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Elder Bednar addresses National Press Club, details Church efforts, answers questions

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Attendees included Sen. Mitt Romney, second from left, and Ken Niumatalolo, Annapolis Maryland stake pr Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles prior to speaking at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Credit: Screenshot from YouTube
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Credit: Screenshot from YouTube
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Credit: Screenshot from YouTube
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Credit: Screenshot from YouTube
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Credit: Screenshot from YouTube
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Attendees included Sen. Mitt Romney, far left, and Ken Niumatalolo, Annapolis Maryland stake president Credit: Screenshot from YouTube

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The basic purpose of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to help people learn about the nature and attributes of God — to love God, to become disciples of His Son Jesus Christ and to love and serve God’s children, said Elder David A. Bednar at the National Press Club.

“We believe God can change our hearts and make more of us from the inside out than we can ever make of ourselves,” said Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “And we also believe that change many times is required from the outside in.”

Speaking to 135 media representatives on Thursday, May 26, Elder Bednar addressed “a Latter-day Work.” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo joined Elder Bednar on the dais. Others at the main table included Donna Leinwand Leger, president of DC Media Strategies and past president of the National Press Club, and Michael Soto, executive director of Equality Arizona.

Elder Bednar’s invitation to the press club marked the second time a senior Church leader has addressed the unique audience at the venue. The late President Gordon B. Hinckley, then 89, addressed a similar audience from the National Press Club — one block from the White House in Washington, D.C. — 22 years ago, in 2000.

Elder Bednar began his remarks by praising the media, who as “representatives of the fourth estate,” relay the important stories of our day. “Sadly, the news of our day is filled with heartache,” he said, making reference to the mass shooting in Texas earlier this week that left 19 children and two teachers dead.

“We mourn with those who mourn and pray for all those impacted by this senseless act of violence,” he said. “My prayer and my blessing is that we will be guided, comforted and helped in our important work, and that victims, families and nations might be granted the ‘peace that surpasses all understanding’ — the peace that comes from Jesus Christ.”

Read more: A transcript of Elder Bednar’s remarks is available on ChurchofJesusChrist.org

Addressing journalists and others not familiar with the work, Elder Bednar spoke of the Church’s effort to lift and strengthen God’s children.

“Often, the world works from the outside in. Changing a person’s circumstances and environment may be considered the best method of changing that person. This approach certainly is important. …

“But God typically works from the inside out through a spiritual rebirth. If a person allows God to change his or her heart, then that person is empowered in remarkable ways to change his or her circumstances and environment.”

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. | Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Bednar said both temporal change — from the outside in — and spiritual change — from the inside out — are needed and useful in different situations.

“But we have learned that a person with a new heart, a person changed from the inside out, serves and blesses family, friends, neighbors, congregations and communities in powerful ways,” he explained. “They learn to see each other for who they are and therefore treat each other accordingly.”

This is how the Latter-day Saint faith community has expanded to all parts of the world, including the Middle East, eastern Asia and eastern Europe, he continued. “For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, drawing closer to God through our temple worship is life changing,” he said.

In addressing the journalists, Elder Bednar highlighted some of the questions Church leaders have received while participating in the Washington D.C. Temple open house.

“Some inquiries are focused on our beliefs and the temple, others pertain to the issues of our day — such as the role of women in the Church, race relations, and issues impacting our LGBTQ members and friends,” he said. “Perhaps most often asked is why do we now open the temple, if only members can enter after the rededication. The simple answer is that what we do in our temples is not a secret; it is sacred.”

Temples are much more than beautiful buildings, he continued. “The commitments we make in our temple worship help us to see beyond our own self-interest, self-centeredness and selfishness. Our hearts are changed and turn outward as we learn about God’s plan for our eternal destiny and happiness. Our love for God grows as we learn about the redeeming role of His Son, Jesus Christ, and our desire to love and serve our brothers and sisters increases.”

Speaking of women, Elder Bednar referenced the Relief Society and its 7.1 million members.

The Church, he said, has more than 31,000 congregations around the world, and each has a local Relief Society president. That’s 31,000 women — and most presidents have two counselors, a total of about 90,000 women — helping to lead and direct the work of the Church in their local congregations.

“All women and all men in our Church have responsibilities to teach, minister and serve our brothers and sisters,” he said.

On the issue of race, he said, the Church teaches that all people are beloved sons or daughters of God, who loves all of His children equally.

In reference to LGBTQ members and friends, Elder Bednar talked about the Church’s 2015 role in passing legislation in Utah to protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in housing, employment and other rights. “You also should know that at the federal level, we have been working with our LGBTQ allies to advance legislation of a similar nature,” he said. And the LGBTQ advocates support securing the freedom of belief that Church members hold so dear.

