San Pedro Sula East Mission
2013 - 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The First Twelve Weeks of a Mission

What you Should Know about the First Twelve Weeks of a Mission - 

One of the fairly recent additions to missionary work across the world is the program entitled "The First 12 Weeks for New Missionaries and their Trainers".  It came about after the age limit was lowered to 18 years old for men of the Church and 19 years old for the women.

As the MTC's (Missionary Training Centers) across the world were reaching their capacity for receiving new missionaries, the time a new missionary spent in training in these facilities was decreased tremendously.  In most instances, new missionaries learning a foreign language now spend no more than 6 weeks in the MTC.  Those not learning a new language usually have a 10 day length of stay.

These circumstances lend great importance to the first 12 weeks a missionary spends in their assigned mission with a new trainer.  It's important that those first 12 weeks be the most productive and beneficial that they possibly can.

I personally have a great testimony of this program.  While is was developed for training new missionaries, this is a program that benefits each missionary in the field continuously.

Live by the Whisperings of the Spirit . . .

One of the greatest roles of a trainer for a new missionary is to help their new companion seek for and heed the promptings of the Spirit.  This begins in the MTC training and is carried forward right into the mission field.  

As missionaries we invite increasing numbers of people "to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end". (Preach my Gospel, pg1)  That is a great charge and sacred responsibility as called representatives of Jesus Christ.  It can only be accomplished through being familiar with the gift of the Holy Ghost and heeding the promptings that come to us.  

Prepare to Become a Trainer - 

An additional part of "The First 12 Weeks" program is to prepare newly arrived missionaries to become trainers themselves for the missionaries that will follow them.  It has also been known to occur that a missionary might be called upon to train a newly arriving missionary before they have even completed 12 weeks in their assigned mission!  Therefore, it is even more vital to be attentive and diligent during this time as a Mission President may need to place a young missionary in a position to train another very early on in their missionary service. 

As I mentioned above, I have a great testimony and love for this program.  I love to use the lessons found within the program to augment my own personal scripture and gospel study.  

I thought I would take you through some of the basic principles found within this small booklet, very inspired by our prophet and the Quorum of the Twelve.  

(P-Day means preparing cookies for our upcoming Christmas Zone Conferences - a little 
help from our Sister Training Leaders)

(I also love their help with Christmas preparations for the Mission Home!)

An Introduction to the First 12 Weeks - In-Field Training for New Missionaries - 

The training begins with a review of basic principles that are important for missionaries everywhere, principles such as:

  • Be obedient to mission rules and the direction contained in the Missionary Handbook
  • Love, serve and listen to your companion
  • Eagerly participate as a fully contributing member of your companionship.
  • Focus your study on helping your investigators prepare to make and keep covenants.
  • Stay anchored in the scriptures and Preach my Gospel.
  • Learn to effectively teach the doctrines in Preach my Gospel, chapter 3
  • Conduct effective daily and weekly planning according to the Spirit, seek revelation
  • Follow the training schedule of the booklet, The First 12 Weeks

Additional 60 Minutes of Companionship Study - 

Each missionary companionship during the first 12 weeks of a newly arrived missionaries service is expected to spend an additional hour after personal time and companionship study time to review and follow closely the 12 weeks of lessons found within the booklet.  When this period is over, companion study will return to the regular 60 minutes per day.  Usually for our missionaries this occurs in the mornings beginning at 10:00 am.  Missionaries not participating in this program with a new missionary leave their houses and begin proselytizing at this time. 

(A glimpse of some of our First 12 Weeks training sessions that we do with missionaries and trainers)

Language Study - 

All missionaries without regard to their nationality or length of time in the mission, serving outside of the United States in a country where English is not the primary language, spend an additional 30-60 minutes each day in language study.  For those learning the language of the country where they are serving this is important study time!  They receive booklets and study guides to follow to help them become acquainted quickly with the language they will be teaching with their investigators and companions. It's an important time to practice discussions and terminology of the Church and doctrine of the Church found in Preach my Gospel.

For missionaries learning English, which should be ALL missionaries who do not already speak English, they also are learning a language and should spend 30-60 minutes daily practicing English from the study guides and booklets provided to them from the missionary department.  All missionaries who do not have English as their primary language have an opportunity at the end of their missionary service to take an International English Spoken Language exam that will certify them at a certain level of English.  This will enable them to more than double their earning power in many countries of the world, enabling them to better support and serve their families and bless their Church service throughout the world.

