Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, addressed a significant portion of his recent address to the BYU-Idaho student body (Mormon faith-based university) to the issue of public perception and media perception of members of the Church and Church doctrine. With vibrant illustration, he enumerated instances of misconception and lack of a knowledge base, that has precipitated some of the political pundits and the media reporters, to often make confusing and/or inaccurate comments about our faith and beliefs.
Elder Ballard referenced candidly comments circulating the Net during the former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, as indicative of the need for individuals to rise to the challenge of defending and clarifying LDS beliefs in an understandable fashion for those not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons):
You remember Mr. (Mike) Huckabee (who was also vying to be the Republican candidate for president), who among other things said that Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil were brothers?” Ballard asked students. “Remember that? It went all over the media.
“Well they are!” Ballard exclaimed to a laughing student body.
“But they (the media and many of other faiths) don’t understand that, because they don’t have the (LDS gospel) restoration. They don’t understand the spiritual relationship that … we are all sons and daughters of God, and that Lucifer was one of those and (that) he chose to use his agency in an unrighteous way.”
Mormon apostle, Elder Melvin J. Ballard, also specifically alluded to the oft-asked question posed by reporters: “Why aren’t Mormons Christian?” or “Are Mormons Christians?” He said evangelicals have criticized that church for not being a Christian faith because the Church does not consider the 4th century Nicene Creed as valid, religious doctrine; it sees it as a construct of man. Rather, members believe in a modern restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ as Christ taught it. In sharing his approach in responding to those who make such inquiries, Elder Ballard, remarked:
(We) explain to (reporters) who our Heavenly Father is, who the Lord Jesus Christ is and who the Holy Ghost is, as revealed to us through the restoration of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith,” said Ballard. “It always bothered (reporters) when we would say that we just don’t believe that the Lord Jesus Christ was praying to himself when he often prayed to his Heavenly Father for guidance.”
Another frequently-addressed and surfacing issue in media circles and on and off-line is in regard to the myth that we are a “secretive” people or have secretive nature as an organization, to which Elder Ballard, in his frank and genuine apostolic manner, added:
We have almost 19,000 chapels scattered around the world, 53,000 full-time missionaries that are trying to drag people into the 19,000 chapels. We don’t understand why you would say we are a secret society,” Ballard said as he related his response to BYU-Idaho students.
The apostle commented that much of this stigma revolves around the sacredness of our temples and the fact that the Lord has placed restrictions on who may enter His holy house. In his words,
The world has no concept of what a temple is … they see our temples and think our temples are like a cathedral (and because) they can’t go into that cathedral … therefore we are a secret society….
We take great joy in explaining to them the purpose of the temple. The temple is not a meetinghouse — the temple is a house dedicated to the Lord where his children come to make sacred covenants…
Additionally, the Mormon apostle, Elder Ballard, spoke about the prevalent ignorance and darkness among many in the world of our brothers and sisters, reminding students “how tremendous a thing it is to be a member of the church and to have a knowledge of who we are and where we came from.” He added:
We understand the covenants and the commandments we need to enter into so we can go back to the presence of our Heavenly Father,” Ballard said. “We understand that as members of the church. But out there even among those that are writing in religious columns — they don’t get it.”
Elder Ballard gently suggested that members, collectively speaking, may need to learn to learn “to be more aggressive. I think we have to learn to be a little more effective in our ability to share what we know to be true with the world.” (emph. added).
Referring to correspondence and questions regarding Prop 8 and our belief in heterosexual marriage– from those within and without the Church–Elder Ballard remarked:
[Adam and Eve] had a charge to multiply and replenish the earth … That is a marvelous and glorious experience to bring up children, to have and raise a family and that is done between a husband and a wife who are married.Marriage is a vital, important doctrine of the church, and we can’t do anything about it but stand in favor of it.
While encouraging the Mormon membership to treat the topic with love and civility, he made firmly the point that the Church cannot succumb to abandoning the “great and marvelous principle of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Elder Ballard encouraged students to fortify their faith and keep their testimonies alive and strong, and to forgo a complacent and “all-is-well-in-Zion” mentality.
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