Brothers and sisters, what a privilege it is to be here today and to be in this venue. I’ve watched this. I’ve not participated. This is a new venue for us. We enjoy all the work you do. I’m grateful to be involved today.
May I begin by expressing our appreciation for all that you do. The stated mission is to defend the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Restoration, the gospel, and we need your voices. As recent as yesterday I was in a meeting with senior leadership of the Church, and we talked about the importance of faithful members engaging online and helping everyone understand the real foundation of faith that we have in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
You can say what we can’t say. Let me give you two examples of that. One will be a little bit humorous. As I watched the two previous presenters, and I saw this sign behind me, I worried about what my picture would look like with President Nelson seeing “Mormon” written over my head. Now I’m sure they didn’t worry about it, but he’s pretty fanatical about adjusting, correcting the name of the Church.
Now there’s a reason that FairMormon continues to be FairMormon. And that’s the reason – because you can; you’re not the Church. And you can say things that we can’t say. You’ll also see from my message today that I’m not going to talk about Church history. I’m not going to talk about difficult questions. I’m not going to talk about controversial matters. I want to talk about something that might be meaningful to you. It will be more of a scriptural devotional type of message.
Now if you want to ask questions, they’ve asked me to leave quite a bit of time at the end. I’ll address any questions that you might have.
For the last nine years I’ve sat on councils that work closely with messaging of the Church, our online presence, and worked closely with FairMormon and Book of Mormon Central and More Good, and some of those that are out making a difference in the world. And I want to tell you how wonderfully you’re doing there.
The title of my message – I want to talk about foundational principles. I’ve chosen as my introductory scripture a passage found, as you know very well, in the New Testament from the writings of Paul. Paul said in Ephesians 6:
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
13 …Take upon [you] the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day…
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
In our day it is that shield of faith that protects us. It is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We truly are in a battle. You know the scripture well from Revelation that long before the world was Satan and those that followed him raged against the forces of good in an effort to overthrow the work of God. That war began in our premortal existence and continues today. The battleground has changed. We see it differently today than maybe it was in previous times in history. But the war is real, and I think if you go online you will see that battleground. You will see what is happening. Now it is not much different.
I hear occasionally people think that the millennials are leaving the Church. That is in fact not the case. They do have many questions, and that is where you can come in and help them resolve and answer some of those many questions. With the access of information online you can see that those questions are real.
I would like to talk about the battleground at the time of the Prophet Joseph and then use Joseph as an example of how to prepare ourselves to defend against the adversary. This scripture, which I like, is from the First Vision. As you know, his first experience with the forces of evil, at least from our reading, comes as he entered into the grove, and he was seized upon by some power from an unseen world that utterly overcame him. A thick darkness gathered around him, and it seemed to him for a time that he was doomed for utter destruction. In a very poignant way, the Prophet Joseph understood that there were two sides of the battle. There were truth and righteousness, and there were the forces of evil. And he came face to face with that battle.
When Moroni first came to the Prophet Joseph, he warned him that his name would be had for good and evil among all nations. They were preparing Joseph for the onslaught that was about to follow. And Joseph, as you know, walked out of the grove when he couldn’t understand why people would attack him for what he saw and what he said. And then he realized that this was a real battle. The Lord stated to Joseph Smith that “the ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee.”
If there is anyone in our history of the Restoration that dealt with the adversary, that dealt with the battleground, it is the Prophet Joseph. This is one that I like. It is extracted from the History:
… my… story excited a great deal of prejudice against me and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution. All united to persecute me.
Joseph, I think, was taken off guard by the onslaught that was created. Now that didn’t just come because he was an obscure boy. The adversary knew Joseph before he was born. The Lord was waiting for this day to start the restoration of the gospel in our day. And from the very beginning in the First Vision, the heat of the battle increased.
What were the attributes that the Prophet Joseph had that helped him stand strong in the face of adversity? Now these seem simple, and they seem pretty basic, but as I talk about them, think about them in your own life. How do you stand in the face of adversity? How do you prepare yourself for questions or comments or attacks that come against you? And more importantly, as you are helping loved ones and others that might be struggling, how can you help them be better prepared for the questions that they might deal with?
