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The Primary general presidency shares how to be a 'defender of Zion'

PROVO, Utah — Courage and courtesy are necessary in defending faith, taught the Primary general presidency during a session of the BYU Women’s Conference held in the Marriott Center at Brigham Young University on May 4.

After standing together and singing with the congregation, “Do As I’m Doing,” the Primary general presidency — Sister Joy D. Jones, Sister Lisa L. Harkness, and Sister Cristina B. Franco — addressed participants about how individuals can be “defenders of Zion.”

As a disciple of Jesus Christ, individuals must be prepared to articulate what it is he or she believes, the presidency taught.

“It may be that in our daily lives, some of us are seldom asked to stand — literally or figuratively — to defend the gospel of Jesus Christ and His kingdom here on earth,” Sister Jones said. “On the other hand, some of us may be required to speak up on a regular basis to defend truth: perhaps at school, at work, with friends, or even with our families.

“Sisters, I promise you that whether it’s in the boardroom or the bakery, at some point, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, you will be called upon to articulate what you know and believe,” Sister Jones said.

A defender of Zion

“More than ever, we need to have an unshakeable testimony to be a defender of truth and a true defender of our faith in Jesus Christ,” said Sister Franco. “We really can’t protect and uphold something that we don’t have.”

Fortunately, Sister Franco taught, a witness of the Lord and an unshakeable testimony can be obtained by anyone who has a desire to have that conviction.

“What then is required to obtain it?” she asked.

First, a person needs to study, ponder and pray.

The “essentials” found in Preach My Gospel are a good place to start, she said.

Truths such as “God is our loving Heavenly Father,” “the gospel blesses families,” “Heavenly Father reveals His gospel in every dispensation,” “the Savior’s earthly ministry and Atonement,” “the great apostasy, restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith,” and “the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” are all essential to an unshakable testimony.

“We need to stand as valiant witnesses of God defending our beliefs, the Church and its doctrine — even if we stand alone,” she said.

It is possible to be bold, kind and respectful while still standing up for one's beliefs, she taught.

“Dear friends, don’t be discouraged as you defend and in positive ways stand up for truth. Not everyone will agree with you, but as President Henry B. Eyring said: ‘The best days are ahead for the kingdom of God on the earth.’ Opposition will strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ. … Faith always defeats fear. Standing together produces unity. And your prayers for those in need are heard and answered by a loving God. He neither slumbers nor does He sleep.”

Who is our foe?

“Satan’s attacks are many and varied,” Sister Harkness said in her first address as the first counselor in the Primary general presidency. “They are devious in their subtlety and obnoxious in their frequency.”

The adversary is able to attack with ferocious quickness, or patiently lead a person from one untruth to another.

“He is creative, clever and persistent in his approaches to our weaknesses,” she said. “His attacks come to old and young, to the teen and the middle-aged. His deceptions are camouflaged as wisdom and his lies as truth.”

But Heavenly Father has provided for both a person’s defense and victory over the “forces of evil,” she taught.

“True doctrine reveals the lies of Satan; it gives us purpose and courage to stand firm, faithful and true against his deceiving tactics and temptations,” she said. “Hearing and understanding the doctrine of salvation prompts us to act.”

Where is this true doctrine found? In the Book of Mormon, she said.

Speak up

Sister Bonnie Oscarson, former Young Women general president, said in a general conference talk, “The Lord needs us to be brave, steadfast and immovable warriors who will defend His plan and teach the upcoming generations His truths.”

“Are we who are disciples of Christ willing to follow Sister Oscarson’s counsel even when we risk a loss of respect?” Sister Jones asked, “Are we willing to face opposing opinions without being oppositional? Are we willing to step off the sidelines when it comes to defending the truth — and still not be defensive?”

Whether it is standing up to friends, classmates or members of a person’s community, it takes both courage and courtesy to defend faith. Sometimes personal abuse or sacrifice comes with standing up.

“Some of our most articulate moments and greatest influence come with how we live, by being happy in a family, happy in being obedient, happy in the way we dress, serve and work,” she said. “It sometimes seems increasingly in vogue to joke in demeaning ways about children, husbands, prophets, service in the kingdom, etc., which may be another opportunity for each of us to speak up.”

Even the Savior, with His supreme example, faced others who did not agree with His teachings.

“Not everyone agreed with what He taught, but He stood for the truth,” she said. “He had enemies, but He loved them and always treated others with kindness.”

The Savior set the example of showing sincere love vs. tolerating others who are doing things in which He didn’t agree.

“We can still love another person and not support his or her choices. … We can show courtesy and respect while still addressing issues of disagreement,” she said. “And we must make appropriate judgments to protect ourselves and our families.”

Women can, one-by-one, stand for righteousness, truth, goodness and decency. As she is willing to open her mouth, the Lord will help in knowing what to say.

“May we all rise up even as President Nelson charged the brethren of the Church [in the last general conference] and be covenant disciples of Jesus Christ,” she said. “May we proclaim through word and deed.”