Lesson 24: Sharing the Gospel


Due to a combination of lack of time and my own feelings regarding missionary work, this lesson is getting posted pretty late. My apologies…

My comments are in italics, my questions are in bold, and President Kimball’s ideas from the manual are in regular font.

At our October stake conference, our stake president issued a challenge that we, as a stake, should convert enough people to create a new unit. So, in our ward, we’ve been discussing, praying, and fasting about how to do this.

I do believe that adding a new unit would be a great thing in our stake, especially when we loose another family to Mesa/Gilbert/Chandler because housing isn’t as cheap, the schools aren’t as good, and the people aren’t as young (I, of course, would argue that none of these are correct assessments of good ol’ Phoenix).

And, I think, “Wouldn’t it be great to go to Church with my non-member friends? If they got baptized, we could whisper in the back every Sunday at Church!”

Still, it’s hard for me to do missionary work for all the usual reasons and one more…how do I convert someone to the Church when I have so many of my own issues?

I think it’s like asking someone to join my family. We’re a crazy bunch, and I love them. But, whenever someone gets married into the family, I want to pull them aside and say, “Do you really know what you’re in for?” That’s how I feel when I see a potential convert.

What is hard for you about missionary work?

Sharing the gospel brings peace and joy into our own lives, enlarges our own hearts and souls in behalf of others, increases our own faith, strengthens our own relationship with the Lord, and increases our own understanding of gospel truths.4

The Lord has promised great blessings to us in proportion to how well we share the gospel. We will receive help from the other side of the veil as the spiritual miracles occur.

Have any of you experienced this?

The Lord has told us that our sins will be forgiven more readily as we bring souls unto Christ and remain steadfast in bearing testimony to the world, and surely every one of us is looking for additional help in being forgiven of our sins. (See D&C 84:61.)

Why do you think doing missionary work might help us be forgiven of our sins?

We must remember that God is our ally in this. He is our help. He will open the way, for he gave the commandment.6

What a thrilling thing it is, my dear brothers and sisters who are fellow members of the kingdom of God, to be entrusted by the Lord to serve as messengers of His word to our brothers and sisters who are not members of the Church. Let us assume for a moment that the roles were reversed—that you were not a member of the Church but that your present nonmember neighbor was a Latter-day Saint. Would you want him or her to share the gospel with you? Would you then rejoice in the new truths you had learned? Would your love and respect increase for your neighbor who had shared these truths with you? Of course, the answer to all of these questions would be: Yes!7

Since Stake Conference, I have been thinking and praying about how to meet this challenge. We have neighbors across the street, who are great people. I doubt they have any interest in the Church, but when we were asked to invite non-members to the Mesa Temple lights, I figured that was something I could do.

After letting the pamphlet with the map and times sit on my kitchen counter for a week, I took the kids and went over.

The husband jokingly said, “So, you waited a year before you started to bring over the pamphlets.”

The wife said she’d get back to me about a time that would work. She still hasn’t.

I’m still a little embarrassed.

We often talk about our best missionary experiences. I wonder if it’s helpful to hear about the ones where we fall flat on our faces. Before I did this, I thought rejection would feel bad, my neighbors would never talk to me again, my ward would think I let them down. Nothing like that happened, and ultimately, I’m happy that I got out of my comfort zone and tried.

Have you had a less-than-Ensign-worthy missionary experience?

I feel the Lord has placed, in a very natural way within our circles of friends and acquaintances, many persons who are ready to enter into his Church. We ask that you prayerfully identify those persons and then ask the Lord’s assistance in helping you introduce them to the gospel.11

How have you identified people who might be interested in the Gospel?

Righteous members, living the gospel by example, as well as by precept, are the Church’s best advertisement.14

Sometimes, I think, “Well, I’m doing missionary work by being a good example,” but really, all I’m doing is going about my day-to-day business.

Are there things we can actively do to be good examples? Missionary work includes loving and persistent fellowshipping of new converts and less-active members.

To the converts in our class, what did people do to fellowship you that you really appreciated?

Where there things that people said/did that you didn’t appreciate when you first became a member?

I am asking for missionaries who have been carefully indoctrinated and trained through the family and the organizations of the Church, and who come to the mission with a great desire. I am asking … that we train prospective missionaries much better, much earlier, much longer, so that each anticipates his mission with great joy.26

What can we do as parents and teachers to encourage children to go on missions? Should we encourage all children to go on missions?

We could use hundreds of couples, older people like some of you folks, whose families are reared, who have retired in their business, who are able to go … to teach the gospel. We could use hundreds of couples. You just go and talk to your bishop—that is all you need to do. Tell him, “We are ready to go, if you can use us.” I think you will probably get a call.34

Have any of you served missions since you have retired? Can you share your experiences?

 

There are lots of missionary opportunities for older members. Click this link to find some interesting places and types of missions.

