An angel declared the message some 2,000 years ago: “Good tidings of great joy … to all people” (Luke 2:10).
Today Latter-day Saints proclaim the same message, one that the Prophet Joseph Smith described as “a voice of gladness” (D&C 128:19). All of us who have tasted the sweetness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ want to lend our voices to this marvelous message. Sometimes, however, approaching our family or friends who are not Latter-day Saints may seem difficult. Here is a way for you to share the gospel message during the coming Christmas season confidently and in a natural and comfortable setting.
A soon-to-be-released DVD, Joy to the World, explains beautifully the message of Christ’s birth and ministry. It is an excellent way to help others understand what we believe and feel about Jesus Christ. It’s a way to share your testimony. It’s a way to build on the spirit of love and friendship that naturally permeates the Christmas season, opening hearts that are prepared and building bridges of mutual understanding.
Joy to the World tells the story of the Savior’s birth as recorded in the Bible and portrays major events in His life and ministry. It reinforces and reaffirms the belief in Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior of the world that Latter-day Saints have in common with the rest of Christianity.
Beyond that, this DVD takes advantage of the technology’s interactive capabilities to offer a number of additional in-depth segments that introduce topics relating to the restored gospel. Members and missionaries can share these segments to help answer questions and to introduce basic Latter-day Saint beliefs. Individuals can use them for self-guided study.
Included are explanations of the Savior’s great gifts to the world, the Atonement and the Resurrection; testimonies of the Savior from some of the Brethren; an account of New World events at the time of the Savior’s birth; an overview of the Restoration of the gospel; and selections from Tabernacle Choir Christmas concerts.
A Gift to Share
A DVD copy of Joy to the World will be included with the December 2003 issue of the Ensign for subscribers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. DVD and video copies will also become available through Church distribution centers at that time.
This is a gift that is meant to be shared, one that is given to you and, it is hoped, through you to many others.
Many Latter-day Saints, when Finding Faith in Christ was introduced last April, accepted the opportunity to share their testimonies of Jesus Christ by sharing the DVD or video with friends and neighbors. Those who had been actively involved as member missionaries and those who were getting involved for the first time both found using the DVD an easy way to approach others.
A Few How-To’s
For example, a number of families and wards put together Easter baskets to give to friends and neighbors and included the DVD as part of the gift. In the Issaquah Second Ward of the Washington Bellevue Stake, Samantha Breese helped spearhead such an effort as part of her Laurel project. About 75 ward members participated, giving a total of 150 baskets. The gifts included not only treats but also packets that included a picture of the Savior, copies of The Family: A Proclamation to the World and The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles, and an invitation to Church services on Easter Sunday.
Samantha’s mother, Gail Breese, says ward members have commented on how much easier it was to contact people and talk about the gospel when they gave the DVD and a beautiful basket. “People were eager to receive it, especially the children. It helped members go outside their comfort zone.”
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, members of the Cambridge Second Ward invited friends and acquaintances of other faiths to a carefully prepared Easter sacrament meeting. Following the meeting, the Finding Faith in Christ video was shown. Ruby Von Dwornick, who helped organize the program, carefully watched the reactions of those who viewed the video. “Everyone was riveted,” she reports. Afterward, guests were heard to make comments like “It’s magnificent.” Sister Von Dwornick continues, “You can’t watch that video without inviting the Spirit.”
Leaving the Comfort Zone
In Orlando, Florida, the Waters family had been feeling the need to more actively share the gospel with others. “We have always been willing to discuss our beliefs, and all our friends know we are members of the Church,” says Keith Waters. “But we felt we needed to do more.”
So the family ordered 10 copies of the Finding Faith in Christ DVD. Then it occurred to the Waterses that giving them as gifts in Easter baskets “would be received as an expression of friendship rather than a proselyting effort.” After spending a home evening assembling the baskets, the family presented the gifts to next-door neighbors, a daughter’s lacrosse coach, and other friends and acquaintances.
The results? At the time of this writing, it was too early to tell as far as the recipients were concerned. But the effects on the givers were immediate. “This has been a good experience for our family,” Brother Waters reports. “My wife readily acknowledges that she has a great desire to share the gospel but feels somewhat timid about doing so. This experience has broken the ice and given her more confidence. Another blessing is that our children have seen their parents’ faith in action.”
