How can I stand up for my standards without offending those who don’t have the same views? How can I differentiate between the Holy Ghost and my own thoughts and feelings? How can I deal with doubts when faced with tough questions from Church history?
These are a few of the 16 questions submitted from young people from around the Church and answered by Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Sunday evening, Nov. 19, during a “Face to Face” Worldwide Young Single Adult Event.
Hosted by students at the Logan, Utah, Institute of Religion and emanating live from the Morgan Theater at Utah State University, the 90-minute question-and-answer session was carried to hundreds of thousands of locations in Church institutes and other venues across the world via internet feed on the Church’s website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.
“We send our love across the oceans, the mountains and the electronics to all the world,” said Elder Oaks, bringing appreciative chuckles from the live congregation.
In addition to those present in Logan, young single adult groups in Mexico City, Mexico, and Lima, Peru, were linked into the broadcast, and members of the groups participated in it live.
In the days leading up to it — and during the event itself — questions were submitted via the Church website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Some 4,000 questions were submitted.
Questions were posed to the Church leaders by two young single adults: Eliza Lin, a Utah State University student and a Church convert of just two months, and Mitchell Kimball, a Brigham Young University student and a Spanish-speaking returned missionary who interpreted the questions coming from the groups in Mexico and Peru.
Elder Oaks said the two apostles had not been able to read every question “but we’ve had some help categorizing them and we are making an effort to concentrate on the questions that were most commonly asked from the various locations around the world.”
Elder Ballard added, “We’re going to talk to you fairly straightly, and by the power of the Spirit, we hope, tonight. We hope that Heavenly Father will bless us all.”
The two Church leaders “have been sitting side by side” in the quorum for over 33 years, Elder Oaks noted. He quipped, “We know one another; we can finish one another’s sentences if the occasion requires. I’ll count on that, by the way!”
A recording of the entire broadcast may be viewed at LDS.org with a link from the home page. Here are some of the questions that were addressed with summaries of the responses.
How do I truly come to know and believe for myself the things that I have been taught? I pray for answers and a confirmation of the Spirit, but the answers don’t seem to come.
“Revelation — or inspiration — is a process,” Elder Oaks replied, “and the Lord teaches us line upon line, precept upon precept. He also tells us, and this is from the 88th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, that it will come in His own time, in His own way and according to His own will.”
“So we patiently wait upon the Lord and don’t get up tight because we haven’t had our prayer answered the first time — or the first year — that we have asked it.”
Elder Ballard added that sometimes it is hard to listen. “We’re very quick to be engaged and maybe even, at this time in the history of the world, it’s possible for young singe adults to be captured by clutter. When I say clutter I’m talking about all the technology that is available, all the things that can take your mind away from those quiet moments when you get the prompting that you’re seeking as you go through life.”
How can I stand up for my standards without offending others who don’t have the same views?
“Keep a smile on your face!” Elder Ballard suggested. “This is a wonderful, glorious, happy message. If we’re not careful we can maybe be a little bit too stoic in how we’re presenting it. Just let yourself be yourself. People just want to know you. They want to know why you believe what you believe.”
Elder Oaks added, “The scriptures say ‘in mildness and meekness.’ We don’t pound the gospel into our friends or our family. I’ve often found that it’s helpful not to declare a principle of the gospel to a non-believer by saying, ‘It’s this way whether you believe it or not.’ ”
He added that it is good for Church members to explain their beliefs and standards in terms of covenants they have made.
How can I differentiate between the Holy Ghost and my own thoughts and feelings?
“This is a question we wrestle with all of our lives,” Elder Oaks responded. “It’s well to remember that the scriptures teach us that inspiration comes in the ‘still, small voice.’ It doesn’t come in the urgent impulses of doing what we want to do or reaching out in bias for a confirmation to our personal opinion.”
Elder Ballard added, “My counsel would be to be sure your own life is being lived in such a way that you can receive these promptings. That’s a big job for all of us; we all work on that. That’s why we ask you to be sure to say your prayers, to [study] the scriptures. We ask you to do these simple things over and over again, because that’s what fortifies you and gives you a foundation to be able to know.”
Elder Oaks remarked, “If we get an impression contrary to the scriptures, to the commandments of God, to the teachings of His leaders, then we know that it can’t be coming from the Holy Ghost. The gospel is consistent throughout.”
What would be important for a homosexual young adult to know to stay firm in the gospel, and how can heterosexual young adults help? How can we show our love to them despite our differences?
