The Missionary’s Hand Book (1946) Chapters 3 & 4

July_2006_mgIn 1935, fresh off his own mission, the 25 year old Gordon B. Hinckley accepted an assignment to manage the newly created Radio, Publicity, and Mission Literature Committee of the Church. By 1937 this new department had released the first edition of The Missionary’s Hand Book. This book drew on several publications in circulation at the time and was published with the copyright of Heber J. Grant. Nine years later, the second edition was released, retaining the Grant copyright. In this post, the second of a series (see here for part 1), I offer several excerpts from the third and fourth chapters of the 1946 edition.

CHAPTER 3: Money, Time and Talent

Money, time and talent-these are precious endowments over which you have been made a steward. Upon the use you make of them will depend in large measure your success while in the mission field, and the habits you acquire in their care will affect the remainder of your life. (pg. 29)

Your Money

There are few occupations where money plays a more minor role than it does in missionary work…But it must be remembered that in nearly every case someone at home is going without to supply you. (pg. 29)

The Daily Program

By way of suggestion the following outline is given. Missionaries who have followed such a program have steadily grown in power:

    Have toilet made and ready for class by 7 o’clock.
    7-8, Study class with prayer at beginning.
    8-9, Breakfast and preparation for the day’s work.
    9-12, Tracting or other planned proselyting activity.
    12-1, Lunch.
    1-2, Tracting.
    2-5, Visiting investigators, tracting or holding meetings.
    5-7:30, Study, dinner and relaxation
    7:30, Meeting or visits or evening tracting.
    Retire not later than 10:30

Recreation is of course essential. Setting-up exercises in the morning, and considerable walking will generally keep one in good physical condition. An occasional good picture show or better still, a fine artistic production, is stimulating. (pg. 31)

The Use of Talent

Most missions maintain publications. Write for them in otherwise idle moments. Do not be discouraged if your first attempt is not published; writers seldom make a mark the first time they submit. (pg. 32)

CHAPTER 4: The Spirit of God

The Need for Inspiration

…precious though the missionary’s message is, comparatively few who hear it show any interest in it. This condition prevails largely because there are many others-salesmen, philosopher and theorists with their own ideas-who are working for the public’s attention as zealously as are the missionaries. The result has become a general public indifference. (pg. 33)

…no teacher or expert is wise enough to determine the best approach in every case. Only a superior intelligence can point the way of conversation, the type of material to use, or the subject for discussion in a talk. The effective missionary soon comes to realize the necessity for the spirit of the Lord to guide him in approaching the many personalities with whom he comes in contact, so that the things he tells them or gives them to read will indeed be pearls of great price whose value outshines all else.

Desire, Effort, Prayer, Faith

Scientific discoveries are seldom made accidentally. Rather they are usually the result of an unsparing desire to learn, painstakingly effort, and a confidence that gratifying results will be achieved.

Spiritual blessings generally result from much the same process. (pg. 35)


  1. I find these little blurbs quite ennobling. They are both gentle (“by way of suggestion”) and wise (“Recreation is of course essential”). It’s also honest (“precious thought the missionary’s message is, comparatively few who hear it show any interest in it”). Thanks for posting. Mission publications sound fun.

  2. An occasional good picture show or better still, a fine artistic production, is stimulating.

    In that tradition we had a “culture evening” once a month where we were allowed to take in something of the local high brow culture.

    I have heard that at least one of the BCC regulars came to develop a deep appreciation for musicals on these monthly outings.

  3. I like this manual’s attitude toward recreation. There’s a daily slot for relaxation (up to 2 1/2 hours!), and I especially like the endorsement of “an occasional good picture show or better still, a fine artistic production”. Even better, no doubt, when the picture show is itself a fine artistic production?

  4. This is interesting.

    I cringe a little bit when I hear people talk about the new discussions that the missionaries have in Preach my Gospel. THere are those who talk like missionaries never said things in their own word or followed the spirit before the new discussions.

