Faith, Family, Facts, and Fruits
Elder M. Russell Ballard
Of the Quorum of the Twelve
The Public Affairs Committee on which I serve has learned that there is a great need for clear, simple statements that present those who are curious with the basics about the Church as it is today. Let me share with you some of the things that we have found to be helpful. You may want to prepare your own simple list of talking points that will assist you in explaining what we believe to your friends and acquaintances of other faiths. It may be helpful for you, as it is for me, to have on one page a few facts about the Church as it is today to give to them along with a copy of the Articles of Faith.
Here are four subjects that will help someone today to gain a basic understanding of the Church. Under each of the four headings, there are some simple statements I have found helpful. Try to imagine them being heard or read by a person who knows virtually nothing about us. The four main subjects deal with FACTS, FAITH, FAMILIES, and FRUITS of the restored gospel.
Some facts might include:
First — Mormon” is a nickname for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members are often referred to as “Mormons,” “Latter-day Saints,” or “LDS.” The term “Saint” means “member.”
Second — The Church was restored in 1830, in upstate New York, with Joseph Smith as its first prophet and president. Today it is headquartered in Salt Lake City, with President Gordon B. Hinckley as the present prophet.
Third — There are now over 13 million members in 176 countries and territories. About 6 million of these are in the United States, making us the fourth largest Christian denomination in America. As one of the fastest growing Christian faiths in the world, we complete a new chapel every working day. Members pay a tithe, which is 10% of their income, making this and other programs possible.
Fourth — Local congregations are led by volunteer, unpaid members. Both men and women serve in assigned leadership positions.
And fifth — Mormons are well represented in politics and government (in the United States for example, there are 16 members of Congress, from both political parties.) Members also serve in high and trusted positions throughout the world in government, business, medicine, law, education, media, sports, and entertainment.
[President Ballard continues expanding on the other three areas of basic information and then ends:]
We should also remember that sometimes the best way to answer people’s interest can be by how we live, how we radiate the joy of the gospel in our lives, how we treat others, and how sincerely we follow the teachings of Christ.
The Great Commandment
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the pathway of discipleship. It comforts, counsels, cures, and consoles. It leads us through valleys of darkness and through the veil of death. In the end, love leads us to the glory and grandeur of eternal life.
For me, the Prophet Joseph Smith has always exemplified the pure love of Christ. He once said that many, “cry out concerning me, and ask, ‘Why is it this babbler gains so many followers, and retains them?’ I answer, It is because I possess the principle of love.”
The story is told of a fourteen-year-old boy who had come to Nauvoo in search of his brother who lived near there. The young boy had arrived in winter with no money and no friends. When he inquired about his brother, the boy was taken to a large house that looked like a hotel. There he met a man who said, “Come in, son, we’ll take care of you.”
The boy accepted, and was brought into the house where he was fed, warmed, and was given a bed to sleep in.
The next day, it was bitter-cold but, in spite of that, the boy prepared himself to walk the eight miles to where his brother was staying.
When the man of the house saw this, he told the young boy to stay for awhile. He said there would be a team coming soon and that he could ride back with them.
When the boy protested, saying that he had no money, the man told him not to worry about that, that they would take care of him.
Later, the boy learned that the man of the house was none other than Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet.
The boy remembered this act of charity for the rest of his life.
A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit
Elder Bruce D. Porter
Of the Quorum of the Seventy
After his resurrection, Jesus Christ declared to the people in the New World, “Your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of [them] … And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart … him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 9:19-20)
What is a broken heart and a contrite spirit? And why is it considered a sacrifice?
As in all things, the Savior’s life offers us the perfect example: though Jesus of Nazareth was utterly without sin, He walked through life with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, as manifested by his submission to the will of the Father. “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).
To His disciples He said, “Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt 11:29). And when the time came to pay the ultimate sacrifice entailed in the atonement, Christ shrank not to partake of the bitter cup, but submitted completely to His Father’s will.
