Years ago, when I was serving as the Ward Mission Leader, it struck me one day that there are members who say the most important thing they can do to share the Gospel is to be a good example. I believe these people are missing something – a fundamental understanding of the world around them that is absolutely critical to sharing the Gospel.
Of course, it is vital to be living the Gospel to the best of our abilities in order to share it. Of course, living the Gospel is of paramount importance – and, if one thing is to be done, living it is better than talking about it. However, the idea that just being a good example ? is enough to share the Gospel ? and attract others to the Church is fundamentally flawed and actually dangerous outside areas of Mormon social dominance, since it misses two critical realities of this life in areas where the Church is small and members are not well known.
1) There are numerous people of all religions and denominations who live their lives in accordance with the basic principles of the Gospel – whose lives are examples of true Christian discipleship in every objective measure, even within non-Christian religions. Many of these people are closer to being truly Christ-like than I am. Joining them is important, but it does NOTHING to distinguish us from them – especially if . . .
2) People generally have no idea what religion someone else is unless there are obvious outward signs or that someone tells them. In my area, for example, if I am a wonderful example of Christian discipleship, most others will assume correctly that I am Christian – but not one of them (OK, maybe one or two) will assume I am Mormon. In fact, the vast majority probably will assume I am not Mormon, due to their misconceptions about the Church. So, in a very real and powerful way, my silent example of Christian discipleship actually will reinforce their negative view of Mormonism and harm the Church.
This is one case where living the Gospel ? cannot be divorced from openly proclaiming our membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is important to be a good example, but that example must include opening our mouths ? and including our allegiance to the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot be just another example of spirituality; we actually must share what we have in order to be righteous (“right with God”).