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Monday, August 10, 2009

Casually "putting yourself out there"

I believe that sharing the gospel should be natural. As natural as talking about your kids and as normal as recommending a good movie. I think the fear of coming across as pushy zealot is what prevents many members from saying anything to their friends. Nobody wants to be a target, and if you've ever been on the wrong end of a pyramid scheme pitch you know how uncomfortable it can be to try to get out of that kind of situation. We don't want to be the ones putting our friends and family in an awkward situation. Will they think of us differently afterward? Will we be able to look them in the eye again if they aren't interested? The very thought is unpleasant. How can we bring up the gospel in a natural way?

If the gospel is part of your everyday life, you will naturally talk about it. We have a relative who has repeatedly complained to other relatives that we "talk about church stuff too much". Knowing this, we have tried not to mention anything even remotely related to doctrine or beliefs in front of this person, since it seems to make him uncomfortable and we go out of our way to respect that. Even so, its almost impossible not to say things like, "Oh, thats our friend Pete, from church" or "We're going camping with our Ward this weekend". To our shock, the complaints continued, even after we were making a conscious effort not to say anything our beliefs. We stopped feeling guilty about it when we realized that completely cutting out all references to the church would be pretty much impossible and an unrealistic thing to expect. We wouldn't ask this relative to stop talking about sports or his job, because those things are part of his life. Pretending that we don't go to church, have friends at church, and attend church activities is ridiculous. The church is part of our lives, a big part. So, while we're still careful not to discuss doctrine in front of this person, out of courtesy, we're not ashamed to talk about our lives and the church that is such a big part of it. Thats just who we are.

I think its possible to put yourself out there without being obnoxious. Here are a few absolutely painless, casual ways to make yourself available for questions (and maybe even put yourself in a position to talk about gospel topics in a non-threatening way, if appropriate). Anyone can do these things, and none of these ideas will make you come across as a pushy fanatic!:
  • When you send Christmas cards and/or family newsletters, include an appropriate quote from a General Authority or a scripture)
  • Put a picture of the temple up in your home
  • Keep a copy of the Book of Mormon somewhere where friends can see it
  • Read the Book of Mormon in public places (on lunch break, on the bus, at the doctor's office)
  • Include the Church's website addresses (www.mormon.org or www.lds.org) on your facebook page or as part of your email signature (put something like, "Interested in learning about what Mormons believe?," then list the address or a link)
  • Wear your CTR ring or other church-themed items/clothing (BYU t-shirt, YW necklace, etc)
  • When someone asks what you did last weekend, mention that you went to church!
  • Give applicable Book of Mormon names to pets and animals (often starts a gospel conversation - people want to know where you came up with a name like Abish or The Brother of Jared!)

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