I have eight principles I’ll share with you.
The first one is Joseph’s deep feeling and serious reflections. Joseph was a serious-minded person. I don’t know much about how he really lived his life, but it seems that his questions were penitent, that at a very young age he thought about the world and what was going on around him. And in the middle of the religious fervor that he lived in, impacted him.
If I think about me as a 14-year old boy, I’m not sure I would be even concerned, or I’d be oblivious to some of those things, but Joseph was very serious minded. His questions were penitent and powerful.
From scripture we read these lines from the History:
During this time of great excitement, my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness. My feelings were deep and often poignant. I often asked myself, “What can be done?” while I was laboring under extreme difficulties…
and he would go on from there. But you can see that Joseph engaged in the conversation. He had deep and powerful, meaningful questions that were on his heart. That is really why you’re here. As you study and think and ponder about the history of the Church, the doctrine, the gospel of Jesus Christ, you have meaningful and deep questions. And that’s what we’re seeing in the Prophet Joseph.
Second was, he went to the right place to get his answers. His preparation was in scripture, and the spiritual experiences that he had. He studied the doctrines in the scripture. I don’t think that it was casually that he came across James 1:5. I don’t think he just opened the book. He was studying, I’m sure. But all of a sudden the Spirit distilled upon him. Listen to these verses from the History:
Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected upon it again and again.
Sometimes I teach my children as Joseph was enjoying this spiritual experience, that Heaven overreacted. They had been waiting so long for this moment. Joseph was known from the foundation of the world. We had suffered through the Dark Ages. The gospel hadn’t been on the earth. And this important moment when Joseph came across that scripture, the Spirit wanted to make sure that he understood that God could answer his prayer.
Joseph had faith that God would answer prayers:
… At length [I] came to the determination… to ask of God. I retired to the woods to make an attempt. After I retired to the place I had previously designed to go, I knelt down and began to offer up to God the desires of my heart.
Joseph’s mother writes that the Smith family had a designated place in the woods where they would go and pray. I don’t think it was unusual for Joseph to retire to the woods. I don’t think he was expecting the vision. In fact, I think it caught him off guard. But I know he was expecting an answer. From his experience in James he knew that God could answer his prayers and that He did.
Through that experience Joseph was personally tutored and given a doctrinal foundation. If you think about what you and I learn from that single experience of the First Vision, what we know in doctrine about the nature of God, about the nature of the Savior Jesus Christ, about the relationship with you and with me, about the vision and mission of the restoration of the gospel. You and I learn more from the First Vision than many that are on this earth will ever learn. And we have the obligation to share those doctrinal truths with them. Our message is based in doctrine. Our message is based in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Fifth, Joseph was humble and obedient to the instructions that he was given. In many occasions Joseph was put to test. Here is one example that is very familiar to you:
Who am I that I can withstand God? For I had seen a vision, and I knew it, and I knew God knew it. And I could not deny it. Neither dared I do so.
When the attacks came to Joseph, he had been rooted in what had happened, and notwithstanding the persecution, notwithstanding the power of the adversary, notwithstanding what happened around him, he could stay strong in the face of adversity because of the spiritual foundation that he had as he learned the truth.
The second example comes from the visitation of the Prophet by Moroni. As you recall, Moroni came to the Prophet Joseph four times, three in the night and then as he went out to work with his father and was fatigued. His father sent him home, and as he was coming home, Moroni appeared to him one more time. He rehearsed the same things that had been discussed previously, adding a little bit each time. And in the fourth visit, he invited Joseph to go and tell his father what had happened.
I always personalize that. Here is the young Prophet Joseph having to go tell his father that he had seen an angel from the ancient Americas, and there are gold plates in a hill. That is his first audience, to see if the story of the revelation of the Book of Mormon could be accepted. When that came to Joseph Moroni commanded him to “go to my father and tell him,” two words in the scriptures tell us a lot about the character of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It simply says, “I obeyed.” And as Joseph returned and told his father, you can see the spiritual maturity of Joseph Senior as he accepted that information.
