REXBURG, Idaho — For the second time in three months, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught college-age Latter-day Saints that “it is unreasonable to claim that faith in Jesus Christ is unreasonable.”
At his Aug. 28 devotional at the University of Utah Institute of Religion, Elder Bednar explained his message was the first of a two-part series titled “That Ye May Believe” (1 John 5:13), with the second to be presented later in the fall in another university devotional.
Part 2 came Sunday, Oct. 30, at Brigham Young University–Idaho in the BYU–Idaho Center in Rexburg, Idaho, with Elder Bednar accompanied by his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, who also spoke briefly and shared her testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
It was a return home for both, with Elder Bednar having served as BYU–Idaho president from 1997 to 2004, then being called as an Apostle.
At both devotionals, Elder Bednar noted that basic arguments used by the Church’s contemporary critics are similar to those in the days of Book of Mormon prophets.
Korihor, an anti-Christ, ridiculed the Savior, His Atonement and the spirit of prophecy, saying “ye cannot know of things which ye do not see” and that such things came from “a frenzied mind” (Alma 30:13-16). And people responded to the ministry of Samuel the Lamanite, saying “it is not reasonable that such a being as Christ shall come” (Helaman 16:18).
Elder Bednar said: “I repeat my complete and emphatic rejection of Korihor’s arguments that belief in Jesus Christ and His mortal mission is the result of foolish traditions and frenzied and deranged minds. I testify that we come to know many things through means other than sight, especially spiritual things.”
He later added: “I comprehensively reject the proposition that the believers at the time of Samuel the Lamanite ‘guessed right,’ that seeing is the best and only way of knowing, and that it is unreasonable that such a being as a Christ should come. In fact, I believe it is unreasonable to claim that faith in Jesus Christ is unreasonable.”
In his two messages, Elder Bednar highlighted the vast scope, depth, breadth and eternal importance of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, addressing what he admitted was just a small sample of the supernal truths revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
With critics today discounting Joseph Smith and the First Vision, the translation of the Book of Mormon, latter-day revelation and more, Elder Bednar briefly discussed key doctrinal truths in the context of theological ideas of Joseph’s era and area where he was raised.
At the first devotional, in Salt Lake City, the five doctrinal truths were:
- The nature and character of the Godhead.
- Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation.
- The importance of mortality and a physical body.
- The Creation of the earth and the Fall of Adam and Eve.
- The Atonement of Jesus Christ.
And at the second, in Rexburg, he added another five doctrinal truths:
- Priesthood authority and keys.
- Prophets, apostles and revelation.
- Additional latter-day scripture.
- Covenants and ordinances.
- Temple covenants and ordinances and vicarious work for the dead.
Both times, Elder Bednar invited his listeners to use five basic criteria in drawing their own conclusions regarding the contrast between “the theological ideas about which Joseph Smith himself spoke — those he appears to have heard circulating in the Manchester, New York, area; those which weighed upon him; and those which provoked the questions in his heart and mind” and the doctrine of the restored gospel as revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith:
- Is “seeing” the best and only way of knowing what we know?
- Was Joseph Smith influenced by false traditions?
- Do believers have frenzied and deranged minds?
- Have the prophets merely guessed right?
- Is the concept of the Restoration of the Savior’s gospel and Church unreasonable?
1. Priesthood authority and keys
Leaders of various Christian denominations of Joseph’s time were not ordained but licensed and followed more of “a priesthood for all believers,” with faith in the Bible as the ultimate source of spiritual authority, Elder Bednar said. And while many members of Protestant churches beginning in the 16th century saw the need for a reformation of the Roman Catholic Church, many other believers accepted the claim that apostolic authority had continued since the time of Christ.
“In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, priesthood is defined as God’s eternal authority and power granted to His children to accomplish His work on the earth,” he said, citing the fifth article of faith that conferral of priesthood authority is only by the laying on of hands by commissioned servants of the Lord.
The Church also teaches that the original Church established by the Savior — with its divine authority, doctrine, and covenants and ordinances — was lost from the earth during the Apostasy, Elder Bednar said.
As part of the prophesied restoration of all things in the latter days, ancient prophets personally conferred priesthood authority upon Joseph Smith and committed priesthood keys to him — the Aaronic Priesthood and its keys from John the Baptist; the Melchizedek Priesthood and its keys from the apostles Peter, James and John; and additional authority and keys from Moses, Elias and Elijah, who appeared to him in the Kirtland Temple.
