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Elder Bednar answers questions from media following remarks at the National Press Club


WASHINGTON, D.C. — As a young missionary arriving in Germany, Elder David A. Bednar thought he could speak the language. Yet when he asked how to get to the train station, he did not understand a word of the reply. Soon he learned an important lesson.

“There is spiritual help to do things that, in your own capacity, you cannot do. It was not too long before I could understand, teach and testify in German. What I know is: I could not do that by myself.”

It was the beginning of a most important lesson for him. “With the help that comes from God, as we try to honor the commitments that we made to Him, we are blessed with strength to do any and all things that He wants us to do.”

Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared this experience in response to a final question posed by the media following an address at the National Press Club.  

Speaking to 135 media representatives on Thursday, May 26, Elder Bednar’s talk 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 decrying the violence in response to the mass shooting in Texas earlier in the week that had left 19 children and two adults dead. “We mourn with those who mourn and pray for all those impacted by this senseless act of violence,” he said.

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

Following his remarks, Elder Bednar answered more than a dozen questions — regarding LGBTQ issues, the Church’s financial reserves and President Russell M. Nelson’s emphasis on using the full and correct name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The questions were submitted by the media and moderated by National Press Club President Jen Judson, a reporter with Defense News.

Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, center, speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022.

Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, center, speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022.

Credit: Joshua Roberts, for the Deseret News

Below are many of the questions, edited for clarity, followed by Elder Bednar’s answers:

Many locals will visit the Washington D.C. Temple before its rededication. What do you hope they will take away from that experience?

Elder Bednar said he hopes people will learn what the temple is, as well as the nature of the spiritual journey that includes temple worship. “It is a worship space, it is a sacred space, but it is also an instructional space. … It is a place where we go to meditate, to pray, to ponder, to seek heavenly influences and guidance in our lives,” he said.

Would the Church have more influence on U.S. culture and politics … if it maintains the openness it is demonstrating by inviting the public to visit the D.C. temple?

“The answer is yes,” said Elder Bednar. “That is why we have invited everyone to come. It probably seems unusual because the temple has been in operation, but that is customary.”

He said anytime a temple is renovated and updated, the edifice is decommissioned and an open house is held before the temple is rededicated.

Regarding Church growth, what are some of the reasons that the Church is growing so much now in Africa?

“Africa has been influenced in many parts of the continent through early Christian missionaries. When you go to visit with a congregation there and you recite a verse from the Bible, everyone in the congregation, without looking at a text, can recite it with you. There is a very strong Christian tradition.”

Elder Bednar said the message of the Restoration of the Savior’s Church strikes a resonant chord in Africa. “They come, they see our congregations, they participate, and they desire to join.”

Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, left, speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022.

Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, left, speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022.

Credit: Joshua Roberts, for the Deseret News

Membership and affiliation with religious organizations in general has been on the decline in the United States. Why do you think that is?

“I think we live in a tumultuous world, and people are searching for answers and may not be satisfied with some of the answers that they have.”

Many Church leaders, including you, have a deep business administration background. … What are some of the advantages of so much business acumen at the Church’s highest levels?

“I have tried really hard not to let my academic training influence what I do as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Book of Mormon, there is a verse that says ‘when they are learned they think they are wise and hearken not unto the counsel of God.’ So I do not take my academic background and experience and impose that on the Church. I let the doctrine of Christ influence how I see things. So, certainly there are practical advantages in knowing about how organizations run and budgeting and so forth. But I view that really as secondary. I try to view what we do and the mission we fulfill through the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” While leaders cannot leave their experience and education behind, “we do leave our nets,” he added. “The ancient apostles, they were summoned, and they left what they were doing. And they then began the work of serving the Savior. That is what we do. That is what the members of our Church do.”

In 2003, the Church denounced the book, “Under the Banner of Heaven,” by Jon Krakauer. Now the book has been adapted for TV and is streaming on Hulu. What does the Church think of the Hulu adaptation? And more generally, how do you feel about the depictions of the faith in media and culture?

