Sunday, October 7, 2007

Preaching by Example

Mitt Romney, a missionary in Bordeaux, France, meets Apostle Howard W. Hunter

The best way to preach, my dear fellow workers, is by example. Are you following Christ's admonition to pray to the Father and teach your children to pray, that godliness, reverence for God and his work, every day may be impressed upon the hearts of your children? That should be in every home. Pray not only for yourselves, but also for your enemies. Are you charitable in your homes and organizations for those who are not of the same opinion as you? We talk about service to others. To often when service is mentioned, we think of some physical aid that we might render. I tell you a better service can sometimes be given to others by speaking well of them, or, of you cannot speak well of them, by refraining from speaking of them at all. (David O. McKay, Conference Report, October 1919, pp. 78-79).

We are all missionaries. We may drop a word here, bear our testimony, be an exemplar by what we do; and, as we accept this call and discharge our duties in the stakes, wards, quorums, and the mission field, our acts will "roll from soul to soul and go forever and forever." (David O. McKay, Conference Report, October 1969, p.87).

A testimony is a spiritual witness and assurance given by the Holy Ghost. To bear testimony is to give a simple, direct declaration of belief—-a feeling, an assurance, a conviction of gospel truth. Sharing your testimony often is one of the most powerful ways of inviting the Spirit and helping others feel the Spirit. It adds a current, personal witness to the truths you have taught from the scriptures. An effective missionary teaches, testifies, and invites others to do things that build faith in Jesus Christ. This includes making promises that come from living true principles. For example, a missionary might say, “I know as you keep the Sabbath day holy, you will find more peace in your heart.”

For your testimony to have convincing power, you must be sincere. Powerful testimony is not dependent on eloquence or the volume of your voice but on the conviction of your heart. Strive daily to strengthen your understanding and conviction of the doctrines and principles you are to teach. Bear testimony often to seal the truth of the principles or doctrine you are teaching. As often as possible, teach, then testify, and testify as you teach.

Your testimony may be as simple as “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” or “I have learned for myself the Book of Mormon is true.” You may also share a brief experience about how you gained this knowledge. Bear testimony several times in each lesson, not just at the end. Bear testimony that what your companion has taught is from God. Bear testimony that the principle you are going to teach will bless the investigators’ lives if they will follow it. Talk about how living a principle has blessed your life.

People sometimes intellectually question what you teach, but it is difficult to question a sincere, heartfelt testimony. When you testify, pray that those you are teaching will feel the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost. When you testify, you help create an environment for investigators to feel the Holy Ghost confirming your witness of the truth. This prepares them to accept the commitments you will extend.

Brigham Young was not baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the first years of his learning about the restored gospel. But of his conversion he said: “If all the talent, tact, wisdom, and refinement of the world had been sent to me with the Book of Mormon, and had declared, in the most exalted of earthly eloquence, the truth of it, undertaking to prove it by learning and worldly wisdom, they would have been to me like smoke which arises only to vanish away. But when I saw a man without eloquence or talents for public speaking, who could only say, ‘I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the Lord,’ the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding, and a light, glory, and immortality were before me. I was encircled by them, filled with them, and I knew for myself that the testimony of the man was true” (in Journal of Discourses, 1:90). (Preach my Gospel: A guide to missionary service. Salt Lake City: Intellectual Reserve, 2004, pp. 198-199).

A few words now, with regard to preaching. The greatest and loudest sermon that can be preached, or that ever was preached on the face of the earth, is practice. No other is equal to it. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 16 August 1868, 12:271).

Example is more powerful for good than all the preaching you can do. Let an innocent boy come out here into the world, and in the midst of the temptations he meets prove to the world that he will not yield to temptation; that, like Joseph who was sold into Egypt, he will resist the tempter and keep himself aloof from those allurements that lead unto destruction, immorality, and wickedness.

Let him stand up like the snow-capped Alps, June, white, immovable, and unimpressionable to those things which lead away from the pathway of righteousness and truth into bypaths and wicked ways, and he will do more good in his mission than he can do by the words of his mouth. (Joseph F. Smith, address in Boston, Massachusetts, 25 December 1905, Church News, [8 November 1950]: 16).

Mankind are prone to imitate those in whom they place confidence; the greater the confidence, the more readily they are influenced for good or for evil. If an Elder is circumspect and refined in his communications, both in public and in private--if his conversation is unassuming, modest, and prompted by the earnest desires of a pure heart--if his deportment is chaste, virtuous, and influenced only by the purest motives, the same holy principles, and purity of conduct will be gradually diffused through the Conference or District where he travels or presides. Every good Saint will respect goodness, whenever it is seen, and will try to imitate all good examples. (Orson Pratt, Masterful Discourses and Writings of Orson Pratt, comp. by Nels B. Lundwall, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1981, p. 43).

The kind of men we want as bearers of this gospel message are men who have faith in God; men who have faith in their religion; men who honor their priesthood; men in whom the people who know them have faith and in whom God has confidence, and not some poor unfortunate beings who are wanted to leave a place because they cannot live in it; but we want men full of the Holy Ghost and the power of God that they may go forth weeping, bearing precious seed and sowing the seeds of eternal life, and then returning with gladness, bringing their sheaves with them....Men who bear the words of life among the nations, ought to be men of honor, integrity, virtue and purity; and this being the command of God to us, we shall try and carry it out. (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints Book Depot, 1855-1886, 21:375).

I don't care how well you talk or how pious you may be or what you may do, if you have not that spirit in your hearts and do not believe the truth yourselves, you cannot become saviors of the world. (Joseph F. Smith in Albert L. Zobell, Minute Sermons, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946).

If a missionary teach virtue, he should also practice it; if he teach the Saints to put away all light-mindedness, and excessive laughter, he should do the same. If he exhort them to refrain from the use of strong drinks, he should set them the example of total abstinence. If he testify against all fleshly lusts and unholy desires, let him deny himself of all these. And finally, every good and holy precept which he teaches the Saints to observe, that he also should be careful to observe. He should be without fault, and blameless before all men, so that in the great judgment, both his precepts and examples may loudly testify against all transgressors thereof. (Orson Pratt, Masterful Discourses and Writings of Orson Pratt, comp. by Nels B. Lundwall, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1981, p. 43).

The story is told of a zealous Christian who asked a Jewish rabbi, "Sir, when are the Jews going to become Christians?" The rabbi answered, "The Jews will become Christians when the Christians become Christians." And may we apply this to our missionaries, to our missionary leaders, and to us, Representatives and the Church leaders, mission Presidents’. The nonmembers will become Christians and faithful Latter-day Saints when we fully magnify our calling and give our proper example and direction. (Spencer W. Kimball, Mission Presidents’ Seminar, 27 June 1974, pp. 2-3).

The whole secret of our success as far as making converts is concerned is, that we preach the same gospel in all its simplicity and plainness that Jesus preached, and that the Holy Ghost rests upon those who receive it, filling their hearts with joy and gladness unspeakable, and making them as one; and they then know of the doctrine for themselves whether it be of God or man. (Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1855-1886, 14 May 1882, 23:129).