Scripts and Teaching by the Spirit
Elder Cunningham: “Hello. Would you like to change religions? I have a free book written by Jesus.”
Mission President: “No, no, Elder Cunningham, that’s not how we do it! You’re making things up again. Just stick to the approved dialogue.”
Focusing on The Book of Mormon is just one approach to tracting, though. At least since the adoption of the missionary guide Preach My Gospel, there has been a greater emphasis on “preaching by the spirit,” and a lesser emphasis on rote memorization and the delivery of an exact script. To us, “preaching by the spirit” means relying on God to direct our words so that we can share those things that will benefit a specific person in a specific moment. That means that a missionary at your door may start by talking about Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, eternal families, or a number of other things in addition to The Book of Mormon.
This type of approach is mirrored in scripture. Paul teaches,
“For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (see 1 Corinthians 2:11-14).
In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord says,
“Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained? To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth.
“Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? And if it be by some other way it is not of God.
“And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? If it be some other way it is not of God.
“Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth? Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together” (see Doctrine and Covenants 50:13-22).
M. Russell Ballard echoes these thoughts. He says,
“True conversion comes through the power of the Spirit. When the Spirit touches the heart, hearts are changed. When individuals… feel the Spirit working with them, or when they see the evidence of the Lord’s love and mercy in their lives, they are edified and strengthened spiritually and their faith in Him increases. These experiences with the Spirit follow naturally when a person is willing to experiment upon the word. This is how we come to feel the gospel is true.”