I have been busy this week with the normal activities of going out with the Sisters, Ward Missionaries, and giving service that I forgot to write my weekly email to y’all! I decided to make up for it by posting the talk that I will giving this Sunday as the High Councilman companion speaker. I hope you enjoy it, the topic is “Teaching the Gospel- By The Spirit”.
The Usual Way
I would like to start with a story from Our Search for Happiness by Elder M. Russell Ballard.
I heard about one member of a church , a father, who was moving his family into a new neighborhood. The man next door was outside watering his lawn. In an attempt to be neighborly, he shouted out an unassuming question: “Where do you folks come from?”
Our member knew an opening line when he heard it. He walked across his lawn, put his hand on the neighbor’s shoulder, and responded, “What a profound question! Why don’t you and your family come over to our house for dinner some night and we’ll teach you the truth about where we came from, why we’re here, and where we are all going after this life is over.”
It’s easy to see how someone might be put off by such as approach. The sharing of religious beliefs is a deeply personal, even scared thing. It can’t be done very effectively in such a cavalier manner.
Often we look for ways to share by words only, no relationship or build up beforehand. For example in The District, a movie series about missionaries in the field made by the church, one elder states; “We need to find those opportunities to serve and be an example. When we are trying to chase people down to share the gospel, they will just think of us as the crazy people who chase people down not those with a message of gladness to share.”
A favorite saying of President Uchtdorf often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi reads, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.” Implicit in this saying is the understanding that often the most powerful sermons are unspoken.When we have integrity and live consistently by our standards, people notice. When we radiate joy and happiness, they notice even more.
Everyone wants to be happy. When we members of the Church radiate the light of the gospel, people can see our happiness and sense the love of God filling and overflowing in our lives. They want to know why. They want to understand our secret.
That leads them to ask questions such as “Why are you so happy?” or “Why do you always have such a positive attitude?” The answers to these questions, of course, lead perfectly into a conversation about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
So how do we receive this light and happiness that will attract others to want to know the gospel? Through the Spirit!
Following the Spirit
When I was in Manaus, my companion and I would walk by the same house everyday. At this house was a man about 40 to 50 years old named Raimundo. He had had three surgeries to his midsection and because of this had a hard time walking with a cane or holding an arm of someone the 200 yards from his house to his rocking chair at their front gate. Because of this, his family would walk him to the rocking chair and leave him there for the rest of the day. After about two weeks of walking by and saying hello, I felt impressed to do what I had done many times at BYU-Idaho when I walked by unknown but same people everyday. I stopped and asked for his name so the hellos could be more personal. We exchanged names and then my companion and I headed on our way. Over the next week or so of exchanging hi’s, I decided to ask him if we could teach him the gospel. He became bright eyed, smiled and quickly agreed to lessons. During our first visit he called his closest family members to gather around and listen to the girls who were like the boys in the white shirts and ties that had always passed by before. I was not there long enough to teach him everything but I know that the lord directed us to talk to him about the Restored Gospel, maybe to answer his sincere desire to know about the young men in ties and open a door for him and his family.
How to Recognize the Spirit
The spirit is sometimes is thought to be a difficult influence to feel in our lives. President Thomas S. Monson suggests. “Seek heavenly guidance one day at a time. Life by the yard is hard; by the inch it’s a cinch. Each of us can be true for just one day—and then one more and then one more after that—until we’ve lived a lifetime guided by the Spirit.”
Some suggests of tools that can help gain this inch by inch is first, Prayer. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught that… “Every morning . . . , missionaries should get on their knees and plead with the Lord to loosen their tongues and speak through them to the blessing of those they will be teaching. If they will do this, a new light will come into their lives. There will be greater enthusiasm for the work. They will come to know that in a very real sense, they are servants of the Lord speaking in His behalf. They will find a different response from those they teach. As they do so by the Spirit, their investigators will respond under the influence of the same Spirit.” I would strongly suggest using the Preach My Gospel Chapter on Recognizing the Spirit and Praying with Faith Personal Study activity as a way to gauge how strong and effective our prayers are in finding service opportunities or others and be directed by the Spirit in our daily lives, especially missionary work.
