Relief Society Lesson 12: An Enthusiastic Desire to Share the Gospel

Guest Post by Quimby
Quimby is an emeritus blogger for http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/

An Enthusiastic Desire to Share the GospelIn this lesson, we learn that George Albert Smith was “a natural missionary. From his youth he has had an ardent desire to share the teachings of the gospel with his fellow men, to make known to ‘the sons and daughters of God,’ all of whom he considers to be his brothers and sisters, the truths that were revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith.” We are told “Seldom did he miss an opportunity to explain the ‘eternal truths of the restored gospel’ to either friend or stranger. From his point of view, this was the ultimate kindness, for the message of Christ was the most significant gift he had to give.”

While I admire his zeal, I don’t share it. I don’t want to be seen to be disrespecting my friends’ own religious beliefs (or lack thereof). But what if I told you there was a way you could do missionary work, without losing friends? What if I told you this method was guaranteed to not get any doors slammed in your face? My family has been practicing it now for decades, and in that time have brought thousands of people into the gospel.

I am speaking of family history.

We tend to separate missionary work from family history; but what is family history if not the extension of missionary work back through the generations, to those people who are most dear to us?

Through family history work, our family has had some truly precious and sacred moments, both inside and outside of the temple. We have gained a deeper understanding of gospel concepts, particularly the idea of an eternal family. As an expatriate living far away from my family and country of origin, the debris of family history – the collection of plates, quilts, tea towels, vases, and pictures – help me give my children a firm sense of their own belonging and heritage.

We have been able to unite generations of our family together. We have been able to play a role in the eternal salvation and exaltation of others.

Family history research can also serve as a conduit to introducing the gospel to others. Through her time as Stake Family History Librarian, my mother discovered the importance of the genealogy library as outreach program. One story looms large in my memory. “Peggy” was a Southern Baptist. When she first entered the family history library at our local Stake Centre, she was wary, afraid it was a trap. My mother helped her, and over the years they formed a close friendship. Peggy never expressed an interest in the gospel, and my mother never pushed it. But one day she was astounded when Peggy recounted what had happened over the weekend: Peggy had gone to church, as she did every week. This particular Sunday, the minister started to go on at some length at how evil the Mormons were. Peggy – who had by this time been going to the Family History Library for the better part of a decade, and considered my mom a good friend – stood up in church and said, “What you are saying are wrong. I have Mormon friends. They welcome me into their church, into their homes, into their Family History Library, they are kind, good people, and I won’t hear you say bad things about them.” And then she stormed out – out of her own church, which she loved – because of the loyalty she felt to the LDS Church – loyalty forged through the Family History Library.

Even for those who are not LDS, the drive to do family history can be strong. A few years ago my husband started to do his, spurred on largely because of my knowledge of my own family tree. He has gone back several generations and shared what he has found with his siblings and parents. A couple of years ago, his interest in family history, coupled with his father’s desire to see where his own parents were born, saw us travel as a family back to Norfolk – my husband, his parents, me, and our two kids. We spent several weeks trawling through cemeteries – not something I would recommend as a useful exercise, as we only found one date; but it was nice, particularly for my father in law, to see where generations of his own family came from. My husband’s love of family history strengthened our family, giving my in-laws and my children precious memories of time spent together.

All of which is nice – but it’s not as important as playing an active role in the work of exaltation for your own family members. In my family, we looked forward to our 12th birthday with glee, knowing that it would be celebrated with our first temple trip. We would gather together as a family – my parents and all siblings aged 12 or older – and make the journey to the nearest temple, first in Seattle, later in Portland or Boise. Knowing that we were doing the work for our own family made it more special: These were our kindred, our people. On my first temple trip, a temple worker approached me and told me that one day the people whose work I had done would embrace me and thank me for it. More than once, we have felt the gratitude of our ancestors as we take a name through the temple.

