? Do you believe that President Hinkley is a prophet of God? If so, how can you question the veracity or effectiveness of this new book. And just because we have a new book doesn’t mean that the old one was wrong or bad. This is progress. Progress means change. Change requires a shift in focus from time to time. We as a people are now ready for that shift in focus. That is why it is happening now. Not because the old missionary guide was manipulative. Wake up people.

  22. Scott C. Nielson on January 20, 2005 at 10:13 pm

    I have a copy of preach my gospel that I salvaged from my temporary Internet files if you would like it Anne.

  23. Richard Nicholls on January 21, 2005 at 11:53 am

    I would like a copy of preach my gospel if possible Scott. I am a ward mission leader in Syracuse, NY and we are still waiting for out hard copies to arrive. You can send it to rnicholl@twcny.rr.com

  24. Melanie Hollenbach on January 23, 2005 at 2:04 pm

    I would also like to have a copy of the Preach My Gospel Program. I’m from Germany and Elder Perry has just introduced this program to the members of the ward and stake councils in 4 stakes. Since we will get the german translation if everything works out well in March, he told us that there would be a file on the church site but I couldn’t find it. So I would be very grateful if you could send me a copy too.
    My e-mail is: t.hollenbach@gmx.de

  25. Michael Lewis on January 27, 2005 at 2:21 pm

    Hi Scott:

    Could you send me a copy as well? I certainly would appreciate it. My e-mail address is mll1013@yahoo.com.

    Anyone know why the Church would yank this off their website? I’m not in the habit of downloading material from lds.org, because I always trust that I’ll be able to return to it.

    Thanks,
    Mike

  26. B on January 27, 2005 at 2:44 pm

    why are all your links broken (to the guide)?

  27. M. Gerlach on January 28, 2005 at 12:57 pm

    I miss “Preach my gospel” on LDS.org.
    Scott C. Nielson, can u mail a copy to me, please??

    Manfred

  28. M. Gerlach on January 28, 2005 at 12:58 pm

    Here my email: mggerlach@web.de

  29. annegb on January 28, 2005 at 2:38 pm

    There’s something in the February Ensign about this. I thought, “way to go.” Our prophet is a happening kind of guy. It’s worried me as we become so large a group that we can’t reach out personally to our leaders, as it was fairly easy to do only 25 years ago. I think this emphasis on person to person inter-action is a very good move. Well, heck, inspired.

  30. S. Silto on January 29, 2005 at 3:36 pm

    I´ve been trying also to get a hold of that famous Preach My Gospel study guide (and mainly because L. Tom Perry was in Finland and told us to go look for it) but so far I haven´t found it. Please, if someone has it please could you e-mail it to me so I can get to work ;)

  31. S. Silto on January 29, 2005 at 3:39 pm

    And my Email is eemelisilto@hotmail.com. – S.Silto

  32. D. Small on January 31, 2005 at 11:26 pm

    I’d like a copy as well, please. My e-mail is dannysmall@comcast.net.

    Thank you!

  33. Will on February 1, 2005 at 1:10 am

    Maybe if the Church doesn’t want it to be distributed, we shouldn’t distribute it?

  34. Andrew Bond on February 1, 2005 at 7:00 am

    I am a missionary and I would like to get a digital copy of “Preach My GOspel” for my missionary work as it takes time to type some passages out of the original book. Please help me and send me a copy in order I can cut and copy the lines out to it to good-looking handouts.
    And visit my site!

    Take care

    e-mail andy_abond@yahoo.ie