“Priesthood keys are the authority to direct the use of the priesthood on behalf of God’s children,” Elder Bednar said. “The use of all priesthood authority in the Church is directed by those who hold priesthood keys.”
2. Prophets, apostles and revelation
Many faiths at the time of Joseph Smith considered the Bible to be the complete word of God, with no need for modern prophets and apostles.
In contrast, Elder Bednar said: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that the Lord calls prophets in our day to speak for Him just as He did anciently. … Additionally, ongoing, direct revelation from God to His prophets and apostles is essential to God’s kingdom on earth.”
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the Lord has ushered in the dispensation of the fullness of times, when all knowledge, priesthood authority, covenants and ordinances given in previous dispensations will be restored and additional truth will be revealed, Elder Bednar added.
“The Lord’s Church — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — was restored in fulfillment of prophecy and will fill the earth.”
3. Additional latter-day scripture
Elder Bednar said, “In Joseph’s day, Protestant churches generally taught that the Bible was the final, sufficient, and infallible word of God and that all truths needed for the salvation of humankind are found there. Consequently, they did not recognize a need for additional scripture.”
Latter-day Saints believe both the Bible — “as far as it is translated correctly” — and the Book of Mormon to be the word of God, with the latter as another testament of Jesus Christ confirming truths of the Bible and restoring plain and precious truths that were removed, Elder Bednar said.
Also, the Doctrine and Covenants is revered as sacred scripture containing God’s word to latter-day prophets, with the Lord also revealing additional sacred writings of prophets such as Enoch, Abraham and Moses.
4. Covenants and ordinances
Before the Restoration, other faiths had varied understandings of the need for ordinances and how they were performed. Most faiths thought less of covenants and more in terms of “sacraments.” “When Latter-day Saints speak of covenants, we understand that God sets the conditions of a covenant and promises blessings to those who accept and honor that covenant,” Elder Bednar said.
Latter-day Saints believe priesthood ordinances are essential, were established from the beginning and must be performed in the way God has appointed. Some — such as baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost — are necessary for salvation and exaltation.
The ordinances of baptism and conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost are performed after a person has become accountable; little children do not need these ordinances to be saved.
5. Temple covenants and ordinances and vicarious work for the dead
Christian churches of Joseph’s day had no understanding of the temple covenants and ordinances that provide access to the fullness of God’s blessings, Elder Bednar said.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that a man and a woman who enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage can be sealed together for this life and for all eternity,” he said. “This ordinance received on earth is bound in heaven if performed by one holding the sealing authority restored through Elijah and through the couple’s faithfulness.”
And individuals who die without receiving essential covenants and ordinances in this life can receive them through proxy work performed in temples.
Invitation, promise and testimony
“May your asking, seeking and knocking continue with increased focus, sincere hearts and real intent,” Elder Bednar invited his listeners. “As you do so, I promise you will be blessed by the power of the Holy Ghost to know the truth of all things that are essential to your salvation and exaltation.”
If all one knows about the gospel comes from what others say or from written commentaries, “then you will never know enough,” he added. “An individual price must be paid to learn for yourselves. You cannot live on borrowed light.”
The Apostle underscored the importance of studying the scriptures, seeking eternal truths and being yoked through one’s individual and personal covenant connection with the resurrected and living Lord Jesus Christ.
Reason is important and useful; however, it is neither the best nor the only way of knowing, he said. “A witness of truth by the power of the Holy Ghost that we invite into our soul produces a spiritual knowledge, an illumination and a conviction more sure, more powerful and more enduring than can be received through seeing, hearing, touching or rational argument alone.”
Elder Bednar said, “the sacred and personal testimony I now declare to you is independent of any other person and transcends the five physical senses” as he witnessed of God the Father and His plan of happiness; Jesus Christ being the Only Begotten, the Beloved Son, the Savior and Redeemer; and of His atoning sacrifice being central in and essential to the Father’s plan.
He also testified of the First Vision initiating the ongoing latter-day Restoration. “The Savior continues to reveal His mind and will to His servants the prophets. The covenants and ordinances of the gospel yoke us to and with the resurrected and living Lord.
“With all the energy of my soul, I witness that these things are true.”