Each month The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints publishes an international periodical called the Liahona (formerly the Ensign). Because I have found it beneficial for myself and others, I plan to provide you with a digest version of each month’s content and ideas for using it in your witnessing to LDS members. Because there are too many articles to react to each month, I will focus on only two. For each selected piece, I will unpack:
1. What it said
2. Why it matters
3. How to use it for witnessing, and
4. Provide links for further study
The Liahona’s monthly theme connects to an important topic to be discussed in LDS meeting houses and homes that month as part of their “Come Follow Me” focus. The March 2022 Liahona theme is “Growth in Adversity.” The issue includes several articles referencing the Jacob and Joseph accounts from Genesis, which are covered in depth in our Witnessing Christ from the Old Testament resources.
The emphases of the March edition are:
- Learn how in lives marked by ups and downs, Jacob and Joseph had remarkable faith.
- Learn how Jacob, Esau, and Joseph reconciled conflicts in their families and how we can do the same in our homes and communities.
The Refining Fire of Affliction
by D. Todd Christofferson, on print pages 6-9
The first article, in each Liahona, which expounds on the theme using stories of LDS members, is usually written by a member of the First Presidency or a member of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
What it said:
In his discussion of affliction, D. Todd Christofferson claims he wants his readers to learn “how to draw closer to the Savior through trials.” He explains that hardship is often a critical element of our “eventually being made perfect” and that “God is not interested in what we do or don’t do but in what we are becoming.” The article’s big idea is that in affliction, God teaches his children to be “righteous in all circumstances.”
Before tackling and making applications to Joseph’s distress, Christofferson uses Joseph’s grandfather, Abraham, as an example of one who was “obedient,” waited “patiently,” and “continually trusted in and served God” (emphasis mine). Next, Christofferson glosses over Jacob’s deplorable deceit contrasting his faithfulness with unfaithful Laban, who “dealt duplicitously with Jacob.” Finally, the author elevates Joseph as the “classic example” of one who “consistently prevailed in adversity by trusting in God.” (There is no mention of his dream boasts to his brothers.)
Christofferson concludes that these and other examples teach us that “adversity is typically overcome over time,” that waiting implies “action,” that “our hope increases in Christ when we serve others,” and that ultimately refined by afflictions, we can “emerge as happier and holier beings.” In the end, one can “achieve” personal growth while waiting on the Lord and enduring “in turning and trusting in God.”
Why it matters:
Although Christofferson’s goal of leading his readers to “draw closer to Christ in affliction” appears admirable, the article does not lead one closer to Christ but deeper into self and self-sufficiency. Christofferson emphasizes the faithfulness of Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph; however, there is no explanation about the favor of God that produced this faithfulness in them. There are no explanations provided of what it means to turn to and trust in God, and the trust appears to be in self.
The conclusion a reader must draw is that because these men were faithful, God showed them his favor, rather than the other way around. It is hard to miss the highlighting of the patriarchs’ action and achievement and hard to find any mention of God’s action and accurate purposes amid affliction.
In difficulty, rather than being taught to draw deeply from the living water of Christ, LDS members are encouraged to dig deeper into themselves to “act” and “achieve.” This encouragement leads in only two directions, self-righteousness or despair, but not toward greater trust in Christ. Christian growth in adversity means learning to trust less in self and more in Christ. Pastor Tullian Tchvidjian sums it up well:
As I’ve said before, Christian growth is NOT “I’m getting stronger and stronger, more and more competent every day.” Rather, it’s “I’m becoming increasingly aware of just how weak and incompetent I am and how strong and competent Jesus was, and continues to be, for me.”
Spiritual growth is not about climbing a mountain, getting “better,” and therefore needing Jesus less and less. Spiritual growth is about discovering more and bigger caverns of need into which more and more of Christ’s grace can flow. We think spiritual growth is about the heights we should attain when in reality, it is about acknowledging the breadth and depth of our need. Real Christian “progression” is marked by a growing realization of just how desperate we are for amazing grace.
This is why Jesus holds up children as examples of the greatest in his kingdom. They have nothing of which to boast, no moral resumes to brag about, no jaw-dropping feat of spiritual prowess. What do they have? Empty hands waiting to be filled, empty mouths waiting to be fed. They are paragons of reception. And Christ’s kingdom is all about God giving and us receiving, not us accomplishing and God applauding.Tullian Tchvidjian, “Progression Downward,” April 1, 2020, Facebook Page
How to use it for witnessing:
Why does God give us his grace and goodness and bless us? It’s not because we make and keep covenants with him, but rather because he makes and keeps covenants with us. Being a covenant maker like Charlotte won’t redeem you. Doing your best to be like Jesus won’t redeem you. Jesus redeems you. The redeemed then desire to follow Christ and Our LDS friends, family members, and missionaries experience the same sort of suffering and affliction that the rest of the world does. LDS leaders tell their members regularly that their worthiness to God will produce blessings and that their perseverance in affliction will lead to significant gain. Again and again, Mormons are directed to rely on themselves. In contrast, the stories of Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph in Genesis remind us that suffering and pain in life teach us to rely on God. The suffering situations in Genesis and the rest of the Bible uncover these powerful truths:
- Suffering is present in our lives to bless us.
- Suffering is present in our lives to keep us from becoming self-sufficient and proud.
- Suffering is present in our lives to remind us that although we are heirs of heaven, we are not in heaven, not yet.
- Suffering is present in our lives to point us away from trust in ourselves to trust in Christ.
- Although suffering is present in our lives, God gives us strength and healing in our weaknesses.
- Although suffering is present in our lives, God’s grace is sufficient today, tomorrow, and forever.
