How do I know when I’ve done all that I can to teach someone the gospel and should ease off since they are not listening?
Missionary work has always been part of the gospel. After his resurrection, Christ appeared to his disciples and instructed them to go preach the gospel to the whole world (see Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15). After the restoration of the gospel, the Lord told the first members of the Church to teach “all nations, kindreds, tongues and people” (D&C 42:58). Then, more recently, President David O. McKay urged “Every member a missionary” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1959, p. 122).
No wonder we talk a lot about spreading the gospel. And what better place to start than with your friends. But sometimes just when you’ve worked up your nerve to talk to your friends about the Church, they do not respond. They simply are not interested. The truths that mean so much to you don’t mean anything to them. You don’t want to abandon teaching them about the Church and the gospel, but continuing to talk about these things is causing conflict. What do you do?
Realize that people are different. Some respond to the truths of the gospel as soon as they hear them. For others, the conversion process may be slow as each level of belief is built upon the last. As their friend, you are an important part of this process even though you may not be teaching them about the gospel with words. Here are a few points readers mentioned when they offered answers to this question:
Be prepared. The only way you can share your testimony is by having one yourself. Take seminary. Participate in Sunday School class. Work with the missionaries if the opportunity comes. Read your scriptures. Participate fully in family home evenings. Pray. All these things help strengthen your knowledge of the gospel. Then you will be more prepared to answer your friends’ questions and share your testimony.
Help them be involved in Church activities. Even though your friends may not be interested in hearing more about the Church, they may enjoy participating in Church activities. Invite them to Mutual activities, dances, service projects, or Sunday meetings. Just seeing the Church in action may help create a serious interest in learning more.
Avoid contention. The Lord urges us to avoid contention. No one is convinced of anything by arguing. If you find yourself arguing with your friends over the Church, you may have to take a step back. Don’t purposely provoke your friends. But do not go along with their choices if they are against your standards.
Make it clear you care. Be sure your friends know you are a friend regardless of their interest in the Church. They will be more interested in what you know when they know that you truly care. And isn’t that the kind of Christlike example we would like to be?
Be patient. The spirit of conversion comes from the Lord to those whose hearts have been softened. As a friend, you may plant a seed that will be nourished and grow and blossom at a later date. When your friends are ready to search for something more in life, they may remember their good friend and the way you lived.
Do not be discouraged if your friends don’t seem interested in learning about the gospel now. No good thing is wasted. Live as you know you should. Be a good friend. Try to teach when the opportunity comes up. And have faith that the Lord will guide your friends to the gospel as they soften their hearts towards that which is right and good in life.
Many times it seemed like I was forcing my friends to listen. I changed my approach. I don’t “tell” my friends about the Church as often anymore. I “show” them the Church. I’ll invite them to Mutual, sacrament meeting, firesides, and other activities, but then it’s up to them if they want to come or not. If it is right, the Spirit will whisper to them and help them see the truth and light that we see in the gospel.
Jillana Ah Loe Pago Pago, American Samoa
When I feel contention in our friendship, and we start to argue, it’s time to back away. I can feel when the light goes out, and they make me feel intimidated about what I say. This is the time that I allow the Spirit to pick up where my words have left off.
Alan Pippin, 18 Portland, Oregon
I’ve learned that sometimes people need time to think and let the seed grow. Other times, a little push is helpful. The only way to know for sure is to listen to the Spirit. Fast and pray about it. Remember, our responsibility as members of the Church is to share the gospel with the world, not necessarily to convert the whole world.
Cory Allen, 17 Great Falls, Montana
They may not be quite ready to hear and understand what you are saying. All you can do is make sure they know you are prepared and willing to share the truth when they find themselves ready to hear and accept it.
Tiffany Lockyer, 15 Upper Hutt, New Zealand
I love to share the gospel. I generally start talking and asking questions about their church and show them the differences between us. But if I don’t feel the curiosity anymore or sense the desire to listen, I stop and leave it for the future and some other lucky missionary.
Patrick Darby, 16 Anchorage, Alaska
Make it known that your friend is free to ask you questions on the subject anytime and continue to be a good Christian friend and example.
Sharonell Lagana, 17 Merritt Island, Florida