The sixth point that I’ll share is he was always aware of his weaknesses and his vulnerabilities. No one had to tell Joseph that he didn’t have an education, that he didn’t have all of the learning of men and things. No one had to talk to him about his lack of preparation. He knew in and of himself his own weaknesses and where he was vulnerable. Listen to these phrases from the History:
I was left to all kinds of temptations; and… frequently fell into foolish errors…. In making this confession no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sin. A disposition to commit such was never in my nature…. I often felt condemned for my weaknesses and imperfections when… I betook myself to prayer… for forgiveness of all my sins and follies.
Joseph was very much aware that he was a man and that he was being attacked and that he had many things to be attacked of. But he was sure about what he had seen and what he had received. He was sure about what he had felt. And that allowed him to stand strong in the face of adversity.
The seventh point that I would share: He was refined by extremely difficult experiences and lessons learned. Some of those great lessons, if you go to Liberty Jail – and I love the Sections in Liberty Jail – you know this verse where it talks about all the bad things that could happen to Joseph. His son could be torn from his chest and then the Savior said, “The Son of God has suffered all these things. Art thou greater than He?”
I’ve read that for so many years thinking that it was a chastisement of Joseph, when in fact I think the Lord was saying, “I’ve been there with you. I know the things you’ve suffered through.”
One of the examples I want to use today has to do with the loss of the 116 pages. Martin Harris, as you know, acted as his scribe, and asked to look at the plates. Joseph forbade that he could view them. When he was denied, he asked if he could take the 116 pages to reassure his wife and family. After pursuing that several times and denying him twice, Joseph ultimately acquiesced and allowed Martin Harris to take the manuscript to Palmyra. And you know how the story unfolds. When Martin Harris failed to return to Harmony as promised, Joseph, stricken with anxiety, traveled to Manchester to recover the pages. Harris reported that he had broken his oath and had shown the manuscript to persons outside of his family, that someone had stolen from his home and he no longer had it in his possession. Joseph took this very personally and immediately cried out, “Oh! My God, all is lost! What shall I do? I have sinned. It is I who have tempted the wrath of God.”
Joseph wailed. He was so taken by his own error, his own stupidity, going against the will of God. To show you how merciful the Father is, in Section 3 he said to Joseph:
Behold, thou art Joseph… but because of transgression, if thou art not aware, thou wilt fall. But remember, God is merciful. Therefore, repent of that which thou hast done… and thou art still chosen and art again called to the work;
Now you and I who have responsibility to defend the Church, won’t do it correctly every time. We might not say the right things. We won’t always be successful at it. But remember, God is merciful. He’ll put words in our mouths. He will help us and help those who we talk to if our intents are good.
Finally, the last point: Joseph had an irrefutable testimony of the work he was called to perform. Through that tutelage of the first ten years before the Church was restored, he had so many experiences that he knew the cause of Zion. He knew that it would go forth, nobly, boldly, until it filled the earth. He had that prophetic vision of what the gospel would become.
So brothers and sisters, as you and I defend the Church, as we have experience with those that are suffering; first of all, let’s take time to fuel our own testimonies, our own spiritual well-being by prayer and scripture study and do those things, ask ourselves the questions that others might ask. And then as we have occasion to help others, do it in a loving, and in a calm and peaceful way, not in a debative way, not in an intellectual way, but invite them to do the things that really gained in us our testimonies.
With your indulgence, let me share a personal experience. I’m embarrassed to show you this picture, because it shows you how skinny I was as a young missionary. I served in Chile, and in those days we came to Provo to what was called the Language Training Mission, the LTM. It was a couple years prior to having the MTC here in Provo. And we memorized the missionary lessons. I came from a very wonderful family, but I didn’t have a testimony of everything that was in those lessons. We had to memorize testimonies. I think there were 37 testimonies in the lessons of that day. In my own way, I wrote down every one of those testimonies, and I started to pray about each one. Do I have a testimony of tithing? Of the Sabbath Day? Of the commandments? Of the Prophet Joseph? I was going through this process of trying to gain a spiritual confirmation of each and every aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And then after what seemed like a long time – it was probably just a few days – I was in a large missionary meeting, as large as this meeting here. And at the beginning of the meeting we sang, “Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning.” And as we were singing that song, the Spirit just kind of rushed over me. And the thought that came to my mind was if Joseph was a prophet, then it’s all true. And I realized that I didn’t have to dissect the gospel. I didn’t have to dissect and think about each and every aspect. There are things that I still have questions on. There are things that I still don’t understand. But at the root of our testimonies are our Savior Jesus Christ and the Prophet Joseph Smith. And as we have a spiritual confirmation of those two things, then we can deal with all the things that we hear and see around us.