Families all over the Church have been reporting the same kinds of feelings and experiences.
Cookies and Conversation
In the Brea First Ward of the Placentia California Stake, the Cannings took some fresh-baked cookies and a copy of Finding Faith in Christ to their neighbors across the street. They were invited in for a visit that stretched into two hours as they compared home remodeling stories, talked about kids and school, and learned more about each other’s lives.
It was toward the end of the visit that the subject naturally turned to religion. “Just be their friend,” says Bob Canning. “The more shared experiences you have, the stronger your relationship gets because you can relate to each other. Then it’s perfectly natural to make comments about your lifestyle because your lifestyle involves them.”
In Missouri, a member of the Liberty Stake high council told President Detlef Lehnardt about a man he worked with who happened to live near the Lehnardts. Later, as the Lehnardts prayed to know which of their acquaintances they should focus their missionary efforts on, President Lehnardt felt impressed to visit the high councilor’s coworker and invite his family to view Finding Faith in Christ. The family accepted, came to the Lehnardts’ to have dessert and watch the video, and were so touched that they agreed to have the missionaries teach them.
President David Henderson of the California Ventura Mission reports that a couple from Bakersfield chose to send an Ensign subscription to friends they met at physical therapy. After viewing the DVD Finding Faith in Christ that came with their April 2003 issue, the husband walked into a missionary zone conference and announced, “I’m here to join your church.” He was invited to bring his wife back to have lunch; the missionary discussions started that same evening. They are now members, enjoying full fellowship with the Saints. As President Henderson noted, “As we remember others, He remembers us. Sharing the gospel brings blessings to everyone involved.”
In the Timberline Ward of the Fort Collins Colorado Stake, Alva and Wendy Barney have developed good relationships with many of their neighbors of other faiths. One family with three children have become particularly good friends. So when the Finding Faith in Christ video became available, the Barneys invited their friends over for a family night. And knowing they share a common faith in Christ, the Barneys invited their friends to bring along some Bible verses on the Resurrection to share. Unfortunately, at the last minute the father was unable to come. But the mother and children came. “In spite of the restless children, the Spirit was there,” the Barneys report. “Near the end of the video we noticed tears in the eyes of the mother and could tell she was touched.” Before the evening was over, she said she wanted her husband to see the video too.
After the video, the Barneys shared simple testimonies of Christ and then gave a small treat to the children. “It was very comfortable,” the Barneys continue. “Although their family hasn’t started listening to the missionaries, there was a definite feeling of love there. We feel our relationship has grown stronger and sense the same feelings from her. It seems that the simple act of sharing something so important and personal tends to strengthen friendships.”
What Are You Giving for Christmas?
We all have friends and neighbors we would like to share the gospel with. Perhaps the most expensive Christmas gift we’ve ever given most of them is a card or a plate of homemade candy. Now, another Christmas is just around the corner, and we have the opportunity to give a gift that is priceless.
When possible, it is very effective for our friends and neighbors to view a production like Joy to the World in a spirit of friendship with members who already have testimonies and the gift of the Holy Ghost. After viewing the video with those we have prayerfully invited, we can bear simple testimony, express love and friendship, answer questions, and invite our friends to learn more.
Families could use home evening time to identify those they wish to approach, perhaps preparing simple invitations and inexpensive treats to accompany them. They could then invite those friends into their homes to view Joy to the World and share their thoughts and feelings about Jesus Christ.
Wards and branches could organize appropriate fellowshipping and missionary activities around Joy to the World. These might include open houses or firesides where those invited could view the video, hear appropriate music, join in singing Christmas hymns, and perhaps partake of light refreshments. There are many possibilities suitable for all circumstances and available resources.
We could simply give a copy of Joy to the World along with a card or a plate of goodies or a gift basket. Many hearts were touched as people watched Finding Faith in Christ on their own. The Spirit bears witness of the message to those whose hearts are prepared.
Each Christmas season we are reminded often not to forget the true meaning of Christmas. Here is an opportunity for all of us to make this Christmas season one of the most meaningful ever by sharing the greatest gift ever—the restored gospel.