The Savior’s perfect submission to the Eternal Father is the very essence of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Christ’s example teaches us that a broken heart is an eternal attribute of godliness. When our hearts are broken, we are completely open to the spirit of God and recognize our dependence on Him for all that we have and all that we are. The sacrifice so entailed is a sacrifice of pride in all its forms. Like malleable clay in the hands of a skilled potter, the broken-hearted can be molded and shaped in the hands of the Master.
Preach My Gospel – The Unifying Tool between Members and Missionaries
Elder Erich W. Kopischke
Of the First Quorum of Seventy
Elder Richard G. Scott taught that all members should carefully study Preach My Gospel. He said:
Much good has been accomplished … since Preach My Gospel was introduced, but the best is yet to come as we all become more proficient in the use of this extraordinary missionary tool.
Our time may seem limited to do this study so therefore let me give a few suggestions that may help:
- Youth preparing for a mission should carefully study Preach My Gospel along with the scriptures.
- Invite the missionaries to your home. Ask them to teach you ad your family a principle or doctrine from Preach My Gospel.
- Every once in a while, use Preach My Gospel for a Family Home Evening. Let your teenage children teach your family as missionaries would do. In our home, we have had some surprisingly great lessons given by our children. We have been astonished at how well they taught simple principles from Preach My Gospel. Sometimes we have invited friends to those lessons.
- Gospel teachers could use the simple but effective principles of gospel teaching as outlined in Preach My Gospel as a support to the prescribed courses of study ….
- Elder Scott encouraged local Church leaders to use these materials in … presidencies, priesthood executive committee meetings, and ward councils …
Out of Small Things
Elder Michael John U. Teh
Of the Seventy
When I was six years old, Uncle Fred was my worst nightmare. He was our neighbor and he was always drunk. One of his favorite pastimes was to throw rocks at our home.
Because my mother was a great cook, single adult members from our small branch frequented our home. One day, when Uncle Fred was sober, these members befriended him and invited him into our home. This development terrified me. He was no longer just outside but inside our home.
This happened a few more times until finally, they were able to convince Uncle Fred to listen to the missionaries. He accepted the gospel and was baptized. He served a full-time mission, returned with honor, pursued further education, and was married in the temple. He is now a righteous husband, father, and priesthood leader. Watching Uncle Fred today, one would find it difficult to believe that he once brought nightmares into the life of a six-year-old boy. May we always be perceptive to opportunities to share the gospel.
My mother was a great example of helping others by giving them a boost. She taught us many important lessons. The one lesson that has had the most lasting effect on my life is her desire to help anyone in need who visited our home.
It bothered me to see many of them leave with our food, our clothing, and even our money. Because I was young and we were poor, I did not like what I saw. How could she give to others when our family did not even have enough? Was it wrong to attend to our needs first? Didn’t we deserve a more comfortable life?
For years, I struggled with these questions. Much later in life, I finally realized what mother was teaching. Even as she struggled with the effects of a crippling disease, she could not stop giving to those in need.
Quench Not the Spirit Which Quickens the Inner Man
Elder Keith K. Hilbig
Of the Quorum of the Seventy
In 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, Paul admonished the members to act in a manner as becometh saints. He proceeded to list appropriate attributes and behaviors. In verse 19, Paul counseled with these four simple words: “Quench not the Spirit.”
Interestingly, 500 years before Paul’s writings, a Book of Mormon prophet named Jacob sought to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to a resistant people. He boldly inquired of them as follows:
Will ye reject the words of the prophets; and will ye … deny the good word of Christ … and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and quench the Holy Spirit …?
In our day, so many centuries after both Jacob and Paul, we too must be careful not to hinder, disregard, or quench the Spirit in our lives.
The beckoning invitations of the world attempt to divert our attention from the straight and narrow path. The adversary labors to dull our sensitivity to the promptings of the Spirit. Whether we are at teenager, young adult, or mature man or woman. The role of the Spirit, the Holy Ghost, is essential in every season of our mortal lives.
… Each of us knew that the journey to exaltation would be long, strenuous, and sometimes lonely, but we also knew that we would not travel alone. Heavenly Father provides all who fulfill the prerequisites of faith, repentance, and baptism with a companion and guide, the Holy Ghost.