God does some of his best work when we are at our lowest points. When all hope is gone, he steps in and saves us. When Jesus died on the cross, and the tomb was sealed, hope evaporated. Then, in the quiet of despair, Jesus rose in power and glory, bringing salvation and causing us to look up from ourselves and only and always to him.
For further study:
How the Lord is Hastening His Work Through Social Media
by Stuart Edgington, on print pages 30-33
The Young Adult section of the Liahona usually delves into the month’s theme with a special interest piece sharing the story of young LDS members living out their beliefs.
What it said:
As we suspected and have written about in past posts, many LDS missionaries have transitioned their work “from knocking to notifications.” Since knocking on doors was no longer an option during the pandemic, many missionaries were provided with smartphones to connect with people they might not have had the chance to reach otherwise. Many local LDS missions also now have dedicated teams “who serve as social media or tech specialists, helping run the mission’s Facebook page, creating social media content, making ComeUntoChrist.org ads, and controlling the budget used on ads.” In the article, several missionaries, who were hesitant about social media work, now encourage average LDS members to share their testimony on their Facebook pages. In addition to creating content, members are urged to share the LDS gospel by “reaching out to those they know, replying to the comments section [on the posts of friends, missionaries, and LDS ads], or sending direct messages.
Why it matters:
Although it might appear to be a good thing that missionaries are no longer knocking on doors as much, these new methodologies will likely lead to more quality contacts and “conversions” than cold calling ever did. The LDS marketing machine has few religious rivals, and a whole new generation of members is being employed, equipped, and empowered to proclaim the lies of the restored gospel near and far. With a single Facebook post or YouTube ad, missionaries are making their way into millions of homes whose doors would have been previously closed. Most of the content is deceptively Christian, and it will draw many millions more into Mormonism’s deadly clutches.
The need for faithful Christians like you speaking the truth in love to Mormons isn’t going away anytime soon. Additionally, these young missionaries eager to share the LDS gospel need to hear the true Biblical gospel. The ability to interact with them more easily online can provide that opportunity.
How to use it for witnessing:
Many of our witnessing friends have told us about being randomly friended by LDS missionaries on Facebook. In October 2020, my friend, Stephanie, received a Facebook message from a local LDS missionary asking her to study the Bible. Eager to jump at the chance to discuss God’s Word with Mormons, she replied, “Yes.” Stephanie and her husband met with the missionary and her companion for over three months and are still in contact today.
How do we respond to these new LDS digital efforts? In addition to saying, “Yes!” if you receive a request like Stephanie’s, here are a few other ideas:
- Request a Missionary: Many Please Open the Door evangelists have found it easier than ever to engage missionaries in long-term witnessing conversations. The isolated young men and women are craving in-person interactions and are eager for opportunities to visit homes. Learn how in our Please Open the Door Program.
- Work with the Algorithm: By clicking on several LDS Facebook ads, I have had the opportunity to chat with young missionaries from several different states and countries. Facebook comments and messages are an excellent way for you to share the true gospel of Jesus with missionaries and other members in even small ways.
- Post/Send “Sharing Personally” Devotions: Each week, as part of our Witnessing Christ from the Old Testament resources, we provide short devotional thoughts. Take these thoughts and either make them your own or post them as is to your Facebook wall or Instagram feed. You could even send them to a friend or a group of friends in an email.
- Share Sermons from Your Church: Was there a recent message from your local pastor that connected with you? Please share it with your Mormon friends on Facebook or by email. When you share the link to the sermon, be sure to include some simple summary thoughts about it and why it impacted you. If there is a part of the sermon, such as an illustration or application, that was especially meaningful, tell them to watch for it and tell you what they thought about it after watching.
- Share Your Testimony: LDS members are used to sharing and hearing testimonies in their sacrament meetings. Even young LDS children learn to have and give their testimony. Many Christians are less comfortable sharing such formal testimonies, but when we do, Mormons listen closely. Have you ever told your LDS family, friends, or missionaries about what Jesus means to you personally? Write out some thoughts and then give it a try verbally. It gets easier the more you share it. Focus your testimony primarily on what Christ has done for you, not on you and what you do. Emphasize the unconditional nature of the gospel and how it gives you confidence and certainty for this life and eternity.
Find examples of Christian testimonies in Testimony: A Mormon’s and Yours.
For further study:
Other March 2022 Liahona articles of note and value to read, digest, and discuss for witnessing are:
- God Can Help Us in Hard Times by staff writers, on print pages 12-13, further explores Joseph’s story and the modern example of Marcell Endrek of Argentina to teach about “what can happen when we are determined to trust God in our trials.” Once again, the sequence of faithfulness and favor is confused.
- Run the Race with Patience by Kary Hafen, on print pages U14-16, shares the story of a woman dealing with chronic fatigue who worked hard and completed a marathon. As a distance runner, this article intrigued me but left me exhausted. Once again, the focus is on Kary’s hard work and faithfulness rather than on the working of Christ. The message is: Be like Kary, hold on, press forward, and turn your struggles into successes. Although she briefly mentions holding onto Christ, the article is about how she held onto herself and found the strength and courage within herself to progress and overcome. Note: This article is only found in the United States print edition.
Questions to Ask As You Witness
Here are some questions to hopefully spark conversation about dealing with adversity with your LDS friends, family, and missionaries.
- From the stories of Jacob and Joseph, what does God teach us about how he uses affliction?
- When times of difficulty and affliction arise, what does it mean to hold on to God?
- What does it mean to have “growth in adversity?” (Let them share their answer and then be prepared to communicate and share yours).
- The Bible teaches that God’s favor leads to man’s faithfulness. Why is it so important to keep this sequence in mind? How does the story of Joseph in Genesis emphasize this sequence?
What questions and comments for witnessing do you have about these Liahona articles or the topic of dealing with adversity in general?
We would love to hear from you. Please contact us or share in the comments section below.