Creating a Gospel-Sharing Home

Elder M. Russell Ballard
Of the Quorum of the Twelve

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Our homes can be gospel-sharing homes as people we know and love come into our homes and experience the gospel first-hand in both word and action.  We can share the gospel without holding a formal discussion.  Our lives can be our lesson, and the spirit that emanates from our homes can be our message.

Having a gospel-sharing home will not only be a blessing for those we bring into our homes, but for those who live within it.  By living in a gospel-sharing home our testimonies become stronger and our understanding of the gospel improves.  The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that we can be forgiven of our sins when we help someone else repent (see D&C 62:3).  We find joy in helping others come unto Christ and feel the redemptive power of His love (D&C 18:14-16).  Our families are blessed as the testimonies and faith of both parents and children increase.

In gospel-sharing homes we pray for guidance for ourselves, and we pray for the physical and spiritual well being of others.  We pray for the people the missionaries are teaching, for our acquaintances and for those not of our faith.  In the gospel-sharing homes of Alma’s time the people would “join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God” (Alma 6:6).

Creating a gospel-sharing home is the easiest and most effective way that we can share the gospel with others.  And we’re not just talking about traditional homes with families consisting of two parents living with their children.  College students can create a gospel-sharing home when they adorn the walls of their apartment with pictures that reflect spiritual pursuits instead of the things of the world.  Older couples and single members exemplify a gospel-sharing home when they welcome new neighbors and invite them to attend Church and visit them in their homes.

A gospel-sharing home is one at which neighborhood children love to play, making it natural to invite them and their family to attend church, a family home evening, or some other activity.  Teenagers visiting a gospel-sharing home feel comfortable asking questions or participating with the family in prayer.

Gospel-sharing homes are very ordinary.  They may not always be spotlessly clean nor the children perfectly behaved.  But they are a place in which family members clearly love each other and the Spirit of the Lord is felt by those who visit.

As we talk about what a gospel-sharing home is, perhaps it would be helpful to identify some things that a gospel-sharing home is not.

A gospel-sharing home is not a program.  It is a way of life.  Creating a gospel-sharing home means inviting our friends and neighbors into the ongoing flow of family and Church activities.  As we invite our friends to join us for these activities, they will also feel the Spirit.

Creating a gospel-sharing home does not mean that we are going to have to dedicate large amounts of time to meeting ad cultivating friends with whom to share the gospel.  These friends will come naturally into our lives; and if we are open about our membership in the Church from the very beginning, we can easily bring gospel discussions into the relationship with very little risk of being misunderstood.  Friends and acquaintances will accept that this is a part of who we are, and they will feel free to ask questions.

A gospel-sharing home is not defined by whether or not people join the Church as a result of our contact with them.  Our opportunity and responsibility is to care, to share, to testify and to invite, and then to allow individuals to decide for themselves.  We are blessed when we have invited them to consider the Restoration, regardless of the outcome.  At the very least, we have a rewarding relationship with someone from another faith, and we can continue to enjoy their friendship.

In a gospel-sharing home we do not just pray for the health, safety and success of our missionaries throughout the world.  We also pray for our own missionary experiences and opportunities and to be prepared to act on those impressions as they come our way.  And I promise you – they WILL come.

Now is the Time to Serve a Mission!

Elder Richard G. Scott
Of the Quorum of the Twelve

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May I speak from my heart of what an honorable full-time mission has meant to me personally.  I grew up in a home with very good parents, but my father was not a member and my mother was less active.  After my mission that changed.  They became strong members and served devotedly in the temple, he a sealer, she an ordinance worker.  But as a young man I had no way to judge personally the importance of a mission.  I fell in love with an exceptional young woman.  At a critical point in our courtship, she made it very clear that she would only be married in the temple to a returned missionary.  Culy motivated I served a mission in Uruguay.

It was not easy.  The Lord gave me many challenges that became stepping stones to personal growth.  There I gained my testimony that God the Father and His Beloved Son did in fact visit Joseph Smith to begin a restoration of truth, priesthood authority and the true Church on earth.  I gained a witness that Joseph Smith is a singular prophet.  I learned essential doctrines.  I discovered what it meant to be led by the Spirit.  Many a night I got up as m companion slept to pour my heart out to the Lord for guidance and direction.  I pled for the ability to express effectively in Spanish my testimony and the truth I was learning to a people I had come to love.  Those prayers were abundantly answered.  At the same time m future eternal companion, Jeanene, was being molded to become an exceptional wife and mother by her own mission.

Missionary companions I served with became some of my closest friends.  Those bonds of brotherhood continue today.  All that I now hold dear in life began to mature in the mission field.  Had I not been encouraged to be a missionary, I would not have the eternal companion or precious family I dearly love.  I would not have received sacred callings with opportunities to serve for which I will be eternally grateful.  My life has been blessed beyond measure because I served a mission.

