It was early in 2000 in the Arimo Idaho Stake. My companion and I, through hard work and prayer, found ourselves teaching 10 different families. We had great relationships with them. They were all great families. However, their progress was slow.
We couldn't figure out why, but kept at the work. We did everything the two of us could do to tailor each visit to the family's individual needs. Each visit, we hoped, would be the big step to baptism, and each visit seemed only a mini-step in their progression.
It wasn't for another 15 years that I would realize that everything we were teaching, though good, didn't really matter. Don't get me wrong, what missionaries teach is important, but what we were teaching didn't matter to the people it needed to matter to, the investigators.
Our voices were nothing more than little finger cymbals tinkling away in the background. It wasn't that we didn't love them, for we did love them dearly. It was that we had not worked to instill them the testimony of the Holy Ghost. We were so busy teaching STUFF, that we neglected to make them aware of the Holy Ghost, much less encourage them to learn by it. How could we overlook such an important step in their conversion?
RECOGNIZING THE HOLY SPIRIT
Everybody in the church has heard, and knows that conversions only happen through, and by the Spirit. But how do we as members and missionaries make that happen?
I can only really speak from my own experience. When I investigated the church I remember the Elders excitedly pointing out every time I felt the Spirit. When I expressed that I felt the Book of Mormon made sense, they told me, "That feeling, that's the Spirit telling you it's true." Looking back, I recognize the power that recognition had on me. It was the most important thing they told me during the entire two weeks they taught me.
So, how does a missionary recognize the Spirit? A seminary teacher, Brother Richardson was teaching a class I was sitting in on, and he told the class that there were angels in the room. He stated that he could not see the angels themselves, but could see their effect upon the class. That was how he knew.
So, as a missionary, future missionary, member missionary, it is vital that you yourself learn to see the effect of the Holy Spirit on others. Learn to recognize the Holy Ghost when it sets upon yourself and others. Maybe the best place to make this observation is in church. As you attend your classes, pay attention to those AHA! moments people have. Pay attention to the effect the Spirit has on members during fast and testimony, when it hits them strong and their emotions overflow.
ITS NOT A COMMANDMENT, ITS A FACT
Remember D&C 42:14 "And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach."
Begin your lessons (long before your lesson) with the prayer of faith, meaning faith "nothing wavering" (James 1:6) that the person you are teaching has the will, desire, and ability to progress, receive the Spirit, and gain a testimony. (Don't underestimate them!)
Then remember that the second part of that scripture isn't a commandment, it's a fact. If you don't have that faith, you won't have the Spirit. If you don't have the Spirit, nothing you teach will matter to your investigator.
Lastly, Study how to recognize and teach by the Spirit from the Prophets and Apostles. They are truly your second greatest source of inspiration (the first being the Spirit himself.)
As you learn to teach by the Spirit, I promise you that teaching will change for you. What was once a struggle will be an open door, and the Light of Christ will lead the way. You will find more people coming to the baptismal font, and coming back to full activity, not because they listened to you, but because you helped them listen to the Spirit of the Lord.