Here are two pieces on LDS.org that I thought had good examples and ideas:
Christopher K. Bigelow’s “Making Member-Missionary Work Work

Elder Clayton M. Christensen and Christine Quinn Christensen’s “Seven Lessons on Sharing the Gospel”

EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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  1. Rebecca says:

    Thanks. I’ve just found your blog… in my time of need as i have just been called as RS teacher after being out of RS for a while and have been a bit brain dead of late (lack of sleep!)trying to think of good ideas for my lessons. You have helped me loads with many great ideas. Rebecca (england) x

  2. Deborah says:

    Welcome, Rebecca!

    Emily — I particularly like the “People need to be needed” section of Bro and Sis Christensen’s article. It speaks to broadening our reach in the community (think interfaith projects) and keeping a humanitarian service ethic at the forefront.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Please. It’s not “neighborly” to try to convert someone. It’s as though you consider me “broken” and in need of mending. I will try to be polite when you come over but I don’t want a friendship where you will like me better when we can whisper in the back row of a church.

  4. Deborah says:

    Say the words “missionary work” and you’ll get an incredibly wide range of emotions and mental images — even in a room of Relief Society women. I reflected on my coming to terms with sharing my beliefs here

  5. Anonymous says:

    “Let us assume for a moment that the roles were reversed—that you were not a member of the Church but that your present nonmember neighbor was a Latter-day Saint. Would you want him or her to share the gospel with you?”

    No, definitely not. It’s really awkward and annoying. It’s like door-to-door sales. If someone does that to me, I feel uncomfortable around them in the future because I feel like they’re just waiting for the right moment to bring up Mormonism, and maybe don’t really want to see me except as a conversion opportunity. Why can’t people just proselytize in a different neighborhood from where they live? Can’t we just be friendly neighbors without religious awkwardness lurking in the background?

    The proper analogy would be “how would you feel if your neighbors of a religion that you don’t belong to came over and tried to convert you?”

  6. Anonymous says:

    I guess what I mean to say is that the rhetorical question isn’t the appropriate one. It assumes that the non-member would want to hear about the church because it is true. But to the non-member it’s not true (yet). So the real question is: “would you want your neighbor to come and tell you about their church, which you don’t currently think is true?” Not “would you want your neighbor to tell you about a church that is true.” The analogy presupposes that the church is true to both parties, so it mischaracterizes the neighbor’s perspective.

  7. pennsyltucky says:

    A friend from high school converted later in life and then was mad that I had not shared what I had with her and almost blamed me for the drugs and divorce she experienced before she joined the church. So yeah, I am lazily in the camp of not wanting to hassle anybody with some kind of sales pitch but on the other hand…this can happen…you have something important that you didn’t share and it’s costing people happiness.

    I admit,this experience still hasn’t made me a good missionary. I did finally give a Book of Mormon to a neighbor and they gave it right back saying they didn’t plan to read it. That was five years ago and I’ve never tried anything since…well, besides the occasional cranky rant at DailyKos or Huffington Post.

  8. Anonymous says:

    What does everyone think about the missionaries in my are that are running down folks going to the bus stop? I mean it’s like the Hare Krishna crazies use to do! Come on! Please don’t knock me down!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I live in Texas, people are always inviting me to their churches of various denominations. I don’t feel offended or awkward around them because I know they are offering because they care. If someone isn’t interested in hearing about the church from a Mormon friend, all they have to do is say so and no harm has been done.

  10. Anonymous says:

    “no harm has been done.”

    Except perma-awkwardness and the feeling that your neighbor doesn’t really like you except as a conversion opportunity.

  11. EmilyCC says:

    Rebecca, glad you found this helpful…it’s a tough topic.

    I think Deborah’s post that she linked here would be actually, a really great way to approach the lesson.

    Anonymous #2, I think you’re right on with switching that analogy.

    Pennsyltucky, ah! The conflict! So, we can get in trouble with friends who aren’t interested and then, we can get in trouble with friends who are? Sigh…thanks for sharing your experience.

    Anonymous #4, that’s crazy that your area’s missionaries think that’s a good idea. I’m in no mood to talk to anyone when I’m trying to catch a bus.

    Anonymous #5, I’m with you–when people have invited me to their places of worship, I’ve always been flattered. The only times I’ve been upset by people trying to convert me are the times when people tell me I’m going to hell.

    Anonymous #6, I think there is the risk of permanently changing the relationship by talking about the Church. I tend to avoid talking much about the Church in even a cultural context if I think this might happen with a friend (but, that’s often hard to read).

  12. EmilyCC says:

    Sorry, anonymous #1–what I meant by my comment wasn’t that I’d like my friend better for being at Church with me. I meant I’d like Church better because someone I enjoy was there.

  13. madhousewife says:

    I have a few problems with missionary work:

    1) At this stage of my life, I don’t have regular associations with many people outside church. Sad, but unfortunately true. It would be really weird indeed to bring up church with my kids’ bus drivers or the supermarket checkers.

    2) I no longer believe–and frankly, I’m not sure I’ve ever believed–that the only way to go back to live with God is to be baptized into our church. Heretical and apostate, yes, but it’s the truth. I’m not saying the church doesn’t have a lot to offer people, but when people are perfectly happy with their own religion, I don’t feel particularly moved to tell them about mine. Especially when I’m not as happy with mine as they are with theirs.

