“How to Share the Gospel: A Step-by-step Approach for You and Your Neighbors,” Ensign, June 1974, 6
“Every member a missionary.” How often have we heard that statement?
President David O. McKay once urged that each member should help bring at least one person into the Church each year. Since then, many of us have considered being a missionary to our neighbors, but have never done it, perhaps because we felt we “didn’t know how.”
But “knowing how” is easy. There is a simple, natural way to share the gospel with others. And, with some practice, you can develop confidence in your ability to follow the Lord’s commission to be a missionary.
If followed prayerfully and thoughtfully, the following steps can help prepare your friends to hear the gospel. For readers with families, why not make missionary work a family affair?
A. PLAN EACH STEP. Although opportunities can come in unplanned situations, you should plan and even practice how you’ll accomplish each step. The sequence of the following ideas may be altered if necessary. The steps should be varied, added to, or subtracted from to fit the needs and attitudes of your individual friends.
B. WORK WITH MORE THAN ONE FAMILY. You may need to work with several families or persons before you can find one who is really ready for the gospel, so work with more than one family or person at a time.
C. SET TIME GOALS. Make some contact with your family or persons at least once each week. Set specific time goals for accomplishing each step. Challenge yourself.
D. MAKE REFERRALS. When you find someone who is ready to be taught the gospel, tell your home teachers so missionaries can be assigned to teach the contact. The following steps are categorized into separate units as aids, even though in actual situations some steps will be eliminated or will flow naturally into another.
1. Select your family.
2. Get acquainted.
3. Invite them to your home.
4. Go out together.
5. Inform them you are Latter-day Saints.
6. Give them something about the Church to read.
7. Invite them to your family home evening.
8. Invite them to Primary, Aaronic Priesthood MIA, or Relief Society.
9. Invite them to a Church social.
10. Invite them to a Church meeting.
11. Bear your testimony.
12. Ask them the “Golden Questions.”
13. Ask the missionaries to teach them in your home.
A. Ask yourself the following questions—DO YOU KNOW ANY NONMEMBERS:
Who have asked questions about the Church?
Who have expressed respect for the Church or its members?
Who have expressed concern about modern religion?
Who have expressed concern about their family living in this troubled world?
Who are looking for family youth programs?
Who are friendly to you because you live Church standards?
Who are interested in genealogy?
Who have had a recent death in their family and would welcome knowledge of our belief concerning the plan of salvation?
Who have been married recently and need to know of the teachings concerning family ties in our Church?
Who have had a new birth in their family and need guidance in family living?
Who have heard the Tabernacle choir?
Who are friendly and sincere?
Who have just moved into the neighborhood and thus have no strong ties of friendship in the neighborhood?
B. YOUR FRIENDS SHOULD INCLUDE NONMEMBERS. Don’t be exclusive. “Love your neighbors” means love all people.
C. REALLY WANT TO BE FRIENDS. You must sincerely want your family’s or person’s friendship. Rather than merely regarding this as another Church assignment, seek the Lord’s help in creating a genuine friendship.
D. PRAY. Ask the Lord for guidance and advice concerning specific families and people.
A. LEARN EACH PERSON’S NAME. Get his name correctly, remember it, and pronounce it as he pronounces it. This is important in raising his self-esteem.
B. BE CHEERFUL. Smile! Make your own family one that neighbors will want to know.
C. BE A GOOD LISTENER. What is on your neighbor’s mind? Talk to him about his interests instead of your own.
D. DISCUSS ITEMS OF PERSONAL INTEREST. For example, find out about each person’s business or profession, his family activities, interests of his children, his vacations, and personal properties such as his house, car, pets, gardens, hobbies, and so forth. Mothers and wives could discuss home interests such as children, decorating, cooking, sewing, studying, and reading.
E. DO SOMETHING FOR EACH PERSON. Is he just moving into his house? Offer to help him, do his laundry. Offer to give him a hand. Is he planting or weeding his lawn? Get your edger. You can learn a lot working side by side. Does a couple need a baby sitter? Be available. Are you driving your children to school? Offer to take theirs also. Has it been awhile since you’ve seen them? See if they are sick or need help. Do they need someone to watch their home while they are on vacation? Volunteer to do it. Can you take their children on a picnic with you? Or fishing?
