When a missionary invites you to participate in a missionary discussion, it’s really easy for your mind to go straight to the discussion and what you’ll be expected to do. There are plenty of things to think about with just the discussion alone. However, there are some specific things you can do to prepare for the discussion ahead of time.
I have a theory about preparation. I think preparation (to the extent that we are capable) activates the power of the Atonement in our lives as well as the lives of those who are learning about the gospel. Check out what I’m talking about:
Ether 12:15 Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
It didn’t say that the Lamanites were changed by their own faith; it was the faith of the missionaries that changed the Lamanites.
Your faith can contribute to this investigator’s experience. You can show your faith by preparing in specific ways to help this investigator.
Reach out to the missionaries
I don’t know if this is how it is for everyone, but I remember our mission president telling us to not only invite members to come teach with us, but to prepare them as well. If the missionaries haven’t taken this step, reach out to them or ask them immediately when you’re invited to a discussion.
Ask them the name of the investigator. Ask what they plan on teaching about. Ask them if there’s any appropriate background information they can share while still being considerate of privacy. Find out if there are sensitive topics or whether there are any principles that might be especially meaningful to them.
Pray for the investigator by name
This can be so powerful. If you take the time to show Heavenly Father that this matters to you, be prepared to receive some remarkable blessings. You will be blessed with love for this person. You may be blessed with promptings about what you could share. If you pause long enough while praying, Heavenly Father might even help you know how to pray for them. You might feel inspired to pray for strength against temptation or a softened heart for them.
You will feel a deeper love for this person when you are done specifically praying for them. When you turn outward in love for someone, the Spirit becomes even more present in your life and in the discussion.
Pray for a testimony about the principles
If you’re learning about the first half of the Plan of Salvation, ask Heavenly Father for a confirmation about it (even if you’ve received one previously!). Are there any principles that you’ve never prayed about? Perhaps you’ve never actually asked Heavenly Father where you came from. These are things that can actually be life-changing for investigators.
I taught a man on my mission who seemed to feel a very strong connection to my companion and I. He was an older man who lived alone after having nursed his sick wife for years before she passed away. As we taught him the Plan of Salvation, I felt prompted to tell him that we had been friends before we met in this life. His eyes filled with tears, and he emphatically told me, “I know that’s true.”
He had been simultaneously meeting with Jehovah Witnesses at the time. Jehovah Witnesses don’t believe in a pre-earth life. As retold to me by my friend, the Jehovah Witnesses were quite taken aback by his passionate feelings towards the pre-earth life.
My point with this story is to emphasize that you never know which principle is going to be crucial to them. Gain a testimony of something that you never thought you’d need a testimony for.
Be prepared to offer an invitation
Sometimes, as missionaries, it can feel really overwhelming with everything we’re trying to invite our investigators to do. Will you be baptized? Will you give up tea? Will you pray about The Book of Mormon? Will you pray regularly? Will you go to church?
There’s a million and one things that we need to be asking them to do in order to prepare for baptism.
Imagine being in the shoes of the investigator. Maybe you’re a prepared investigator but not quite “golden.” The missionaries have just asked you to read and pray about The Book of Mormon. You don’t know these missionaries well; you’ve only met with them once or twice.
Who would you be more responsive to?
The missionaries inviting you to church
Or a completely normal person that you can sit with on Sunday inviting you to church
I can assure you; investigators respond really well to members inviting them to church (especially when it’s backed up with a brief 1-2 sentence testimony of how it blesses your life). Members are simply more relatable than missionaries. Missionaries are expected to go to church every Sunday. Their entire lives revolve around the gospel. Investigators may not see how much church can bless their life until they hear it from someone who is in a similar life circumstance to them. It can be a really casual thing, and you can let the missionaries know you want to do it.
Just as you’re walking towards the door and saying goodbye, just throw out a “Hey, by the way, church is this Sunday at 9:00 am. I know it’s early, but it’s definitely been worth it in my life. Would you want to come? We can meet there, and you can sit with me.”
Trust me. The missionaries will be delighted.
Invite the Spirit into your life
Last, but certainly not least, take the time to invite the Spirit into your life throughout the day. There’s no better companion than the Spirit. There’s no better way to invite the Spirit than to do so carefully and consciously throughout the day.
The Lord is aware of our circumstances and how much time and space we’ve been given to prepare. He will be with you as you strive to prepare with whatever circumstance you’re given.