Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — the second highest governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — answered questions most frequently asked by the news media. His responses help define the Church in the public mind — especially among journalists — at a time when it has become the subject of nationwide discussion. The following is a transcript of the interview:
Was Joseph Smith a prophet? Are prophets necessary today?
Going clear back to the days of Adam, of Gods dealings with His children, He has always dealt with them through a prophet. Abraham was a prophet. Moses was a prophet. Of course the Lord Jesus Christ himself, the greatest of all prophets. So why people would have any hesitancy in accepting a prophet is kind of a mystery at least to me. The fullness of the gospel had to be brought back. It was lost. How could God possibly bring it back except the way He had done through all generations of time? He raised up a prophet and this prophet was Joseph Smith. We just can’t comprehend why anybody wouldn’t be anything but excited to know that God has raised up a prophet again as He has done over the generations of time.
Is there scientific proof authenticating the Book of Mormon?
I don’t believe that’s how people will ever come to know whether or not the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I remember an experience that I had as mission president some years ago when I presided over the affairs of the Church in Eastern Canada. I met with about 30 different ministers of different religions and then I let them ask me questions and the very first question I was asked was by a fine minister who said, “Mr. Ballard, if you just give us the gold plates and let us see that they exist, then we would know that the Book of Mormon is true.” And I looked at him and I said, “Father, you know better than that. You’re a man of the cloth. You know that God has never revealed religious truth to the heart and soul of a man or a woman except by the power of the spirit. Now you could have those plates, you could turn the pages, you could look at it, you could hold it, and you wouldn’t know any more after that experience whether or not the book is true than you would have before. My question to you; have you ever read the Book of Mormon?” And he said, “No, I haven’t.” That’s how people will come to know whether or not the Book of Mormon is true. You will not get to know it by trying to prove it archeologically or by DNA or by anything else in my judgment. Just pick it up and read it and pray about it and you will come to know religious truth is always confirmed by what you feel and that’s the way Heavenly Father answers prayers.
Are you Christian? What is the role of Jesus Christ in your faith?
It’s a privilege to bear witness and testimony to the whole world that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. He is the Savior and the Redeemer of the world and in our doctrine He is the head of the Church. This is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What that means is, in our great message to the word, is that the gospel as the Savior established it in His day, that it was lost, it’s been restored in these latter-days, therefore it is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He’s the center of all that we do, all that we hope to be, all of our dreams and future aspirations are centered in our belief in Jesus Christ and our willingness to know what His teachings are and to strive to keep His commandments.
Do you worship Jesus Christ in your Church services?
Anyone that visits The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is welcome and you would be, they would be impressed, totally, with the devotion and the center of our faith being Jesus Christ, the son of God. You would hear the name of Jesus Christ mentioned time after time after time. We pray in His name. We teach in His name. We have the communion, or the sacrament we call it, all in His name in remembrance of His atoning sacrifice. We partake of the bread and the water in renewing our covenants we’ve made with Him. When the meeting is concluded we close it in the name of Jesus Christ.
Why do some people say your Church is a cult?
I think it is a matter of misunderstanding. I think it’s a matter of characterization that has grown up over the generations of time by the lack of understanding. Now let me explain to you what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really is. We will begin by those common bases that we all, all Christians accept; that Jesus is the Christ, He is the Son of God, He’s our Savior, He’s our Redeemer and we love Him. But there has now been additional information, additional scripture, additional guidance has now been given to us through the restoration. Let me tell you what that is. My experience all over the world as people are willing to sit down and listen, they may not believe or accept but they embrace the fact you have your belief and I have mine, I now know you’re not a cult, you are as believing in Jesus as the Christ, the savior of the world, as anybody I‘ve ever talked to.
How are your beliefs similar to other Christians?
Well I think our main beliefs with other Christians is, of course, focused on accepting Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. That has to be number one. I think there is a lot of similarity in, in belief as to the values and what a Christ-like life ought to be. I think that, that is generally taught in all Christian faiths and I think that there’s a commonality in accepting the Bible as the word of God and the teachings by which we come to know more and more about the Savior and who we are and what our relationship is to eternity. I think that would be some of the three things that are familiar.
How do your beliefs differ from other Christians?
Three things that would separate us is that we believe in a restoration, that the fullness of the gospel, including the priesthood or the authority to act in the name of God on the earth, that that’s been restored. We believe there is additional scripture that has been given to answer more clearly life’s great questions. We would also have a, we have a belief of understanding that we’re the spirit sons and daughters of God, that we lived with him before we came here. That is very precious to us and our Father in Heaven is very real to us as literally our father, the father of our spirit and we seek to find our way back into His presence.
Does your Church support political candidates?
We as a Church do not get involved in political candidates of any persuasion. The reason we don’t is because we have Republicans and we have Democrats and we have Independents and we have Libertarians and we have on and on and on who are faithful Latter-day Saints. So the Church is politically neutral, but we teach our people that it’s our duty to seek out and find good honest men and women of value, with values and virtue and honestly and integrity and encourage them to run for office and then to use their agency to vote for whomever they choose. The Church does not tell anyone how to use that agency, but as a principle we have an obligation as, as citizens of our countries wherever we happen to live, be it in the United States or in other countries, to do our part to find good honest people to lead us and that’s just part of our doctrine, but we are politically neutral and we are not telling our people to support and to back any candidate.