“Chapter 17: Sharing the Gospel,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee (2011), 153–63
“Chapter 17,” Teachings: Harold B. Lee, 153–63
Occasionally Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, of the Quorum of the Twelve, and his wife, Marjorie, would travel with President and Sister Harold B. Lee. “We went on two separate occasions with President and Sister Lee to England, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, and the Holy Land, where we met with missionaries, members, youth, and servicemen,” said Sister Hinckley. “Never did anyone have more gracious, more courteous, more kind traveling companions.”
“We were in England one Sunday. It had been a full day: two sessions of a conference and a fireside at night. When we got back to the hotel about 9:30, we were bone-weary and hungry. We went into the hotel dining room to get a little something to eat. The day was over—we could relax. At least, that is what I thought. The next thing I knew, the waitress had her pencil poised to write down our order. President Lee looked up at her and said, ‘What church do you belong to?’ The day was not over for him. He had embarked on a proselyting exercise. Before the meal was over he had learned all about this young woman. She had lost her husband and was lonely and afraid. She had promised to see the missionaries and learn more. It was a beautiful thing to see the president of the Church practice what he had been preaching all that day. When the waitress (a woman of perhaps thirty-five) learned that the man she was talking with was the president, the prophet, seer, and revelator of the Church of Jesus Christ, she could not believe that such a person would stoop to making conversation with such a one as she. She was greatly moved.”1
Speaking of sharing the gospel, President Lee said, “May [we] realize that this is a responsibility which the Lord has given to his Church in every dispensation, … to teach the gospel to every creature in order that each be left without excuse in the day of judgment, and that all might be redeemed from the Fall and brought back into the presence of the Lord.2
We keep our testimonies by living, praying and being active in the church and by keeping the commandments of God. It is then that the guiding Spirit will be with us, one of the most prized possessions a member of the church can have.
With this testimony, it is the responsibility of all of us to be aware of our obligation to bear witness of the divine mission of the Lord wherever we have the opportunity. If we apply ourselves there are many opportunities to teach the gospel, day by day and hour by hour, wherever we may be. If we have lived for it, if we have prepared for it and if we seek it, the guiding Spirit will give us the ability to teach. Remember, words are just words, in teaching the gospel, unless they are accompanied by the Spirit of the Lord. …
Our responsibility is to bring to the world the message of truth, to show the world that within the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ are to be found the solutions to every problem that afflicts mankind.3
We should accept every opportunity to bring the knowledge of the gospel to others—to our inactive Church member associates, to our nonmember friends in college, military service, and business, to our neighbors and friends.
The Lord gave this revelation to the Prophet: “For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it.” (D&C 123:12.)4
There is no more welcome voice to the honest in heart than the voice of the true messenger preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.5
You’ll remember [Elder Charles A. Callis] told us about one time going up into Montana to visit a man who had filled a mission over in Ireland. After searching for this man, who was now an old, old man, he introduced himself and said, “Are you the missionary who labored in Ireland some years ago?” And the man said yes. “Well,” he said, “are you the man who when giving your farewell address in the mission field declared that you guessed you had been a failure for the three years that you had been over there because you had only been able to baptize one dirty little Irish kid? Did you say that?” “Yes, I remember that I did say that.” Brother Callis said, “Well, I would like to introduce myself. I’m Charles A. Callis of the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m that dirty little Irish kid that you baptized while you were a missionary in Ireland.” One soul who became an apostle of the Church and Kingdom of God.6
No man ever puts out his hand to help another without gaining for himself the right to a merited salvation because of his willingness to help others. Now, keep in mind that all of us are our Father’s children, whether presently members of the Church or not. It is these others of our Father’s children about whom we must be much concerned. They are just as dear to Him as those who are presently members of the Church. If any one of us sets himself to the task of bringing others into the fold, the Lord says he brings salvation to his own soul [see D&C 4:4].7
The very core of that which we call Christianity is to be found in the record of the writer of the gospel of John in which he quoted the Master’s testimony of his own divine mission as the Savior of the world. These were his words:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16.)