    I went on my mission in the mid 80’s and was taught in the MTC to teach things in my own words and follow the spirit. I never taught word for word discussion, never memorized anything, rarely had my discussions even with me. I knew them by heart. OK, rant over.

    I really like the tone of what you present. I think we underappreciate what a good guy GBH has been all along.

  5. (never memorized anything is an exaggeration…

  6. I’m now imagining James E. Faust in Brazil (1939-1942) consulting a handbook written by his future partner in the First Presidency.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    I too like the tone of this handbook. A little more realism and pragmatism and a little less salesmanship would be a good thing for our modern missionaries as well, I imagine.

  8. I remember when Preach My Gospel came out. A new missionary had just arrived in our ward and he had received a copy in the MTC. It was fast Sunday and he bore his testimony. He expressed his gratitude for Preach My Gospel, and especially for the fact that missionaries could now use the Spirit in their teaching. I turned to my wife and said, basically, “Crap! That was our problem!”

    I love this era of missionary work. I spent some time transcribing my dad’s missionary diary. He served in Hawaii and on one page the would be blessing lepers or taking a young Brother Hinckley around to film for the new Temple movie and on the next they would be watching TV. Good times.

  9. My brother-in-law’s father came toward the tail of that era. He’s the only person I’ve met who served a mission while a young married man. At one point he found himself assigned to office work and complained to the mission president that he had a wife at home who could be doing that stuff. So she was called too. Their oldest daughter was born during their mission together.

  10. J. Stapley, I had to laugh at the first line of #8. I must be getting old (okay, I’ll be 35 this year!), but the blog world moves so fast.. didn’t it just come out last year, or 18 months ago? I have to giggle that we talk like it was ages ago. :-)

  11. Came out in the Spring of 2004! But yeah, I get your point claire. :)

  12. The Spain mission of 1970-72 prohibited movies (picture shows, in GBH’s phraseology). So we did bullfights and flamenco shows.

    While at the LTM (the predecessor of the MTC) GBH passed me one day and saw me sharing a laugh with some fellow elders, he remonstrated with me that I could be memorizing the 4th discussion. Being a smart-a$$ 19 year old I told him I already had. Hinkley also warned us that most missionaries’ level of commitment could be guaged by the inverse of what their camera cost. I decided right then that I wouldn’t have one—should have realized that 1/0 is not worth much.

  13. 1/0 is infinity, Roger. So you were infinitely committed. Wow.

  14. Dr. Nick says:

    “Have toilet made and ready for class by 7 o’clock.”

    My mom always told me to make my bed, but I am a little mystified as to how one makes a toilet. Does putting the lid down count?

  15. “Most missions maintain publications . . . do not be discouraged if your first attempt is not published . . .”

    The only publications we had were generic tracts which had the church address and meeting time stamped on them. We’ve changed a great deal from the time that missions could compose their own content. Wow. I can see the church’s PR and legal deptarments breathing a sigh of relief that this isn’t on their laps, but are we better or worse off without published and unique content tailored for smaller groups of people by ordained ministers of the gospel???

  16. I was a ward missionary when Preach My Gospel came out. I too was annoyed by the “finally” we’ll be able to teach by the spirit. It discounts any possibility of any inspiration from the 1800s on.

    I was a missionary in 84-85 and they changed the discussions from a memorized format to a more “spirit-enabled” format. It didn’t last for more than a few years because a lot of missionaries taught false doctrine.

    Now if they would put out a program that stressed quality rather than quanitity of baptisms.

  17. “Have toilet made and ready for class by 7 o’clock.”

    “My mom always told me to make my bed, but I am a little mystified as to how one makes a toilet. Does putting the lid down count?”

    And not only does the toilet need to be made, but just how does one go about getting it ready for class by 7 o-clock?”

  18. Well, J. Nelson, I was then.

  19. I just bought this book on ebay. Somehow I feel like this could be the beginning of a series of disastrous purchases of old Mormon books I will never read and that I will be forced to cart around the world and that my children will ultimately throw away. Oh well.

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