On the theme of God’s ability to micromanage this work from the other side of the veil, we had a couple experiences in the MTC which seemed to be more than just coincidence.
As we’ve previously mentioned there were 102 senior missionaries in our MTC group. One of those couples was Elder and Sister Smith (Van & Claudia) who were headed to Missouri, St Louis mission. When we were divided into “Districts” in the MTC I was named as the “District Leader” and the Smith’s were one of the 8 couples who were in the district with us.
During our District breakout teaching sessions they were seated right next to us and we learned to our surprise that their mission president was planning to send them to Litchfield, Il, the location where I served as bishop from 1986 – 1990. We were able to chat with them about the people and the place they will be serving. It seemed like a “divine signature”.
Each District had a morning and afternoon teacher who helped train/prepare us for the various teaching experiences senior missionaries are given in the MTC. Our morning teacher was Brother Chinn. To illustrate the point that we need to get to know the investigator before we plow into the lesson he did a role play where he took the part of an investigator, David Haralson.
Those of us in the District asked him the kinds of questions that we would ask an investigator. Through his answers to our questions we learned that he was close to a member family who had children his age. He was impressed with that family, they included him as if he were part of the family at meals and family prayer and he wanted that kind of spiritual life for himself.
After that discussion ended Brother Chinn led a discussion of how we would approach teaching David, what points would we emphasize and so forth. In the MTC we are taught to teach people, not lessons. By the time Brother Chinn has finished we were all curious how the actual teaching had gone with David; was he ever baptized? That’s when Brother Chinn revealed that the David Haralson in the story was David Haralson Chinn. We were lifted spiritually by the description of his conversion, however, the story became closer to home when he happened to mention the name of the member family (Kirk) that so impressed him, that hint led me to ask if it was Jeff Kirk to which he was referring. Jeff Kirk is one of my associates at ExxonMobil who also graduated from BYU with a Masters of Accountancy degree. Yes, it was, he then told us that he subsequently married Rachel Kirk (one of Jeff’s twins) after his mission.
The afternoon teacher was Brother Pine. (He was probably 24). He liked teaching the seniors more than the young elders and sisters. We heard that the seniors were like a precooked meal and all you had to do was pop them in the microwave and warm them up, but with the younger missionaries it was like starting a meal from scratch. He helped us a lot and always sent us off to the Teaching Resource Center by saying, “Give ‘em Heaven!”
Brother Pine let us practice being missionaries by dividing us into groups. Elder Johnsen and I were investigators or inactive members and the other Elder and Sister taught us. Then we would change places and practice on them. We were told to “teach to their needs.” He said to remember “Kiss.” This usually stands for “Keep it simple, stupid.” But one of our group said Kiss should stand for “Keep it simple, seniors!”