My brothers and sisters, not many weeks ago I had both of my knees surgically replaced. So when I say that I am grateful to be able to stand before you today, it is no idle statement. During this recuperative period I have been reminded of how blessed we are to know of the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am overwhelmed when I think about the pain and the suffering He went through for us in Gethsemane and on the cross. How He endured it I cannot comprehend. But I thank Him, and I love Him more profoundly than words can express.
I also thank President Hinckley for the privilege of being with him at the birthplace of the Prophet Joseph. Because of Joseph Smith, we have been given much. Were it not for the Restoration we would not know the true nature of God, our Heavenly Father, or our own divine nature as His children. We would not understand the eternal nature of our existence or know that the family can be together forever.
We would not be aware that God continues to speak to His prophets in our day, beginning with the marvelous First Vision wherein the Father and the Son appeared to the Prophet Joseph. We would not have the comforting assurance that we are led by a prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley.
Without the Restoration we would likely be under the assumption that the entirety of God’s word is found in the Bible. As precious and wonderful as that book of scripture is, we would not know of the Book of Mormon and other latter-day scriptures that teach eternal truths which help us draw nearer to our Heavenly Father and the Savior.
Without the Restoration we would not have the blessings of priesthood ordinances that are valid in time and eternity. We would not know the conditions of repentance, nor would we understand the reality of the resurrection. We would not have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.
When we truly understand how great a blessing the gospel of Jesus Christ is in our lives, when we accept and embrace these eternal truths and allow them to sink deep into our hearts and souls, we experience a “mighty change” (Alma 5:14) in our hearts. We are filled with love and gratitude. As the prophet Alma wrote, we feel “to sing the song of redeeming love” (Alma 5:26) to all who will hear it.
“O, that I were an angel,” Alma said, “and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
“Yea, I would declare unto every soul … the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth” (Alma 29:1–2).
So it should be with us, my brothers and sisters. Our love for the Lord and appreciation for the Restoration of the gospel are all the motivation we need to share what gives us much joy and happiness. It is the most natural thing in the world for us to do, and yet far too many of us are hesitant to share our testimonies with others.
All around the world, missionaries are responding to this testimony-driven joy in sharing the gospel. Many of them are entering the MTC with their own marked and well-studied copies of the missionary guide Preach My Gospel. I am pleased to report that with the use of Preach My Gospel, they are increasingly able to teach in their own words by the power of the Spirit and are better able to adjust their lessons to the needs of those whom they are teaching. As a result they are having meaningful impact on many lives.
But quite frankly, what they need now is more people to teach. Experience has shown that the best teaching situations develop when our members participate in the finding and teaching process. This is nothing new—you’ve heard it before. Some of you may even feel guilty that you are not giving much help to the missionaries.
Today I invite you to relax and set aside your concerns and focus instead on your love for the Lord, your testimony of His eternal reality, and your gratitude for all He has done for you. If you are truly motivated by love and testimony and gratitude, you will quite naturally do all that you can to assist the Lord in “[bringing] to pass the immortality and eternal life” (Moses 1:39) of our Father’s children. In fact, it would be impossible to keep you from doing it.
The Savior Himself showed us the way when He invited His disciples to “come and see … where he dwelt, and [they] abode with him that day” (John 1:39). Why do you suppose He did that? The scriptural record does not explain His reasoning, but I am confident that it had nothing to do with comfort or convenience. As always, He was teaching. And what better way to teach His followers than to invite them to visit with Him so they could see and experience His magnificent message firsthand.
Similarly, our homes can be gospel-sharing homes as people we know and love come into our homes and experience the gospel firsthand in both word and action. We can share the gospel without holding a formal discussion. Our families can be our lesson, and the spirit that emanates from our homes can be our message.
Having a gospel-sharing home will not only be a blessing for those we bring into our homes but for those who live within it. By living in a gospel-sharing home, our testimonies become stronger and our understanding of the gospel improves. The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that we can be forgiven of our sins when we help someone else repent (see D&C 62:3). We find joy in helping others come unto Christ and feel the redemptive power of His love (see D&C 18:14–16). Our families are blessed as the testimonies and faith of both parents and children increase.
In gospel-sharing homes we pray for guidance for ourselves, and we pray for the physical and spiritual well-being of others. We pray for the people the missionaries are teaching, for our acquaintances, and for those not of our faith. In the gospel-sharing homes of Alma’s time, the people would “join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God” (Alma 6:6).
