SYDNEY, Australia — Thousands of Australians from many faiths gathered in 38 chapels recently to interact with an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a historic countrywide broadcast.
The telecast, which originated in Sydney, was the culmination of a 12-day visit to Australia by Elder David A. Bednar, who said it was an “emotional pilgrimage and privilege” to come to the land of some of his ancestors.
Elder Bednar’s great-great grandparents were among the first members of the Church in Australia. Their home became one of the stop-off points for the missionaries and Church leaders who went to Australia in the mid-1800s.
During the broadcast, Elder Bednar did not use a prepared text but instead encouraged those in attendance to ask questions. “The role of a teacher is not just to talk and dispense information. Rather, the role of a teacher is to invite, encourage and entice learners to act in accordance with truth,” Elder Bednar said. “The very process of formulating a question, raising a hand, asking a question and listening attentively is an expression of faith. This principle of seeking learning by faith invites individualized teaching by the Holy Ghost.”
Broadcast producer Matt Henderson said the format required a phone bank of five people, who received questions called in from various broadcast locations. A question was phoned in, written on a card with the person’s name and location and then given to Elder Bednar at the pulpit to answer in real time.
To make it possible for everyone to participate, the broadcast was beamed to Salt Lake City for translation into Samoan, Tongan, Cantonese and Mandarin and then beamed back to the chapels in Australia.
“People started calling before the meeting started and continued until after it ended. We probably fielded over a hundred calls and only ended the meeting after two hours because we ran out of satellite time,” Henderson said. “Everyone was very attentive and enthralled with the answers and instruction.”
Elder Bednar said the most poignant moment of the broadcast for him was when an 11-year-old boy raised his hand and asked how he could honor his priesthood when he turned 12. (In the LDS faith, eligible young men at 12 years of age have the opportunity to receive the priesthood.)
“It was inspiring to me to observe an 11-year-old boy stand up and ask that question, knowing that people all over Australia were watching and listening to him. It was a great learning and teaching moment,” Elder Bednar remarked.
That boy, Dallan Edward Maurer, said as soon as he heard he could ask a question at the meeting, he knew he wanted to participate. “When I stood up to wait my turn, I started to feel really nervous and thought about sitting down, but when I came to the microphone I didn’t feel any pressure or nerves. I just felt excited and uplifted.”
Dallan said he will follow Elder Bednar’s advice to make sure he always acts and dresses appropriately so he will be worthy to perform his priesthood duties. “It was a good experience to have an apostle of the Lord speak to me personally and answer my question. I will always remember it.”
Those of other faiths also took the opportunity to ask questions. One man said he noted from the New Testament that Christ was “the great high priest” and asked why, then, there was a need for the priesthood today.
Elder Bednar taught that the priesthood is the authority to act in the name of Jesus Christ. He responded: “Because Christ is not here with us, His priesthood is needed to teach His doctrine and to perform the ordinances of salvation. Priesthood authority is given to worthy male members of the Church and is received ‘by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof’ (Articles of Faith 1:5). Theological training or reading the Bible does not convey priesthood authority; rather, it comes from God according to the pattern He has established.”
The nationwide broadcast in Australia is just one example of how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints uses technology to bless members of the Church and others. This weekend the Church will broadcast its annual general conference from Salt Lake City to more than 6,000 meetinghouses and other facilities in 85 countries. It will be translated into 92 different languages, ranging from Albanian to Yapese.
This article was prepared by the LDS Newsroom at lds.org.