LDS Growth Encyclopedia on Missionary Work and Church Growth (Missiology)

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Preach My Gospel

Author: Matt Martinich

Posted: February 22nd, 2014

Preach My Gospel is the Church's official missionary guide and contains 13 chapters detailing the purpose of missionary work, effective gospel study guidelines, missionary lessons, teaching skills, gospel principles, effective use of time, foreign language study, investigator finding, baptismal preparation, and local leader collaboration.  The Church initially approved the manual in July 2004 and distributed it to missionaries worldwide in late 2004.  Preach My Gospel has been the Church's fifth missionary teaching resource since 1952[1] when the first standardized missionary lessons were used.  Unlike previous versions of missionary lesson manuals, Preach My Gospel emphasizes greater gospel study and testimony development among full-time missionaries as missionaries do not present lessons to investigators by route memorization.

Preach My Gospel succeeded a missionary teaching resource published in 1988 called the Missionary Guide.  The Missionary Guide was solely used by full-time missionaries and primarily provided examples of how to initiate conversations with strangers when tracting and what methods to use when teaching gospel principles and resolving concerns.  The manual was tailored for use among Westernized cultures as evidenced by role playing dialogues that encouraged indirect methods for initiating a gospel-related conversation.  Some of these methods were ineffective in some cultures such as in Russia.[2]  

The implementation of the principles and philosophy of Preach My Gospel in missions around the world has been somewhat inconsistent within its first decade of use.  In Latin America, returned missionaries have reported pervasive quick-baptism tactics, minimal member involvement in the conversion process, and no long-term vision for retaining new converts.  Many, if not most, converts in Latin American missions are children, youth, and young single adults.  To the contrary, Preach My Gospel emphasizes the importance of teaching entire families[3] and not baptizing members simply to increase membership.[4]  Preach My Gospel instructs missionaries to "work with ward leaders and members to help these new converts adjust to their new life" and that "the Church is established as people who have testimonies are baptized and confirmed, keep their covenants, prepare actively to go to the temple, and help strengthen the ward or branch."[5]  There has been little indication that these guidelines have been followed.  The Church in Mexico added approximately 300,000 members to its rolls since the introduction of Preach My Gospel yet the number of wards and branches have increased by approximately 200, indicating an average of 1,500 members per new unit organized.  There remains a significant disconnect between full-time missionaries and local church members and leaders in many areas of the world resulting in the teaching and baptism of many converts with virtually no local member and leader support.  Yet Preach My Gospel instructs that:

"iwc replica watches The ideal situation is when members invite others to be taught [by full-time missionaries] and are present for the teaching.  When members do this, more people are baptized and remain active in the Church.  Association with members is important because it softens people's hearts and often leads them to investigate the restored gospel.  This often means that they are brought into the circle of friends of Church members, including active and less-active members, recent converts, and part-member families"[6]

Notwithstanding the manual's admonition of local member and leader involvement in missionary work, chapter 13 "How Do I Work with Stake and Ward leaders?" ties with chapter 7 "How Can I Better Learn My Mission Language" as the shortest chapter in the manual, comprising a mere 10 pages in the 223 pages of text.[7]  Placement of the chapter at the end of the manual combined with the small portion of the text that addresses working with local church leaders conveys a sense of lesser importance of integrating local church leaders into the conversion process.  This has likely reinforced the disconnect between full-time missionaries and local members and church leaders as full-time missionaries turn to their own finding efforts to teach and baptize converts rather than coordinate with local members and church leaders.

Preach My Gospel is designed for full-time missionary use with some utilization among church leaders and ward or branch missionaries as they assist formal proselytism efforts.[8]  There have been several instances where church leaders have promoted the of Preach My Gospel for member-missionary work[9] although the guide was specifically created for full-time missionaries.  This has occurred largely because there is no member-missionary guidebook, thereby continuing to reinforce the common belief among Latter-day Saints that activities pertaining to missionary work - finding, teaching, baptizing, and retaining - rest on the shoulders of full-time missionaries whereas local members provide some passive support.  There remains an urgent need for the development of member-missionary resources that are specifically developed for member-missionary consumption and application.  The development of a member-missionary guide that provides specific methods for members to engage in missionary work - extending invitations, bearing testimony, answering questions, preparing friends and associates for teaching by full-time missionaries - will be critical for the future successes of member-missionary participation in the years to come.

[1]  "Missionary Work," Mapping Mormonism, p. 179

[2]  Stewart, David.  "Contextualizing the Gospel," The Law of the Harvest, retrieved 5 March 2013.

[3]  Preach My Gospel, p. 3

[4] Preach My Gospel, p. 9

[5]  Preach My Gospel, p. 10

[6]  Preach My Gospel, p. 160

[7]  Preach My Gospel, p. iii

[8]  Preach My Gospel, p. xi

[9]  Kopischke, Erich W.  "Preach My Gospel - The Unifying Tool between Members and Missionaries," General Conference, October 2012.