PROVO, Utah — So what are some of the greatest challenges of all time? And what is a Latter-day Saint's “sacred and imperative duty” regarding such challenges?
Elder Kevin W. Pearson, a General Authority Seventy, offered answers to both questions Friday on the last day of the 2018 FairMormon Conference.
A key essential challenge, he began, is “taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world. The gathering of all scattered Israel is the greatest and most powerful force for good on earth.
“And, in the end, it will succeed miraculously and powerfully.”
Our sacred and imperative duty
Modern-day prophets such as President Russell M. Nelson have revealed that Christ will perform some of His “mightiest works” between now and when He comes again.
God the Father and His Son preside over the Church “in majesty and glory.” But Latter-day Saints have a sacred duty to do their part in the work.
“There has never been a better time to be alive and to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ,” said Elder Pearson. “Notwithstanding, we also live in a time of great turmoil and confusion. Many are struggling to find purpose and peace. The world is suffering from moral and spiritual decay. There are so many conflicting and contentious voices and influences competing for our attention. We all have an important role to play in helping others find peace amid the confusion.”
As one’s understanding of Christ’s Atonement grows, the desire to share the gospel also increases. “Our duty is anchored in the first two great commandments: to love God and love others as ourselves.”
So just what is the message that is both sacred and imperative to share? Read the words of President Nelson: “Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life.”
Awareness and understanding
Two key obstacles stand in the way of delivering this “vital message to the world,” said Elder Pearson.
“The first obstacle is being unknown — the second is being misunderstood. In other words, awareness and understanding are the key obstacles to us meeting our sacred and imperative duty. The scale and magnitude of this challenge is beyond anything the corporate world has ever encountered.”
Estimates suggest as many as 6.6 billion people in the world today have not heard of the restored Church. Of the remaining inhabitants who have heard of the Church, about half of those have an unfavorable impression of the religion, he said.
Meanwhile, over half of the world’s inhabitants have access to the internet, and many of those use a mobile phone. Obviously, technology will play a central role in overcoming the challenge of awareness.
Even while awaiting more revelation on how the Lord plans to make this great and marvelous work known to all the inhabitants of the earth, Latter-day Saints must ensure that the honest in heart can efficiently find and embrace the restored gospel online. There is much work to be done. However, if misunderstanding grows faster than awareness, that will be difficult. Members must do better in addressing the second obstacle of understanding, he said. It deserves their very best collective efforts.
Elder Pearson said a typical, socially conscious person who begins investigating the Church will likely search for information or answers to questions about the Church on, say, Google or YouTube. During his or her initial online searches, that investigator will likely be offered an abundance of potentially slanted and biased information about the Church.
“Good content does exist, but it can be very difficult to find, and often does not address key questions in consistent and engaging ways,” he said.
It is essential, he added, that members create and promote online content that effectively communicates what the Church believes in clear, authentic and engaging ways — especially on some of the most prevalent search topics.
“The internet has become the most powerful and dominant source for information on virtually any topic or question,” he said. “The inherent problem with this reality is that much inaccuracy comes from limited experience, understanding, or viewpoint. …The internet can either lead individuals to the truth or away from it.”
Independent organizations like FairMormon — along with faithful individual members — can make significant contributions.
“Church-produced content might appear more polished and professional, but yours will be viewed as more authentic,” he told audience members. “Because what you say comes with your personal experience and unique perspective, it enlivens content produced by the Church.”
Most misunderstanding about the Church can be tied to a relatively few key topics like Church history, temples, garments, Joseph Smith, polygamy, prophets, women, LGBT, and transparency. Information, both positive and negative, about these topics is accessed via search engines and on YouTube.
“These platforms are the primary sources of information in our time,” he said. “We simply need more effective, engaging, and faithful content in more languages and cultures that can be easily found on these platforms — content that clearly communicates what we believe and why it is important in a positive and personal way. The Church can’t possibly produce all the content needed. We need your help and your voices.”
Elder Pearson reminded his audience that addressing any gospel topic more effectively would not, in and of itself, build faith in the Savior. “Developing faith is an individual spiritual process. However, access to understandable answers to critical questions and concerns can help correct misunderstandings about the Church and remove stumbling blocks to faith. It can also level the playing field for the sincere truth seeker to find and recognize truth, in a world increasingly hostile to faith.”
Lessons from a black box
No Latter-day Saint is immune from occasionally questioning his or her faith or feeling doubts. Elder Pearson said there have been times in his own life when he asked questions about “certain historical issues” or abstract doctrinal questions. But he always tried to focus on the personal revelations he had received from the Holy Ghost on the “questions that matter most.”
He keeps a black box into which he puts issues, concerns and questions that he can’t resolve. Occasionally he opens the box and thinks about its contents.
“Over time, as I have had more life experience; studied, pondered and prayed more about the doctrines and principles contained in the restored gospel; listened and learned from Apostles and prophets, from those who know, I have come to know and experience more about personal revelation and the gift of the Holy Ghost and come to know Heavenly Father and the Savior more intimately.”
He still has the black box.
“Most all of the contents have been resolved. Some I see very differently now, and others just don’t seem to matter anymore. But still, others are still there. But they don’t prevent me from moving forward with faith.”
Praying daily, reading the Book of Mormon and attending Church will not solve all challenges and concerns, said Elder Pearson. But there remains great spiritual power in those simple daily habits — and God blesses those who diligently seek to keep His commandments.
“There is no one beyond the reach of the Savior’s Atonement,” he said. “There are answers, there is hope and there is power to heal. The Savior has prepared a way for all to be able to accomplish what He has commanded us to do. Each person has a unique journey of faith. But there are eternal principles and spiritual power given to assist those who ask and seek.”
Remember, Elder Pearson concluded, “your voice matters.”
“We must be a voice for truth. We must have the faith and courage to speak up and engage in social media in a positive, responsible, non-contentious, and effective way. We can simply share what we know and believe with others.”