From the Life of Joseph Smith
This section emphasizes Joseph Smith’s enthusiasm for proclaiming the gospel, and recounts an instance in which he “arose like a lion about to roar; and being full of the Holy Ghost, spoke in great power, bearing testimony of the visions he had seen, the ministering of angels which he had enjoyed; and how he had found the plates of the Book of Mormon, and translated them by the gift and power of God. He commenced by saying: ‘If nobody else had the courage to testify of so glorious a message from Heaven, and of the finding of so glorious a record, he felt to do it in justice to the people, and leave the event with God.’”
–Why do you think Joseph Smith was so enthusiastic about proclaiming the gospel? Are there times in your own life when you’ve felt a similar enthusiasm?
–What aspects of sharing the gospel do you find especially challenging or difficult? (One way to approach this lesson might be to start by coming up with a list of issues related to missionary work that your class finds challenging, and then structuring discussion around them.)
–Joseph Smith clearly preached the gospel in a powerful way. What other ways are there to share the gospel besides direct preaching? Have you found things that are particularly suited to your individual personality and abilities?
Because the world is in spiritual darkness, we should be diligent in preaching the gospel.
This section talks about the vast “numbers are who are crowding the road to death without ever giving heed to the cheering sound of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” and the spiritual darkness covering the earth. Joseph Smith states that the teachings of the gospel “may be considered tidings of great joy to all people; and tidings, too, that ought to fill the earth and cheer the hearts of every one when sounded in his ears” and explains his motivation for preaching it: “I speak thus because I feel for my fellow men; I do it in the name of the Lord, being moved upon by the Holy Spirit. Oh, that I could snatch them from the vortex of misery, into which I behold them plunging themselves, by their sins.”
–How do you understand statements about the world being in spiritual darkness? How do these sentiments fit with Church teachings about respecting other religions?
–One of the ways in which I personally find missionary work to be particularly challenging is that it seems difficult to assert that you have the truth and others don’t (or that they’re in spiritual darkness) without conveying an attitude of spiritual arrogance or superiority. How do you express a conviction that the gospel is an important and vital message without sounding like you think you’re better than others?
–Do you personally experience the gospel as “tidings of great joy?” How does this impact your approach to missionary work?
–If you have doubts or concerns about particular Church teachings or practices, does this mean that you can’t do missionary work? Does missionary work require that you only share positive or “faith-promoting” experiences?
Our duty is to invite all mankind to repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and become heirs of salvation.
This section explains that “we believe in preaching the doctrine of repentance in all the world, both to old and young, rich and poor, bond and free.” This is important because “souls are as precious in the sight of God as they ever were; and the Elders were never called to drive any down to hell, but to persuade and invite all men everywhere to repent, that they may become the heirs of salvation.”
–Latter-day Saints believe that people will get an opportunity to hear the gospel in the next life if they don’t have that chance here. Does this make missionary work less urgent for us? If we can baptize people after they’re dead, why do we attempt to get them to join the Church in this life?
–What does this section tell us about the reasons why God wants the gospel to be preached, and his ultimate desires for his children? How does it influence your interactions with others to remember that they are souls who are precious to God? How might remembering this shape the way in which you approach missionary work?
–Most people don’t like to listen to people selling things. How do you share the gospel without sounding like an obnoxious telemarketer?
–Have you had experiences with other people trying to convert you to something (not necessarily a religion)? What have you learned from such experiences about more and less effective ways of sharing your beliefs?
Servants of the Lord go throughout the world to find those who are willing to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This section emphasizes that missionary work should go throughout all the earth, and also observes that “we don’t ask any people to throw away any good they have got; we only ask them to come and get more.” Joseph Smith observes that Mormonism is “now taking a deep hold in the hearts and affections of all those who are noble-minded enough to lay aside the prejudice of education, and investigate the subject with candor and honesty.”
–How do you share the gospel in a way that respects the good that others have? In your own life, what have you learned from people of other faiths? Are there aspects of other churches that you particularly appreciate?
–Sometimes people complain that Mormons view them only as potential converts, or are only interested in them if they’re interested in joining the Church. What kinds of things can we do to make sure we aren’t sending this message?
–How are Mormons viewed in your part of the world today? What challenges and opportunities does this create for you?