• 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

Commentary on Elder Nelson’s Article on Abortion

Elder Russell M. Nelson’s article in this month’s Ensign immediately received a bit of attention in the bloggernacle. In “Abortion: An Assault on the Defenseless,” Elder Nelson puts forth the Church’s position and doctrine related to the practice, and he offers a few of his own opinions on related issues, such as the debate over when “meaningful life” begins. The reactions to this article have been quite interesting to observe. Here are a few of the online discussions about it:

Now that a little time has passed and everyone’s moved on to other matters, here’s my take on all this talk.

As always, the bloggernacle ignores the substance of the article and focuses instead on the seemingly more controversial or political issues related to it. Fine. That’s their prerogative. But frankly, I’m a little less interested in whether the article was timed to influence U.S. elections than in what Elder Nelson actually has to say about abortion. Why aren’t people discussing that? Is it too straightforward for them? Too predictable? Whatever the reason, it apparently doesn’t warrant much discussion in the bloggernacle. But then again, most of what the current Church leaders are actually saying gets short shrift there, so it’s par for the course.

In addition, does anyone sincerely believe that Elder Nelson would have written this article for purely political purposes, or as a mere academic plaything for the self-appointed intelligentsia? Think about it. When was the last time a Church publication discussed this issue in such detail? If there’s any timing involved in the publication of this article, it’s more likely the long-range, multigenerational timing of the Church’s influence over its members than some partisan agenda.

If you talk to bishops and LDS Family Services counselors, many of them will tell you that they have counseled young women who either had an abortion or were considering an abortion and were apparently unaware of the Church’s teachings and disciplinary policy on the matter. This sort of situation is, in part, what Elder Nelson is trying to address in his article, I think.

Now, of course, Elder Nelson also discusses abortion as a matter of public policy, so it’s fair to talk about his article in a political context. But even if Elder Nelson carefully planned the timing of this article, in collusion with the General Authorities and Church employees who oversee and run the Church magazines, so what? Perhaps he saw election time as the perfect time for Church members to be discussing the matter since it may be on people’s minds anyway. He still doesn’t tell anyone which party or candidate to vote for. He merely infuses a bit of Church doctrine and policy into the debate. In his argumentation he is careful to label some statements as his own opinion, though those statements are made in support of a larger argument regarding the Church’s official teachings. If all of this upsets people or doesn’t harmonize with their political ideas, so be it. But it shouldn’t be ignored and labeled as purely political.

In any event, I’m glad to see that the Brethren are still speaking out on a variety of moral issues, knowing that they’ll be criticized both from without and from within. And I’m glad that the Church magazines provide a channel for them to publish their words.

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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.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson

Elder D. Todd Christofferson was sustained as the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles this morning. I find him to be very sharp, spiritual, and insightful—for a lawyer. Here is a list of articles of his that have appeared in the Church magazines.

“Becoming a Witness of Christ,” Ensign, Mar. 2008, 58

“Let Us Be Men,” Ensign, Nov. 2006, 46

“A Sense of the Sacred,” New Era, June 2006, 28

“Friend to Friend: Seeking Him in Prayer,” Friend, Feb. 2006, 8

“Allegiance to God,” Ensign, Jan. 2005, 8

“When Thou Art Converted,” Ensign, May 2004, 11

“That They May Be One in Us,” Ensign, Nov. 2002, 71

“Justification and Sanctification,” Ensign, June 2001, 18

“The Redemption of the Dead and the Testimony of Jesus,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 9

“The Priesthood Quorum,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 40

“Friend to Friend,” Friend, Mar. 1995, 6

“I Know in Whom I Have Trusted,” Ensign, May 1993, 83

Elder Quentin L. Cook—A Willing Heart and Mind

In this month’s Ensign there is a profile of Elder Quentin L. Cook. First of all, I have always found it interesting that the Ensign’s biographical sketches of newly called members of the Quorum of the Twelve are always authored by other members of that quorum. In this case, the choice of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was a no-brainer, since he and Elder Cook served together in the British Mission. Elder Holland writes:
 
“We were profoundly affected by our mission president, Elder Marion D. Hanks, then of the First Council of the Seventy. To all of his missionaries, he emphasized discipleship and determination. He taught us to love the Savior, to cherish the Book of Mormon, to be true to the Church and the gospel for the rest of our lives. Now, more than 45 years later, it is a rare occasion to have two former missionary companions serving together in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.”
 
This article contains several facts and stories that give a good idea of the kind of person Elder Cook is: humble, dedicated, intelligent, competent, and tender-hearted. To this I’ll simply add my personal insight into the man. I’ve had occasion to meet him a number of times, and he has always been kind and gracious. When we first spoke, I told him that we were connected through a common ancestor as well as through his acquaintance with an aunt of mine, whom he went to school with. Since then, every time we’ve met he’s asked me how my aunt is doing, and he’s genuinely interested. My aunt has always lived alone and has sometimes felt overlooked, so it means a lot to me to be able to tell her that Elder Cook asked about her.
 
Read the rest of the article to learn more about this newest special witness of the Savior.

Band of Brothers

For openers, I’d like to highlight the article “Band of Brothers” by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this month’s Ensign magazine. In it Elder Wirthlin discusses the lessons we can learn from the experiences of Easy Company, a group of World War II paratroopers whose story is recounted in Stephen Ambrose’s book Band of Brothers. (For you at FMH, Elder Wirthlin says right up front, “Please understand that when I speak of ‘brotherhood,’ I include our wonderful and indispensable sisters in that definition.”)

 
The message has to do with the relationships we form with one another in our Church assignments. Elder Wirthlin says, “Establishing a bond of brotherhood is critical. If those who serve with you feel this mutual love and trust, the work of the Lord will thrive and heaven will aid you in your efforts. Fail to establish this bond, however, and you may find your work tedious, toilsome, and unproductive.”

Among other things, Elder Wirthlin discusses the value of a great cause in establishing this bond of brotherhood and sisterhood. He notes, “You can get people to work by using threats or promising rewards. But if you want to create a band of brothers, you must inspire those who work with you and encourage them to give their all in a great cause.”

I find this a remarkable message from a man whose addresses I always enjoy reading. This one was originally given at a seminar for new mission presidents in 2006. I can see how it may apply particularly to mission life, but it has wise counsel for us all.

I’m dealing with some difficulties in my present Church calling because of those who create cliques and foster an “us-against-them” attitude between different groups within the ward. I’m going to see if I can use Elder Wirthlin’s words to inspire some change.