F. PRAY. Ask for specific help in how to approach your family and in how to get to know them.
A. DEFINE YOUR REASON. Have a definite reason for inviting them to your home and let the family know it. If you are trying to advance your “back-fence relationship” toward a closer friendship, you need something interesting and worthwhile to make them want to spend time in your home. Some examples might include:
“Our June vacation photos came back today. Why don’t you bring some of your favorites, and we’ll share them tonight.”
“My wife is frying some of the venison from my hunting trip. We’d like to have you and your wife join us.”
“Our new room is finally finished. Come over, and let us give you a ‘cook’s tour.’”
“We’re barbecuing this weekend. Can you come over at about five o’clock on Saturday?”
B. HAVE SOME BOOKS AND MAGAZINES OUT. The Ensign, the New Era, the Friend, or a Church book of a very basic nature may arouse curiosity. But you need not comment on it unless you’re asked.
C. PRAY. Ask specifically how to make the invitation you are about to offer one that your friends will be pleased to accept.
A. FOCUS ON THEIR INTERESTS. Do something they want to do or something you know will interest them, especially something they may not yet have experienced. This does not need to be a Church activity, but merely an opportunity to deepen and broaden your friendship.
B. LET THEM SUGGEST. Should they suggest a place to go or invite you to go with them, accept their invitation with enthusiasm. If the place or event is not appropriate, tell them you cannot go at that time, and then suggest an alternate place and event. Do not use this as an occasion to lecture them on your standards, since it was their idea. Be tactful.
C. PRAY. Ask the Lord about which event to attend and how to ask them to go.
A. REFER TO A MORMON EVENT. When your neighbor asks, “What is that?”, be ready to answer. Some examples that could come up in conversation might include:
“I am going home teaching tonight.”
“My daughter’s science teacher and my husband are members of the same elders quorum.”
“I received a letter from my nephew today. He’s a missionary in Texas.”
“Our little girl made this napkin holder in Primary.”
“Our teenager helped prune peach trees last night at the Church welfare farm.”
“The Church general conference is being telecast this morning at nine o’clock.”
These preliminary statements identify you as a Latter-day Saint, and that is the objective of this step.
B. RELATE AN INTERESTING STORY. If one of your ancestors had an interesting experience in the Church which led to your being a member, you could relate it. (See below.)
C. AVOID DEEP SUBJECTS. Deep subjects or intensely personal spiritual experiences, such as the concept of three degrees of glory or stories involving visions, should not be discussed at this early stage. The gospel is wonderfully simple and simply wonderful. Approach it in an uncomplicated way.
D. PRAY. Ask for guidance to know how, where, and when to take this step.
A. CONSIDER GIVING THEM CHURCH PAMPHLETS. If they have expressed interest in the Church, you may give them introductory pamphlets, such as “Joseph Smith’s Testimony,” “Which Church is Right?”, “A Friendly Discussion,” “A Philosophical Basis for Mormonism,” Or “These Are the Mormons.”
B. GIVE THEM WORD OF WISDOM PAMPHLETS. If your friends express a desire to stop smoking or drinking or exhibit curiosity about your standards regarding these habits, you may give them a pamphlet concerning this, such as “A Word of Wisdom.”
C. USE DISCRETION. Give only those books or pamphlets you have read and that you consider most likely to help your specific family. Books with pictures are good as introductory materials.
D. PRAY. Pray for understanding in determining what to give the family and how to interest them in reading what you give them.
A. SHOW THEM A STRONG FAMILY. Next to your testimony, your solid family relationships are your strongest point of appeal, as most people need help in solving family problems. Demonstrate Church procedures without naming them as such. For instance, show how the father presides, how each member is valuable, and how unity brings beauty, love, and understanding into your home.
B. BE READY FOR HOME EVENING WITH A WELL-PLANNED PROGRAM. Schedule your friendshiping family home evening on an evening other than Monday night. Keep this night open for your own family. Plan for good family participation, and include your guests as much as possible without embarrassing them.
