Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be the first to admit it: we are a peculiar people. It is natural in many ways to find ourselves separated and different from the rest of the world. While it shouldn’t be our main focus to try and appease the questions and standards of men, we can do our best to make sure our doctrines, beliefs, and practices (as well as our convictions to them) are understood.
Here are five things every Mormon can do to help change common misconceptions about the Church.
Recently, the Church has made a great effort to become more transparent about both historical and doctrinal issues. From The Joseph Smith Papers project to continually updated Gospel Topic Essays, new resources are available to better help members and non-members alike to address topics such as our Heavenly Mother, becoming like God, race and the priesthood, and plural marriage.
Members should take the time to study these resources to become acquainted with their own history and issues facing the Church. It is also important to separate the official stances of the Church and popular opinion or culture. This understanding isn’t just to be better prepared with answers; acquiring such knowledge can strengthen and edify one’s testimony.
Learn How to Answer Difficult Questions
In today’s society it is very easy to get into a war of words, whether it is in person or in a comment section. There are many reasons why people ask questions about the Church. Some are sincere, some aren’t. In all cases, we need to be prepared to answer questions with grace and testimony.
A particularly large factor when answering questions is humility. It is unlikely we will always have the answers people are looking for or will always feel confident. We need to admit when we don’t have an answer and invite the Spirit to help us in our weaknesses. As we do our best to reflect Christ and follow promptings, we will find ourselves saying and doing things we never thought we could.
Create a Community
We are blessed to enjoy a rich Church community, full of programs and organizations to lift, support, and help us. Sometimes, however, we can become too focused on enjoying these benefits instead of inviting others to share them with us. There are too many stories of visitors feeling unwelcome or members distancing themselves from their community.
On the contrary, communities should be welcomed and invited to Church activities and meetings. Look for ways you can involve your neighbors in the Church’s social functions. Whenever a visitor arrives they should be treated with kindness and respect. Even if someone doesn’t express interest in the Church, they should not be “dropped” or made to feel like their friendship is unimportant.
Love, Don’t Preach
The greatest commandments we have from God are to love Him and to love our neighbor. Missionary work is important, but it begins and ends with charity, the pure love of Christ. All too often, we get caught up with preaching and teaching and not on building true relationships founded on trust and caring.
The saying is true: people won’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care. Christ’s message is one of love and that should be the first and most impactful experience anyone has with one of his disciples.
Focus Everything Back to Christ
There is a lot to the Church and many people are unprepared for it. When you’ve grown up in the faith, it is easy to see how all of the dots connect together. Yet for those unfamiliar with our beliefs, it can seem like our focus isn’t on Christ, but on temples, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and a host of other things. We know how all of these things point to Christ and we need to make sure we make these connections clear.
In our testimonies, in our lessons, and in all of our interactions we need to focus everything back to Jesus Christ and his Atonement. The Book of Mormon echoes this sentiment clearly:
And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.
There will always be detractors. We will never be able to please everyone or answer every question. However, we can follow these steps to ensure we are living as close to Christ as we can and emulating his will in all things.
How have you helped answer or address misconceptions about the Church?