Thus has been stated the highest service that we can render here in mortal life, the willingness to sacrifice of our own self for the welfare of others. The place of sacrifice and service in this sanctifying process of life was explained by the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation. …
“It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life.” [Lectures on Faith (1985), 69.]
If we could apply to ourselves and to our own lives that principle by which we might lay hold upon that precious gift, we would be indeed wise. It was King Benjamin who taught his people in his closing address:
“… when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17.) …
Giving, then, is an expression of one’s love, and when one truly gives himself, it is an evidence of an abiding love in that individual who thus is willing to give. …
The Prophet Joseph Smith so loved the truth that had been revealed to him that he was willing to sacrifice everything he possessed in the world, not withholding his life, all to the end that he might bear that testimony and that it might be heard by the nations of the earth. …
I was out visiting a stake some months ago and was asked to interview some young men as prospective missionaries. I had been told by the stake president that one of the young men had, after a long period of hospitalization, recovered from a severe shell shock that he had received while in military service. As I faced this young man for the interview, I asked him, “Why do you want to go on this mission?”
He sat thoughtfully for several moments, and then he replied, “When I went into the service, it was the first time I had ever been away from my home. I found conditions strange. I found temptation on every side and the invitation to sin. I needed strength to keep from sin, and I went before my Heavenly Father and prayed to him in faith to give me that strength to resist evil. God heard my prayer and gave me that strength. After the period of training was over and we neared the combat area, we heard the booming of the guns that foretold the message of death that was coming over constantly. I was afraid, and I was quaking all over. I prayed to God for courage, and he gave me courage, and there came over me a peace that I had never enjoyed before. … I was assigned to duty as an advance scout which meant I was ahead of the combat forces and sometimes was almost surrounded by the enemy. I knew that there was only one power in the earth that could save me, and I prayed to that power to protect me, to save my life, and God heard my prayer and returned me back to my company.”
Then he said to me: “Brother Lee, I have all those things to be grateful for. It is little enough that I can do to go out now as an ambassador of Jesus Christ, to teach mankind these blessed things that I have received as a child in my home.”
As I heard such an expression of faith from that young man, I contrasted it with those whom I had heard say that they thought by going into the mission field they would gain a training, they would see the world, they would gain valuable experience that would benefit them personally. …
A selfish grasping for personal advantage does not come from the teachings of truth but comes rather from the teachings of him who is an enemy of truth. …
That man who is ambitious for personal gain and personal advantage is never a happy man, for before him always are the receding horizons of life that will ever mock his attempts at acquisition and conquest. That man who serves unselfishly is the man who is the happy man.8
We witness in our missionary work the magnificent spectacle of young men and young women [going] … to all the ends of the earth, that by their unselfish services they stand as witnesses at all times and in all places of the divine responsibility upon the Church to teach the gospel.9
Alma … and the sons of Mosiah went out on missions and they performed a great missionary service. … Alma saw his brethren, the sons of Mosiah, journeying towards the land of Zarahemla.
“Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
“But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.” [Alma 17:2–3.]
Now, do you [understand] the formula by which you may teach with the power and authority of God? Wax strong in a knowledge of the truth, be men of sound understanding, search the scriptures diligently that we might know the word of God. But that is not all. We have to pray, and we have to fast, and we have to get the spirit of prophecy; and having done all those things, then we teach by power and authority of God.10
The Lord … said: “And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom,” and then added, “Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you” (D&C 88:77–78). I have tried to define those words “diligently” and “grace.” Diligently, the dictionary says, is “perseveringly attentive, prosecuted with careful attention,” which is opposite laziness, or carelessness, or indifference. …
… I believe the definition of “grace” is implied in the fourth section of the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord promised to those who would engage vigorously in missionary work: “… and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul.” [D&C 4:4.] The saving “grace” of the Lord’s atoning power would extend to the giver as well as to those who would receive the saving ordinances of the gospel.11
Now, finally, this one thing that seems to me to be as important or more important than all others:
“And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.” [D&C 42:14.]