C. BE CONSIDERATE. If there are young children involved, plan your program and adjust your time accordingly.
D. LET THEM TELL YOU ABOUT THEIR FAMILY. This includes their plans, achievements, and activities.
E. AVOID CHURCH QUESTIONS. Under normal conditions, Church questions are inappropriate for nonmember guests. Instead, let the lesson or discussion demonstrate a sound, basic principle of need and value to the family or to young people.
F. DEMONSTRATE A BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE. Your children’s books of remembrance may be shown and discussed. Most often, these will appeal to your guests and will involve them in your family’s background and interests.
G. PRAY. Ask for help in how to invite them and for inspiration in how to make the home evening stimulating to them.
A. CONSIDER THE ENTIRE CHURCH PROGRAM. The Church has a complete program to help parents teach their children and strengthen their family ties. Make use of it with your nonmember family.
Relief Society is for women and includes classes in cultural refinement, homemaking, and social relations. Be careful not to take them to the spiritual living lessons unless they have a prior understanding of the principles to be discussed. Each sister should try to bring a friend to Relief Society as often as possible.
Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood MIA is for all singles age 12 and over. It includes Scouting, dance, drama, speech, and a full service program for both male and female members. Let your children who attend MIA do the inviting.
The institute and seminary programs for college and high school students, respectively, are excellent agencies for teaching the gospel. Help your children use them by suggesting to them that they invite nonmember friends to special programs and later to visit one of their classes.
Primary is for children three to 12 years of age. Here they learn about Jesus and his love for them. They also get training and experience in discipline. Let your children do the inviting.
B. PRAY. Ask how to interest nonmember families in Church auxiliaries and ask the Lord to open the way to get them to church.
A. CONSIDER THEIR INTERESTS. Drama, music, and sports provide excellent introductory Church events. Ask the family if they would like to participate in any of these activities.
B. INVITE THEM TO RELIEF SOCIETY SOCIALS AND SPECIAL HOMEMAKING MEETINGS. These events are excellent for making new friends and discovering new interests.
C. SHARE FIRESIDES. Firesides provide excellent opportunities for inviting your friends, but first check to be sure that no deep discussions or “gospel debates” are likely to occur. The fireside committee will probably be happy to make the fireside especially appropriate for your nonmember guest, if you give them time to coordinate it.
D. PRAY. Ask for guidance to know which event will be most impressive and will bring the best spirit to your friends.
A. CAREFULLY SELECT THE MEETING. The meeting should be a spiritual one involving Church discussions. Sunday School, sacrament meeting, baptisms, and meetings where the priesthood is presiding are good choices. Some examples of how to invite nonmembers to a meeting would include the following approaches:
1. “You’ve seen and read a great deal about Latter-day Saints. I would enjoy having you as my guest at one of our regular meetings. Would you and your family like to come with me?”
2. “A vital part of our Church involves the revelations and commandments received from the Lord. One such commandment is to attend sacrament meeting. Would you like to go with me to see what it is like?”
B. LET THEM KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT. Say something like, “I think you’ll find our sacrament service unique in some ways. I think you will be comfortable.”
“We have an excellent ‘Meet the Mormons’ (open house) program complete with slides, films, and other features that present the full Church program with dignity and completeness.” (This is one of the best aids members can use to do their missionary work.)
C. PRAY. Always pray specifically before each contact.
A. YOUR TESTIMONY IS THE CLIMAX. Your previous efforts have been building toward sharing your testimony. Do not fear it; it won’t be difficult, because by the time your family has progressed this far they will be eager to hear your personal feelings. Have courage
Some examples could include something like:
1. “We have talked a lot about the gospel, but I have never told you how I feel about it. I want you to know that. …”
2. “Prayer is a wonderful thing. The Lord answers prayers, I know, because I have studied and prayed to know the truth. I have received. …”
3. “John, we have become good friends, and I would like to share with you my most precious possession.”
B. MAINTAIN SIMPLICITY. Keep your testimony simple. Do not include deeply spiritual experiences or manifestations. They are yours and are not for touching tender spirits that are just learning about the gospel.
C. PRAY. Now is a critical hour for prayer. Ask for the Lord’s help in touching their spirits with his spirit working through you.
