Be `peaceable followers of Christ'

President Boyd K. Packer delivered a message Feb. 1 "for those who teach, write and produce films which claim that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a Christian Church and that we, the members, are not Christians."

Speaking at a Church Educational System fireside at Brigham Young University, President Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, said: "It is one thing to say that we are not their kind of Christians. It is quite another to characterize us as not being Christians at all."During his address, which he titled "The Peaceable Followers of Christ," President Packer referred to hymns, latter-day scriptures and even the name of the Church to illustrate that members, indeed, are Christians.

He said that he finds it difficult to respond to claims that Latter-day Saints aren't Christians "without saying that such individuals are uninformed and unfair and not consistent with the Christian spirit of brotherhood. But confrontation is not the way to reason through a challenge such as this. The much better approach is to teach, to remain `peaceable followers of Christ.' (See Moro. 7:3-4.) He admonished members of the Church to always respond peaceably.

President Packer continued: "If [critics] claimed that we do not fit the Christian mold they have designed for themselves or that we do not conform to their definition of Christian, it would be easier to reason together.

"We need not justify what we believe," he noted, "only to teach, to explain. Others can accept or reject as they please. They have their agency.

"There is more to it than simply writing a definition of what a Christian is and then rejecting anyone who does not conform to it."

President Packer was accompanied to the fireside by his wife, Donna. A congregation of some 22,200 college-age students from throughout central Utah assembled in the Marriott Center for the fireside. The proceedings were carried via satellite to meetinghouses throughout North America and the Caribbean. Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve and Church Commissioner of Education introduced President Packer to the assembly.

Among those seated on the stand were Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy and president of BYU and his wife, Marilyn; Elder Eyring's wife, Kathleen; and Stanley A. Peterson, CES administrator of religious education and elementary and secondary education, and his wife, Anna.

In his speech, President Packer said if someone who had never heard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints looked at one of its hymnbooks, he would find hymns and anthems that testify of Christ, many of which are revered by Christians throughout the world, such as "Jesus, Lover of My Soul," "Jesus the Very Thought of Thee," "The Lord Is My Shepherd," and more than 30 others. Continuing, he said that this person would find more than 100 hymns written by Latter-day Saints that teach of Christ, His ministry, His crucifixion, His sacrifice for the sins of the world, His atonement and His ascension.

"These hymns certainly are not the voice of non-Christians," President Packer affirmed. "Instead they reveal a people of devotion and faith who love, indeed, worship, our Savior and Redeemer."

To illustrate, he invited the congregation to listen as Mark and Kimberly Hall sang a few verses selected from three hymns: "Jesus, Once of Humble Birth," "Behold the Great Redeemer Die," and "How Great the Wisdom and the Love."

President Packer said that more than 50 hymns of transcendent beauty and devotion speak in pure testimony of the Lord. "They invite a spirit of reverence and worship of the Lord into the meetings of the Latter-day Saints. How could words or music like this be written by non-Christians? Was it not the Master who asked, `Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?' " (Matt. 7:16.)

President Packer said that one reason he feels challenged by the claim that Latter-day Saints are not Christians is that he does not know how to answer the claim without quoting from revelations, from scriptures that the claimants reject. He cited as an example the Lord's directive for the name of His Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (See 3 Ne. 27:1-9 and D&C 115:3-4.)

He noted that Latter-day Saints obey the commandment, `Whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name.' (3 Ne. 27:7.) "Every ordinance performed is performed in His name. Every baptism, confirmation, blessing, ordination, every sermon, every testimony is concluded with the invocation of His sacred name. It is in His name that the sick are healed and other miracles of which we do not, cannot, speak are performed.

"In the sacrament we take upon ourselves the name of Christ. We covenant to remember Him and keep His commandments. He is present in all that we believe."

Christ's presence is found also in the standard works of the Church - Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, President Packer explained. He noted that in the Topical Guide are 18 pages, very fine print, single-spaced references to the subject of Jesus Christ, "which is the most comprehensive compilation of scriptural references on the subject of the Lord Jesus Christ that has ever been assembled in the history of the world."

Continuing, he said that Christ dominates the Book of Mormon, page by page, being referred to in 3,925 verses - more than half of its 6,607 verses.

President Packer spoke of LDS doctrinal beliefs that will continue to be misunderstood and disturb critics. A few of them are:

The statement in the revelation that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is "the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth." (D&C 1:30.)

Scriptures in addition to the Bible - the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.

Continuing revelation through apostles and prophets.

The doctrine of the Godhead. The Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct personages, and "the Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's." (D&C 130:22.)

[People] are the literal spirit children of God, and thus have the possibility to eventually become as He is.

Marriages may continue after this life and families can be forever.

[People] are not saved by grace alone, but saved by grace "after all we can do." (2 Ne. 24:23.)

"One need not have all the answers to all questions to receive the witness of the Spirit, join the Church, and remain faithful therein," President Packer explained. "There is knowledge that transcends rational explanations, sacred knowledge that leads to conversion.

"While we can provide answers, they will not be satisfactory, however, to those who do not accept continuing revelation."

Further, he said: " `We claim the [right to worship] Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.' " (11th Article of Faith.)

Cautioning those who willfully misrepresent the Church, President Packer quoted Gamaliel's advice to his fellow Pharisees after they had arrested the Apostles: . . . Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. . . .' " (See Acts 5:34-40.) President Packer said that Gamaliel unknowingly agreed with the Lord who had said, " `Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.' " (Matt. 15:13.)

President Packer declared, "The problem is theirs [the critics'], not ours. We know whom we worship and what we worship and in whose name. . . . They may say we believe because we were brought up that way from our youth. While true of many of us, it is not true of most. Two thirds of us are converts who come by the waters of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. Every one in the Church must acquire an individual testimony."

He explained that while "we must act peaceably, we need not submit to unfair accusations and unjustified opposition." (See Alma 43:46.)

"While we take the gospel of Christ to all people, we do not oppose other churches," he said. "If you meet someone who challenges our right to the title Christian, do not confront them. Teach them - peaceably. We have but to remain humble and peaceable followers of Christ, for He has promised, `I will fight your battles.' " (D&C 105:14.)

President Packer said that there is always the hope, and often it is true, that in a group one person with an open mind and heart may admit one simple thought: "Could it possibly be true?" Combine that with simple prayer, he said, and one more soul enters a private sacred grove to find the answer to the question, "Which of all the churches is true, and which should I join?"

"It is not an easy thing for us to defend the position that bothers so many others. But, brethren and sisters, never be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Never apologize for the sacred doctrines of the gospel. Never feel inadequate or 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 grow and blossom into a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

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