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You feel it and I feel it. We’re uncomfortable when we feel pressured to speak up. Especially if you’re a woman, society has conditioned you to believe that your voice should be quiet. We love this gospel, and we truly do want to share it. But we don’t want to come on so strong that we make others uncomfortable. None of us, men or women, want to be the zealot everyone avoids. Most of us naturally want unruffled feathers and smooth encounters.
So how can we be bold without crossing the line into overbearing? I’ve taken the plunge a few times, and I’m going to share what I’ve discovered when I’ve dived in.
First, sincerity is key. When you truly come from a heart of love and you just want to share something that brings you joy, that’s genuine and it rings true. Few people are insulted by simple enthusiasm. When we’re sharing an idea that has worked for us, or a new concept that inspired us, we usually do it from a place of true caring. Our joy is authentic. When we share the gospel, it’s the same thing. We honestly do care about the other person. When kindness is real we don’t seem bossy or prescriptive; we feel friendly and that’s how we’re perceived.
I have never offered a copy of the Book of Mormon to someone who sniffed, turned away, or laughed in my face. Every single person has been surprised by such a generous offer. “You’re giving me a book?” It’s as if they sense the value even before they read a single page. And it’s because I’m truly doing it out of love—not obligation, just pure love. I believe most people are good and decent, and they respond to genuine caring with respect and courtesy. Even if they decline your offer, they sense your compassion, and they respond in kind. So worrying about offending others needs to get crossed off our list. Yes, it’s possible to offend. But almost without exception, this doesn’t happen when you’re sincere.
Next, we must respect their beliefs and be as willing to listen as to speak. How can you possibly teach anything if you’re unsure of how much the other person knows? Ammon is a great example of this, first ascertaining what Lamoni’s father already understood. Sometimes, as in that case, a person only knows there’s a creator. Or they think there might be a higher power. You find out where to begin, and the only way to do this is to ask and then listen. Every thoughtful answer they give you is exciting, because it shows interest in truth. What a marvelous place to start.
Last, we have to give the Holy Ghost something to testify of. If we’re afraid to be forthright in stating revealed truth, how can the other person ever get a testimony of it? Just as there are times in Fast and Testimony meeting when the Spirit confirms that you are hearing truth (and this happens when we’re speaking it as well), we need to give others the chance to feel that sudden rush of clarity, a warmth in their chest, a tingle that resonates, a peace that feels right to them. If you want someone to believe in Christ, or in the First Vision, you have to share this incredible news.
Most of us want to convey acceptance and love to others. We try not to offend, we avoid hot topics, we all but apologize for having another view, sometimes. But that’s not what Jesus did, and not what prophets through the ages have told us to do. We’ve been told to invite. To speak up. To stand for right. To wear Christ’s name and spread His gospel. We’ve been advised to take heart when we are persecuted for Christ’s sake, because we’re in very good company. We’ve been told not to worry about what to eat or wear, but just to have faith that God will give us the words we’ll need as missionaries. None of these admonitions sound like we should be shrinking violets. Instead, we are to love others. And when we do that, fear usually evaporates.
Not everyone will rush to join, even when we are sincere, loving, and willing to speak up. But they will remain your friend. We keep loving them regardless of their decision. We realize there are thousands, perhaps millions, of people who sense in their hearts that it’s true, but simply aren’t yet ready to make the commitment. And we honor their agency to choose.
In Janice Kapp Perry’s wonderful song, The Church of Jesus Christ, the lyrics say:
I believe in the Savior, Jesus Christ.
I’ll honor his name.
I’ll do what is right;
I’ll follow his light.
His truth I will proclaim.
What a wonderful promise we make, to follow our belief with honor, right living, obedience, and then the courage to proclaim truth. I love the word, “proclaim,” because it implies exactly the right boldness. It isn’t pushy or brash, but neither is it whispering or reluctant. It’s announcing with confidence, not holding back, and even rejoicing in the declaration. So many people are looking for precisely that: Someone who actually has what they’ve been looking for, but they’ve known “not where to find it.” (D & C 123:12)
As I ask at the beginning of this article, if we never speak the truth we know, how can the Holy Ghost testify to others that what they’re hearing is true? We have to give words to what we cherish, something concrete for which the Holy Ghost can offer his witness. Truth is that vehicle. And when we share it with sincerity and love, we get a witness of our own that we’re on the right track.
Hilton’s newest work, A Little Christmas Prayer, is destined to become a Christmas classic. This tale, for any reader of any faith, teaches us all the magic of gratitude. All her books and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.