Now we can give you the tools in this missionary plan for presenting and studying the gospel; it is all there. But unless the missionary applies himself to diligent prayer, he will never get the Spirit, by which he can preach the gospel. That is what Nephi meant [when he] said:
“And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.” (2 Nephi 33:1.)
… When you have the Spirit and you are listening to and guided by and impressed with a spirit of discernment, which every one of you called into His service has the right to enjoy, then you can know and be guided by and your words accompanied with the power of the Holy Ghost, without which no one will ever be an effective teacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ.12
The best way in the world to make men interested in the gospel is to live the ideals and the standards which we expect of those who profess membership in the Church. That is the first thing that strikes home to a stranger. How do we, who profess to be members, deport ourselves as members of the Church? …
… No man or woman can teach the gospel if he doesn’t live it. The first act to qualify yourself to be a missionary is to live the principles which you teach. Did you ever think that a sinner would be a very good teacher of repentance? Do you think that anyone would be very effective teaching others to keep the Sabbath day holy if he did not keep the Sabbath day holy himself? Do you think you could teach any of the other principles of the gospel if you do not believe it sufficiently to implant it in your own lives?13
Jesus [said]: “Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do. Behold ye see that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye all have witnessed.” (3 Nephi 18:24.) Our task is to “hold up” to the world that which Jesus has done for man: the atonement, the example He set, and the teachings He has given us personally and through His prophets, ancient and modern. The Master also counseled us: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16.) …
In all leadership situations in which we seek to improve human behavior, it is difficult to overestimate the power of example—whether it consists of parents both showing and telling their children about the value of temple marriage or a returned missionary who shines forth as a result of the changes and maturation the gospel has wrought in him.14
“Ye are the light of the world; a city set upon a hill.” [See Matthew 5:14.] What does that mean? …
… Any Latter-day Saint in Church circles, in military service, in social life, or in the business community is looked upon not just as an individual, but as the visible Church today. Someone has said: “Be careful how you act, because you may be the only Standard Church Works some people may ever read.” The Lord here warns us that the standard of living in the Church must be visibly higher than the standard of living in the world.15
I was over in Seoul in Korea recently , and one of the finest men we have over in that country is a man by the name of Dr. Ho Jik Kim. He is … an advisor to the Korean government. He is a leader of one of the educational institutions there, and around him he has gathered now thirty-four converts, many of them well-educated. We talked with him for some two hours, trying to lay a foundation that might establish itself into a beginning of missionary activities in the land of Korea. He told us about his conversion. “The thing that attracted me to the church,” he explained, “was when I was invited into the homes of two Latter-day Saint men who were on the faculty of Cornell University. … The thing that I was most impressed by was the kind of home life they had. I never had been in homes where there was such a sweet relationship between husband and wife, and father and mother and children. I had seen them engage in family prayer. I was so impressed that I began to inquire about this religion of theirs. And one night after I had studied for a long time and had become convinced about the desirability of belonging to such a company, I knew first I must get a testimony. I went down on my knees and prayed nearly all night long and I received a testimony of the divinity of this work.” But remember it all started because of the excellent example of a family that lived the kind of home life that the gospel expects of true Latter-day Saints.16
What are some of the opportunities we have to teach the gospel “day by day … wherever we may be”? What are some qualities of those who successfully share the gospel with others?
What lessons can we learn from President Lee’s experience with sharing the gospel in the hotel restaurant?
What blessings have come into your life because you have sought to share the gospel with others?
What sacrifices are we asked to make in order to share the gospel? What should be our attitude toward making such sacrifices? What impresses you about the attitude of the young man who returned from war and went on a mission?
What can we learn from Alma 17:2–3 about how to share the gospel with power and authority?
Why is the companionship of the Holy Ghost essential if we are to be effective missionaries? What can we do to more fully have the guidance of the Spirit as we share the gospel?
How can we overcome our hesitancy and fear in sharing the gospel?
Why is our example of righteous living such a powerful teaching tool?