I haven't posted here in awhile so decided it's time to resurrect the thread. I have given talks over the past months, but I don't think I will rehash them now. I also gave one this month, though. The topic was something like coming closer to Christ by choosing to believe in Christ.
I started with saying we all make choices, some mundane (like what tie to wear), some more important, and some that may have eternal implications. Then I quoted Pres. Monson from April GC (this was a reference talk):
As we contemplate the decisions we make in our lives each day—whether to make this choice or that choice—if we choose Christ, we will have made the correct choice.
I then said one of the first things Jesus taught the Nephites was the doctrine of Christ and quoted from 3 NE 31-35 and 39, followed by Elder Christofferson's quote from April 2012 GC:
This is our message, the rock upon which we build, the foundation of everything else in the Church. Like all that comes from God, this doctrine is pure, it is clear, it is easy to understand—even for a child. With glad hearts, we invite all to receive it.
I said the doctrine was simple, only asked that we believe and be baptized, and bore a brief testimony of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
I said we symbolically profess belief in Christ at baptism and again weekly as we partake of the sacrament.
I told them that while we partake of the sacrament together, it is really a personal and individual ordinance.
I talked about wine as a symbol of the blood of Christ and why we use water instead, quoting D&C 27:2, and then said I had pondered on the significance of wine vs. water and the following came to mind:
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)
and also quoted John 6:35 (I am the bread of life).
I talked about hearing testimonies of Christ from members and non-members and that what they seemed to have in common was hope and quoted from the hymn Redeemer of Israel.
I then said there were many in the world who doubted, were uncertain, or just didn't believe in Christ and quoted 1 Cor 12:3 (no man can say Jesus is Lord....) and said real testimonies come from the Holy Ghost.
Then I said I had learned two things about testimonies. The first is just because I have a testimony of something doesn't mean everyone else does.
I talked about people sitting in F&TM and hearing testimonies of what others know and thinking to themselves that they don't know that and perhaps thinking there is something wrong with them or God doesn't love them, etc., and said those ideas are false and quoted Pres. Uchtdorf:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a place for people with all kinds of testimonies. There are some members of the Church whose testimony is sure and burns brightly within them. Others are still striving to know for themselves. The Church is a home for all to come together, regardless of the depth or the height of our testimony. I know of no sign on the doors of our meetinghouses that says, “Your testimony must be this tall to enter.”
The Church is not just for perfect people, but it is for all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.” The Church is for people like you and me. The Church is a place of welcoming and nurturing, not of separating or criticizing. It is a place where we reach out to encourage, uplift, and sustain one another as we pursue our individual search for divine truth.
In the end, we are all pilgrims seeking God’s light as we journey on the path of discipleship. We do not condemn others for the amount of light they may or may not have; rather, we nourish and encourage all light until it grows clear, bright, and true.
I told them the second thing I learned is that testimonies can be fragile and that sometimes we end up in crisis mode questioning all that we believe. I then quoted Elder Holland:
In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. In the growth we all have to experience in mortality...desperation is going to come to all of us. When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes.
I said we might also recognize these crisis times as times of maturing and quoted 1 Cor 13:11 (when I was a child...) and talked about how as adults we recognize there are things we wholeheartedly believed as children that we can no longer believe (I was alluding to Santa Claus but couldn't come right out and say so in front of the children). I said some things we think are true are really based on incomplete information and quoted Pres. Uchtdorf:
The “truths” we cling to shape the quality of our societies as well as our individual characters. All too often these “truths” are based on incomplete and inaccurate evidence, and at times they serve very selfish motives.
...We too often confuse belief with truth, thinking that because something makes sense or is convenient, it must be true. Conversely, we sometimes don’t believe truth or reject it—because it would require us to change or admit that we were wrong.
When the opinions or “truths” of others contradict our own, instead of considering the possibility that there could be information that might be helpful and augment or complement what we know, we often jump to conclusions or make assumptions that the other person is misinformed, mentally challenged, or even intentionally trying to deceive.
I then quoted some Pew statistics illustrating that Mormons were only a very tiny portion of Christians and Christians were only a third of the world population anyway.
I then talked about how only about a third of members are active in most places, with the exception of the Mormon Corridor which is closer to half. The other extreme has Chile where it's only about 10-15%. I then said it wasn't unique to us and that organization like Pew and Gallup demonstrate that only about a third of all Christians int he US attend church regularly, and the same organizations also show that younger generations are less likely to attend than older ones. I said we don't know why that is.
I thine talked about the domino effects we like to use - if JS was a prophet, the BoM and church are true, etc., but said dominoes can fall in both directions and sometimes people who discover things that may lead them to believe JS was not a prophet then also conclude the BoM and church are not true and talked about how I experienced a similar thing myself and told them it's not all or nothing or either all right or all wrong.
I then quoted from Pew again and talked about significant portions of members who support things like gay marriage and abortion.
I told them we're not all gingerbread men and women and we're not meant to be, that we don't have to believe all the same, and quoted Elder Wirthlin:
Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don’t belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don’t fit in. They conclude that they are not needed.
Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.
I told them we should hold on to our own knowledge, beliefs and hopes and not compare ourselves to the beliefs of others, and told them believing is not a childish thing to be put away and quoted 1 Cor 13_12-13 NRSV (for now we see in a mirror...).
I said there really isn't much we have to believe and quoted John 3:16-17 (for God so loved the world...) followed by this quote from Elder Renlund (the other reference talk):
The closer we are to Jesus Christ in the thoughts and intents of our hearts, the more we appreciate His innocent suffering, the more grateful we are for grace and forgiveness, and the more we want to repent and become like Him. Our absolute distance from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is important, but the direction we are heading is even more crucial. God is more pleased with repentant sinners who are trying to draw closer to Him than with self-righteous, faultfinding individuals who, like the Pharisees and scribes of old, do not realize how badly they need to repent.
I said we can't buy our stairways to heaven, that only through the redemption of Christ could we return.
I said no amount of wearing white shirts, doing 100% home teaching or paying tithing on gross or a myriad of other Pharisaical rules could change that eternal truth.
Our salvation hinges on the testimony that Jesus is the Christ, but that Jesus didn't say we had to have a sure knowledge of that now but he did say over and over again that we need to believe. I said that belief could be very small, it could be nothing more than a hope or desire to believe and that your belief, hope, and desire is between you and God.
I told them that when we undertake to complicate the doctrine of Christ we risk damaging the good the gospel brings and quoted from the hymn Sweet is the Peace the Gospel Brings (which we had coincidentally sung as an opening hymn).
I closed with a brief testimony of believing Christ and finding peace.