Friday, August 14, 2009

"There aren't just six of us anymore"

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was the commencement speaker yesterday at BYU graduation ceremonies. He urged the graduates that they not apologize for their beliefs or take a defensive posture when discussing their religion.

The Deseret Morning News reported (click on link): "This isn't 1830, and there aren't just six of us anymore," Elder Ballard said. "Constantly anticipating criticisms or objections can lead to an unhealthy self-consciousness and a defensive posture that doesn't resonate well with others. It is inconsistent with where we are today as a church and as a great body of followers of Jesus Christ."

He said the church's rapid growth has given the religion, now the fourth largest in the United States, a higher profile than ever, and that church members would find themselves in more discussions about their beliefs than in the past.

The idea that "there aren't just six of us anymore" actually originated with President David O. McKay. In giving encouragement to Elders Harold B. Lee and Boyd K. Packer as he was dispatching them to Washington D. C. in the Vietnam War era, President McKay told his brethren when they met with the Secretary of Defense and requested more chaplains for our servicemen that they should go boldly without fear and make their needs known. He promised they would be well-received. That was exactly what happened, and their request was granted.

President Packer has offered this counsel, along the same lines as Elder Ballard:

As I grow in age and experience, I grow ever less concerned over whether others agree with us. I grow ever more concerned that they understand us. If they do understand, they have their agency and can accept or reject the gospel as they please.

It is not an easy thing for us to defend the position that bothers so many others.

Brethren and sisters, never be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Never apologize for the sacred doctrines of the gospel.

Never feel inadequate and unsettled because you cannot explain them to the satisfaction of all who might inquire of you.

Do not be ill at ease or uncomfortable because you can give little more than your conviction.

Be assured that, if you will explain what you know and testify of what you feel, you may plant a seed that will one day grow and blossom into a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Boyd K. Packer, Mine Errand from the Lord, 526).

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