Elder Oaks recounted what was told to him by “a proud grandparent,” He said he had a grandson struggling with this problem, who said, “I’m satisfied that I can approach this problem in this way: I’m not going to let my sexuality interfere with my spirituality.”
“I thought that, in a nutshell, was an expression of faith and determination not to get one thing confused with another.”
Elder Ballard added, “We have to be cautious and willing to listen. We have to be willing to talk to one another about this issue.
“For members of the Church there are two or three things to remember: One is we make covenants, and then we’re striving in our lifetime to keep those covenants. In the process of that, those who have same gender attraction are God’s children; He loves them; there’s a place for them and for all of our Father’s children regardless of what their circumstances may be.
“The Church is a place of refuge, a place to come and find peace, the answers to life’s questions. But ultimately there are covenants that come into the picture, and all of us have to make that decision in our lives, entering into the sacred covenants the Lord has told us are important in this journey of mortality. As all of us strive to keep our covenants, then all of the blessings Heavenly Father has in store for His children will surely be given to them.”
A covenant all Church members have made is to “bear one another’s burdens,” Elder Oaks noted. “We struggle with this very real problem in an atmosphere of love.”
He added, “Don’t label yourself as a this or that. ” and said that “the most important label any of us can carry throughout our life” is expressed in the Primary song, “I Am a Child of God.”
I struggle with viewing pornography. I keep falling and transgressing. What more can I do to overcome this weakness?
Elder Ballard said, “The main thing for all of us to know about this new drug is there is hope, and if we choose to and we work hard at it it can be overcome. Whatever effort we have to put forth will be worth it.
“You have to say to yourself, ‘I will now tonight, because I’ve been in this meeting with two members of the Quorum of the Twelve, draw a line and I’m not going to step over it again to the pornography side. I’m going to stay on the Lord’s side.’ ”
Elder Oaks added, “Remember the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which assures you of forgiveness of sin and which offers you the opportunity when you call upon the Lord to get strength to confront every mortal temptation, weakness or inclination.”
What advice/guidance would you give for answering tough questions about Church history when we are asked about them by someone who is struggling with their faith?
“I think the first thing is to distinguish between questions and doubts,” Elder Oaks said. “Some people merge those as if they were the same.”
Questions are a way to increase knowledge and understanding and are to be encouraged, while doubt, according to a dictionary definition, is accompanied by distrust, a rejection of something, he explained. “That’s the kind of thing that the scriptures have condemned” as pertaining to gospel truths, he added.
Elder Ballard spoke of criticisms to the effect that the Church has hidden the fact that there is more than one rendition of Joseph Smith’s First Vision.
“The facts are we don’t study; we don’t go back and search what has been said on the subject. For example, Dr. James B. Allen of BYU in 1970 produced an article in the Church magazines explaining all about the different versions of the First Vision.”
He added, “We would have to say, as two apostles who have covered the world and know the history of the Church and know the integrity of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve from the beginning, there has been no attempt on the part of the Church leaders to try to hide anything from anybody.”
Thanks to the Joseph Smith Papers project, “we’re learning more about the Prophet Joseph; it’s wonderful we are,” Elder Ballard said. “Just trust us, wherever you are in the world, and you share this message with anyone else who raises the question about the Church not being transparent. We’re as transparent as we know how to be in telling the truth. We have to do that; that’s the Lord’s way.”
What would you recommend for young single adults who are trying to figure out what to do [in the selection of an eternal companion]?
“You young men and young women, put your cell phones away! Put the technology away and learn to talk to each other face-to-face, eye-to-eye. My goodness, that’s the way this happens. You’ve got yourselves in cocoons,” Elder Ballard said.
Elder Oaks recalled counsel given by Elder Bruce R. McConkie, a now deceased member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, at a BYU devotional address in 1974, when Elder Oaks was president of the university. Elder McConkie said on that occasion that part of the challenge in mortality is to learn to hear and heed the impression of the Spirit of the Lord but also to learn how to exercise one’s agency, “things we do ourselves on the basis of our judgment and learning.” He said that is how he chose his wife.
Elder Ballard said, “I hope the next time we come into your institute of religion, you’re all sitting together talking face to face.”
“And not waiting around, men, not waiting around,” Elder Oaks added.
On social media young single adults posted quotations from the broadcast and their impressions of it.
On Twitter, Clark Herlin tweeted, “God is literally speaking now thru two of His living apostles.”
Connor McCarthy tweeted, “Time to listen to the words of two of the Apostles. So excited. It’s the middle of the night in Ireland but it’s worth staying awake for!”