“I will pose a rhetorical question first. Given all the stuff that I just described [participation by members in leadership, worship, training, ministering and serving], who has time to watch programs?”

Elder Bednar went on to explain that since its earliest days, the Church has been mischaracterized. “Christ was mischaracterized. We have been mischaracterized since 1830, when the Church was reestablished. That’s always been the case. … But we do not spend all of our time trying to respond to it. We have a mission to fulfill, and we will move forward to accomplish it.”

Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, greets guests after speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022.

Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, greets guests after speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022.

Credit: Joshua Roberts, for the Deseret News

With over $100 billion in funds and assets, the Church has more capability than any other church in the country to help eliminate poverty. What more could the Church do in terms of humanitarian efforts?

“People want to bang on the Church and say, ‘Well, you have got all that money in reserve.’ Yeah, and it is a good idea for other people to follow that example. … You can read in the Old Testament about seven years of famine and seven years of plenty. It is a good idea to prepare. These undertakings that I have described are resource consuming, not resource generating. A lot of people depend on the resources we provide. If things are different in the future than they are now, we think it is provident and wise to prepare to maintain that kind of support in an uncertain economic environment.”

Can you envision a day when LGBTQ Church members can marry and be sealed within the Church?

“We believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and that the family is central to the Father’s plan for the eternal destiny and happiness of His children.”

You mentioned that women lead within the Church in many ways. Will there ever be a female president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

“We follow the pattern of the ancient Church. We believe that a man must be called of God by prophecy and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority to preach the gospel and administering the ordinances thereof. The pattern anciently was that the apostles were men.”

Does the Church plan to publicly advocate for its position on abortion?

“Our existing policy — you can read it online in our Church Handbook of Instructions — is that we believe in life, we affirm the sanctity of life, and also the means whereby mortal life is created. It already highlights the fact that there should be consideration given in cases of rape, incest, the health of the mother, and the viability of the fetus.”

How would a transgender person be treated if they had already completed their transition before exploring membership in the Church?

“We welcome all and strive to love them. Now, I use the word strive because we do not do that perfectly. People have stereotypes, they have misconceptions, they have biases and they have prejudices. We strive to love everybody.”

Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, greets guests after speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022.

Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, greets guests after speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 26, 2022.

Credit: Joshua Roberts, for the Deseret News

Given the significant financial strain that tithing is for those in war or in abject poverty, is there any discussion within the Church about not requiring that for people in those situations or at least tithing only what is left after paying for housing, food and other necessities?

“President Hinckley stood at this pulpit in 2000 and made reference to the law of tithing. I remember watching him teach in impoverished areas of the country and promising the people: the pathway out of poverty is keeping the commandments of God, including tithing. The Church does not need their money, but those people need the blessings that come from obeying God’s commandments.”

On the Church’s website, it says that the Church has responsibility to publicly and clearly articulate its official teaching. In turn, reporters can help inform the public by accurately reporting. … Where are journalists getting it wrong?

“You always lose something in the generality of a stereotype. ‘Latter-day Saints are like this or they all do this.’ I think there needs to be a little more precision. There needs to be a little more listening and asking. We would not ever ask for the right to be able to review it. But I think they could do a little more than just take somebody else’s secondhand view and push it along. There is a little homework that ought to be done to find out what is really taking place.”

Can you talk about the decision to really emphasize the full name of the Church as opposed to calling yourself Mormons or the LDS Church?

“I think that President Russell M. Nelson will be known forever as a man of remarkable courage to say we will no longer use a nickname, pejoratively attached to our Church by our enemies, anymore. And we are inviting other people to call us what we are called: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You know, we live in a world where everybody is offended about almost everything. And we do not take offense. We just ask people to respect what to us is very sacred. The name of the Church was revealed. We did not have a task force nor test it with focus groups. It was revealed by the head of the Church, who is Jesus Christ. And we simply are asking people to respect that and call us what we are.”

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