Gospel Sharing the Easy Way

by Dee V. Jacobs

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    Every member a missionary.

    “Sure, I want to, but I’m embarrassed.”

    “It’s hard to do.”

    “I don’t know what to say.”

    “I don’t want to force the gospel on others.”

    So, what would you think of a simple, no-strain-or-pain approach that allowed you to introduce scores of friends and acquaintances to the Church or gospel principles—while you are doing your lessons?

    Karen and Susan Jacobs of Walnut Creek, California, found it fun and rewarding. It started when Karen was in the fifth grade at the American School in Copenhagen, Denmark. She was looking for a subject for a rather ambitious American history report. The teacher called for footnotes, bibliography, note cards, and oral reports—you know, the works. Her biggest hurdle was to choose a subject. Her parents suggested that she do her report on the Mormon trek westward.

    “Why not?” she said.

    Once started it was an easier topic to write on than most, with all that help at home, her interest, and her background on the subject from Primary and Sunday School.

    Few in the class knew much about the Mormons, and the oral report, laced with interest-raising points, created a lively discussion for months afterwards. She got an A grade too!

    Once they discovered the approach, the Jacobs sisters used it, with variations, on numerous occasions. For example, eighth-grader Susan spiced up a science lecture on the effects of smoking by dissecting a calf’s heart in class (she had been prepped on where to cut and how the heart worked by George Washington University medical student Milo Andrus, who also supplied surgical gloves and scalpel). Such a graphic presentation by a petite girl made quite an impression on the class—and they got a strong Word-of-Wisdom explanation simultaneously. The grade was A!

    The heart lesson went over so well that Karen used a calf’s brain in her science fair presentation on the effects of narcotic drugs and won a prize. Again, she included an easy-to-give, easy-to-take explanation on one phase of the Lord’s law of health.

    As a junior at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, Karen was quite put out (furious is more accurate) to find a snide portrayal of the Prophet Joseph and the Church in her history book. It described Joseph Smith as a transient farmer digging for buried treasure. She pointed out the inaccuracies to her teacher who turned the tables by asking if she would like to give a class presentation on early Church history. Karen gulped and accepted. Out came the fifth-grade report. Spruced up with the addition of the Joseph Smith story and a few other gems, it was just the thing. It ended up taking the whole class period. The teacher promptly asked Karen for a repeat performance in his afternoon class. There were dozens of thoughtful questions which led to the missionaries being invited to explain more.

    Although there were only three LDS seniors in her graduating class of 800, Karen’s senior government class was treated to four oral presentations on Church subjects. Karen spoke on the United Order, Mike Miller on the nutritional aspects of the Word of Wisdom, and Mark Forsyth on Church government. The bonus came when a nonmember friend, impressed by her prededication visit to the Washington Temple, and with help from her LDS friends, reported on the Mormons as temple builders.

    The willingness of Karen, Susan, and their friends to try this approach had wide-reaching effects. Virtually everyone in the school knew them as the Mormons. Located in a major suburb of Washington, D.C., the school was largely composed of children of foreign diplomats, Congressmen, and other military and government officials; yet, the school was replete with drug users, crude language, immorality, nonexistent dress standards, and hundreds of students without fixed standards or ideals. But the tiny LDS group was recognized and respected by teachers and students alike for what they believed in. None was subjected to derision or hassle. In fact, it was most helpful in avoiding unwholesome activities to be able to say, “Remember, that’s a no-no for Mormons.”

    Perhaps it was due in part to this early willingness to dig into gospel subjects and share LDS teachings that today Karen is taking time out from her studies in the Brigham Young University honors program to serve a mission to Spain and Susan has only a few months to wait for her mission call.

    A great prophet of the Lord called on every member to be a missionary. Can you imagine the impact on teachers and students if every LDS student were to write or give just one report each year on the Church? Even in areas of heavy Church membership, many nonmembers have never been given real, firsthand exposure to our teachings. What easier way to lengthen your stride and please President Kimball? Go on, try it. Or to quote that motto in our beloved prophet’s office, “Do it!”

    Illustrated by Colleen Hinckley