“When that time comes, when you go down through the ages of eternity, that is a long time, you will have the love and the gratitude of every man, woman and child to whom you have been instrumental in bringing eternal happiness. Isn’t that worthwhile? We may spend our lives here and acquire a few hundreds or thousands of dollars, we may have flocks, herds, houses and lands, but we cannot take these with us to the other side. They are not necessary to eternal life, they are only necessary for us here, but if we have earned the gratitude and the love of God’s other children, that will flow to us forever.”

Family history work is an important work – We cannot testify to those who have gone on before us; but only we can perform the necessary rituals to ensure their exaltation. As we research our ancestors, find those names and dates that give us another generation of progeny, and take it to the temple, we do the Lord’s work in proclaiming the gospel. Isn’t that worthwhile?

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17 Responses

  1. spunky says:

    I love this, Quimby. There is so much pressure in the church to “sell” the gospel. I prefer a more laid-back approach of just living the gospel, making friends and letting the missionary stuff happen organically. The seeds we plant in this life might not make sense, or fit, those around us at this moment in time. But in planting gospel seeds that may come to fruition in the next life, we are still being missionaries. Doing temple work and family history is the perfect way to support the missionary seeds that were “planted”, but not “harvested” in an immediate sense.

    Thank you for this truthful and loving post.

  2. Jenne says:

    I lived in California during the time of the “Tell Me About Your Family” program and it was an excellent missionary tool. My grandfather who was not a fan of Mormons welcomed the missionaries into his house and talked about our ancestors. In return, volunteers in the stake from the Family History Center spent 6 hours researching our family’s history and gave him a folder of the findings. It was a pilot program and didn’t expand or continue but I wish it had. Maybe it was the 6 hour time commitment that was too much?

  3. EmilyCC says:

    Quimby, as someone who dreads teaching the missionary lessons (I opt out of them when we do the RS schedule here after wracking my brain 2 times), I love this approach. Now, I’m a little more excited for this lesson in my RS class.

  4. Stephanie says:

    Nice post, Quimby! I am afraid I don’t have either the missionary bug or the family history bug. But, I did hear something the other night that I liked. It was “Be visible to those who are seeking Him”. That seems like a nice, not in-your-face way to share the gospel.

  5. I have often made the case for doing family history with the quip that there’s no rejection. I guess the Jewish reaction to baptizing of Holocaust victims shows that some people are still going to be mad. But I’d still say that the rejection rate is a lot lower than when working with breathing people. 😀

    • Diane says:

      Michelle
      Your callous flip response begs me to respond.
      I’m not trying to be rude to you but the reason why Jewish people get upset when Mormons baptized their dead is a very sensitive issue. Especially since many Jews were forced to hide their identity by being forced to get baptized as Catholics for the duration of the war.

      Mormons need to be careful who they are doing baptism for. Thomas Jefferson being tied to his slave is nothing to be proud of. This is why the church gets so much bad publicity. They do things without understanding the full ramifications of their actions and then just say well, ‘People will just get offended by anything,” Its not offensive to to be upset for an African American slave to tied to their slave owner is death, nor is it offensive to be baptized into another faith tradition that one did not request.

      We need to be more respectful of others (including their faiths) if we expect them to be respectful of ours.

      Just sayin.

  6. Rachel says:

    Thank you for this post. I believe in both missionary work and work for the dead. I think the thing I like about them (especially the latter and particular verses in Doctrine and Covenants 128 about how the dead without us cannot be made perfect, and neither can we be made perfect without the dead) is the notion that we are all responsible for everyone else–not in a nosy way, but in a loving and caring way. Maybe that means simply being nice, or doing our best to set an example of the things we believe in. Maybe it means learning about our family and giving people (living and dead) chances to receive the gospel. I am lucky in the fact that in my full time mission I had a wonderful Mission President who taught us that it was not our job to baptize people. It was our job to invite people to come closer to Christ. A big part of being a human being is exercising our agency, and we cannot exercise our agency by saying “yes” or “no” until we have a real option. Thank you for giving that option to your family members, and thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

  7. fMhLisa says:

    Great Lesson! Now only if I could talk my ward into using this greatness!

