• Quote of the Day

    “Surely the reason Christ said, ‘Father, forgive them,’ was because even in that terrible hour He knew that this was the message He had come through all eternity to deliver.”
    —Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet

July 2008 EnsignThis month the Ensign has reprinted Elder M. Russell Ballard’s now-famous address at BYU–Hawaii last December, titled “Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet.” After Elder Ballard gave this address, there was a great deal of discussion about it in the bloggernacle, as well as a fair amount of self-congratulatory back-patting. So, for those who missed it the first time, I would simply like to highlight the things Elder Ballard warned us against when we “join the conversation” about the Church on the Internet.

  • “Discussions focused on questioning, debating, and doubting gospel principles do little to build the kingdom of God.”
  • “There is no need to argue or contend with others regarding our beliefs.”
  • “There is no need to become defensive or belligerent.”

So what should we do? Elder Ballard says, “We simply need to have a conversation, as friends in the same room would have, always guided by the prompting of the Spirit and constantly remembering the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, which reminds us of how precious are the children of our Father in Heaven.”

Wise words. We would all do well to heed them.

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14 Responses

  1. We just shared a lesson in our ward on how to use the internet as a missionary tool. A couple of us ward missionaries are on the bloggernacle and Elder Ballard’s advice is very wise indeed. thanks for sharing

    http://www.graceforgrace.com

  2. Thanks for your comment, ama. I’m glad that many people are taking Elder Ballard’s words to heart.

  3. [...] Mormon Magz, a short piece on “Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet,” a reprint of Elder Ballard’s talk [...]

  4. So you can share gospel principles, but if someone questions them you have to cut them off? Doesn’t seem like a good way to spread word about anything. What if your car dealer shooed you out of the dealership if you brought in a copy of consumer reports? He certainly wouldn’t make a sale.

    Questioning gospel principles should automatically lead to solid, undeniable answers about the Gospel. If not, what’s wrong?

  5. Thanks for the comment, measure76. I think I understand what you’re saying. Your rhetoric is interesting. How about these hypotheticals:

    What if you were a car dealer and a customer brought you a 100-year-old copy of Consumer Reports that panned your cars or your business or whatever (I know; CR magazine has only been around since the 30s, but go with me)? Now, you know for a fact that the claims in that particular issue were refuted or at least answered, oh, about 100 years ago. Well, this guy doesn’t believe you, even when you give him proof, and he’s bothering your real customers (which is apparently his real intent anyway).

    Or what if a customer wanted to talk only about some arcane historical point regarding the manager of the plant where one of your automobiles was constructed 100 years ago as though it had some bearing on whether or not the car runs today?

    Or what if a customer came in to talk about the oppression inherent in having only one steering wheel in the car instead of two or three, when you’re just trying to sell cars?

    So what do you do with these people? Do you keep arguing with them? Or do you try to agree to disagree with them and move on to interested customers?

    Those are the scenarios Elder Ballard was talking about when he said, “Discussions focused on questioning, debating, and doubting gospel principles do little to build the kingdom of God.” If someone is truly interested in coming to an understanding of a gospel principle, I would hope that any member of the Church would be willing to, as you say, come to “solid, undeniable answers.” We do not shy away from honest inquiry, and we also know the power of the testimony of the Holy Ghost.

    So, if the person you’re talking to doesn’t accept your logic, your reasoning, your argumentation, or your testimony, and he doesn’t offer anything more convincing, what then? Do you assume that something must be “wrong” with your beliefs simply because someone doesn’t think questioning them “automatically” leads to answers? I don’t think so.

  6. But Ballard didn’t say “Don’t talk to people who are trying to cause problems”.

    Ballard said “Don’t question Gospel Principles”

    You can’t really gain new understanding on ANY principle if you don’t question the foundations of the principle from time to time.

  7. measure76: But Elder Ballard didn’t say, “Don’t question gospel principles.” Again, in the context of a message titled “Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet,” he said, “Discussions focused on questioning, debating, and doubting gospel principles do little to build the kingdom of God.” And he’s absolutely right.

    Notice the word “focused.” If a discussion is focused on questioning, debating, and doubting, it’s not going anywhere. If it is focused on gaining an understanding of a principle, it might yield something. The problem is that, for some reason, people often find the former much more attractive—nearly irresistible.

    I would again like to stress that we do not shy away from honest inquiry. Neither Elder Ballard nor any of the other Church leaders has advocated a blind and unquestioning faith. And by the same token, they have taught us that eternal, spiritual truths can be known through the Holy Ghost. We need not apologize for nor be ashamed of this testimony.

