In an address during a fireside at BYU-Idaho in Rexburg, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve talked about the fulfillment of prophecies regarding the last days as well as the fallibility of the philosophies of men.
Throughout all of his remarks on Jan. 30, Elder Ballard wove a common thread of admonition for students to strengthen their testimonies in preparation for what's to come.
"I want to try to pull this together, not to frighten you but to wake you up," Elder Ballard said. "We've got to be so solidly anchored in our testimonies of the gospel of Jesus Christ that, regardless of what may come next, we will not waffle; we will stand firm in our belief; we won't question the doctrines that are part of our belief."
Elder Ballard encouraged students to view their time at BYU-Idaho as an opportunity to prepare for the time when they'll be out of school and subject to bombardment by a new brand of spiritual buffetings.
"Soon you'll graduate and you'll go forth and get married, if you're not married already, and you'll have a family," he said. "Wherever you settle, you be sure that your knowledge of the Restoration and your acceptance of these things which are true are deeply embedded in your heart, in your mind [and] in your soul so that whatever wind blows against you, you will not succumb nor will you become casual or even indifferent."
To illustrate how even active Church members can come to question foundational pillars of their faith, Elder Ballard touched on the political hot-button issue of marriage and the Church's decision to openly support initiatives aimed at keeping marriage within the traditional framework of being between a man and a woman. He said that he has personally received letters posing questions such as, "Why is the Church taking a position on marriage?" and, "It's someone else's life; why are we interested in it?"
"It's a pretty simple answer," Elder Ballard responded. "God created this world and He put Adam here and He gave Adam a helpmate whom he called Eve. They had a charge and a responsibility to multiply and replenish the earth. It is a marvelous and glorious experience to bring forth children and have a family, and that is done between a husband and a wife who are married.
"Marriage is a vital, divine institution defined by God that as a Church also established by divine authority we must defend."
According to Elder Ballard, students can inoculate themselves against spiritual indifference via a zealous study of revealed truth.
"Learn all you can from your teachers in your religion classes you're taking," he said. "Study the Book of Mormon. Study the teachings of the prophets. Study the Doctrine and Covenants. Treasure up in your heart and in your mind the glorious principles of the gospel. Embrace them, live them and defend them — even when it's hard. It well could get harder as time goes forward."
Excerpting entire passages of scripture from Matthew 24, 2 Nephi 28 and Mormon 8, Elder Ballard firmly established that ancient prophecies regarding the last days preceding the Savior's second coming aren't just being fulfilled but are coming to pass at an accelerated rate.
"I'm telling you what the Savior said would be the signs of the acceleration towards that day when He shall come," he said. "We could stay here for a couple of hours talking about all of the prophecies of what will occur in the last days. We're in the last days — you can quote me on that. And it is moving more rapidly."
Conditions that Elder Ballard specifically cited as fulfillment of prophecy and signs of the times include "pornography and how real affection and how true and real love are being disturbed by Satan and his minions" (see Matthew 24:12); "an acceleration of the gospel going to all nations" (see Matthew 24:14); and how "Mother Nature is letting its power be seen throughout the world at a more accelerated pace" (see Mormon 8:30-31).
In 2007, Elder Ballard and Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve granted interviews to many major media outlets as part of a public relations outreach effort by the Church. Vis-?vis the questions posed to them in the course of those interactions, they were astounded to learn just how little the mainstream media understood about the plain and simple truths of the plan of salvation — especially as it relates to premortal existence and the overarching purpose of mortality.
"I have to say to you," Elder Ballard said, "there are not very many people in the world who understand where we came from, the real purpose why we're here and where we're entitled to go if we seek out and strive to know those things that are eternally important.
"I was really stunned to realize how spiritually ignorant the world is. … We need to stop once in a while and think about what a tremendous thing it is to be a member of the true Church and to have a knowledge of who we are, where we came from before we were born and our purpose for living here in mortality."
Once the disparity in knowledge between Latter-day Saints and the rest of the world begins to sink in, Elder Ballard said he thinks Church members will need to place increased focus on sharing the gospel with as many people as possible.
"We have a big job ahead of us," he said. "We have a tremendous responsibility as members of the Church. We're going to have to learn to be more effective in our ability to share what we know to be true with the world. …
"Somehow if we could get into our minds how much we have because of the gospel, we would be shouting from the rooftops the message of the Restoration, the light and knowledge that we are blessed to live by because of the Restoration."