I became more and more uncomfortable during our first member-missionary Sunday School class while the teacher talked about the importance of the work.
“Every member a missionary,” he reminded us, and then he continued: “Eighty percent of the convert baptisms in our mission come from member referrals. One part of the threefold mission of the Church is to proclaim the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Brothers and sisters, we need to learn to open our mouths and share the gospel!”
His words weren’t new to me; I had heard them many times and believed them to be true. So why was I feeling uncomfortable? Why was I too nervous to give a nonmember a copy of the Book of Mormon, share my testimony with someone, or invite someone to meet the missionaries? Feeling discouraged after that first class, I tried to understand why I felt afraid to give a copy of the Book of Mormon to a nonmember, to share my testimony of the gospel, and to the invite nonmember friends and neighbors to meet with the missionaries. In examining my fears I took the first step toward a remarkable change in my life. As I studied the scriptures and words of living prophets and prayed to the Lord, my fear turned to confidence. By the end of that six-week class, I had given away seven copies of the Book of Mormon, shared my testimony with two nonmembers, and invited neighbors into our home to meet the missionaries. Here’s how I faced my fears and dealt with them.
“I’m afraid to give a copy of the Book of Mormon to nonmembers because:
“Religion is a private matter, and I don’t want to offend them.”
“They might think all I care about is that they join the Church, and that our friendship isn’t really important to me.”
“It might hurt a friendship because I might seem too aggressive.”
A change of attitude came when I realized that I did have something other people wanted and would accept into their lives: a testimony and knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I realized that instead of thinking of fellowshipping people so they’ll join the Church, I needed to think more about loving them so much that I really wanted to share the gospel with them.
To those who may be afraid of being aggressive or hurting a friendship, President Spencer W. Kimball offered this counsel: “Sometimes we forget that it is better to risk offending a friend than it is to deprive them of eternal life. …” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, page 554.)
On that first Sunday of the member-missionary class, our teacher asked us to commit to the Lord to give away one copy of the Book of Mormon during the next week and each following week. Even though I was still fearful at the time, I did accept the challenge. By the middle of the week it was clear to me whom I should share a copy with.
We had hired an older man to do some work for us. From his very first day, I felt he was an honest man of good character. On the morning of his last day with us, I prayed to Heavenly Father and received a confirmation that this individual should receive a copy of the Book of Mormon. I also prayed for guidance from the Holy Ghost on how to approach the man—and for the confidence I needed to talk to him about the book. I prepared a Book of Mormon with my testimony and anxiously awaited our visit.
That evening, when he finished working, I invited the man to sit down, offered him a glass of water, and asked, “Has anyone ever told you why Mormons are called ‘Mormons’?” (This was an approach we had learned in the member-missionary class.)
When he said no, I asked, “Would you be offended if I offered to tell you?”
“No, go right ahead,” he answered.
After a friendly fifteen-minute talk about the Book of Mormon, I offered him my prepared copy and asked if he would read it. I promised him that if he read it prayerfully he would know, as I did, that it is true. He said he would do it. We then parted, still friends. He wasn’t offended, and I didn’t feel that I had been aggressive.
“I’m afraid to share my testimony with nonmembers because:
“They might not be prepared to hear it.”
“They might reject it, and then I would feel rejected.”
“I’m not sure what to say or how to express my testimony.”
During the second week of our member-missionary class, I recognized a marvelous opportunity to share my testimony of the plan of salvation with a nonmember friend who had just had her first baby. By putting my trust in the Lord, I was able to express my testimony of God’s love. It was a wonderful experience that led to tears of joy and an undeniable feeling that God does love us. I followed up later by sharing a copy of the Book of Mormon with her, which she welcomed and agreed to read.
We are responsible to proclaim the gospel; then the individual has the option of accepting or rejecting it. If he doesn’t accept it, we continue to love him and to be his friend.
The Lord has promised to help us as we share the gospel. If we put our trust in him and lift up our voices, he promises that “it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say.” (See D&C 100:5–8.)
“I’m afraid to invite nonmembers to meet the missionaries because:
“They might say no.”
“I don’t know how they’ll react to the missionaries.”
“Everyone might be uncomfortable.”
Even though I was nervous about it, I decided to invite some neighbors to spend a home evening with us. We asked the missionaries to join us. We hoped that through this experience our friends would learn that the missionaries were normal young men with an enthusiasm for life and a genuine interest in their family’s happiness.
After visiting and enjoying refreshments, our conversation developed into a calm discussion about the gospel. An hour and a half later, our neighbors—still our friends—left with a copy of the Book of Mormon with our testimony written inside.
Other experiences followed during the final weeks of that member-missionary class. Each experience taught me the powerful lesson that my fears really don’t need to keep me from sharing the gospel with others. I have learned that if I am prayerful and prepared, the Lord will bless me with confidence. And now we are enjoying more often the wonderful feelings of joy and gratitude that come from sharing the gospel.