A. DON’T WORRY ABOUT A SPECIFIC QUESTION. There are no prepared questions you are required to ask. The approach you choose should be as direct as your family’s preparation and readiness will allow.
Some examples of simple questions are:
1. “If you knew the Lord had restored his true church on the earth again, would you be interested in learning about it?”
2. “If the Savior set up only one church while he was on the earth, why do you think there are so many different ones today? Don’t you think his church would be the same today as it was then? Would you like to hear why we believe our Church to be the Lord’s Church?”
3. “If you knew there was a living prophet on the earth today, would you be interested in finding out if he is a true prophet?”
4. “Have you ever wondered why we use the Book of Mormon in our church?”
B. USE THEIR INTEREST. Mention a part of the Church that has seemed to interest them (genealogy, youth programs, welfare programs, and so forth), and then ask if they would like to know more about the rest of the Church.
C. TRY AGAIN. If they don’t wish to learn about the Church now, keep their friendship alive and preserve the opportunity for teaching again, so long as any interest remains.
D. PRAY. Seek answers as to how to urge your family to learn more.
A. ANSWER THEIR REQUEST TO LEARN. When they desire to know more, tell them, “We are having some young men from the Church at our home on _______. Could you join us in a discussion about our church then?”
B. GIVE THEM A CHOICE OF DATES. “Would Wednesday or Friday be best for you?”
C. PUT THEM AT EASE AND SUPPORT THEM. Hopefully, they have already learned to be at ease in your home and to expect a spiritual atmosphere there. You can, therefore, control the surroundings and activities. Furthermore, they will appreciate your support while they are learning.
D. INFORM YOUR HOME TEACHERS. It is extremely important to make your referral to your home teachers. They will arrange for the missionaries.
E. PRAY. Ask that your home will be filled with a spirit that will touch their hearts.
The Lord’s commandment about missionary work in our dispensation is very clear. Since 1832, every member with a testimony has been called “to warn his neighbor.” (D&C 88:81.)
Ever since that time, presidents of the Church have consistently promoted missionary work. In 1912 the First Presidency issued directions on how to correlate stake and mission proselyting activity. Their advice still holds true:
1. The responsibility to do missionary work rests with every member of the Church.
2. Those called as stake and full-time missionaries are to help members of the Church discharge their missionary responsibilities.
3. All organizations and programs of the Church should utilize their capacities for proselyting.
4. Home teaching is the vehicle that makes available to the members of the Church the help of the missionaries and the organizations of the Church.
5. Missionary work is now a ward- or branch-centered activity that revolves around the ward mission leader and is correlated through the ward priesthood executive committee and the ward council.
It is important that these guidelines help missionary work move forward, since one of the reasons we must bear witness to the gospel is that our testimony precedes the Lord’s own testimony:
“For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes … And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests. …” (D&C 88:89–90.)
Almost 18,000 full-time missionaries and thousands of stake missionaries are making tremendous efforts to bear this testimony, but they need the help of every member of the Church.
In addition to that duty, consider that our own eternal joy, glory, and exaltation are reflections of what we bring into the lives of others. God has reminded us how he values souls (see D&C 18:10–16); he has promised us great joy if we save only one soul. Some see missionary work as a burdensome duty, but the other side of that “duty” can bring eternal joy.
According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “If you will exalt others, the very work itself will exalt you. Upon no other plan can man justly or permanently aggrandize himself.” (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 385.)
Certainly it will bring us joy and further our progression if we share the gospel, but we also have a responsibility to all who have lived, who now live, and who will yet live on this earth. Look at it from this perspective:
“In our preexistent state, in the day of the Great Council, we made a certain agreement with the Almighty. The Lord proposed a plan, conceived by him. We accepted it. Since the plan is intended for all men, we … agreed, right then and there, to be not only saviors for ourselves, but measurably, saviors for the whole human family. We went into partnership with the Lord. … To offer salvation is the Lord’s self-imposed duty, this great labor is glorious. Likewise, it is man’s duty, self-imposed, his pleasure and joy, his labor and ultimately can bring him great glory.” (“Church Services on Genealogical Committees,” p. 29.)