This last Sunday we had the Primary Program in our ward and I must say that surprisingly I enjoyed it. To be completely honestly never really got a kick out of primary programs before the mission... lack of spiritual maturity I think caused me to think they were boring and silly. (Sorry to all you primary program participants and/or lovers but don't worry I've repented and my opinion since then has greatly changed). Months ago I read something about President Kimball in which he was asked, ¨What do you do when you're in a boring Sacrament Meeting¨ and he responded, ¨I don't know I've never been in one.¨ Wow! That hit me big time and made me realize that its all about our attitude as an audience that affects what we get out of a Sacrament meeting or class or primary program or anything for that matter. If we go Sacrament meeting with the right attitude and with a profound desire to learn then we will feel the Spirit and we will learn important and relevant things for our lives regardless of the speaker because the Spirit will be our teacher. I have been applying that principle and it has worked very well... even for the Primary Program! What a beautiful experience it was to see sweet and tender children of God sharing simple Gospel truths. I felt a wonderful spirit of love and happiness as they sang and shared their little messages. Most of all there was part where the mothers sang with their children of prayer and then they all sang Families Can Be Together Forever. In those two moments I felt a sweet confirmation of the Spirit that God really is there and hears and answers every child's prayer and knew that my family and I will be together forever. Primary Programs really are wonderful experiences.
Elder Mestre taught us several solid and important principles that really opened my eyes and helped me improve. It really was just what we needed. There is no way I'll be able to share everything but I will share the basic most important things he taught and what most impacted me. He taught us how to improve our teaching skills, study, and to focus on the doctrine and principles.
Three key teaching skills are to use the scriptures, ask inspired questions, and listen. In order to use the scriptures in an inspired and non-mechanic repetitive way, it is essential that we study and treasure the words of Christ in our minds (D&C 84:85) and then the Spirit will whisper to us what scripture we need to use for each investigator depending on their needs, interests, and circumstances. Obviously the Holy Ghost can't draw water out of an empty well thus we must do our part. Once we've done our part and keep doing our part of daily feasting up the words of Christ (2 Nephi 32:3) and treasuring it up and we have the scripture that we're going to use, PMG teaches us that there are three steps to using a scripture 1. Introduce 2. Read 3. Apply. Everyone knows step 2 and 99% know step 3 but almost everyone skips step 1 they just jump right into the scripture without setting it up. You have to help them understand the context of the scripture or else it won't have as much meaning to them. That is one of the most common mistakes I have seen and it really is necessary because it makes a big difference in the effectiveness of steps 2 and 3. Before reading the scripture do as PMG 180 says ¨Describe briefly the background of the passage you will use. Invite the investigator to look for particular points in the passage.¨ If you ask them a question before reading the passage to guide them then they will be more focused and pay attention looking for the answer while reading it and then when you ask the same question after reading they will be able to answer and that brings in the application quite nicely. For example before reading Moroni 10:4 you set it up explaining that Moroni was the last prophet writing in the Book of Mormon before he buried it and he makes us a promise of how we can know that its true. While reading this passage think about how God wants us to pray to Him. Then you read and then you ask them so how should we ask God if its true (Oh with a sincere heart and with real intent and faith in Christ) Exactly so when you read this and then pray... then you go into the application and then get it really well. Elder Mest
re invited us to memorize scriptures for each principle that we teach so that we won't just repeat the same ones over and over again but that it will be according to their needs and what the Spirit indicates. (He gave a great example of that because in all three places where he taught he cited various different scriptures word for word depending on what the missionaries in those zones needed. Elder Magill and I were quite impressed and it inspired me to improve in my knowledge of the scriptures.)
Asking inspired questions is all about prompting thought, soul searching, and commitment. We need to help them ponder and apply the principles we teach them through questions that we ask. Elder Mestre invited us all to highlight and analyze every single question that we see while studying the scripture to learn how we can formulate better questions as well. One of the biggest problems that many missionaries have is that they forget about this line in PMG ¨Avoid asking questions that: ...Pertain to doctrines that you have not taught yet.¨ For example lots of missionaries know they should ask questions so they think that a great way to start off a lesson is to ask (before having taught any doctrine) ¨So what's prophet to you?¨ or ¨What does faith mean?¨ This often leads to them feeling uncomfortable because they don't know or they try to make something up or they say something that is totally left field and after they've talked for 5 minutes (about how their grandpa is so smart he's like a prophet to them really) you have to steer them back to the lesson. It is so much better to begin teaching in simple and direct terms and using a scripture to back up your words and then ask them, ¨Based on what we've taught, in your own words what is faith (a prophet, etc)?¨ Then they feel comfortable and you can see their progress and understanding of the doctrine you're teaching.
After asking inspired questions and always while the investigators are talking we need to listen with great love and real intent. They need to feel that we really care about them and we're not just thinking about what to say next. Shut off the thinking and calculating part of your brain while they speak and don't stress... just listen with love and trust in the Spirit and trust in this wonderful promise by Elder Holland, “More important than speaking is listening. These people are not lifeless objects disguised as a baptismal statistic. They are children of God, our brothers and sisters, and they need what we have. Be genuine. Reach out sincerely. Ask these friends what matters most to them. What do they cherish, and what do they hold dear? And then listen. If the setting is right, you might ask what their fears are, what they yearn for, or what they feel is missing in their lives. I promise you that something in what they say will always highlight a truth of the gospel about which you can bear testimony and about which you can then offer more. … If we listen with love, we won’t need to wonder what to say. It will be given to us—by the Spirit and by our friends” (“Witnesses Unto Me,” Ensign, May 2001, 15; italics in original). After reading this to us, Elder Mestre pointed out the word ¨always¨ ¨What does always mean?¨ He asked us. He then explained that Elder Holland is a Prophet of God and what he says is law and is a promise that we can rely on. Every single time we listen to them with love we will know what to say. It really is true and that is when you teach people not lessons and they progress.
Most of all he helped us understand that we must teach doctrine and principles not just applications in companionship study, district meetings, and lessons (D&C 43:8, D&C 50:22, D&C 88:77). We should never just tell people what they have to do. We must teach them the doctrine of Christ and when they understand it they will naturally desire to apply what they've learned and live the doctrine.
Love you all,