The topic of our lesson at church today was the sermon given by President Russell M. Nelson in October 2017 titled “The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like without It?” I don’t often actually prepare for class by reading the lesson ahead of time (but that’s a topic for another blog), but this time I did. I was struck by several profound truths taught in this sermon. To begin with, let me quote a portion of his address.
In 1986, I was invited to give a special lecture at a university in Accra, Ghana. There I met a number of dignitaries, including an African tribal king. As we visited prior to the lecture, the king spoke to me only through his linguist, who then translated for me. I responded to the linguist, and the linguist then translated my responses to the king.
After my lecture, the king made his way directly to me, but this time without his linguist. To my surprise, he spoke in perfect English—the Queen’s English, I might add!
The king seemed puzzled. “Just who are you?” he asked.
I replied, “I am an ordained Apostle of Jesus Christ.”
The king asked, “What can you teach me about Jesus Christ?”
I responded with a question: “May I ask what you already know about Him?”
The king’s response revealed he was a serious student of the Bible and one who loved the Lord.
I then asked if he knew about the ministry of Jesus Christ to the people of ancient America.
As I expected, he did not.
I explained that after the Savior’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, He came to the people of ancient America, where He taught His gospel. He organized His Church and asked His disciples to keep a record of His ministry among them.
“That record,” I continued, “is what we know as the Book of Mormon. It is another testament of Jesus Christ. It is a companion scripture to the Holy Bible.”
At this point, the king became very interested. I turned to the mission president accompanying me and asked if he had an extra copy of the Book of Mormon with him. He pulled one from his briefcase.
I opened it to 3 Nephi chapter 11, and together the king and I read the Savior’s sermon to the Nephites. I then presented the copy of the Book of Mormon to him. His response lodged in my mind and heart forever: “You could have given me diamonds or rubies, but nothing is more precious to me than this additional knowledge about the Lord Jesus Christ.”
As I read this section, I was impressed that this was the pattern to follow when sharing the gospel (or sharing anything really) with others. It really comes down to five steps when teaching the gospel:
1. State your authority. Sometimes this is a verbal statement while other times you can allow visual cues identify your authority. Either way, this is important because it lets the other person know why they should listen to you…it lets them know that you aren’t just spouting opinions about subjects for which you have no specific knowledge. Whether or not people accept your authority is up to them. My authority for this blog is that I am a student of the gospel. I am a father trying to understand things so that I can teach them to my children.
2. Discover & understand what they know. There is little more frustrating than to have a conversation with someone who proceeds to talk to me like I am an imbecile. This frequently happens when I call the Service Desk with an IT problem.
But I digress…In order to be a successful teacher, you must know and understand what others already know and understand about your topic. This lets you do a couple of things:
a) start from where they are
b) incorporate what they know
3. Teach basic doctrine. When you are teaching someone, you must teach basic doctrine. Paul taught that we need to feed “with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (1 Corinthians 3:2). The first step in building a house (after design and permits of course) is to build the foundation. The stronger you make the foundation, the stronger the house will be. If you build a weak foundation, then the house will likely fall (Matthew 7:24-27). Our foundation must be Jesus Christ. No other person, principle, or idea can be the basis for a testimony other than Jesus Christ.
“Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).
4. Testify of the Book of Mormon. Once you teach doctrine, you need to turn to the scriptures, for nothing like the word of God itself will testify of the truth of a principle being taught. There is nothing in this life that cannot be taught using the scriptures as a source. Later in the same talk, President Nelson shares some of the truths taught by the Book of Mormon:
- The Book of Mormon is truly the word of God.
- It contains the answers to life’s most compelling questions. It teaches the doctrine of Christ. (2 Nephi 31:2-21)
- It expands and clarifies many of the “plain and precious” truths that were lost through centuries of time and numerous translations of the Bible. (1 Nephi 13:29-33)
- The Book of Mormon provides the fullest and most authoritative understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to be found anywhere.
- It teaches what it really means to be born again.
- From the Book of Mormon we learn about the gathering of scattered Israel.
- We know why we are here on earth.
- The full power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is contained in the Book of Mormon.
- The Book of Mormon both illuminates the teachings of the Master and exposes the tactics of the adversary. (2 Nephi 26-33)
- The Book of Mormon teaches true doctrine to dispel false religious traditions—such as the erroneous practice of performing infant baptisms. (Moroni 8:11-15)
- The Book of Mormon gives purpose to life by urging us to ponder the potential of eternal life and “never-ending happiness.” (Mosiah 2:41, Alma 28:12)
- The Book of Mormon shatters the false belief that happiness can be found in wickedness. (Alma 41:10-11)
- The Book of Mormon shatters the false belief that individual goodness is all that is required to return to the presence of God.
- It abolishes forever the false concepts that revelation ended with the Bible and that the heavens are sealed today.
- The truths of the Book of Mormon have the power to heal, comfort, restore, succor, strengthen, console, and cheer our souls.
5. Read the Book of Mormon. If you want to know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, then you need to read it. Just as you can’t know what salt tastes like without putting it on your tongue, so you cannot know what the Book of Mormon says without opening it’s pages. I’ll go so far and suggest that if you think the Book of Mormon is not the word of God, the only way you’ll find that out is by reading it. President Nelson shares some amazing promises for those who will prayerfully read the Book of Mormon each day:
I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions—every day. I promise that as you ponder what you study, the windows of heaven will open, and you will receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life. I promise that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon, you can be immunized against the evils of the day, even the gripping plague of pornography and other mind-numbing addictions.
Who doesn’t want these kinds of blessings in their life? I know I need them and I know I want them for my children as well. President Thomas S. Monson (1927-2018) shared similar thoughts in his last address to the world in April 2017:
This morning I speak about the power of the Book of Mormon and the critical need we have as members of this Church to study, ponder, and apply its teachings in our lives. The importance of having a firm and sure testimony of the Book of Mormon cannot be overstated.
We live in a time of great trouble and wickedness. What will protect us from the sin and evil so prevalent in the world today? I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His gospel will help see us through to safety. If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so. If you will read it prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, the Holy Ghost will manifest its truth to you. If it is true—and I solemnly testify that it is—then Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Because the Book of Mormon is true, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth, and the holy priesthood of God has been restored for the benefit and blessing of His children.
If you do not have a firm testimony of these things, do that which is necessary to obtain one. It is essential for you to have your own testimony in these difficult times, for the testimonies of others will carry you only so far. However, once obtained, a testimony needs to be kept vital and alive through continued obedience to the commandments of God and through daily prayer and scripture study.
My dear associates in the work of the Lord, I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives. I so testify with all my heart in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
In summary, there are five steps to sharing the gospel:
- State your authority
- Discover what they already know
- Teach basic doctrine
- Testify of the Book of Mormon
- Read the Book of Mormon
We each should work within our own spheres of influence and share the gospel with others. We don’t have to be scriptorians or spiritual giants…we need only have a desire. Start with what you know and let the flame of faith grow from there.