Accountability to the Mission President and to the Lord - 

Missionaries participating in the 12 weeks program, both the trainer and the newly arrived missionary are accountable to the Mission President for their progress in the program.  It is essential that you report what you are learning.  You should also report how what you are learning is helping you to accomplish your missionary purpose.  

Also, very important, at the end of everyday, to give an accountability to the Lord, what you are doing with the time He has blessed you with during the period of your sacred calling.  

Missionary service is a privilege and great responsibility!

The Basics of Companion Study - 

During your personal study time and companionship study time it's important to focus your studies on the needs of your investigators, thinking of each one individually, what their needs are, what their understanding of gospel principles is, how they are progressing, what do they lack to be prepared for baptism?  All of this under the direction of the Spirit.  

A successful missionary will use this time to improve their capacity to serve the Lord, not to simply cover the material.  

The basics of companion study include:

  • Beginning with prayer
  • Reading three pages of the Missionary Handbook (and discussing how you can implement these guidelines better into your daily routine!)  
  • Sharing what you felt through the Spirit in your Personal Study time.
  • Preparing and planning to teach the investigators you are meeting with that day
  • Completing the items listed on the weekly lessons of the First 12 weeks booklet

Lesson Schedule - The First 12 Weeks - 

The lessons included in the booklet invite missionaries to study specific chapters from Preach My Gospel as well as the eight "Fundamentals" from Preach my Gospel, which are referred to as "Fundamentals from Preach My Gospel: Teaching More Effectively".

Through following the program closely, missionaries gain a greater understanding of the power of the scriptures, the importance of, and improved use of Preach My Gospel, and discover wonderful
scriptures that go along with all their teaching lessons.

Along the way there are opportunities to check your progress through completing a self assessment.

Check Your Progress - 

Personally, I love the self-assessments.  Missionaries have an opportunity to think and ponder on how they are coming along in their knowledge and skills of missionary work.

There are a total of 44 assessment questions to ponder during your personal and companion study and first 12 weeks training.  They provide a great opportunity to discover where you should focus most of your attention during your study time.  

Some of my favorite assessments to ponder are - (you evaluate yourself and give yourself a score 1-5)

  • I seek to help others strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ as I teach.
  • I try to notice spiritual impressions and ideas that come to my mind and heart as I teach.
  • My investigators know how the Holy Ghost operates so that they recognize answers to their prayers.
  • I invite my investigators to pray to know the Book of Mormon is true.
  • My investigators understand how to keep the Sabbath day holy.
  • I listen carefully in order to discern the thoughts and needs of my investigators.
  • I help others to make commitments out of a desire to draw closer to the Lord, not out of obligation to me
  • My investigators understand my role in helping them receive the blessings of the gospel and of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
(Practicing our Preach my Gospel Skills in a search activity!)

Fundamentals from Preach My Gospel: Teaching More Effectively

And finally, my favorite part of the First 12 Weeks program . . . the study guide that introduces the most important fundaments found in Preach my Gospel. The fundamentals that teach some of the core doctrines and practices of the Church.  Some of the very most important principles that make our Church different from all other churches that are present on the earth today.

It All Begins with the Doctrine of Christ - 

And that is a topic for another whole blog post . . . as I couldn't begin to do it justice with one short paragraph.  

In fact each one of the following topics that are found in the study guide could be the focus and is the focus of a weeks worth of study for each missionary around the world as they enter their assigned mission service.

  • The Doctrine of Christ - The Missionary Purpose
  • The Role of the Holy Ghost in Conversion
  • Revelation Through Prayer
  • Revelation through the Book of Mormon
  • Revelation through Church Attendance
  • Teach People, Not Lessons
  • We invite, They Commit, We Follow up
  • How to Begin Teaching

So there you have it . . .

The principles of the training program for missionaries across the world.  An inspired and revealed program through the apostles and prophets.  I can share my witness that these principles bless the lives of those who spend their time in diligent study and practice.

The have the power to change your life not just during your missionary service but to bless your life forever.

I want to finish with some of the words of a favorite prophet of the Book of Mormon, Nephi.

   Wherefore, the things which I have written suffice me, save it be a few words which I must speak concerning the doctrine of Christ; wherefore, I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying.
   For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding. (2 Nephi 31:2,3)

Our Heavenly Father does bless us with His Light when we seek it.  He blesses His missionaries.  He sends His angels to surround them, His Holy Spirit to lift them, to guide them, to direct their missionary efforts through their worthiness.

Missionary work is a great privilege.  And we are grateful for an opportunity to serve our Heavenly Father and be His hands it this great work.

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