Now can you understand why I am so anxious to motivate every one of you young men to be a worthy missionary?  Can you comprehend why I encourage you as a mature couple to plan, if health permits, to serve the Lord as missionaries?  An you see why I suggest that some of you young women where there is a desire and it will not affect an impending marriage, to seriously consider serving the Lord on a mission?  Our home has been greatly blessed by a wife and mother who chose to serve a full-time mission during y period of service.

If you are a young man wondering whether you ought to fulfill a full-time mission, don’t approach that decision with your own wisdom alone.  Seek the counsel of your parents and your bishop or branch president.  In your prayers ask to have the will of the Lord made known to you.  I know that a mission will provide extraordinary blessings for you now and throughout your life.  If you are a young man wondering about a mission, I urge you not to pray to know whether you should go, rather ask the Lord to guide you in whatever may be necessary to become a worthy, empowered full-time missionary.

Zion in the Midst of Babylon

Elder David R. Stone
Of the Quorum of the Seventy

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One of the greatest challenges we will face is to be able to live in that world, but somehow, not be of the world.  We have to create Zion in the midst of Babylon.

Zion in the midst of Babylon. What a luminous and incandescent phrase, as a light shinig in the midst of spiritual darkness.  What a concept to hold close to our hearts, as we see Babylon becoming more widespread.  We see Babylon in our cities, we see Babylon in our communities, we see Babylon everywhere.

And with the encroachment of Babylon, we have to create Zion in the midst of it.  We should not allow ourselves to be engulfed by the culture which surrounds us.  We seldom realize the extent to which we are a product of the culture of our place and times.

During the days of ancient Israel, the people of the Lord were an islad of the one true God surrounded by an ocean of idolatry.

The waves of that ocean crashed incessantly upon the shores of Israel.  Despite the commandment to make no graven image and bow down before it, Israel seemingly could not help itself, influenced by the culture of the place and times.  Over and over again, despite the prohibition of the Lord, despite what prophet ad priest had said, Israel went seeking after strange gods, and bowed down before them.

How could Israel have forgotten the Lord that brought them out of Egypt?  They were constantly pressured by what was popular in the ambience in which they lived.

What an insidious thing is this culture amidst which we live.  It permeates our environment, and we think we are being reasonable and logical, when all too often, we have been molded by the ethos, what the Germans call the zeitgeist, or the culture of our place and time.

Because my wife and I have had the opportunity to live in ten different countries, we have seen the effect of the ethos on behavior.  Customs which are perfectly acceptable in one culture are viewed as unacceptable in another; language which is polite in some places is viewed as abhorrent in others.  People in every culture move within a cocoon of self-satisfied self-deception, fully convinced that the way they see things, is the way things really are.

Our culture tends to determine what goods we like, how we dress, what constitutes polite behavior, what sports we should follow, the importance of education, and out attitudes toward honesty.  It also influences men as to the importance of recreation or religion, influences women about the priority of career of child-bearing and has a powerful effect on how we approach procreation and moral issues.  All too often, we are like puppets on a string, as our culture determines what is “cool.”

There is, of course, a zeitgeist to which we should pay attention.  And that is the ethos of the Lord, the culture of the people of God.  As Peter states it: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar peole; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9).

It is the ethos of those who keep the Lord’s commandments, walk in His ways and “live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God” (D&C 84:44).  If that makes us peculiar, so be it.

Instruments of the Lord’s Peace

Elder Robert S. Wood
Of the Second Quorum of the Seventy

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I have a friend who is a member of a political panel that is seen each week on national television.  Explaining her role, she said, “We are encouraged to speak before thinking!” 

We appear to be living in an era in which many are speaking without thinking, encouraging emotional reactions rather than thoughtful response.  Whether it be on the national or international stage, in personal relations or in politics, at home or in the public forum, voices grow ever more strident, and giving and taking offense appear to be chosen rather than inadvertent.

The Lord has warned that from the beginning and throughout history, Satan would stir up peoples’ hearts to anger.  In the Book of Mormon, Laman set a pattern of so murmuring as to stir anger, to stoke rage, and to incite murder.  Time and time again in the Book of Mormon, we find deluded and wicked men inciting rage and provoking conflict.  In the days of Captain Moroni, the apostate Amalickiah inspired “the heart of the Lamanites against the Nephites.” Amulon and the wicked priests of Noah, Korihor, Zoram the apostate (the dishonor role goes on throughout the Book of Mormon) were agitators who inspired distrust, fueled controversy, and deepened hatreds.

In speaking to Enoch, the Lord indicated that both the time of His birth and the time preceding His second coming would be “days of wickedness and vengeance.”  And the Lord has said that in the last days, wrath shall be poured upon the earth without mixture.  Wrath is defined both in the righteous indignation of God and as the very human instances of impetuous ardor and deep or violent anger.  The former arises from the concern of a loving Father whose children are often “without affection, and they hate their own blood,” where as the latter wrath arises from a people “without order and without mercy.strong in their perversion.”  I fear the earth is experiencing both wraths, and I suspect the divine wrath is very much provoked by those who are stirring up the hearts of men to wickedness, slander and violent hatreds.

