During my time as a missionary, we piloted a media program that provided free Bibles through the Church’s commercials. The Church had recently launched an aggressive media campaign, offering many types of free offers. By far, the free Bibles were the most requested items people wanted.
What I found amusing was that these Bibles were not published by the Church. This became evident when you went to the Bible dictionary. There, you encountered the definition of the Trinity, which read: “The Trinity is the true union of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit into one Eternal God” (I am paraphrasing here, but I know I’m not far off).
The dictionary also contained definitions for terms like the rapture, apocalypse, and numerous other modern Christian concepts not found within the Holy Bible’s text. I often hesitated to distribute these Bibles to people. As Latter-day Saints, we have many Bible resources not found in a vanilla-flavored Bible. However, I did distribute these Bibles, and ultimately, they proved to be a valuable tool for connecting with sincere truth-seeking individuals.
It’s worth noting that you can still obtain a free Bible from the Church, but now it’s the Church’s official King James version. I wonder how much of an impact these Bibles have on missionary work compared to the ones I distributed for free during my missionary service.
I’ve been reflecting on this experience because I believe there’s a lesson to be learned. Often, I’ve encountered situations where I couldn’t share the complete restored gospel with friends and family. They might not be ready to receive it, or perhaps I’m unprepared to present it. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean I can’t offer them a different kind of “Bible” – one of kindness or thoughtfulness. This symbolic “Bible” may not encompass everything I wish for them to have, but I’ve discovered that it opens up opportunities that were previously unavailable.
This line of reasoning is illustrated in the Book of Mormon through Ammon’s mission to the Lamanites. The Lamanites harbored intense animosity towards the Nephites, making it extremely challenging for Ammon and his companions to share their truths. In Alma 17:14, we read, “…they had undertaken to preach the word of God to a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people; a people who delighted in murdering the Nephites, and robbing and plundering them; and their hearts were set upon riches, or upon gold and silver, and precious stones; yet they sought to obtain these things by murdering and plundering, that they might not labor for them with their own hands.”
Rather than confronting this hostility and wickedness directly, Ammon chose a different approach:
“As Ammon entered the land of Ishmael, the Lamanites took him and bound him, as was their custom to bind all the Nephites who fell into their hands, and carry them before the king; and thus it was left to the pleasure of the king to slay them, or to retain them in captivity, or to cast them into prison, or to cast them out of his land, according to his will and pleasure. And thus Ammon was carried before the king who was over the land of Ishmael; and his name was Lamoni; and he was a descendant of Ishmael. And the king inquired of Ammon if it were his desire to dwell in the land among the Lamanites, or among his people. And Ammon said unto him: Yea, I desire to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die. And it came to pass that king Lamoni was much pleased with Ammon, and caused that his bands should be loosed; and he would that Ammon should take one of his daughters to wife. But Ammon said unto him: Nay, but I will be thy servant. Therefore Ammon became a servant to king Lamoni. And it came to pass that he was set among other servants to watch the flocks of Lamoni, according to the custom of the Lamanites.” (Alma 17:20–25)
Through Ammon’s willingness to serve King Lamoni, the doors to the gospel were opened to the Lamanites, and thousands embraced Christ’s teachings. These converts later became known as the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s and were among the most righteous and diligent people in the Book of Mormon.
The gesture of a service-oriented “Bible” that Ammon extended to King Lamoni held more value than an immediate gospel presentation. Had Ammon not heeded the promptings of the Spirit, his offer of the gospel to King Lamoni might not have been well-received.
The Lord encourages us to spread the gospel to all, yet we seldom get the opportunity to present this precious gift exactly as we wish. Kindness and service, like the free Bibles once distributed by the Church, may not contain the complete message within their covers, but they possess the capacity to open others’ hearts and minds, allowing them to receive the fullness of salvation.