“Faith, Family, Facts, and Fruits”
by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
The growing prominence of the Church and the increasing inquiries from others present us with great opportunities to build bridges, make friends, and pass on accurate information.
Brothers and sisters, recently there has been a dramatic increase worldwide in inquiries about the Church. This growing interest is fueled by our rapid growth, by events like the Winter Olympics here in Salt Lake City, and by the prominence in their chosen professions of many of our individual members.
I am sure that these questions come not only to the Church but to you as individual members. It is not easy to explain something as vast as the Church or as wonderful as the restored gospel to people who know little or nothing about us. Even questions on one specific aspect can be difficult to answer because every question seems to be connected to other questions. The most common request we hear is a fairly simple one that goes something like this: “Tell me a little about your Church.” We, of course, welcome people’s interest, and many will want to be taught more about our doctrines and beliefs. This is why we have over 53,000 full-time missionaries serving at their own expense throughout the world. [Today, in 2017, there are 75,000 missionaries serving.]
But we need to remember that there is a difference between interest and mere curiosity. Sometimes people just want to know what the Church is. Those who are curious in this general way deserve clear and accurate information that comes directly from those of us who are members so that they do not have to rely on the incomplete answers, half-truths, or false statements that may come from the media or other outside voices. The many misunderstandings and false information about the Church are somewhat our own fault for not clearly explaining who we are and what we believe.
Here are four subjects that will help someone today to gain a basic understanding of the Church. Under each of the four headings, there are some simple statements I have found helpful. The four main subjects deal with facts, faith, families, and fruits of the restored gospel.
Some facts about the church include:
- First, “Mormon” is a nickname for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members are often referred to as “Mormons”, “Latter-day Saints”, or “LDS”. The term “saint” means “member”.
- Second, the Church was restored in 1830 in upstate New York with Joseph Smith as its first prophet and president. Today it is headquartered in Salt Lake City, with President Gordon B. Hinckley as the present prophet. [Today, in 2017, President Thomas S. Monson presides over the church.]
- Third, there are now over 13 million members in 176 countries and territories. About 6 million of these are in the United States, making us the fourth largest Christian denomination in America. As one of the fastest growing Christian faiths in the world, we complete a new chapel every working day. Members pay a tithe, which is 10 percent of their income, making this and other programs possible.
- Fourth, local congregations are led by volunteer, unpaid members. Both men and women serve in assigned leadership positions.
- And fifth, Mormons are well represented in politics and government. (In the United States, for example, there are 16 members in Congress, from both political parties.) Members also serve in high and trusted positions throughout the world in business, medicine, law, education, media, sports, and entertainment.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our faith includes being committed Christians with strong traditional values. We emphasize that:
- We believe in the eternity of the soul, that God is the Father of our spirits, and that we can return to Him after death.
- We believe that Jesus Christ is our personal Savior, and we try to model our lives after Him and His teachings. We commemorate Christ’s atoning sacrifice in our Sunday worship services, similar to taking communion in other churches. We accept as fellow Christians all who believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God and the Savior of all mankind. Many Christians do not understand that we have much common ground with them. Joseph Smith taught that Jesus Christ is the core of our belief, and everything else is an appendage to it (see Elders’ Journal, July 1838, 44). The name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- We believe the original church that Jesus established was lost and has been restored again in our day. The priesthood, the authority given to man to act in the name of God, with apostles and a prophet to lead us, has been restored as have all necessary ordinances of salvation.
- We believe in and we use the Holy Bible, both the Old and New Testaments.
- And we believe in the Book of Mormon and other books of scripture which support and authenticate the Bible and testify of the ministry and divinity of Christ and of God’s ongoing revelation to man. Indeed, the Book of Mormon is ‘Another Testament of Jesus Christ’.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our theology and our lifestyles are family-centered. Here are some simple statements about the importance we place on families:
- Our members place particularly strong emphasis on family as the basic unit of the Church and of society. We have a deep commitment to marriage (defined as a union between one man and one woman). Polygamy, a limited practice in the early pioneer days of the Church, was discontinued in 1890, some 117 years ago.
- Families and individuals, whether members of our faith or not, can attend Sunday services in our chapels. Here we worship together, instructing one another from the scriptures.
- Latter-day Saint families are encouraged to hold family home evenings weekly, usually on Monday nights. This provides a regular and predictable time for parents to teach values to their children and to have fun together. We invite those not of our faith to adopt this practice with their own families.
- The Church has auxiliary programs for women, youth, and children as a support to the family. These programs provide such things as religious instruction, opportunities for Christian service, sports, drama, music, and Scouting.
- And there is also much focus on extended family, genealogy, and personal family history, providing young and old with a stronger sense of roots, identity, and belonging. The highest and most sacred ordinances of our faith relate to our families, both living and dead, and some of these ordinances take place in our
The Savior said “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew ; emphasis added). A church, or any way of life, should be judged by the fruits or the results that it generates. Here are a few examples based on United States statistics. But these would be similar throughout the world among practicing Mormons (by which we mean those who attend church and the temple regularly):
- One of the fruits is a longer life. Studies show that practicing members of our church are healthier and therefore live longer than the national average. In 1833 the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith the Word of Wisdom, which is the way to live in order to enjoy a long and healthy life.
- Second, those who are married in and attend the temple regularly have a divorce rate far below the national and world average.
- Third, we achieve an educational level that is higher than the national average.
- Fourth, over 70,000 members volunteer at their own expense to serve for 18 to 24 months in humanitarian efforts, Church service assignments, and full-time missionary service throughout the world.
- And fifth, we place strong emphasis on self-reliance and a solid work ethic. We encourage active involvement in our communities and in providing service to others. The Church continues to donate substantial money, goods, and services to humanitarian causes around the globe, including untold hours of labor
donated by members to assist in disaster cleanup and relief.