In 1935, in the hundredth anniversary of the organization of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the First Presidency at that time issued a statement that there are two great truths that must be believed or accepted by all mankind if they are to be saved.
First, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. And second, that God has restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the fullness of the everlasting gospel. These two pillars of truth are what form us, make us. First of all, there are many that have strong feelings and connections to the Savior Jesus Christ. We see Him in a different way. We see Him as the resurrected Christ, the One that stands at the head of His Church, the One that’s involved in our life; whose Atonement not only helps us overcome sin and affliction, but enables and empowers us. We see the Living Christ. We see the Christ that atoned and that is here present and that we can have a personal relationship with. Our testimonies of the Savior Jesus Christ are foundational to our understanding of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
The second part of our witness is the Prophet Joseph Smith. And the reason that’s important is because of all the things that happened in history, all the things that happened through the Restoration. If we have a spiritual understanding that the Prophet Joseph Smith was chosen and called of God, that he was raised up, and he was prepared to be the Prophet of the Restoration, and we know that to be true in our core, then all the questions, all the controversy, all the things that we hear in the world around us, we can listen and try and understand but it goes back to our roots, our very roots which are in the Prophet Joseph.
I have met with so many returned missionaries, with so many millennials, with so many students that are struggling with their testimony. And as I take them back on their mission, as I take them back to where they learned and knew that this was true, it’s really easy to work through some of those questions. If we intellectualize, if I try and explain how the translation of the Book of Mormon really occurred, or some of the other questions that you deal with in your daily lives, it’s very difficult for me to get any traction until we get back to that foundational testimony.
About three weeks ago I had a lovely couple come to my office. The sister was devout, devoted. They had children. Her husband, who had been on a mission in Brazil, was struggling. And he had gotten caught up in a lot of things and as we started to talk through it, he wanted to debate what he had found out. I had to take him back to his mission. I had to say, “You are the investigator;” and say, “When you met someone who was searching for the truth as a young missionary, how did you put the foundation of faith there?” How did you help them gain the strength needed to accept the gospel and all these new things in their lives at that time? And as I was able to talk him back to his mission, talk to him about when he first knew that Joseph was a Prophet, that’s where the foundation started to occur.
You and I love the scripture that comes from the Doctrine and Covenants right after the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph: “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of man in this world, than any other man who ever lived in it.” I don’t know how they come to that term. I have many heroes in the Old Testament and the New Testament. I love the prophets of the Book of Mormon. But in my life the Prophet Joseph Smith has done more for me, save the Savior Jesus Christ, than any other person. And every blessing that flows to me and my family, every blessing that I receive comes because I know that Joseph is a prophet.
Now I gave a talk in Conference a few years ago about the Prophet Joseph. I spoke of the fact that as a young seminary student, as I read through the Book of Mormon the first time, I tried to imagine Joseph discovering the truths in his own life for the first time. It had such an impact that I always read the Book of Mormon saying, “What did he learn when he heard about this, when he went through the sermon of Abinadi, when he learned about baptism?” He had been told not to join any of the churches, and yet he learned how important baptism was as he was translating the Book of Mormon. That’s what drove him to pray about it, and that’s what drove the revelation for John the Baptist to restore. Emma and Joseph had lost an infant son. How did he feel when he read the words in Moroni that little children are born in Christ, that they need no baptism, that they are innocent? There are so many poignant moments in the translation that Joseph experienced as he went through it the first time.