    When it comes to questioning gospel principles, I suppose our reaction depends on the manner of the questioning and the motives and intentions of the questioner. Personally, I hope that I would be willing to entertain any honest question.

  8. You want an honest question that would violate Ballard’s rules? Ok…

    We are taught in church that man is made in God’s image. We are taught that God (or Jesus) is the creator of all things.

    Joseph Smith And Brigham Young, as well as several other church presidents, taught that our ultimate Goal is to become like God. Also, they have taught that God was once a man who is now exalted.

    So, if we are created in by God, in his image, but God was once a man like us… Who designed our bodies? Clearly, our bodies are copies of an earlier plan that was also used for God. So if God did not create our bodies, is he really the creator of all things? If not, this seems to disagree with the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

    I suspect you will tell me that we can learn answers to these questions through scripture study and prayer. I also suspect that If I reject those methods to finding answers, you will tell me that I’ve violated Ballard’s rules.

  9. measure76: Your question is kind of a head-scratcher. It’s the classic chicken-and-egg problem, right? Well the short answer is that you’re asking about things that haven’t been revealed, so I can’t give you an authoritative answer. I could speculate about it, but I don’t know how productive that would be. If the question of God’s origin gnaws at you, I’m afraid that I can’t offer any further light and knowledge. I believe Joseph Smith’s teachings on the subject of man’s relationship to God, but there is no further revelation on the matter that I’m aware of. As for any disagreement with scripture, I see that chiefly as an issue of semantics. What is meant by “create” in this context? It’s not as cut-and-dried as you’re suggesting, in my opinion.

  10. So why would you belong to a religion that can’t answer basic questions about it’s theology, as in the question I just posed?

    I mean, I could come up with other examples, but this is the one I’ve been using for awhile, as it usually does leave mormons scratching their heads.

    I mean, technically, I’m still a mormon myself. I just don’t uh, believe in it, any more. I think contradictions in theology like this serve to show that all is not right in the ‘gospel’ of the church.

  11. I don’t know how far you want to go with this, but if you really want to go down the rabbit hole for a peek, take the red pill, or whatever euhpamism you use for leaving safety behind and facing a new reality… check out this link: http://packham.n4m.org/contra.htm

    If not, no biggie, and I won’t be around here much to bother you anymore.

  12. measure76: The question you posed was, in my view, not a “basic question about [my religion's] theology.” Ours is a revealed religion. A revelation about the origin of God has not been given. Other Christians rely on the idea invented by Christian theologians that God is the First Cause—a theory with no basis in scripture. Now, if the question leaves me scratching my head, part of the reason for that is simply because I wonder why it would be an all-important, deal-breaker kind of a question for someone.

    Regarding the notion of contradictions in theology and that Web site with the supposedly faith-shattering list, it all comes down to semantics and rhetoric. The list itself is an extremely puerile attempt at using pseudo-logic to poke holes in our teachings. Frankly, it’s rather amateur anti-Mormonism. I’ve seen much better. I’m not sure that I have the time for it, but if you really wanted to get answers to these sorts of questions, I’m confident that it could be done, since, in fact, it has been done time and time again for lo these many years—practically since the founding of the Church.

    Of course, the Web site has conveniently used its own brand of straw-man rhetoric to declare anyone who tries to counter their unassailable logic a mere apologist. Why, they even do you the favor of telling you just what an apologist will say. How convenient. Now I know that I can dismiss with extreme prejudice anyone who tries to argue against the authors of the list.

    Again, we do not shy away from honest inquiry. But that list is neither honest nor an inquiry. It’s more akin to the Pharisees who tried to catch the Savior in His words.

  13. But not at all like the modern-day pharasies to say it is wrong to watch certain movies, or drink certain kinds of sodas, etc.

    It is nice how you attack the list from an ad-homenim perspective, instead of dealing with the actual contradictions there.

    Ayway, I’m out. I’ll let you have the last word if you want it, and I’ll let you go back to the world where mormonism is greater than all get-out. have fun.

  14. Since measure76 has magnanimously given me the chance to have the last word on my own blog, I’ll do just that. My attack on the list of supposed contradictions in Mormon teachings was not ad hominem. I did not attack any person. I merely used some uncomplimentary words to describe the quality of logic found there. I stand by that assessment. Many of the items in the list rely on a misreading of scripture and statements of latter-day prophets, or at the very least on glaring omissions of mitigating statements, many of which could be found in the very sources quoted there. For these and other reasons, I said that the list is neither honest nor an inquiry. Again, I stand by that assessment. So I think I’ll take measure76′s advice and go back to the world where Mormonism is greater than all get-out—otherwise known as the real world.

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