Sharing Book of Mormon and app in ‘normal, natural ways’ — on subway, at hotel, in cruise-ship hot tub

Sharing the gospel is made easier with the Book of Mormon’s new “discover,” “watch” and “share” tabbed features

As Justin Lether has learned, sharing the gospel and the Book of Mormon in “normal and natural ways” can happen just about any time or anywhere — on a subway, at a tourist attraction, during a hotel breakfast or even while soaking in a hot tub on a cruise ship.

“Sharing the gospel” — particularly through the principles of “love,” “share” and “invite” — was a focus of the July 31 fifth-Sunday, second-hour discussions conducted by wards and branches worldwide accepting the Missionary Department’s invitation to consider such a topic.

The discussion outline drew from the April 2022 general conference messages of President Russell M. Nelson; President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; and Elder Quentin L. Cook and Elder Gary E. Stevenson, both of the Twelve. Also key were resources from the 2022 Sharing the Gospel: A Broadcast for Leaders, with instruction from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Cook, all of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Lether, a Priesthood and Family Department product manager with the Book of Mormon Videos, has experienced firsthand the ease of sharing the Book of Mormon in conversations.

During a cruise several years ago, Lether was chatting with another passenger while both relaxed in the hot tub. When the conversation came to Lether explaining his work, the man asked, “Tell me more about the Book of Mormon — how can I get a copy of the Book of Mormon?”

At the time, the Book of Mormon app offered just access to the scriptural texts and simple search and marking features. But Lether found the app in an online app store and shared the link to it. “I got this guy a link to the Book of Mormon in the middle of the Pacific Ocean,” he said, “in a hot tub on the back of a cruise ship.”

He returned to Salt Lake City with a story and a perceived opportunity. Bryce Anderson, the product manager over the Book of Mormon app, “has done amazing things with it and made it much more shareable,” Lether said.

The recent integration of audio and visual elements into the newly improved app helps listeners and viewers increase comprehension and better understand context of the scriptures.

“I’m a huge proponent of the app,” said Lether, mentioning three recent experiences during a June trip where he did Friend to Friend taping at the Tokyo Japan Temple Visitors’ Center during the open house prior to the temple’s July 3 rededication.

First, on a subway platform in an exchange of limited English and Japanese and answering why he was in Tokyo and what he was doing, Lether — who had a copy of the new Book of Mormon app on his smartphone — offered the QR code for the person to scan.

“The great thing about it is that when it downloads on their phone, it downloads in their native language, whatever the language of the phone is,” he said of the brief interaction.

During an off-day visit to the Tokyo Tower — a communications and observation tower — Lether found himself being followed by a woman and a little boy, with the woman both inquisitive and wanting to practice her English skills. As the conversation extended and she learned more of the filming at the temple grounds and his work with Book of Mormon projects, she asked how she and her boy could see content.

Standing at the base of the Tokyo Tower, Lether‚ who had changed his Book of Mormon app to Japanese — showed her how she could find Book of Mormon videos in the text of the scriptures, where she could find the Church meetinghouse nearest to where she lived, and how to tap on a button to chat with missionaries about what she was seeing and inquire about possible English classes.

Tomomi Akatsuka and Justin Lether take a selfie on the grounds of the Tokyo Japan Temple in early June 2022. Lether, the product manager for the Book of Mormon Videos, struck up an acquaintance with Akatsuka, sharing with her the Book of Mormon app and inviting her to tour the temple prior to its July 3, 2022, rededication. | Provided by Justin Lether

“It was a really sweet moment, because I hadn’t developed enough of a relationship where I could ask, ‘Hey, can I have your phone number and text you a link,’” Lether said. “But I could swipe up, show the QR code that she could scan, and she felt totally comfortable. It was meeting her need — she was wanting to learn more and to watch the videos.”

During his extended stay at a Tokyo hotel, he chatted daily with the young woman making breakfast. As Tomomi Akatsuka learned more of Lether’s work and his project, the conversations — and questions — led to him first to sharing the Book of Mormon app and then showing the features.

“I downloaded the app, and it was really easy to use,” Akatsuka told the Church News. “The Japanese was well-translated. The video was beautiful, and that made it easier for me to understand.”

Justin Lether and Tomomi Akatsuka, second and third from left, are flanked by Elder Takashi Wada, the General Authority Seventy who is the Asia North Area president, and his wife, Sister Naomi Ueno Wada, during a visit to the Tokyo Japan Temple, its visitors’ center and its grounds in early June 2022. | Provided by Justin Lether

That expanded to him inviting her to “come and see” by visiting the temple’s open house, with Lether getting her a spot in a VIP tour of the temple and introducing her to Elder Takashi Wada, the General Authority Seventy who is the Asia North Area president, and his wife, Sister Naomi Ueno Wada.

“So I had this two-minute opportunity to share, not even knowing the language, and it worked,” said Lether of the subway-platform moment, the first of his three sharing experiences in Tokyo. “Then I had this next opportunity to share for about 20 minutes and use the ‘discover,’ ‘watch’ and ‘share.’ And then it goes to this longer, repeated interaction and more established relationship that I’m still following up on with texts and emails.

“So, from a hot tub to the Tokyo temple, it’s worked for me.”

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