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Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, Chapter 13, Doing Our Part to Share the Gospel

During 2012, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.

Every member of the Church has the responsibility to share the gospel.

I feel so grateful for my privileges in the Church of Jesus Christ, for my companionship with the men and women of this Church and of other churches. I am grateful to have a host of friends in the various churches of the world, scattered in different places. I am grateful for those friendships, but I will not be satisfied until I can share with them some of the things which they have not yet received.

We send missionaries to the nations of the earth to proclaim the Gospel as revealed in this latter day. But that is not all our duty. Right at our doors, by the hundreds and thousands, are choice sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. They live among us, we become friends, but we fail to teach them to the extent we should, concerning the Gospel that we know is the power of God unto salvation. The Presidency of the Church are doing all that lies in their power; they devote their time during the day, and often into the late hours of the night, in the interest of the Church. The brethren who are associated with them give liberally of their time, traveling and teaching the Latter-day Saints and carrying the Gospel to our Father’s children. The presidents of stakes, high councilors, bishops of wards, and their assistants, labor unceasingly to bless the people, and their reward is sure. But are we doing all we ought, so that when we stand before the bar of our Heavenly Father He will say we have done our full duty by our fellows, His children?

One of the very first revelations … in the Doctrine and Covenants, reads as follows:

“Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men; …

“Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work.” [D&C 4:1, 3.]

It is not necessary for you to be called to go into the mission field in order to proclaim the truth. Begin on the man who lives next door by inspiring confidence in him, by inspiring love in him for you because of your righteousness, and your missionary work has already begun,

According to Mormonism, all people are “children of God” and ought to be told the gospel story, which Mormonism says is the “power of God unto salvation.” Becoming a child of God is not something all people have experienced, as it happens only with belief. John 1:12-13 says, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” In 1 John 3, John contrasts the “children of God” with the “children of the devil,” saying that “whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” Of course, no Latter-day Saint believes anyone is a child of the Devil but only of God. Yet the Bible doesn’t support this view.

One verse commonly used by Mormons is Jeremiah 1:5. Here Jeremiah is told by the sovereign God of the universe that He has a plan for the prophet, and that plan was formed before Jeremiah’s birth. Does this mean that humans had a relationship with God in premortality? The answer is, quite simply, no. Notice that this verse says how God knew Jeremiah before his birth; nowhere does it intimate that Jeremiah knew God. If God is omniscient (all-knowing) and sovereign, we would expect Him to know Jeremiah. The Bible is full of passages stating that God is in sovereign control, and, as such, His plans cannot be thwarted by anyone. In fact, it’s clear that God has a plan for everyone.  It was God who determined who our parents would be (thus determining where we would be born), the color of our skin, the number of hairs on our head, and even our natural temperament. Nothing about our existence surprised God. He knew us, but nowhere is it inferred that we knew Him before birth.

Hebrews 12:9 has also been used to support the doctrine of premortality. It  reads, “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live.” Mormons tend to read too much into this passage. All who have entered into mortality have spirits, so it would be wrong to assume this refers to some preexistent state. The writer of Hebrews is merely making a connection between the discipline of human fathers and that of our heavenly Father.

Another verse referenced may be Ecclesiastes 12:7, which says, in part, “the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” This poetic book is describing how the body decomposes to “dust” and the spirit returns to God for judgment; this does not imply a preexistent state. Zechariah 12:1 states that God forms “the spirit of man within him.” The assumption is not that man was composed solely of spirit in some premortal state but that man has a physical body in which the spirit dwells.

Disseminating the truth is not the responsibility of someone else, but it is your responsibility and mine to see that the gospel of Jesus Christ in its purity is taught to the children of men. Doesn’t it make you feel grateful?

As far as evangelism goes, Smith taught that this is not just the duty of the leaders or missionaries but for all members. In Christianity, the Bible says that evangelism is the job of all Christians and not only for pastors. If we care about those around us, we ought to be willing to share the truth with them, whenever possible. This means we have to be equipped to recognize when someone else is not presenting the gospel in an accurate way. That’s why the Bible says we’re to “test everything” (1 Thess. 5:21) and to “test the spirits because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Peter wrote that Christians should “always have an answer for everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15).

There is great opportunity for every one of us. I would like to emphasize individual missionary work by each of us among our neighbors. We will be surprised, if we do our best, how many will be interested, and not only will they be grateful to us because of our bringing to them the truth, and opening their eyes to the glories and the blessings that our Heavenly Father has prepared, but they will love us and be grateful to us throughout the ages of eternity.

There are so many things that the Lord has bestowed upon us that other people have not yet received. Surely we are not going to be selfish. There should be in our hearts a desire to share with every other soul as far as possible the joyous truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, as we go forward, each of us, each having an influence with our neighbors and our friends, let us not be too timid. We do not need to annoy people, but let us make them feel and understand that we are interested, not in making them members of the Church for membership, but in bringing them into the Church that they may enjoy the same blessings that we enjoy.

If the Mormon gospel is true, then people should be grateful for the effort someone might take to present that message to them. But if the message is not true, then that message ought to be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, too many Christians take umbrage when Mormons (including missionaries at their doors) make an attempt to evangelize. Please, Christian, don’t slam the door in the missionaries’ faces or hide behind the couch when they ring your doorbell. And, by all means, don’t be rude if you decide to allow for a conversation on your doorstep.