“The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom [He Hath] Sent”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
As Elder Ballard noted earlier in this session, various crosscurrents of our times have brought increasing public attention to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Lord told the ancients this latter day work would be “a marvelous work and a wonder” — and it is. But even as we invite one and all to examine closely the marvel of it, there is one thing we would not like anyone to wonder about — that is whether or not we are “Christians.”
By and large, any controversy in this matter has swirled around two doctrinal issues — our view of the Godhead and our belief in the principle of continuing revelation leading to an open scriptural canon. In addressing this, we do not need to be apologists for our faith, but we would like not to be misunderstood. So with a desire to increase understanding and unequivocally declare our Christianity, I speak today on the first of those two doctrinal issues just mentioned.
Our first and foremost article of faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” We believe these three divine persons constituting a single Godhead are united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission. We believe them to be filled with the same godly sense of mercy and love, justice and grace, patience, forgiveness, and redemption.
I think it is accurate to say we believe they are one in every significant and eternal aspect imaginable except believing them to be three persons combined in one substance, a Trinitarian notion never set forth in the scriptures because it is not true.
Indeed no less a source than the stalwart Harper’s Bible Dictionary records that, “The formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the New Testament.
So any criticism that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not hold the contemporary Christian view of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost is not a comment about our commitment to Christ but rather a recognition (accurate, I might add) that our view of the Godhead breaks with post-New Testament Christian history and returns to the doctrine taught by Jesus Himself. A world about that post-New Testament history might be helpful.
In the year 325 A.D., the Roman emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea to address — among other things — the growing issue of God’s alleged “trinity in unity.” What emerged from the heated contentions of churchmen, philosophers, and ecclesiastical dignitaries came to known (after another 125 years and three more major councils) as the Nicene Creed, with later reformulations such as the Athanasian Creed.
These various evolutions and iterations of creeds — and others to come over the centuries — declared the Father, Son and Holy Ghost to be abstract, absolute, transcendent, imminent, consubstantial, coeternal, and unknowable, without body, parts or passions and dwelling outside space and time. In such creeds, all three members are separate persons, but they are a single being, the oft-noted “mystery of the trinity.” They are three distinct persons, yet not three Gods but one. All three persons are incomprehensible, yet it is one God who is incomprehensible.
We agree with our critics on at least that point — that such a formulation for divinity is truly incomprehensible. With such a confusing definition of God being imposed upon the church, little wonder that a fourth century monk cried out, “Woe is me! They have taken my God away from me … and I know not whom to adore or to address.”
Elder Russell M. Nelson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
The Bible and the Book of Mormon are both witnesses of Jesus Christ. They teach that He is the Son of God, that He lived an exemplary life, that He atoned for all mankind, that He died upon the cross and rose again as the resurrected Lord. They teach that He is the Savior of the world.
Scriptural witnesses authenticate each other. This concept was explained long ago when a prophet wrote that the Book of Mormon was “written for the intent that ye may believe [the Bible]; and if ye believe [the Bible] ye will believe [the Book of Mormon] also.” Each book refers to the other. Each book stands as evidence that God lives and speaks to His children by revelation to His prophets.
Love for the Book of Mormon expands one’s love for the Bible, and vice versa. Scriptures of the Restoration do not compete with the Bible; they complement then Bible. We are indebted to martyrs who gave their lives so that we could have the Bible. It establishes the everlasting nature of the gospel and of the plan of happiness. The Book of Mormon restores and underscores biblical doctrines such as tithing, the temple, the Sabbath day, and the priesthood.
An angel proclaimed that the Book of Mormon shall establish the truth of the Bible. He also revealed that writings in the Bible available in our day are not as complete as they were when originally written by prophets and apostles. He declared that the Book of Mormon shall restore plain and precious things taken away from the Bible.
A prophecy in the Book of Mormon warned that some people would object to the notion of additional scriptures. To those who think they “need no more Bible,” consider this God-given counsel:
Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God … created all men … and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
…Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And … the testimony of two nations shall run together also.