President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
As with many of these presentations by modern LDS leaders, given in conference, there is much general content here that any Christian would agree with (and even many non-religious people). Uchtdorf reminds his listeners to be thankful and grateful for the blessings we have even in the hard trying times.
As is often the case in LDS culture, Joseph Smith is held up as a saintly example. In this instance, Uchtdorf speaks of Smith still maintaining an attitude of gratitude despite being held prisoner in the Carthage jail. Without knowing the full story, one would get the impression that Smith was some sort of innocent party or prisoner to injustice. However, the facts are that Smith was being held due to encouraging a mob to destroy printing presses that were publishing a newspaper exposing his activity around polygamy (The Nauvoo Expositor), not because he was suffering persecution for following Christ.
The scripture in 1 Peter 4:12-16 comes to mind regarding this issue:
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
It was at this prison that Smith met his untimely death at the hands of a those seeking revenge against him. Also lacking in the commonly accepted airbrushed history of this event in the minds of many Mormons is the fact that Smith retaliated back against his attackers by returning fire back at them. After this, Smith jumped from the window of the Carthage jail in an attempt to escape and gave a common Masonic cry: “O Lord, my God!“ in an apparent attempt to find help or some sort of restraint from possible fellow freemasons that may have been present in the mob (yes, Smith was a Freemason as well!). When Smith was announced dead after this attack he was found with an occultic item called a Jupiter Talisman.
Unfortunately, it appears that the majority of Mormons are unaware of the more accurate picture concerning Smith’s death. Rather, most tend to be exposed to an inaccurate and highly romanticized airbrushed version.
Elder M. Russell Ballard
In this presentation Elder Ballard asserts that we should not refer to Christ’s Church by any other name other than the one that the Lord Himself has declared: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and insists that the use of this name (rather than Mormon Church) identifies them as Christian to others. However, nowhere in the Bible do we find Jesus insisting that believers refer to His Church by this title and the Mormon Church was not always known by this name.
Eric Johnson, of Mormonism Research Ministry, notes the following about the name changes that the Mormon Church has undergone in times past:
Another point is that the LDS Church’s title has not always had Christ’s name since its foundation on April 6, 1830. The Mormon scripture Doctrine and Covenants 20:1 reports that the original name of the church was the “Church of Christ.” In 1834, the name was changed to “The Church of Latter-day Saints” (History of the Church 2:63). This took place at a priesthood conference at which Joseph Smith was present. The vote was unanimous. Note that the name of Christ was completely omitted. This was the church’s official title until April 26, 1838 when it was changed again to its current name. (The Name of God’s Church,)
As for Ballard’s assertion that using the name of Jesus Christ in the title of the Church identifies them as Christian, it is an easy thing for a religious group to claim the name of Jesus but be far removed from a genuine Christian group.
Ballard then goes on to follow up on a message he gave at the last LDS general conference whereby he urged members to pray and reach out to non-Mormons with the message of the LDS Church. He recounts a story whereby a member reached out to a non-member on Facebook with some success. Mormon leadership have been recently been encouraging members to spend more time in their witnessing endeavours on the internet. This is good news for those of us who seek to evangelize them, as we have more of an opportunity now than ever to share the genuine Gospel of Christ, and make them aware of the errors of Mormonism that many are simply unaware of.
Jean N. Stevens
I didn’t get too much from this presentation and, on the whole, found it to be a very general talk on trusting in God and having faith, which of course Christians in other churches would agree with.
I did find it interesting that there was a quote by C.S. Lewis and viewed this as another attempt from the Mormon Church to sound more Christian (as with Ballard’s desire for Mormons to be identified as Christian on account of the Church’s name).
Stevens mentions a family who would be together forever on account of the Mormon temple ordinances and belief in the eternal family unit. However, I often think about the numerous problems that this doctrine holds for LDS people when one considers how a family can be together in eternity. For example, how can families be together forever when each person would inevitably be at various levels of “worthiness” and therefore attain different places in the Mormon plan of eternal progression? What about a family member who denies the teachings of Mormonism?
Bishop Gary E. Stevenson
There appeared to be a little more obvious Mormon doctrine in this presentation than what is often found in the majority of these conference talks. Stevenson speaks about the LDS doctrine of the pre-existence, declaring: “Before you were born you existed as a spirit.”
Although no scripture is offered up in this particular presentation, the usual biblical passage that is often cited to attempt to back this belief up by the average Mormon is Jeremiah 1:4-5:
Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
However, notice that it is ‘the Lord’ who is saying that He knew Jeremiah before he was born. This shouldn’t surprise us seeing that God is omniscient and eternal. Of course God would know Jeremiah and all people before He even created them. If this text stated that Jeremiah knew God before he was in the womb that would be better evidence of a pre-existence.
Stevenson states: “Your actions will determine whether you win the prize of eternal life.” and: “Certain things are absolutely essential” to attain this prize of eternal life.
There is quite a list of things that follows that one must do to attain this prize of eternal life: “baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, priesthood ordinations, temple ordinances, and partaking of the sacrament each week” as well as “keeping the commandments” “receive an ordinance” “self discipline” “daily prayer, scripture study and church attendance” and “keeping the covenants.”
In contrast, the Bible states that eternal life is a “gift” not a “prize”:
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
We can know that we have eternal life by simple faith in Christ:
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)
Furthermore, the Bible also states that we are saved by faith alone in Christ not by performing some sort of tick list of good works:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Elder David A. Bednar
Bednar speaks about the load that each person carries and how this is necessary to produce spiritual growth. He then cites Jesus words in the Gospel of Matthew:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matt. 11:28-29).
However, I find it odd that Bednar cites this passage as the point of it is that Jesus wants to relieve us of our heavy laden and give us rest in Him. However, when one understands LDS theology, with it’s emphasis on performance, and works orientated salvation (whereby Stevenson‘s previous presentation is a prime example of this), it is easy to see how Mormon people tragically miss the simple and liberating beauty of this wonderful passage
President Thomas S. Monson
Monson’s focus is on love in this presentation and how acts of kindness can bring people into the Mormon Church. Monson urges his listeners to love the people that LDS members come into contact with and to take every opportunity to do this.
As with many conference talks, however, I found this presentation to be very general, and one with which the majority of people (including non-religious people) would concur with on many issues (themes such as being forgiving, merciful, patient, kindness, etc.).
Personally, I found that this particular talk (as well as many of the others) lacked any real passion. Without being insulting, I actually found myself losing interest in this talk especially.
After listening to the entire Sunday morning session I felt that many of the speakers (though not all) simply seemed to be going through the motions, being careful to say what they thought was the right thing to say, trying to fit in as much as possible with other churches, and not really presenting anything very substantial.