11 And the Lord said unto them also: Go forth among the Lamanites, thy brethren, and establish my word; yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls.
Why is patience such an important part of teaching the gospel? Because the goal is to have the principles “[sink] deep into [the student’s] heart” (Enos 1:3), and that only happens when the student is ready and willing to receive the message. In the meantime, gospel teachers including missionaries must endure indifference, rejection, or even persecution for a time before eventually enjoying success in their efforts. Hence the counsel from the Lord to the sons of Mosiah at the beginning of their mission: “Ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions.”
Additionally, even when a student is ready and willing to learn, it takes time to understand new principles and to learn how to apply them. Full-time missionaries are counseled to remember this:
You must do all you can to help investigators understand the doctrines of the gospel. Be patient and supportive, as it may take some time for people to learn to identify and express the feelings they have inside. You may need to adjust the pace and depth of your teaching to help them understand (“Preach My Gospel, Chapter 10: “How Can I Improve My Teaching Skills?“)
One of the reasons a gospel teacher must be patient is because we teach not only by what we say but also by how we say it. As the Lord tells the sons of Mosiah above, they need to be patient in order to “show forth good examples…in me.” It would be counterproductive to talk about Christlike attributes while failing to demonstrate those attributes.
As President Thomas S. Monson taught:
Life is full of difficulties, some minor and others of a more serious nature. There seems to be an unending supply of challenges for one and all. Our problem is that we often expect instantaneous solutions to [our] challenges, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience is required.
The counsel heard in our youth is still applicable today and should be heeded. “Hold your horses,” “Keep your shirt on,” “Slow down,” “Don’t be in such a hurry,” “Follow the rules,” “Be careful” are more than trite expressions. They describe sincere counsel and speak the wisdom of experience.
(“Patience—A Heavenly Virtue,” General Conference, October 1995)
Today, I will recommit to be patient in my gospel teaching. Whether in my church calling, in my family, or in my efforts to share the gospel with others, I will slow down, pay attention to the needs and abilities of those I am teaching, and remember that learning takes time.