While on my mission, I attended a zone conference at which my mission president gave a workshop on leadership. He drew two columns on the chalkboard, and on one side, he listed the things a good leader does, and on the other, the things a great leader does. I still have my notes from that day. Many years later, I thought I could use the same approach for teenagers, but instead of using “good” and “great,” I thought I’d compare “ordinary” with “extraordinary.” The result was the little book, How to Be An Extraordinary Teenager. A year or so later, I wrote another book using the same idea, How to Be An Extraordinary Missionary. The only problem with a title like that is it makes it sound as if I, as the author, had achieved “extraordinary” status. No, I was fairly ordinary, but I hope I had some extraordinary moments and learned some extraordinary things.
Last month while speaking in Draper, someone told me about their favorite chapter in the extraordinary missionary book. Here’s that chapter excerpted from How to Be An Extraordinary Missionary:
Ordinary missionaries know what they’re supposed to teach. They have the concepts and the scriptures in mind, and they know how to present the gospel in an organized way. They know the order of the lessons backward and forward. They become so good at teaching lessons that their scriptures practically fall open to the verses they need at the right time. Their focus is on the principles, the scriptures, and the examples. They enjoy teaching the lessons and wish they could do it more often.
Extraordinary missionaries love the lessons as well, but they know that who they teach is more important than knowing what to teach. They don’t just “teach lessons” or “share a message.” They teach people the lessons or share a message with people. Sure, they know what they’re supposed to teach. But their focus is not as much on the topics, principles, and scriptures as it is on the people— their problems, hopes, and desires to find the truth. Extraordinary missionaries always focus on the families or individuals they teach, with a prayer in their hearts. They ask for discernment, guidance, and inspiration to teach the people they meet with kindness, sensitivity, and power. They know that their investigators are the reason they learned the lessons in the first place. Extraordinary missionaries know that the old saying is true: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee. – Alma 31:35