In any particular group, there is a common language being used that outsiders mostly won’t understand. In the LDS church, we also have a common language known as Mormon jargon, made up of not only the words that we often use but also the experiences that are often shared.
Sharing personal experiences at church is common in an LDS congregation and is encouraged to inspire others. But do we sometimes get so caught up in sharing our experiences that we forget to reflect if others can relate to what we are sharing? When we share our experiences, we must consider that our audience is a mix of converts, people who grew up knowing the gospel, and those who are still investigating the gospel. To be able to share an experience that people can relate to, we must think about why we are sharing that experience—to inspire others and share a story that people can learn from.
One common theme that people share is the blessing of being born in the church. Sometimes our sharing is so focused on the importance of being raised in a gospel-centered home that we accidentally exclude others who did not grow up knowing the gospel. They may feel inferior, as though they have not been as blessed by the Lord, after hearing how important it is to be born in the church.
To make our experiences more relatable, we can share the important lessons we learned growing up, such as the importance of family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and how these activities built and increased our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and helped our family stick closer together through the years. These are activities that both members and non-members can do. Sharing the lessons and blessings our family has received through these activities, can inspire others to try them with their own families.
Another commonly shared source of spiritual experiences is the mission field. Returned missionaries often speak powerfully of events during their mission that helped them come closer to the Savior. However, when returned missionaries emphasize how being a full-time missionary enabled them to have that experience, it may convey a different message. Why? Because the message may come across as “the only way to have such powerful experience with the Lord is to become a full-time missionary.”
Instead, we should focus on the virtues and principles that we exercised that led to the spiritual experience. If the experience was finding an investigator who had been waiting for years to learn about the gospel, then we could share the importance of being worthy to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost and giving heed to its promptings. Everyone who has received the gift of the Holy Ghost can pick-up a lesson from our experience that they can use, as they aspire to be in-tune with its promptings. Non-members can be inspired to become worthy to receive such a gift.
Sharing our experiences is a powerful source of inspiration and learning for people around us, so when we share, we must ask ourselves what lessons we have learned from the experience that can help people in their present circumstances. By focusing on the lessons that we have learned, we become more inclusive to those who are not of our faith, friends who are just being introduced to the gospel, and new converts who are just starting to develop their understanding of basic gospel principles.
We must learn the art of story sharing from the Master Himself, who taught Pharisees, Sadducees, Samaritans, Jews, Christians, and many more people—both those who believed in Him and those who did not. He welcomed all who wanted to listen to His words. As we seek to inspire others with our experiences, may we seek to teach with the intent of inspiring everyone who has ears to hear, like our Savior Jesus Christ.