RS/MP Lesson 12: “An Enthusiastic Desire to Share the Gospel” (George Albert Smith Manual)
Posted by kirkcaudle on June 7, 2012
A link to the full lesson is here.
I have been asked by church leaders more than a few times something to the effect of, “What do you do to share the gospel?” My answer is always the same… nothing. Well, I don’t really mean nothing, what I really mean is everything. On the other hand, maybe I mean that I do everything and nothing all at once?
This is a hard question because I have no missionary “plan” for my life. I never write out goals. I never target any of my friends as “projects.” Everything that I do missionarywise is spontaneous and never preplanned. I talk about the gospel in the flow of a conversation, I hand out a Book of Mormon when I feel that it the appropriate time, and I drop the subject if my friends are not interested. To be perfectly honest, I actually find not share the gospel quite hard because it is so relevant in my life. Not sharing the gospel would be akin to me never mentioning my wife, my children, my education, or love of the Portland Trailblazers in a conversation. The gospel is just a part of who I am. Because of this, every day I have the goal of sharing the gospel, but I never have make a goal of expecting people to accept my message as truth. With that said, I have had multiple friends that have eventually embraced the gospel and been baptized. I have a message to proclaim.
President Smith says:
The churches of the world are trying, in their way, to bring peace into the hearts of men. They are possessed of many virtues and many truths, and accomplish much good, but they are not divinely authorized. Neither have their priests been divinely commissioned . . . The Latter-day Saints are the only ones who bear the authority of our Heavenly Father to administer in the ordinances of the Gospel. The world has need of us.
As one who is involved in the academic study of religion one question immediately popped into my mind as I read this, “Can’t these people still be just as happy (if not happier) than I am in my church?” I then answered myself, “yes, I think that they can.” I have spent time visiting and worshiping in Hindu and Buddhist temples, Muslim mosques, Catholic masses, and in a host of other places. Through these experiences, I know multiple members of these other congregations that I believe are happier, more content, and often times more spiritual than I am. Yet, I have the “true” gospel and they do not. Given all of this, I must then ask myself, “Why should I preach to them if they are already so happy?” I believe that I must share the gospel with them because what I have to offer has little to do with happiness in this life. What I have to offer has everything to do with happiness in the next life. Anyone can find happiness in this life if they live the “rules” of our institutional church (develop love, exercise charity, make healthy relationship choices, only put good things into your body, etc.). We, as Latter-day Saints, are offering a different sort of happiness; we are offering a happiness that extends past this life.
Under the section, “There are many people who would embrace the truth if given the opportunity,” President Smith discusses John 1:43-46. I would like to leave a few of my own thoughts on that passage (while adding vv47-51).
(43) The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. (44) Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.(45) Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.(46) And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. (47) Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!(48) Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. (49) Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. (50) Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. (51) And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.
V43. Jesus simply invites. Jesus offers no fancy reasons for why Philip should follow him. Jesus offers no doctrinal justification. Jesus offers no promises of happiness. Jesus simply extends an invitation.
V44-45. After choosing to accept the invitation of Jesus, Philip turns from the converted to the converter. In other words, he immediately goes on a mission. His mission is to find Nathanael. Philip relates to his friend that he has “found” something. One cannot find something that was never lost. What Philip found was “Jesus of Nazareth,” the Christ, the one who saves. God was never gone the people, the people just lost sight of him. I believe that at times God must hide himself from the people so that he can reveal himself to the people. Only a hidden God can be revealed to us.
V46. Nathanael questions the rational of Philip’s new conversion. However, rather than logically explaining himself, Philip echoes the actions of Jesus by saying to his friend, “come and see.” Philip simply extends an invitation to Nathanael. Philip must know that his invitation is the only way to achieving understanding.
V47-48. After accepting Philip’s invitation, the first person that Nathanael encounters is Jesus. Nathanael engages Jesus in a conversation via a question, showing that is ok to doubt. Nathanael doubted that Jesus knew him personally. Jesus shortly reassured Nathanael how this is possible.
V49. Nathanael questioned Jesus and Jesus gave him an answer, causing him to exclaim, “thou art the Son of God.” For Nathanael, understanding the truth came only after an encounter with The Truth. Philip could not answer the questions that weighed upon the mind of Nathanael, but Jesus could.
V50-51. Because Nathanael chose to accept the invitation from Philip to “come and see” Jesus Christ he received “greater things than these.” I believe that the “these” in this verse refer to temporal happiness and understanding. The “greater” things are the things listed in v51. By mentioning the descending angels Jesus makes a connection between heaven and earth.
The following quote from President Smith seems appropriate here, “All men who will live up to the light that the Lord has offered to them and seek him in earnest prayer will have their hearts touched, their minds will be influenced, and opportunity will be offered to them to know that God has spoken again.” God can work this miracle through Mormons and non-Mormons alike.
I will end this post by quoting D&C 123:12,“For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.” We love to apply this verse solely to non-Mormons, but allow me to apply this scripture to those of us currently in the church. If we expect others to listen to our message then perhaps we should try listing to their message. We should never be so confident (or prideful) in our own beliefs that we forget to leave room for the good things that our non-Mormon brothers and sisters bring to the table. We can often learn as much from them as they can learn from us. I find that missionary work works best when both parties are looking for edification, rather than one person looking to “save” the other. A good missionary is a respectful and a humble missionary.
So next time someone asks me at church, “What do you do to share the gospel?” I might just tell them “come and see.”
A question to ask/ponder:
The opportunity to experience Christ can only be offered. Thus, the conversion of another person can never be forced. When we talk with those not of our faith about the gospel, do we try to justify our missionary efforts by “proving” why the church is true or do we do as Jesus and Philip did by simply extending a loving invitation?