Elder Perry’s advice for talking about the Church

Last weekend’s General Conference was, as usual, a spiritual feast. I always look forward to and love General Conference. I want to share a few quotes from Elder Perry’s talk that I think are very relevant to modern LDS apologetics. While this talk is probably a few years late, it is especially relevant in this time when Mormonism seems to be a common topic of conversation in the American media. Some have called this the “Mormon moment”, but whatever it is we need more and more Latter-day Saints to pay attention and to participate in the conversations. Elder Perry provides some advice for how to go about engaging with non-LDS:

Next, speak up about the Church. In the course of our everyday lives, we are blessed with many opportunities to share our beliefs with others. When our professional and personal associates inquire about our religious beliefs, they are inviting us to share who we are and what we believe. They may or may not be interested in the Church, but they are interested in getting to know us at a deeper level.

My recommendation to you is to accept their invitations. Your associates are not inviting you to teach, preach, expound, or exhort. Engage them in a two-way conversation—share something about your religious beliefs but also ask them about their beliefs. Gauge the level of interest by the questions they ask. If they are asking a lot of questions, focus the conversation on answering those questions. Always remember that it is better for them to ask than for you to tell.

And this:

We should appreciate and approach such conversations with Christlike love. Our tone, whether speaking or writing, should be respectful and civil, regardless of the response of others. We should be honest and open and try to be clear in what we say. We want to avoid arguing or becoming defensive in any way.

And this:

Today’s “manner of conversation” seems to involve the Internet more and more. We encourage people, young and old, to use the Internet and the social media to reach out and share their religious beliefs.

As you utilize the Internet, you may come across ongoing conversations about the Church. When directed by the Spirit, do not hesitate to add your voice to these conversations.

And this:

In speaking about the Church, we do not try to make it sound better than it is. We do not need to put a spin on our message. We need to communicate the message honestly and directly. If we will open communication channels, the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ will prove itself to those who are prepared to receive it.

And finally, this:

There is sometimes a wide difference—a gulf of understanding—between the way we experience the Church from the inside and the way others look at it from the outside. This is the principal reason we hold open houses for temples before each dedication is taken care of. The member volunteers at the temple open houses are simply trying to help others see the Church as they see it from the inside. They recognize the Church is a marvelous work, even a wonder, and they want others to know it too. I ask you to do the same.

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3 comments on “Elder Perry’s advice for talking about the Church

  1. Nathan000000 says:

    I. LOVED. This. Talk. And I don’t remember counsel quite like this from conference talks on missionary work when I was a kid (of course, that may be because I was snoozing). Here’s one reason I love it:

    In any talk or lesson about missionary work, people often say how nervous it makes them, the idea of sharing their beliefs—usually because they don’t feel like they can perfectly articulate answers to common questions. Elder Perry’s advice to “also ask them about their beliefs” is key to overcoming that fear. Once you’ve spent some time asking others about their beliefs, you quickly see that they don’t always know how to perfectly articulate their beliefs either. Then it dawns on you that no one expects you to have the perfect response right off the bat. Your average, decent person will empathize if you struggle to put into words your most deep-seated beliefs. Once you realize that there’s no need for a high expectation to get it exactly right on your first try, then it takes a lot of the stress out of sharing the gospel. That’s why it’s so important to ask just as many questions as you answer.

  2. James says:

    Thanks Nathan. I also think that asking others about their own religious beliefs is a powerful tool to overcoming fear. My experience is that, by and large, Latter-day Saints actually know their own religion much better than they think they do. They aren’t likely to get a question they can’t answer, and if they do there are now plenty of online resources.

    • Aaron says:

      I thought it was funny how Elder Perry’s talk was in the same session as Elder Ardern’s talk that basically said to stop wasting so much time on Facebook. I guess doing missionary work on Facebook makes it okay to be on there :)

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