Recently, I was asked to speak in sacrament meeting with my wife on the subject of loving others by sharing the gospel. I thought posting the talk here might be beneficial to someone out there. I attempted to make the point that sharing the gospel is not an end in itself, but a byproduct of personal conversion. So instead of trying to persuade people to share the gospel, I attempted to persuade them to find the love of God and their own redemption. Perhaps many could have done a much better job at this, but it was the best I could do and I know the Spirit of the Lord can do great things through weakness.
“Share the Gospel” what does that mean? We say it a lot and perhaps it means different things to different people.
First what is the Gospel? If someone came up to you and asked “What is the gospel?” How would you define it? Could you define it?
Defining the Gospel
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, …
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 1 Cor 15:1-10
Then Jesus proclaimed to the Nephites:
“Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you–that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross…” 3 Nephi 27:13-14
The Lord again to his Saints:
“And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us–That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, …That through him all might be saved…” Doctrine and Covenants 76:40-42
As a bonus, how about a fourth witness, you’ve probably heard this one from Joseph Smith:
“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the apostles and prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”
Sometimes when we say “the gospel” we tend to just lump everything in there, but scripturally, this the gospel, the good news, pure and simple.
Elder John Madsen said (He gave a great talk on this very subject by the way):
“We frequently hear and use the word “gospel,” but what is the gospel? To be brief and to the point, please complete, in your minds, the following phrase: “The Atonement is not part of the gospel…” Now, I will repeat and complete this phrase. “The Atonement is not part of the gospel, the atonement is the gospel.”
Internalizing the Gospel
Bruce R. McConkie once asked a group of Saints:
“How do you prove that Jesus is the Christ?” There was a complete silence. Then, he declared, “It all centers in the resurrection!” Then he asked, “How do you prove the resurrection?” Once again there was a profound silence. He then declared, “It all centers in witnesses!”
It’s one thing to tell someone about something you’ve been taught, but how might your actions be guided if you were an actual witness of these things? The scriptures prove that this is not only possible, but our own salvation depends on it. Alma the great missionary once proclaimed:
“I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.” Alma 29:9-10
WHY was he so caught up on proclaiming these things? He explains:
“when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer; yea, then do I remember his merciful arm which he extended towards me.”
What was it exactly that the Lord did for Alma, what prayer did he hear and what merciful arm was extended? We have that story:
“And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul. And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.” Alma 36:16-21
You see, Alma had been given a seed years earlier by his father but it laid dormant and unplanted, until now:
“Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! Yea, I say unto you, …that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, …that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.
Alma used the words “bitter” and “sweet” to describe his experience, these are words related to taste. Taste is unique, it cannot be expressed in words or language, it is a sense, and we have many other senses besides the standard five.
Nourished by the fruit of the tree of life, Alma sought to extend the experience to others, he became a sower of seeds.
In Alma’s sermon to the Zoramites, he instructs them on how to obtain knowledge from God. He compares this process to growing a tree from a seed and tasting its fruit as the moment at which you now have a perfect knowledge of the goodness of the original seed. Once you taste, you know – all speculation ceases.
Take the metaphor a step further and complete the cycle. Typically, after eating tree-borne fruit you are often left with what…seeds. Seeds that you can share with someone else. The seeds of spiritual knowledge can only be obtained from spiritual fruit; they cannot be borrowed or produced synthetically.
The Zoramites understood the metaphor, but they wondered how “they might obtain this fruit of which he had spoken, or how they should plant the seed, or the word of which he had spoken, which he said must be planted in their hearts; or in what manner they should begin to exercise their faith.”
Alma replied, ”I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts…” [I’ve updated the following text for our day]
“…cast about your eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God, that he [has] come to redeem his people, and that he [did] suffer and die to atone for [your] sins; and that he [rose] from the dead, which [brought] to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works.” Alma 33:22
Sound familiar? Yeah, there’s the gospel all over again, the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
These things considered, how can you truthfully share what you may not truthfully know? Brothers and sisters, have you tasted this fruit? At another time and place Alma asked, “my brethren OF THE CHURCH, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?”
What does all this have to do with sharing the gospel? Dallin H. Oaks said:
“The intensity of our desire to share the gospel is a great indicator of the extent of our personal conversion.” (Source)
In Lecture 5:12 of the Lectures on Faith, the importance of our personal conversion is stressed.
“But those who…do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in [God’s] sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty is, there faith is not, nor can it be. For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time. So that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence, and where unshaken confidence is not, there faith is weak, and where faith is weak, the persons will not be able to contend against all the opposition, tribulations and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them.”
Brothers and sisters, your personal conversion fuels the desire to share the gospel.
There’s a great sermon by a Baptist pastor named Paul Washer. He paints this hypothetical story about arriving late because he was fixing a flat tire on the highway and was accidentally hit full on by a 30-ton logging truck going 120 mile per hour. He states:
“Now, there would only be two… logical conclusions. One, I’m a liar or, two, I’m a madman. You would say, “Brother Paul, it’s absolutely absurd. It is impossible, Brother Paul, to have an encounter with something as large as a logging truck and not be changed. And then my question would be to you––What is larger? A logging truck or God? How is it that so many people today profess to have had an encounter with Jesus Christ, and, yet, they are not permanently changed?…Has God worked in your life? Is God working in your life? You will know them by their fruit. You will know them by their fruit.”
Born of God
“And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” (Alma:5:14)
Alma’s co-witness Amulek pleaded,
“And now, my brethren, I would that, after ye have received so many witnesses, seeing that the holy scriptures testify of these things, ye come forth and bring fruit unto repentance. Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately , [IMMEDIATELY] shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.”
And now I have a seed for you, today, from the fruit I have tasted myself. In the presence of God, the crushing force of his love seizes you with an astonishment, fills you instantly with light and knowledge. You are reborn. Like taste, words cannot transmit the experience. When you know what God thinks about the worth of your soul, you will simultaneously understand that he feels the same way about all people. Having obtained a portion of the mind of God, you see the same world, but you understand it quite differently and the plight of your fellow man naturally becomes a priority.
I leave you with a few words of a great man, Mormon, the last Nephite commander:
“But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. (Moroni 7:47)
Note that he didn’t say “whoso is found possessing it” he said “whoso is found possessed of it.” Ponder that deeply. I’ll close with the next and final verse:
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.” (Moroni 7:48)
“So instead of trying to persuade people to share the gospel, I attempted to persuade them to find the love of God and their own redemption.”
That’s what it’s all about my brother – excellent talk! I immediately thought of D&C 11:21, “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.”
I also love how you bring up Alma 5 in your talk. In verse 19, Alma the younger says, ” I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?” Sometimes I like to view that scripture in connection with D&C 93:1, “Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.”
So, we should seek to forsake our sins, come unto Him, call on His name, obey His voice, and obey His commandments. One way of looking at this scripture is that if we do all these things, we will have done as Alma directed us to do. We will have “the image of God engraven upon (our) countenances.”
And that’s what we should seek to do – get the “Image of God engraven upon (our) countenances. And the Lord has given us the perfect formula how to do this in Alma 93. And then we will be powerful missionaries, being able to bring “thousands of souls unto repentance.” In fact, we will be able to know the mysteries of God, and reveal things which never have been revealed, (Alma 26:22).