When Lehi, the first Book of Mormon prophet died, his family split into two groups, the Nephites and the Lamanites. The Nephites were the part of the family (and those who traveled to their own, personal promised land with them) who chose to follow God, and wanted Nephi as their leader. Nephi was the fourth son of Lehi.
The Lamanites were followers of the oldest of Lehi’s sons, Laman. He was a wicked young man who resented the family’s decision to abandon their wealth and do as God commanded. In time, he became violent and even murderous, and led a portion of the family and their companions away from the church. When Lehi died, they were so threatening, Nephi took his family and followers and moved a distance away.
Nephi’s younger brother Jacob lived with Nephi after his parents died, and become, in time, the spiritual leader of the Nephites. In his book (a section of the Book of Mormon) he wrote:
7 Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness.
8 Wherefore, we would to God that we could persuade all men not to rebel against God, to provoke him to anger, but that all men would believe in Christ, and view his death, and suffer his cross and bear the shame of the world; wherefore, I, Jacob, take it upon me to fulfil the commandment of my brother Nephi. (Jacob 1)
Although Jacob may have been the president of the church, he uses the plural term to discuss efforts to convert people. This reminds us that teaching of Christ is not the sole responsibility of the churches. Everyone who has a testimony of the Savior has a responsibility to share it with others.
Friends who are not of my faith will sometimes tell me, “If what you just told me is true, how could you not share it with everyone?” Today we see people eager forwarding by email information on health or safety they think will help their friends. The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is far more important than those pass-along messages, so why are we less eager to share them?
Each of us can work to prepare ourselves to share our message with others. It can be done in a non-offensive, non-intrusive way. Often, I find opportunities to mention an aspect of my faith in ordinary conversation. I don’t have to preach—it’s just a natural response to whatever is discussed. It can be done with complete respect for the beliefs of those I talk to. I consider it my responsibility to treat the faith of my friends with the same respect I want them to treat my own. A sharing of beliefs helps to strengthen friendship as we get to know each other.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is rather famous for its missionary program, but we know we can’t rely on those men and women on bicycles to teach everyone, so we’re all taught to be ready to jump in and help out.
Want to know more about our faith? Ask a “Mormon.”
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.