“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15)
Give an answer about your hope to EVERY man? Let’s make a short list of who that could imply.
The first person to teach is yourself. The first questions to answer are those of your own. Catalog your findings in some way which you’ll be able to review them as time goes by, and use them as a resource in teaching others.
-your spouse (find nice ways to explain your religious views)
Find ways they can understand. I cringe to see families who quickly read a few verses of scripture at the end of the day to their children without offering any explanations, they consider that their duty regarding the teaching of their children has been complete. Children aren’t designed to be independent learners.
In America many from around the world are flocking, so our neighbor has expanded not only in number, but in type. The scripture says “give every man that asketh…” The “that asketh” portion is enlarged as our neighbors grow in number and type. Living in closer association with them means they are more likely to ask, and we are obligated by the Lord to answer. In this day of social media, ‘who is our neighbor’ becomes perfectly limitless.
Another passage says that the gospel will be preached to everyone in their own tongue.
With global instant communication, we don’t even have to wait for people to move in next door to begin befriending them, which will lead to joy and opportunities to share our beliefs.
I hear some people complain that not all in the US are perfect at English. Who are we, as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to turn our backs on the increasingly large communities amongst us who are from a different land, and speak a native tongue which is not our own? It is our duty to carry the gospel to these persons as quickly as possible, and learning their languages will not only carry the gospel further to their hearts, but it will give them increased opportunities to embrace the gospel without having to wait for someone native to their own country who happens to have learned the gospel. When Christ asks “which of these was neighbor to him”, will it be the person who isolated them because of their language, or the person who learned their language, and embraced them where they were instead of leaving them in isolation for 5 years waiting for them to learn the local language?
Learning a second or 3rd etc. language may be out of reach for some, but for many, especially given the advancements in educational technology and increased availability of literature, it isn’t. Language learning can be scary, but the path of discipleship often is, especially when we aren’t considering that God will help us immensely. Looking back, you may find it wasn’t so hard as it appeared. Is it God or the Devil who wants you to be afraid? Give learning a try, and line upon line, precept upon precept, prayer after prayer, you can find success.
People of Other Faiths & Walks of Life
Do we understand the doctrines of the faiths of our neighbors so we can give them a holistic view of our faith in light of their faith? Joseph Smith told people not to leave behind what they have, but to come and see if we can add to what they have. We don’t tear down their religion, but build on common ground. As you now see, you must learn not only your religion, but theirs.
The protestant, the Catholic, the Muslim, the atheist, the Buddhist, the capitalist, the communist, the working man, the business man, the political man, the list could go on and on. Suffice it to say that any of these could ask us a reason for our hope, and may God help us to prepare to answer each of them in a way they can understand. The restored gospel will appeal to any one of these people, as it is calculated to satisfy the human soul in all it’s varieties.
May we understand what is important to each type of people, and to each individual person we meet, be it in person or through social media. Perhaps only when we have begun to ask them questions about who they are will they ask us questions of who we are. Remember the scripture which says speaking of the disciples’ feelings about Christ, “we love him because he first loved us”. The duty of a Christian is to ‘first love them’. This just so happens to be a very delightful duty, and gives us permission to use much of our time to enjoy life with our neighbors. In the Book of Mormon, captain Moroni always speaks of the opposing team as “our brethren”, never as “the enemy”. He wipes out all of the “us and them” mentality by reminding us that we are all one big family. Most people who are willing to befriend others who are different than themselves at face value end up being shocked at just how similar they have been all along. Cultures vary, but core human traits feelings longings pains and all the other important things, are the same for all.