One of my favorites, and probably the most startling to Joseph is the third chapter of Second Nephi. It’s a prophecy of Lehi giving a blessing to his son Joseph, and he speaks of Joseph of old of Egypt. But then he talks about a choice seer to be raised up in the latter days. He is speaking about a prophet that would be named after his father Joseph. He is speaking about the Prophet Joseph Smith. Those verses in Second Nephi say that he is going to be a choice seer, that the seer would be named Joseph named after his father. He would be esteemed highly and would be of great worth to his people. He would be great like unto Moses, that he would be given power to bring forth God’s word.
If you summarized the things that Lehi prophesied about this great seer in the latter days, and then you analyzed the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith, you can see how he was magnified, how he was blessed to fulfill this prophecy that happened before the world was. A choice seer would be raised up. He was foreordained from the very beginning. The Lord had his eye on him and on his posterity or on his progenitors, that he came forward ready to serve as the prophet of the Restoration, that he would be brought out of darkness into light. We talked about how Joseph as he is reading James and the Spirit just washed over him, or when he walks into the grove and as the power of evil circled around him, all of a sudden he saw a pillar of light more brilliant than the sun, directly over his head. And in the midst of that light he saw two personages. One of them spoke unto the other saying, “This is my Beloved Son. Hear Him!”
That the Savior would be made manifest unto Joseph Smith. Not just the Savior. In my own count, 57 celestial beings appeared to the Prophet Joseph that we know about. Moroni came to him 22 times that we know about. It’s almost like he had one foot in this world and one foot in the other. The amazing thing is that he was able to take all of that celestial experience, that divine tutelage, and put it in common terms, so that the people around him could understand him. He simplified the message. He would be given power to bring forth God’s word. If you look, and without counting the Inspired Version of the Bible, if you just look at the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Book of Mormon, 35% of what we have in canonized scripture came from the Prophet Joseph Smith. He had a bigger impact on the doctrine that we have today than any other prophet throughout history.
He would be great like unto Moses. There are so many similes between Moses and the Prophet Joseph, how Moses was raised up, how the Prophet Joseph was raised up. And out of weak things he would be made strong. Why would God pick a 14-year-old boy that wasn’t learned, that was innocent? Because He could mold him, that Joseph was obedient to the word, and he took the first ten years of his life to shape him and bring him along, to make him strong out of very weak things. It also helps that the people could see that it wasn’t Joseph, that it was God Himself that was magnifying Joseph that made him such a great prophet of the Restoration.
One of the great things – and you would make a better list that I would. I would love to see your list as you outline all the doctrines that were revealed to us because of the work of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I’ve tried to list some of the doctrines and the ordinances: the true nature of God, the Plan of Salvation, moral agency, the Atonement and Resurrection, the Book of Mormon (that teaches more about the Atonement than is known anywhere else), Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood, priesthood keys, the organization of the Church, baptism, confirmation, ordination of the priesthood, sealing power and authority, temple endowments, eternal marriage, the redemption of the dead. The list keeps going: Gifts of the Spirit, proclaiming the gospel to the world, gathering of Israel and the establishment of Zion, the Second Coming of the Savior, exaltation, the Kingdom of God; and it goes on and on. So if you think about why we have such a clear understanding of what this life means and what the future life will be like, what celestial life looks like, what exaltation really means, that’s primarily because we’ve been able to absorb, if you will, all that was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Restoration.
So, we’ve talked about the Savior Jesus Christ. We’ve talked about the Prophet Joseph. I want to spend just a couple of slides on the power of the Book of Mormon. There is a phrase in Preach My Gospel that I love. It teaches the missionaries that the Book of Mormon is their greatest tool. It says the following:
An essential part of conversion is receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true. This testimony can lead to a deep and abiding faith in the power of the Book of Mormon during the conversion process. Have confidence that the Holy Ghost will testify to anyone who reads and ponders the Book of Mormon and asks God if it is true with a sincere heart, real intent, and faith in Christ. This witness of the Holy Ghost should be the central focus of your teaching.
As you address issues and questions, as you ponder the things that you are trying to work at and understand better, always tie it back to the scriptures. Always tie it back to the Book of Mormon. Foundational to our faith is the tangible proof, a witness of the Book of Mormon that these things are true.