    3. Contrary to the many faith-promoting stories I’ve heard at church and read about it the Ensign, my observation of most people is that they’re deeply suspicious of people who try to share their religion. Like the first Anonymous said, they really do think you’re implying that they’re broken and in need of mending–and they assume that’s the only reason you want to be friends with them. I’ve met a couple here and there who didn’t make that assumption, but they are, in my experience, not as common as the Ensign would have me believe.

    4. I am deeply apathetic about the gospel.

    I think, given those four things, I am probably exempt from the charge to do missionary work, as I have so many other, more urgent issues to work on.

    P.S. Chasing people at the bus stop = Cuckoo

  14. Caroline says:

    madhousewife, thanks for sharing bits of your story.

    I’m with you in thinking that there are many paths back to God. And like you, I have no desire to do missionary work when the person is fulfilled by their faith tradition.

    I’m pretty uncomfortable with missionary work in any context. But I did once chat with a friend who joined the Church when he was a teenager. He had been searching for answers, and was thrilled to embrace the gospel.

    Hearing his story made me understand that there was a legitimate place for missionary work. When people are out there looking and searching for answers, I guess I’m ok with the idea of LDS missionaries and members proselytizing.

  15. shimmy says:

    Great post. I know we all have a hard time with missionary work, but how do we know who’s searching unless we ask them?

    I love the comparison made in the post to your family…crazy and great, but definitely crazy, and our church is crazy, but also fantastic. I feel better when I think of my job as “inviting” instead of “converting” bc where they go from there is up to them, and if I’m not weird about it, they’re not weird about it. We can just ask people if they want to learn more. If yes, invite them to FHE or enrichment. If no, see them at the neighborhood BBQ.

    I don’t think God wants us to be obnoxious or pushy (I hope), but he doesn’t want us to be scared, either. Same with the bus stop thing: chasing down, maybe weird. Missionaries inviting everyone they see to learn about the gospel, not weird…if that’s door to door, at the store, the bus stop, wherever there are people, missionaries should be talking to them. Chapter 9 of Preach My Gospel encourages missionaries to talk to everyone they see and why not?

    Also (this is obviously not a must, but I don’t think it’s that strange, either), we can hand a pass-a-long card to the clerk in about 5 seconds, and they’ve seen weirder, I promise. The new ones that just have http://www.mormon.org on them are small, handy and really quite nice. Way less embarrassing than trying to get someone to order a movie from the 80s 🙂

  16. Anonymous says:

    Shimmy,
    I think the pass-along-cards could possibly be the most realistic for even the most introverted type.

    How did every ones lesson go?
    Our Stake Pres. was in our RS for no specific reason known to me. Our lesson was taught by a “why didn’t you tell me” convert. A new member who is superbly on fire was there also.
    It was a very stereotypical lesson.

  17. stevo says:

    I loved teaching this lesson. I wish I’d read this first though because I love the comparison with the family. This lesson touched me deeply as my sister is currently serving a mission in California and my boyfriend is investigating the church. The sisters had such wonderful feedback and I’ve found that is the key to a really great lesson. Love the blog!

  18. EmilyCC says:

    Madhousewife and Caroline, I think I’m on the same page as you when it comes to missionary work.

    Shimmy, have you done the pass-along-cards? I admit that those feel harder for me than just casually bringing up the Church to friends. I just wonder how others’ experiences have been passing those out.

    The latest Anonymous (because I’m no longer sure what # we’re on 🙂 ), I’m curious to hear how others’ lessons went, too. I’m in Primary or else I would report.

    Stevo, glad you found us! I think participation is the key to good lessons, which is why mine are just a series of questions.

    Incidentally, I found Stephen Carter’s post on the Sunstone Blog for this same lesson. It’s definitely worth a read.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the Sunstone blog link. I haven’t been there for a while and found this post and it’s comments very interesting as usual!

  20. shimmy says:

    You know, I have busted out the pass along card to cashiers, and yeah it can be pretty awkward. The news ones, for me, are significantly less awkward. Have you seen them? They are business card size and have a nice pic of a 1-2 people on one side with a quote from them, and http://www.mormon.org on the back. I have a much easier time saying “Can I give you this? I think you might like it” with one of those than with the old ones that were big and straight out of the 80s, inviting them to call an 800 number for a free video I was embarrassed to have our church’s name on. Anyway, I don’t know how much good it does, but it makes me feel brave :).

    Sharing the gospel is tricky, and guilt-ridden. I think sometimes we feel guilty for not sharing more often (plus we’re not even sure what “sharing” means exactly), and on top of that guilty for not wanting to, bc we have questions of our own. The thing I miss most about full-time missionary life is getting to hear people pray for the first time. Very few actually got baptized, but the people I’m happiest about didn’t even join but just learned that God existed and cared about them. So I’m trying to approach missionary work in terms of helping people develop a relationship with a higher power and not necessarily convincing them of the Garden of Eden’s location or whatever. Maybe that’s cheesy and maybe I’m oversimplifying, but I think that’s how I cope with my own apathy.

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