Admonitions from General Conference to Defend the Church

The 183rd Annual General Conference of the Church featured, among other things, remarks by three General Authorities that touched on the importance of members to sustain and defend the Church.

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles began his remarks in the priesthood session with the following, “As bearers of the priesthood, we have the responsibility to stand strong with a shield of faith against the fiery darts of the adversary. We are role models to the world, protecting God-given, inalienable rights and freedoms. We stand in defense of our homes and our families.” Elder Hales then related an anecdote from his youth.

 When I was in the ninth grade, I returned from my first out-of-town game with the varsity baseball team. My father discerned that on the long bus ride home I had witnessed language and behavior that was not in harmony with the standards of the gospel. Being a professional artist, he sat down and drew a picture of a knight—a warrior capable of defending castles and                   kingdoms.

This experience, Elder Hales said, taught him “how to be a faithful priesthood holder–to protect and defend the kingdom of God.”[1]

Later, in the same session of conference, President Thomas S. Monson directly admonished, “Obey the counsel of the Apostle Peter, who urged, ‘Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.’ Lift up your voices and testify to the true nature of the Godhead. Declare your witness concerning the Book of Mormon. Convey the glorious and beautiful truths contained in the plan of salvation.”[2] It is important to note President Monson’s emphasis that our readiness to defend the Church should include declaring our testimonies of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and the truths of the restored gospel. This counsel would seem to contradict any wish to compromise or abandon these truths in order to find better acceptance in the eyes of mainstream, non-Mormon communities.

The final remarks on defending the Church came from Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who quoted the same scripture as President Monson. “We also pray for our own opportunities to share the gospel. The Apostle Peter said, ‘Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh … a reason [for] the hope that is in you.’[3]

It is interesting to note how these three General Authorities each understood the importance of defending the Church in different ways. Elder Hales emphasized the importance of staying true to the values of the Church in our daily walk, while President Monson and Elder Andersen both understood 1 Peter 3:15 as being an important scriptural injunctive that prompts us to defend the Church by sharing testimony and taking advantages of missionary opportunities (cf. Mosiah 18:9). These different opinions on how to defend the Church are not contradictory, and actually nicely inform us on how we should do such; namely, both in word and deed.

In order to follow the counsel from these three prophets, seers, and revelators, one must, of course, therefore engage in what is commonly called “apologetics”. Indeed, the Greek word used in 1 Peter 3:15 that is translated as “answer” in the KJV is απολογιαν. It is derived from the same word (απολογια) from which comes our modern word “apologetics”. It appears also in Philippians 1:17, where Paul informs us he has been called to the ministry “for the defence [απολογιαν] of the gospel.”

Quite literally (or, as the Germans would most appropriately say in this situation, buchstäblich), 1 Peter 3:15 teaches us to make an apologetic (or apology, in the classical sense) for our belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ, both in expressing our convictions to others and in living our lives as Saints. If we, therefore, are to take the example of Paul and the teachings of President Monson and Elders Hales and Andersen seriously, we should do just such, and give an απολογιαν for the restored Gospel.


[1] Robert D. Hales, “Stand Strong in Holy Places,” online at http://www.lds.org/general-conference/print/2013/04/stand-strong-in-holy-places?lang=eng

[2] Thomas S. Monson, “Come, All Ye Sons of God,” online at http://www.lds.org/general-conference/print/2013/04/come-all-ye-sons-of-god?lang=eng, internal citation removed.

[3] Neil L. Andersen, “It’s a Miracle,” online at http://www.lds.org/general-conference/print/2013/04/its-a-miracle?lang=eng

6 thoughts on “Admonitions from General Conference to Defend the Church

  1. I’m afraid times are becoming such that we Latter-day Saints are going to have to be stronger than ever at not only defending the Church but defending Christianity as a whole. Thanks for the post, it is an excellent reminder.

  2. It is most unfortunate that we should be admonished to undertake such a task, for, in my mind, a disciple of Christ need not be instructed to defend the kingdom. This should be an innate desire, but, again, we are dealing with flawed individuals. I yearn for the day when the laws and ways of the Lord are written upon our hearts. This is my humble prayer.

  3. Excellent comments, Stephen.
    The Brethren have been advising us for years to use the internet in defense of the Gospel, and this is merely in furtherance of the general admonition to “be actively engaged in supporting and defending the principles of truth” (True to the Faith [2004], 39). The 2010 edition of Handbook 2 even provides detailed advice on how to properly go about use of the internet for that purpose.(21.1.22). Here are some excerpts:
    “The Internet provides ways to express our faith in Jesus Christ, strengthen others, and foster what is useful, good, and praiseworthy. Church members are encouraged to be examples of their faith at all times and in all places, including on the Internet.”
    “Express your personal witness of the restored gospel as you feel impressed by the Spirit to do so. The message should be personal and not given as if you were speaking for the Church. “
    “Develop your own materials that effectively convey your message.”
    “When used appropriately, electronic communication, such as e-mail and Internet postings, can help Church members coordinate the work of the Church, strengthen faith, and minister to the needs of others.”

  4. The perception of many Evangelical Christians, to the extent they understand that we LDS assert that we are followers of Jesus Christ, is that this is simply a marketing ploy to make Mormonism look like THEM and thus compete with them for potential converts or for their existing members. But that is a misperception on their part. We LDS do attract and convert people in the Evangelical’s target demographic, but we do not do it by offering them more of the same. Rather, we offer them something distinctive that they cannot find elsewhere. This is consistent with Marketing 101: To attract people to your cause, you need to differentiate yourself from the mass of other services in the market. (Not that the LDS Church has chosen that strategy; the Lord chose it for us by calling living prophets and arming them with newly recovered ancient scripture.) What attracts people to Mormonism are the very things that are different from conventional Christianity, and are thus criticized most vehemently by those who perceive us as competitors in their market. It is an irony that their criticism, meant to discourage potential Mormon converts, simply helps propagate those distinctions that are the most attractive features of our message to those who are inclined to listen. The Evangelical apologists fear that we are trying to persuade loyal Nicene Trinitarians into our flock, but the people who flock to our ensign tend to be ones who have found the bodiless and emotionless God described in the creeds to be distant and uninvolved in their lives, and they are attracted to our narrative of the Father of our spirits, who desires us to return to Him, and be like Him. So long as we LDS can articulate what we believe about God and our relationship to Him correctly and clearly, we will attract such people, even if we do not individually know all the subtleties of the creedal descriptions, or the fact that most ordinary Christians tend to perceive the Trinity in terms of one of the classic heresies, such as modalism or docetism. And that is something we all can do.

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