Prayer, Faith and Family

Stepping Stones to Eternal Happiness

Elder H. Bruce Stucki
Of the Second Quorum of the Seventy

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It was the day after Christmas 1946 in Santa Clara, Utah.  As a young 9-year-old boy, I asked my mother if I could take my Christmas gift, a new boy and arrow set, and go upon the hill behind our home to hunt for rabbits.  It was late in the afternoon, and mother was reluctant, but with my coaxing, she agreed to let me go but only if I was back home before dark.

As I reached the top of the hill, I put an arrow on the bow and started walking quietly through the sage and chaparral bushes hoping to see a rabbit feeding at the base of the brush where the tender grass was still green.

I was startled by a large jack rabbit that jumped out from a sage brush right in front of me.  I pulled back on the bow, taking a quick aim and let the arrow fly at the fleeing, darting rabbit.  The arrow missed and the rabbit disappeared through the brush ahead.

I went to where I thought the arrow had hit the ground to retrieve it.  Only three arrows came with the bow, and I didn’t want to lose this one.  I looked where the arrow was supposed to be, but it wasn’t there.  I looked all around the area were I was sure it landed, but I couldn’t find it.

The sun was setting in the west; I knew that it would be dark in about 30 minutes and I didn’t want to be ate getting home.  I searched again the area where the arrow should have been, looking carefully under every bush, but it was not to be found.

Time was running out and I needed to start for home to get there before dark.  I decided to pray and ask Heavenly Father to help me find the arrow.  I dropped to my knees, closed by eyes and prayed to my Father-in-Heaven.  I told him I didn’t want to lose my new arrow and I asked Hi to show me where to find it.

While still on my knees, I opened my eyes and there in the sage brush immediately in front of me, at eye level, I saw the colored feathers of the arrow partly hidden by the branches.  I grabbed the arrow and bean to run for home arriving there just before dark.

I will never forget that special experience.  Our Heavenly Father had answered my prayer.  That was the first time I had prayed for Him to help me. and He did!  That evening I learned to have faith and trust in my Heavenly Father.

The Abundant Life

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
Of the Quorum of the Twelve

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Harry de Leyer was late to the auction on that snowy day in 1956, and all of the good horses had already been sold.  The few that remained were old and spent and had been bought by a company that would salvage them.

Harry, the riding master at a girls’ school in Pennsylvania, was about to leave when one of these horses – an uncared for, gray gelding with ugly-looking wounds on its legs – caught his eye.  The animal still bore the marks that had been made by a heavy work harness, evidence to the hard life it had led.  But something about him captured Harry’s attention and so he offered $80 for him. 

It was snowing when Harry’s children saw the horse for the first time and, because of the coat of snow on the horse’s back, the children named him “Snowman.”

Harry took good care of the horse who turned out to be a gentle and reliable friend – a horse the girls liked to ride because he was steady and didn’t startle like some of the others.  In fact, Snowman made such rapid improvement that a neighbor purchased him for twice what Harry had originally paid.

But Snowman kept disappearing from the neighbor’s pasture – sometimes ending up in adjoining potato fields, other times back at Harry’s.  It appeared that the horse must have jumped over the fences between the properties, but that seemed impossible – Harry had never seen Snowman jump over anything much higher than a fallen log.

But eventually, the neighbor’s patience came to an end ad he insisted Harry take back the horse.

For years, Harry’s great dream had been to produce a champion jumping horse.  He had moderate success in the past, but in order to compete at highest levels, he knew he would have to buy a pedigreed horse that had been specifically bred to jump.  And that kind of pedigree would cost far more than what he could afford.

Snowman was already getting old – he was 8 when Harry had purchased him- and he had been badly treated.  But, apparently, Snowman wanted to jump and so Harry decided to see what the horse could do.

What Harry saw made him think that maybe his horse had a chance to compete.

In 1958, Harry entered Snowman in his first competition.  Snowman stood among the beautifully bred, champion horses, looking very much out of place.  Other horse breeders called Snowman a “flea-bitten gray.”

But a wonderful, unbelievable thing happened that day.

Snowman won!

Harry continued to enter Snowman in other competitions ad Snowman continued to win.

Audiences cheered every time Snowman won an event.  He became a symbol of how extraordinary a ordinary horse could be.  He appeared on television.  Stories and books were written about him.

As Snowman continued to win, one buyer offered $100,000 for the old plow horse, but Harry would not sell.  In 1958 and 1959 Snowman was named “Horse of the Year.”  Eventually the gray gelding  – who had once been marked for sale to the lowest bidder – was inducted into the show jumping hall of fame.

For many, Snowman was much more than a horse.  He became an example of the hidden, untapped potential that lies within each of us.