“We are proud to stand with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters — some of whom are with us today — in this important effort. It is hard work — and an objective worth fighting for. While we may not agree on everything, we surely are building a foundation of mutual respect and understanding.”

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, May 26, 2022.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, May 26, 2022. | Credit: Screenshot from YouTube

Presently, the Church has almost 300 temples in operation, announced, in design or under construction. President Nelson has announced 100 of those temples in his four busy years as president of the Church. These beautiful structures are located in 74 countries.

“Temples, once they are dedicated, are reserved for Church members who are prepared to participate in our most sacred rites and ordinances. … These ceremonies lift, inspire, ennoble and change participants as they accept the individual responsibility to follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.”

Today, Church membership is almost 17 million worldwide, he said. “We have more than 31,000 congregations. More of our members live outside of the United States than within the United States. Church members speak over 160 languages. While we are growing in the U.S., our greatest expansion presently is occurring in Africa.”

In addition, he said, “the Church locks arms with the global community to eradicate hunger, administer lifesaving immunizations, provide wheelchair mobility for those who are immobile and train health care professionals to provide physical, mental and emotional support.”

Around the world, the Church assists in digging wells and providing clean water, a common and critical need in poorer parts of the world.

In 2020 and 2021, in response to supply issues experienced during the pandemic, 2,800 truckloads of commodities from the Church’s storehouse system were delivered to nearly 400 food banks, homeless shelters and other charitable organizations across the U.S. This equated to more than 82 million meals for those in need. Outside of North America, the Church works with local grocery chains to help provide food to members in need.

“As an organization, our humanitarian efforts are guided by our commitment to live God’s second great commandment, to love our neighbor,” he said.  

In 2021, the Church supported 135 mobility projects, such as wheelchairs, in 57 countries and territories; hosted 3,000 blood drives resulting in 100,000 units donated; and assisted seven major immunization campaigns, including significant financial donations to help UNICEF take COVID-19 immunizations to dozens of countries, he added. 

And last year, Church members donated millions of hours of volunteer service, including labor at Church farms, orchards and canneries, and participated in charitable service projects in 85 countries and in community service projects following natural disasters.

In addition, he reported, the Church has more than 91,000 missionaries serving around the world, primarily young men and women.

“Missionaries teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and help others on their spiritual journey to become more like the Savior,” he said. “Every missionary learns the life-changing lesson that he or she is part of something greater and more important than self.”

A core tenet of the faith is the importance of education, he added.

“Interestingly, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of the few religions where the more education you receive, the more committed you are to the religion. Pew Research found over 80% of Latter-day Saint college graduates describe their religion as ‘very important.’

“We give significant attention, energy and resources to educating our youth. All secular and spiritual education fall under the umbrella of our Church Educational System, and nearly 1 million student learners are enrolled.”

Elder Bednar continued that the basic beliefs of the Church fuel the enthusiastic interest of its members in genealogy. “Learning about one’s ancestors was once reserved for a small, often older, population,” he said. “Today, a hobby has turned into a vast worldwide pursuit.”

Concluding, Elder Bednar said he has tried to describe a few of the things “we cherish and strive to do as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

He then addressed one final question: Why do the members of your Church do all of these things?

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Attendees included Sen. Mitt Romney, second from left, and Ken Niumatalolo, Annapolis Maryland stake president and U.S. Naval Academy head football coach, right of podium.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers questions at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Attendees included Sen. Mitt Romney, second from left, and Ken Niumatalolo, Annapolis Maryland stake president and U.S. Naval Academy head football coach, right of podium. | Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is far more than passive belief or assent,” he said. “Faith in the Savior is a principle of action and of power. Faith is evident in our priorities and how we live. 

“As we learn and live according to the teachings of Jesus, we are blessed with capacity, power and strength beyond our own. Our hearts are changed, we change from the inside out, and we become new creatures in Christ.”

To be clear, he added, Latter-day Saints do not believe their works save them, adding that only the grace of Jesus Christ can enable God’s children to overcome the many negative influences of the world. “But our faith does actuate the spiritual responsibility to work, bless and serve. We do not seek blessings only for ourselves. Rather, the blessings we receive enable us to serve other people more efficaciously.”

Elder Bednar noted that while he highlighted many aspects of the Church’s humanitarian outreach, the Church is primarily not a humanitarian organization.

“We are the Church of Jesus Christ, reestablished or restored upon the earth in the latter days in preparation for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. We do all of these things because, as His disciples, we love Him and want to follow His example in our lives.”

Elder Bednar’s full presentation and subsequent question-and-answer session are available on YouTube.

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