  8. Jackie says:

    This is a nice approach to teaching the desire to do family history, but the lesson is about sharing the gospel with the living as taught by Prophet George Albert Smith. Family history could serve as a conduit to introduce a non-member to our Heavenly Father’s plan for all of us. However, these lessons and the manual have been inspired for us to teach from and we should learn from President Smith that it’s our obligation to teach the gospel to the living and not just wait for work to be done after death. I know it’s so hard sometimes to approach non-member friends and family, but that’s why we have lessons – to remind us and give us courage 😉

    • spunky says:

      I disagree, Jackie. This is a briliant lesson plan. The seeds we sew in this life in setting a missionary example may not come to fruition– to do the work of those who have gone is an excellent way to maintain the missionary work of our mothers. You may feel driven in another way to do missionary work, but for me, whilst I am seeking opportunities for the living, doing family history as missionary work is a spiritually empowering way to share the gospel in a continuous manner.

      Still lovin’ this lesson.

    • Tracey says:

      While I agree that doing family history work is absolutely necessary and such a crucial PART of sharing the gospel, it is just that- PART. I agree with Jackie– these lessons are designed to help us in ways that we don’t feel confident in doing. There was a lesson (not too long ago) that was specifically about doing family history work, and this lesson is about being enthusiastic about sharing the gospel– not family history. We are instructed to instruct from the manual. This lesson (above) is very well done and fantastic, as far as family history work goes, but the other PART of missionary work is sharing the gospel to the LIVING– not just the dead.
      I am not an “out there” person– I am rather shy and uncomfortable approaching strangers about anything– much less the gospel. But I really appreciate this lesson BECAUSE this is one of my weaknesses and I feel I can definitely gain from it.

  9. Brooke says:

    I think this is a good, thoughtful lesson plan. Whether the themes of this plan are appropriate for your ward is something only you as a RS teacher for your ward can know. As RS teachers, we have the Lord’s spirit to guide us in our lessons. This particular angle wouldn’t work for my class since I already dealt with family history a few months ago since it is a part of Lesson 8. Also, I think it’s not happenstance that there are THREE back-to-back messages (Lessons 12-14) that really go to Christ’s plea for us, acting on his behalf, to gather his sheep. I think the Lord might be trying to get our attention to focus on this.

  10. Barb says:

    I agree that the lesson is designed to help us share the gospel in the most natural non offensive way. There is nothing to sell! Just love your neighbor. that is what I am getting out of it as I read it. I am one who wandered through life poorly for 29 years with many LDS friends and even relatives who were LDS. In this time not one of them invited me to church or talked about their faith. Until Finally one day A woman at my Bar told me she was not a good examply, but that she wanted me to join her at church for a special occasion for her daughter. I felt the spirit and knew I needed to ask someone to help me learn. The next day I asked a relative this question. ” I know that you have handled this difficult time in your life with such grace because of your faith. Tell me, do you have to marry into the Mormon Church, or be born into it, or can anyone join? ” My sister-in-law bowed her head and said, ” anyone who believes can join.” I told her that I desperatley wanted to beleive, then asked her if she could get some information for me. She brought me a BOM, and a pamphlet or two. Now 30 years later, we have three generations of faithful covenant making children and grandchildren in our family and our lives are filled with the wonder of the true gosple. Thank the Lord, for my friend who risked every friend she had that day as she revealed her membership. If Edna had shyed away from a simple invitation, generations would have not been able to return to their Heavenly home…..This is the heart of the lesson sisters, the reason WHY we share the gospel.. eternal familys are only possible within the Gospel..

  11. sam says:

    I’ll right away grasp your rss as I can’t find your e-mail subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly allow me realize in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  1. July 11, 2012

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