Creating a gospel-sharing home is the easiest and most effective way that we can share the gospel with others. And we’re not just talking about traditional homes with families consisting of two parents living with their children. College students can create a gospel-sharing home when they adorn the walls of their apartments with pictures that reflect spiritual pursuits instead of the things of the world. Older couples and single members exemplify a gospel-sharing home when they welcome new neighbors and invite them to attend church and visit them in their homes.
A gospel-sharing home is one in which neighborhood children love to play, making it natural to invite them and their family to attend church, a family home evening, or some other activity. Teenagers visiting a gospel-sharing home feel comfortable asking questions or participating with the family in prayer.
Gospel-sharing homes are very ordinary. They may not always be spotlessly clean nor the children perfectly behaved. But they are a place in which family members clearly love each other, and the Spirit of the Lord is felt by those who visit.
As we talk about what a gospel-sharing home is, perhaps it would also be helpful to identify some things that a gospel-sharing home is not.
A gospel-sharing home is not a program. It is a way of life. Creating a gospel-sharing home means inviting our friends and neighbors into the ongoing flow of family and Church activities. As we invite our friends to join us for these activities, they will also feel the Spirit.
Creating a gospel-sharing home does not mean that we are going to have to dedicate large amounts of time to meeting and cultivating friends with whom to share the gospel. These friends will come naturally into our lives, and if we are open about our membership in the Church from the very beginning, we can easily bring gospel discussions into the relationship with very little risk of being misunderstood. Friends and acquaintances will accept that this is part of who we are, and they will feel free to ask questions.
A gospel-sharing home is not defined by whether or not people join the Church as a result of our contact with them. Our opportunity and responsibility are to care, to share, to testify, to invite, and then to allow individuals to decide for themselves. We are blessed when we have invited them to consider the Restoration, regardless of the outcome. At the very least, we have a rewarding relationship with someone from another faith, and we can continue to enjoy their friendship.
In a gospel-sharing home we do not just pray for the health, safety, and success of our missionaries throughout the world. We also pray for our own missionary experiences and opportunities and to be prepared to act on those impressions as they come our way. And I promise you, they will come.
More than 20 years ago I suggested that the key to successful member missionary work is the exercise of faith. One way to show your faith in the Lord and His promises is to prayerfully set a date to have someone prepared to meet with the missionaries. I have received hundreds of letters from members who have exercised their faith in this simple way. Even though families had no one in mind with whom they could share the gospel, they set a date, prayed, and then talked to many more people. The Lord is the Good Shepherd, and He knows His sheep who have been prepared to hear His voice. He will guide us as we seek His divine help in sharing His gospel.
A sister in France was asked about the secret of her success. She said, “I simply share my joy. I treat everyone as if they were already a member of the Church. If I’m standing by someone in line and strike up a conversation, I share with them how much I enjoyed my Church meetings on Sunday. When co-workers ask, ‘What did you do this weekend?’ I do not skip from Saturday night to Monday morning. I share with them that I went to church, what was said, and my experiences with the Saints. I talk about how I live, think, and feel.”
In a gospel-sharing home, our personal missionary effort is a topic of family councils and discussions. One faithful family counseled together on the need for each family member to be an example. Later, the son’s high school coach, who was not a member, sent a donation to the Church. Why? Because this young man had impressed him with his courage in speaking up and telling his teammates to clean up their language. There are thousands of experiences that could be shared where people have joined the Church because of the spirit and attitude they observe in the lives of those who come from gospel-sharing homes.
Church literature or DVDs can introduce new friends to the Church. Invitations to hear a family member speak in sacrament meeting or to attend the baptismal service of a family member or to tour a meetinghouse have also been appreciated by those who are not members. From every indicator we have, there is nothing more effective that any of us can do for our friends than to say “come and see” by joining with us in sacrament meeting. Far too many do not know they are welcome to worship with us.
Of course, all of us support the ward leaders and assist in making the ward mission plan effective. Whatever our Church calling may be, we help priesthood and auxiliary leaders assist missionaries, welcome and involve visitors, and fellowship new members. You can ask the missionaries to show you their daily planners so you can see how you can best help them accomplish their goals. As we work together, the spirit of our gospel-sharing homes will overflow in our chapels, our classrooms, and our cultural halls.
I bear testimony that if we will just do some of these simple things, the Lord will lead us to find tens of thousands of Heavenly Father’s children who are ready to be taught the gospel. Our love for the Lord, our appreciation for His atoning sacrifice, and His mission to have all come unto Him should provide all the motivation we need to be successful in sharing the gospel.
May the Lord bless you, my brothers and sisters, with greater faith and trust in Him as you reach out now to introduce the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of the world, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
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