"A Word for the Hesitant Missionary"President Uchtdorf wrote something awesome (and relevant to us!) for this month's First Presidency message. The message, titled " A Word for the Hesistant Missionary," outlines things that every member can do in order to follow the Lord's commission to bring the gospel to others.
Really, what I think he outlines is four traits that we can start working on now that will become indispensable to us as missionaries later. Along the same lines is another article on lds.org written by a then-missionary about traits he wished he had picked up before he left. It's titled "Dear Future Missionaries."
Here is a compiled list of all of the qualities that President Uchtdorf and Caleb Porter talk about:
Be a Light - Live the commandments. It will make you happy, and when you are happy people notice it. It's the classic "How come you're so happy all the time?"
Be Conversational - Don't be afraid to bring up the church or the Gospel in casual conversation. I know that this one has always been tough for me, because I'm afraid of offending whomever I'm talking to, but it's actually quite the opposite. Most of the time, people will want to know more about your church, or even attend an activity with you if it's clear that you have a lot of fun at them. If they're a friend, they shouldn't be offended that you go to church or that you talk about it when it applies to the conversation.
Be Full of Grace - Be forgiving and kind in word and deed. As Pres. Uchtdorf says in his article, "there is so much incivility in the world today. ...Shouldn’t we, the hopeful disciples of our gentle Christ, have a higher, more charitable standard?"
Be Filled With Faith - This one is my favorite, and especially pertinent to future missionaries. It is up to us only to have faith and to testify of that faith to others. It's not our job to convert. "Brothers and sisters, have faith. The Lord can magnify the words you speak and make them mighty. God doesn’t ask you to convert but rather to open your mouths. The task of converting is not yours—that belongs to the person hearing and to the Holy Spirit."
Caleb (Elder) Porter:
Learn to Talk to People - "Talking to strangers can be hard, but it’s a reality of missionary work—you will be talking with strangers for the majority of your mission. The more you can learn to look someone in the eye and share your feelings, the greater the opportunities you will have to invite the Spirit to be a part of your conversations."
Learn to Listen and Then Act - My mom is a therapist, so I've grown up knowing the importance of active listening. Really pay attention to what people tell you. Don't think about how you're going to fix their problem or what you're going to say when they stop talking. As Brother Porter says, "instead, just listen and allow the Spirit to direct you on what you should say and when."
Learn to Follow the Spirit - I know that any missionary you ask could testify about how important it is to follow the promptings of the Spirit. As a missionary, you are on the Lord's time, not your own. It doesn't matter if you are afraid to do what the Spirit has told you to do, or if you don't understand why. The Lord is using you as an instrument to bless the lives of the people around you, and every prompting that you ignore could be a blessing that you're denying to give to someone else.
Learn to Ask Questions: This reminds me of something that I learned in my Mission Prep class a few weeks ago about the different types of questions that you can ask. I don't think I realized until then the affect that a well-timed (or poorly timed) question can have on a lesson. From Brother Porter: " from my brief observations, I have seen that successful missionaries are those who have learned the principle of listening and then asking questions that promote pondering. This approach has been much more successful for me than trying to force a conversation that is one-sided or trying to prove the truthfulness of the gospel by logic alone."
Learn to Be Bold - Brother Porter talks about the strange (at least to me) phenomenon of challenging investigators to baptism in the first lesson, but I think that being bold goes beyond just challenging investigators to be baptized. Think about the Brother of Jared and his bold faith. When he brings the smooth stones to the Lord to be lit, he sees His finger and is amazed that He has a body of flesh and bone. I think that his answer to the Lord's question "Sawest thou more than this?" is incredible: "Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me." (Ether 3:10) How bold was his faith? He asked to see more. The Lord was prepared to show him, the Brother of Jared simply had to ask. Don't be afraid to ask for more. Christ wants to be closer to us, and he wants to give us blessings and clarity and whatever else we ask for. Don't assume that He'll be angry because you asked. Be bold. And be bold with your investigators, too. Don't assume that they'll be afraid or angry if you ask them to do something that seems, well, bold.
Learn to Love - "Perhaps most important, learn to sincerely love those you will have the opportunity to teach. Pray for them, serve them, and show them that you care, and they will begin to have confidence in you as a representative of Jesus Christ." That love should start now, if it hasn't already. Find ways to serve those whom you love, pray for them and make sure that they know, without a doubt, that you love them.