Listen to President Nelson, who spoke in conference about the Book of Mormon. He gives kind of an explanation point to what I’m trying to say,
The Book of Mormon provides the fullest and most authoritative understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to be found anywhere. It teaches what it really means to be born again. From the Book of Mormon we learn about the gathering of scattered Israel. We know why we are here on earth. These and other truths are more powerfully and persuasively taught in the Book of Mormon than in any other book. The full power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is contained in the Book of Mormon, period.
That is why it is a cornerstone of our religion. That is why it is tangible evidence of the restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Now before I conclude with President Nelson’s invitation to us and my testimony, we have about 15 minutes of questions. I would just invite you to write down whatever question you would like to ask me. I’ll take the real simple ones and give the harder ones to everybody else. But I would love to respond as one of the authorities of the Church.
President Nelson in a recent conference also said the following. It’s his invitation to you and to me. He said:
Our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ will perform some of his mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indication that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ preside over the Church in majesty and in glory. But in the coming days it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost. Our protection, our foundation is that we have experiences each and every day with the Holy Ghost. My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.
As a young missionary I was serving in the office and living in the mission home. I had a mission president – he was a General Authority – and he was out in front and he was leading the charge, but his family – he had children on the mission, so his wife was busily attending to the children – and we didn’t get to see her much. I didn’t get to have much of a relationship with her until I actually lived in the mission home with the family. And one night as we were clearing the table and I’m helping with the dishes, she looked at me and said, “Elder Christensen, did you have a spiritual experience today?” And I had to pause. I had to go through my mind and think back, well, did it happen when I prayed, when I read the scriptures? And she could tell by my hesitancy that it wasn’t profound in my life. And then she kind of put her finger, and this is not like her, she said, “If you don’t have a spiritual experience every day on your mission, you’re a failure. You need to work. And even if it’s the last minute of the day, make sure that you can feel the Holy Ghost.”
I’ll tell you that every night, and sometimes after a really hard day, you kneel down, and you’re pleading to have that feeling. We have to have that kind of desire. As President Nelson said, to “increase our spiritual capacity to feel the Spirit.” That’s really our protection. That’s really the foundation of our faith.
I bear you my witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the World. I know that He lives. I know that He directs His Church. I get to be a witness of that process as it occurs with prophets, seers, and revelators. I bear you my witness that the Prophet Joseph is the Prophet of the Restoration. I know that he saw what he said he saw. And I have felt through the Holy Ghost many of the things that he endured during his life, and all the blessings that flow to me come through the restoration of the gospel.
I know in a very personal way, a daily way, that we have a prophet on the earth today. President Nelson is amazing. He is surrounded by prophets, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. To watch that process is amazing, to see how the Lord shapes and brings revelation to 15 prophets, seers, and revelators.
And now as President Nelson emphatically says, we need to call the Church by its proper name, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know that this is the Church of Jesus Christ, His Church on the earth, that it is organized under His direction, that it is what He would have established to receive Him during His Second Coming, that we have the obligation, the opportunity to gather Israel and prepare for the Second Coming of the Savior. And I bear you that witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Now I’m anxious to answer questions.
QUESTION #1: How can the Church stand behind the work of Book of Mormon Central, Interpreter, and FairMormon in a more vocal way. I still have difficulty convincing friends and relatives that the Church stands behind us.
ANSWER: May I just say that part of the power is that we aren’t standing too firmly behind you, that one of the blessings and one of the missions that you are able to take are issues the Church doesn’t take. And so we work in tandem. If you look like an extension of the Church, you wouldn’t have the power to do what you need to do. Quietly and behind the scenes we are doing a lot to support you. Is that true?
Scott: Yes, That’s true.
And in fact it is increasing. Over the last couple of years, it has increased quite significantly. And those of Book of Mormon Central and FairMormon and others, Interpreter, those of you that are here, know that we are trying to be much more engaged. I think if you would have sat in the meeting I was in yesterday where they said, “As we respond on the battle on the Internet, only about 10 or 15% can come from the Church. The rest has to come from partners (we can count you as partners) and other individual members to be engaged in the conversation.
QUESTION #2: What doctrinal/historical questions have you had that have subsequently been resolved and how?
