Last night we went to visit a new investigator whom we've only visited once before. A member had shown us his home a couple of weeks earlier and we had briefly taught him about Jesus Christ and His role as our Savior. That first lesson went well, and so as we talked about what we were going to teach him last night and knowing we wouldn't have much time we decided to leave him with a book of Mormon. He was excited to see us and after coming in and sitting down I explained that we wanted to start our message with a scripture from the Bible. Glancing around the room I noticed a few books on the table next to me but I could tell that none of them were a Bible so I asked him if he could bring his. My companion leaned over in front of me and started to scrutinize the books on the table, and I wanted to tell him that I'd already looked and there wasn't a Bible there. As he squinted his eyes to read one of the titles he whispered to me "Elder, what's the name of that book right there?" and after turning my head I noticed a very old, tattered, but clearly visible blue book with gold letters. How I missed that I don't know, and how we didn't establish in an earlier lesson how he had been visited by the missionaries 8 months previous and had already been given a Book of Mormon makes me feel a little embarrassed. I was ready to teach this man all about a book that he already knew about because I hadn't asked him the right questions to get to know him before. Now granted, that's a pretty simple mistake that could have happened to anyone, but what really makes me feel small is that this isn't the first time it's happened.
About a month ago we taught a woman who was preparing for baptism about tithing. Her husband had been a member for many years and after being taught by the missionaries for many years she was finally ready. I knew that their family was struggling a lot financially and so we shaped our lesson on tithing to help strengthen her faith and convince her of the blessings that would come if she lived it. After teaching her for 20 minutes we asked her if she was ready to live that law, to which she replied, "Elders, I've been paying a full tithe for more than two years now."
'Sheepishness' is a pretty good word to describe my feelings in that instance.
Thankfully my simple follies didn't cause any problems with our investigators and I can laugh at them now, but it helped me to realize that I need to do a better job at listening to our investigators and the Spirit. There may be a time, and in fact I'm sure there will be, when someone whom we're teaching is going to need a specific answer or teaching because of something that's going on in their life. Sometimes the factor that determines whether or not someone will continue to listen to or accept our message is determined by how well we as missionaries do our job to listen, discern, and fill the need that they have in the very moment that they need it. Now if that doesn't make someone at least a little nervous about their calling as a missionary nothing will. When I think about how crucial it is that we as missionaries do the right thing at the right time I'm reminded of the words of my mission president when he says, "No pressure Elder, just don't screw up".
Thanks president, real comforting.
As I think about it though, it makes sense to me now why it's so important for missionaries to be worthy of and teach with the Spirit. In order for someone to overcome the obstacles in front of them and unite themselves with the perfect gospel they really do need to be taught perfectly by perfect teachers. Missionaries are supposed to learn and practice to become better teachers every day, but despite our best efforts every once in a while we'll fall short simply because we're imperfect beings. That's why our Heavenly Father, the real perfect teacher, has promised to give us His perfect spirit to make up for our imperfections as we teach-so long as we are worthy of it. I testify of the importance of being worthy and ready to let the Spirit guide our lives, because without Him we can't be the effective builders of The Kingdom that the Lord wants us to be.
Anyways until next time everyone remember that God gave you one mouth and two ears for a reason. ;)