Admonitions from General Conference to Defend the Church

The 183rd Annual General Conference of the Church featured, among other things, remarks by three General Authorities that touched on the importance of members to sustain and defend the Church.

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles began his remarks in the priesthood session with the following, “As bearers of the priesthood, we have the responsibility to stand strong with a shield of faith against the fiery darts of the adversary. We are role models to the world, protecting God-given, inalienable rights and freedoms. We stand in defense of our homes and our families.” Elder Hales then related an anecdote from his youth.

 When I was in the ninth grade, I returned from my first out-of-town game with the varsity baseball team. My father discerned that on the long bus ride home I had witnessed language and behavior that was not in harmony with the standards of the gospel. Being a professional artist, he sat down and drew a picture of a knight—a warrior capable of defending castles and                   kingdoms.

This experience, Elder Hales said, taught him “how to be a faithful priesthood holder–to protect and defend the kingdom of God.”[1]

Later, in the same session of conference, President Thomas S. Monson directly admonished, “Obey the counsel of the Apostle Peter, who urged, ‘Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.’ Lift up your voices and testify to the true nature of the Godhead. Declare your witness concerning the Book of Mormon. Convey the glorious and beautiful truths contained in the plan of salvation.”[2] It is important to note President Monson’s emphasis that our readiness to defend the Church should include declaring our testimonies of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and the truths of the restored gospel. This counsel would seem to contradict any wish to compromise or abandon these truths in order to find better acceptance in the eyes of mainstream, non-Mormon communities.

The final remarks on defending the Church came from Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who quoted the same scripture as President Monson. “We also pray for our own opportunities to share the gospel. The Apostle Peter said, ‘Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh … a reason [for] the hope that is in you.’[3]

It is interesting to note how these three General Authorities each understood the importance of defending the Church in different ways. Elder Hales emphasized the importance of staying true to the values of the Church in our daily walk, while President Monson and Elder Andersen both understood 1 Peter 3:15 as being an important scriptural injunctive that prompts us to defend the Church by sharing testimony and taking advantages of missionary opportunities (cf. Mosiah 18:9). These different opinions on how to defend the Church are not contradictory, and actually nicely inform us on how we should do such; namely, both in word and deed.

In order to follow the counsel from these three prophets, seers, and revelators, one must, of course, therefore engage in what is commonly called “apologetics”. Indeed, the Greek word used in 1 Peter 3:15 that is translated as “answer” in the KJV is απολογιαν. It is derived from the same word (απολογια) from which comes our modern word “apologetics”. It appears also in Philippians 1:17, where Paul informs us he has been called to the ministry “for the defence [απολογιαν] of the gospel.”

Quite literally (or, as the Germans would most appropriately say in this situation, buchstäblich), 1 Peter 3:15 teaches us to make an apologetic (or apology, in the classical sense) for our belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ, both in expressing our convictions to others and in living our lives as Saints. If we, therefore, are to take the example of Paul and the teachings of President Monson and Elders Hales and Andersen seriously, we should do just such, and give an απολογιαν for the restored Gospel.


[1] Robert D. Hales, “Stand Strong in Holy Places,” online at http://www.lds.org/general-conference/print/2013/04/stand-strong-in-holy-places?lang=eng

[2] Thomas S. Monson, “Come, All Ye Sons of God,” online at http://www.lds.org/general-conference/print/2013/04/come-all-ye-sons-of-god?lang=eng, internal citation removed.

[3] Neil L. Andersen, “It’s a Miracle,” online at http://www.lds.org/general-conference/print/2013/04/its-a-miracle?lang=eng

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