ANSWER: You know I’ve kind of played into that a little bit in that I always go back to what I know and not what I don’t know. And so, when I get a question that I can’t respond to, rather than being too obsessed by it, I go back, well I know this and I know this and I know this. Now I have a lot of questions. I’ll give you one that will not be answered in this life. I have anxiously waited to ask Moroni how he did this. How does a resurrected being get through the roof of a house to appear at the room? How does that work? I’m kind of a mind that it has to do with light and a pillar of light as he appeared. But I don’t know. They have substance. They have matter, and I’m not sure how that works. So, there are a lot of curiosity questions. But the deeply doctrinal questions that really matter are really rooted in the Plan of Salvation, rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, when I get a question that comes to me, I say, “How does this affect my standing before God in my future in the Plan of Salvation? That didn’t answer your question. I punt it back to you.
QUESTION #3: The Lord, Moroni, Joseph emphasized the fact that the Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the everlasting gospel. Does it?
ANSWER: You know, I’ve not gone through the exercise to try and list what the fullness really is. I couldn’t tell you what is missing. I can tell you it contains all we know and all we embrace. And I don’t think there is anything missing that we need to know to be full benefactors of all the blessings of God. Will we learn things in the hereafter? I think so. We’ll learn what resurrection really feels like and means. We’ll understand a lot more than we understand here. But I think everything we know is contained in the pages of the Book of Mormon. Surely our testimonies are.
I was at a funeral recently, and for some reason I contemplated trying to comfort the family (it was a young father), saying, “In the instant of passing through the veil, your father knows more about this life than we can ever gain living it. He understands what the future is for us in the hereafter.”
I don’t know. I can’t tell you what’s missing. I can tell you that all we need to know is in the pages of the Book of Mormon.
QUESTION #4: Another issue with millennials seems to be service in the kingdom. To the degree that they serve, they will remain faithful. I don’t how to help them in this process.
ANSWER: You know, I couldn’t agree more fully. When you and I grew up – I’m speaking to those of us who have gray hair – when you and I grew up, the Church was the center of our lives, and the gospel was assumed. We got fully engaged in Church activities, and it seemed to be front and center. For a millennial, the gospel is what they embrace, and the Church is assumed. When we start talking about home-centered and gospel-supported, I worry that they will go all the way to the home and quit coming to church. But the fact of the matter, we need both. But they want causes. The millennials want to be engaged in good things. And if you really want to get them really engaged in the gospel, we have to put them to work in serving one another. One of the problems, frankly, is it doesn’t have to come in a calling. We have to find causes that they can embrace.
QUESTION #5: How should the effort to move toward home-centered Church-supported learning affect institute and BYU religious education in the lives of our young adults?
ANSWER: I think it all plays in unison. I’m so grateful that seminary and institutes next year will align with home-centered Come Follow Me, so that the conversations between parents and children, between millennials, Young Single Adults, between Young Men and Young Women, we’re all on the same page as we talk about gospel truths. It should never supplant the home and what learning can take place in their own lives. But it’s a support to everything we learn. If you think about your own testimony, I’m not sure it came while you were sitting in a seminary class or at BYU. It could have. It probably came as you were kneeling next to your bed after reading or pondering something spiritual, and all of a sudden you started to feel the Holy Ghost.
QUESTION #6: Many of us would like to drop the apologetics tone and to defend self-fulfilling the prophecy from the Utah culture. Which is a higher priority for President Nelson, the NAACP partnership or the FairMormon defend the Church culture?
ANSWER: Let me read into your question what might not be there and interpret it in a different way. One of the things about messaging is to show the blessings of the gospel and not be defensive, not try and say, “Well people are saying this. How do we defend that? What should we do to defend this and that?” And I would suggest to all of us, we have to take on difficult issues. We have to talk about the CES Letter, and we have to talk about the doctrines that are there. But we can do that in a positive way, not in a defensive way. We don’t have to take the battle to tit for tat. This isn’t that kind of a battle. We have to lay out the doctrine and the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Thank you, brothers and sisters. It was a privilege to be with you.
[This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and readability.]
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