So what should the attitude of Christians be when Mormons desire to share their faith? Because their faith apparently means so much to them, we should be kind, hospitable, and friendly. Listen to what they have to say. Don’t interrupt. Listen and ask appropriate questions. By showing “gentleness and respect,” as commanded in 1 Peter 3:16, the Christian can keep a “clear conscience so that those who speak maliciously against [our] good behavior in Christ Jesus may be ashamed of their slander.”

On the other hand, when Christians share the Christian faith with their LDS friends, family, and neighbors, it can sometimes be met with a disgruntled attitude. Latter-day Saint, if you’re going to follow 1 Peter 3:15-16, then the same rules apply to you. Please understand that the Christian who hopes to give you the gospel is doing so with the same attitude that I’m sure the majority of LDS missionaries have.

If we are living exemplary lives, our influence may encourage others to learn about the gospel.

Remember, we all have responsibilities. We may not be called to some definite duty, but in every neighborhood there is opportunity for each of us to radiate a spirit of peace and love and happiness to the end that people may understand the gospel and be gathered into the fold.

Only a few days ago, one of our sisters, visiting in the east, in a conversation with an educated man, was told by him, “I cannot believe as you do but I wish that I could. It is beautiful.” And so it is with many of our Father’s children, who, observing the character of this work, watching the actions of the men and women who have embraced the truth, they are filled with amazement at what has been accomplished, and the peace and happiness that follows the sincere believer, and wish that they too might have part in it; and they could if they had faith.

No doubt, people are watching to see how those professing a particular faith handle certain situations. For Christians, we have the responsibility of being salt and light; we hope bystanders won’t be able to easily point to our lives as typifying the acts of the sinful nature, as described in Galatians 5. Rather, Jesus said that the world would know us by our fruit; the fruit of the spirit includes love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. To have someone deny the Gospel of Christ by merely pointing out our bad behavior is both a shame and tragedy.

I think this great organization we belong to ought to be able to set such an example that people in our neighborhoods, not members of the Church, seeing our good works, would be constrained to glorify the name of our Heavenly Father. That is the way I feel with regard to that. All that we need to do is to set an example, be good men and good women, and they will observe it. Then perhaps they will afford us the opportunity to teach them the things that they do not know.

If we, as members of the Church, were keeping the commandments of God, if we put upon the truth the value that we ought, if our lives conformed to the beauties of its teachings, so that our neighbors, observing our conduct, would be constrained to seek after the truth, we would be doing splendid missionary work.

Just because a religious person lives a good life or performs good works does not necessarily mean that his particular religion is true. While fruits are important, by themselves, they do not prove truth. After all, there are moral atheists, friendly Muslims, and benevolent Hindus, but these characteristics do not necessarily mean they are correct in their beliefs. In other words, just because a four-legged creature has a tail doesn’t mean it’s a puppy.

Don’t let your children grow up without teaching them the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t wait to send them into the mission field to learn what the gospel means. I remember when I was in the South [as a missionary] fifty-five or sixty years ago, a man who came from a large family said, “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to tell these people.”

“Why,” one of the brethren said, “teach them the Bible. Go and get your Bible and read Genesis.” He said, “I don’t know where Genesis is in the Bible,” and yet he had gone from a … Latter-day Saint home to carry the message of life and salvation to those people in the South. However, it was not very long after that until his mind was changed. He had received a testimony of the truth through study and prayer, and he knew that the gospel was here, and he was able to stand on his feet and freely bear testimony that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the truth.

Smith’s story is not shocking, as many Latter-day Saints with whom I’ve conversed don’t know their Bibles either. For Christians, using the Bible can be a very powerful apologetic technique. The insinuation given is that, somehow, the elder in this story began reading the Bible in Genesis and somehow received “a testimony of the truth through study and prayer.” Unfortunately, many Mormon missionaries still don’t know their Bibles, even while they are serving on their mission. In fact, Micah Wilder—the founder of the Adam’s Road Band—ended up becoming a Christian because he, as an LDS missionary, was challenged by a Christian pastor to read the Bible as a child. He did this and eventually came to the biblical understanding of the Christian gospel. His story is not unique. For more information on Micah’s testimony (along with the other band members), I highly recommend watching it here.

A dozen men qualified for the work are worth more in the mission field than a hundred who are ignorant of the truth and who themselves have to be taught before they are capable of explaining it to others.

We would agree that the truth really does matter. The question is, what is the truth?

I pray that his Spirit may be throughout [the Church], that the love of our Father’s children may be in our hearts, that we may sense the importance of our mission in the world, while we are grasping for the things that are not ours, that are only loaned to us as stewards, that we may not forget the priceless gift, the priceless privilege, within our reach, of teaching the gospel and saving the souls of the children of men.

To the Christians, I ask, are you willing to do for the truth what Mormons might be willing to do for a lie? I know this doesn’t read politically correct, but since Mormonism and Christianity cannot both be true, we should be adamant in wanting to share our faith as much as the Mormon might be willing to share his. As Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come, let us reason together.” Friendly exchanges in our desire to see the truth prevail ought to be the rule, not the exception.

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