Apostle explains Church to TV audience

Elder M. Russell Ballard candidly explained basic Church doctrine, policies, principles and practices during the cable-television program Perspectives: Faith in Our Times, shown March 21 and 26 on the Faith & Values Channel.

The 30-minute program was hosted by Dr. Richard Nesmith, a professor of sociology of religion at the School of Theology at Boston University, who interviewed Elder Ballard. The program, produced by United Methodist Communications, features commentary on religious and social issues and was recorded in Washington, D.C.Topics covered in the interview with Elder Ballard, a member of the Council of the Twelve, included the Church's belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ and His position as head of the Church; events from the life of Joseph Smith; the history and coming forth of the Book of Mormon; restoration of priesthood authority; the Church's missionary effort; and roles of men and women within the Church and society.

When asked by Dr. Nesmith about the Church's origin, Elder Ballard responded: "We begin with the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the foundation of the Church. We love Him and look to Him as the head of the Church, and in fact the Church is named after Him."

Dr. Nesmith pointed out that there are a few who don't view the LDS faith or Mormons as a Christian denomination, and reinforced Elder Ballard's explanation of why that is an incorrect notion.

The host said it was "very interesting and very important" that Elder Ballard went back to the ministry of Jesus to say, " `This is where it begins,' just as it does for any of us who claim the name Christian."

Elder Ballard added, "We want to be very certain that we have clarified in any of the listeners' minds that we are a church based on Christ."

The apostle then went on to recount the events and concept of the Restoration, including the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and its role as another witness of Christ, and of the importance of proper priesthood authority. He spoke of the experience of meeting with a large group of representatives of many faiths, and of recounting to them his own line of priesthood authority, traced back several generations and directly to the Savior.

Elder Ballard said that, among other things, a goal of the Church is to turn people to the basic teachings of the Savior. "It is our conviction that there are no problems in the world - and we have a lot of awful problems - that (can't be solved) if we can go back to the basic, fundamental teachings of Christ."

He then cited examples of those teachings, including the law of chastity and explaining the importance of moral cleanliness, the Church's position on abortion, the Word of Wisdom and other basic doctrines.

As the interview concluded, Dr. Nesmith asked about the role of women in the Church.

Elder Ballard said: "We hold women in very high esteem in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We know that all of the blessings that our Father in Heaven has for His children are equally available to men and to women. He loves His daughters every bit as much as He loves His sons.

"In His eternal Plan of Salvation, the plan that was presented in the premortal existence to all of us prior to the creation of the earth . . . our Heavenly Father gave His sons to be fathers, to be priesthood holders and to administer the affairs of the Church from the priesthood point of view with gentleness and love.

"He gave to His daughters the wonderful privilege of being mothers, to really be co-creators with Him in a sense that His children would have a way to have this mortal body that could only come through the womb of a mother. We hold motherhood as high as I think any organization on the face of the earth. Women have a great role that they play in the Church. For example, the Relief Society, organized by the Prophet Joseph Smith, is the oldest women's organization in the world. We have over 3 million women who are members of the Relief Society."

Elder Ballard concluded by issuing a plea that "all Christians need to rally together and do what we can to bring this world back to its senses and to reestablish the principles and values that were taught by the Lord Jesus Christ when He established His Church on the earth some 2,000 years ago. We've got to change the trend, the terrible things that are happening almost on a daily basis in the major cities in America and all over the world, the terrible inhumanity of man to man has to stop. The one thing that can change it is the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Leon A. Davies, the LDS Church's Faith & Values coordinator, said he was pleased when the idea of having a member of the Church's general leadership interviewed on a Methodist talk show was presented.

"The opportunity of having Elder Ballard interviewed by someone from a different denomination allowed questions to be explored that many people might have outside of our faith," he said. "Dr. Nesmith is a provocative interviewer who does a good job of extracting the essence of the subject matter."

Dr. Nesmith said the interview with Elder Ballard provided Latter-day Saints a "confirmation of their faith in a media setting. For people of other religions, the interview was an excellent introduction to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"It was a delightful conversation - not only the interview itself, but as we went through the preparatory process, and then following the interview as we continued on a personal basis," said Dr. Nesmith.

"It is significant to note the amount of growth that (your Church) is experiencing. I say that against the background of being a Methodist. Your numbers have been growing. That obviously says something about the discipline, vibrance and the appeal that you people have been able to articulate."

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