Second, Keep the Commandments. Elder Bednar speaking about the Spirit of Revelation stated…“As we honor our covenants and keep the commandments, as we strive ever more consistently to do good and to become better, we can walk with the confidence that God will guide our steps.” It is automatic as we repent, live the word of wisdom, and strive to do our best everyday, our actions, thoughts and words will be like God’s. Therefore directed by the Holy Ghost.
We do not need to fret about not hearing or feeling a distinct impression of the Holy Ghost everyday. We just need to keep the teachings of the Gospel growing in our lives and everything will be directed for our good and in the finding of those to share the Gospel with.
What Will The Spirit Use
Every missionary learns very quickly that by living the missionary rules helps them keep the Holy Ghost with them. They also learn that without personal and companionship study that it becomes difficult to listen to the Spirit and be directly directed on what that individual person is needing. In Doctrine and Covenants 84:85, Jesus Christ tells us why studying is so important, “Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.” What a promise, The Holy Ghost will give us everything. I found that if I prayed before my studying about a certain investigator. Ideas or scriptures would be brought before me that could easily be applied to that investigator. As members we can do the same. Everyday as we sit down to study, think of a friend or family member that could use the insights gathered from your scripture study. Write them down and put them to use. Never hesitate to follow these promptings. God knows just the right touch to change their lives.
On my way home from Brazil, I was standing in line at the Manaus Brazil International airport waiting to check my bags and receive my tickets. The line was very long and it was almost midnight. As I stood there wondering what going home and still being a missionary would be like I noticed the brazilian woman in front of me kept side glancing my name tag. The fourth time she did so, I piped up and asked do you know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints? She responded No but I live in Miami and I was surprised your name tag had english and portuguese. We then continued talking in english about life, family, gospel and love of Brazil for the next three hours before our flight and after arriving in Miami. Before departing she thanked me for helping her practice english and I offered to send by the missionaries in Miami to teach her more. She responded with an affirmative yes.
Like this experience, making a meaningful experience just takes a little bit of courage and guidance from the spirit. President Utchdorf gives an example of his wife and that can be easily applied in our lives.
My wife, Harriet, is a wonderful example of this. When we were living in Germany, she would find a way to work Church-related topics into her conversations with friends and acquaintances. For example, when someone asked about her weekend, she would say, “This Sunday we had an impressive experience in our church! A 16-year-old young man gave a beautiful talk in front of 200 people of our congregation about living a clean life.” Or, “I learned about a 90-year-old woman who knitted more than 500 blankets and gave them to our Church’s humanitarian program to be shipped to people in need all around the world.”
More often than not, the people who heard this wanted to know more. They asked questions. And that led to opportunities to talk about the gospel in a natural, confident, non-pushy way. With the advent of the Internet and social media, it is easier today to talk about these things in a conversational way than ever before. What we need is simply the courage and prayer to have the Holy Ghost to do so.
One more way that we can develop the ability to be more in tune to the Spirit is through the example of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Life. In this month Ensign, an article talks about the Discipleship Challenge. In essence, they invited a few members to focus on a particular teaching of or story about Jesus Christ, consistently study and ponder that selection of scripture for a week, and report on how a dedicated study of the Savior’s life and teachings affected how they followed Him “at all times” in their lives.
Some examples of scriptures that can be studied and lived by for a week in living more up to our ability to sharing the gospel by the spirit are:
John 3:1-13 This set of verses speaks about being patient with questioning as Jesus was with Nicodemus.
Matthew 7 This chapter is full of great wisdom for missionary work. To state a few judging not others, discern by the spirit what truths to give, ask and ye shall find.
I know that if we pray, seek for companionship of the Holy Ghost and truthfully look for ways to share the Gospel…