To those beleaguered with questions or doubts concerning the restored gospel, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles challenged to read the Book of Mormon and to study the fundamentals of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In a style he described as “blunt” but “loving,” Elder Ballard delivered counsel specific to the challenges and questions faced by many of today’s young adults during a devotional on Sunday, Sept. 17.
“We’re living in a time when you have to hear it very straight,” the apostle told more than 2,000 young adults gathered at the Taylorsville Utah Institute of Religion. Noting all the confusion in the world, Elder Ballard told listeners they didn’t have time to meddle with “fluff” or tamper with doctrine.
Elder Richard J. Maynes, a General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Nancy P. Maynes, accompanied Elder Ballard and accepted invitations to share brief testimonies. In his remarks, Elder Maynes said it was a privilege for him and Sister Maynes to participate in the devotional with Elder and Sister Ballard.
He emphasized the invitation of President Thomas S. Monson to read the Book of Mormon. “If we read the Book of Mormon and pray daily, our faith will be strengthened and our ability to maintain that faith in this difficult world will be enhanced,” Elder Maynes said.
During his address, Elder Ballard acknowledged the presence of his wife, Sister Barbara Ballard, who he described as “the greatest joy of my life.”
“I brought her because when she smiles, everybody melts. If I fail, just having her here makes it great,” he said.
Alan B. Tingey, president of the Taylorsville Utah YSA Stake, conducted the meeting. In introducing the apostle, President Tingey noted that Elder Ballard has been an apostle longer than 90 percent of the audience has been alive. Elder Ballard, in turn, pointed out he would soon celebrate his 89th birthday. “Isn’t it great I’m still standing?” he quipped.
In his many travels in his nearly 32 years as an apostle, Elder Ballard said he’s been approached by youth who are unsure about the Prophet Joseph Smith.
“I want to say to you, if you have any question about the reality of Joseph Smith being a prophet of God, called under the direction of the Father and the Son, you get into the Book of Mormon and you read it.”
Readers of the Book of Mormon cannot get far into the book without drawing closer to the Savior Jesus Christ, he said.
To those who doubt when questioned about the Book of Mormon, Elder Ballard declared, “You are members of the Church. You bear your testimony. You tell them to [read] the Book of Mormon and get down on their knees and let them ask God if [Joseph Smith] is a prophet.”
Elder Ballard then added his witness that Joseph Smith was raised up as a prophet of this dispensation of the fullness of times.
Elder Ballard said he also sometimes hears criticism from youth that the Church takes too hard of a stance on marriage or gender issues. “Before you start questioning that, you go back and study the plan of salvation,” Elder Ballard told the young adults.
“What is God’s great plan of happiness? Why are we here? Where do we come from? Who are we? Who are you?” he asked. “Well, you are sons and daughters of God. You are spirit offspring of our Heavenly Parents. You lived in the pre-mortal world as sons and daughters of God.”
He then encouraged listeners to go back to the book of Genesis in the Bible. “Find out why God created this world. Who are we and what are we charged to do and how are we charged to do it? Well, Adam and Eve were given firm direction. They were moved out of the garden and told to multiply and replenish the earth. And there’s one way you should do that: in God’s way of marriage.”
Most questions can be answered by reminding individuals of the plan of salvation — “the great plan of happiness that Heavenly Father established in the beginning,” the apostle taught.
Those who have questions can also take their questions to their trusted teachers and leaders. “If they don’t know the answer, they can help try to find an answer for you.”
However, there may be things for which there are no answers.
Elder Ballard said that even though individuals will make mistakes as they journey through the process of mortality, Jesus Christ has provided a way for them to repent. “Isn’t it wonderful? Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ] gave us the law and the teachings of repentance so when we stumble along the way that we can pick ourselves back up and rethink where we are and make a resolve that we’re going to live better and we’ll do the things that will make us better and give us peace and joy.”
Noting the size of the audience, Elder Ballard said there was a great likelihood some who were listening were tampering with pornography. “As an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ it’s my duty to ask you to rethink allowing your mind to drift over into the devil’s side of the line. Pornography is evil. The author of it is Satan himself. People that get captured with that can get destroyed spiritually.”
Elder Ballard explained that when King Benjamin said that “the natural man is an enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19), he meant that individuals must keep the physical body under control. “And how do we keep the physical, temporal part of us under control?” he asked. “We do it by building the spiritual, inner part of who we are which lives forever.”
The message Elder Ballard said he most wanted listeners to know: “You are children of God. You are His sons and you are His daughters and He loves you. I want you to know that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world.”