It Has To Be Said

Jesus Christ is the center

There is a phrase we use in America (perhaps elsewhere too) that goes something like this, “it goes without saying.” We have all used it before. It is communicating that some fact is so inherently obvious that one does not have to articulate that fact to others. It is automatically understood. For example, “It goes without saying that one should pull the parachute cord when one jumps out of a plane at 30,000 feet.” It’s obvious and simply doesn’t need to be said. It “goes without saying.”

On the other hand, sometimes things go unsaid that should have been said. We take something or some knowledge for granted and assume that everyone else thinks, believes and knows what we think, believe and know.

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we sometimes leave things unsaid that absolutely need to be said, especially when others are listening and observing.  Let me explain.

In September of 1980, a Newsweek article about the Church was about to hit the newsstands.  The author and religion editor, Kenneth L. Woodward was well known for his “tell it how it is” style of writing and a practicing Catholic. Newsweek put a picture of the Salt Lake Temple on the front cover and adherents were waiting to see if someone from the “main-stream media” would finally get it right. Most were disappointed.

Woodward’s facts were pretty straight with a couple of cultural miscues but it was this phrase that inspired Mormons by the hundreds to write scathing rebuttals to Newsweek:

“…Mormons believe that men are born free of sin and earn their way to godhood by the proper exercise of free will, rather than through the grace of Jesus Christ.  Thus Jesus’ suffering and death in the Mormon view were brotherly acts of compassion, but they do not atone for the sins of others.” (Kenneth L. Woodward. “What Mormons Believe.”  Newsweek Sept. 1980: 68)

Are you kidding!?! Does he know the name of the Church? Did he read any of the Book of Mormon? Did he get a primary kid to recite the first Article of Faith? Clearly, Woodward asked a couple of his Monk friends about the Mormons, typed out a few things he had heard, called it good and hurried off to Mass. What a crock! And we were all crying foul.

Complaints in the “Letters to the Editor” section were filled with harsh words of “reproof” for weeks (without any “increase of love showing forth”).  How could he get it so wrong?

Finally his rebuttal was printed. Among his points, the following brought with it a rebuke and a real opportunity to see us as others see us. For those who understood, it was an epiphany of sorts.

“I did read several books of Mormon scripture and theology before writing the article. My intent, however, was not to review books but rather to report how representative members of the LDS Church describe and interpret their own traditions. . . .The point is to determine what doctrines of a church are genuinely infused into the lifeblood of its adherents.”

It was our fault. We did not represent, at least in the time he interviewed our members, what we really believed and who we really were. We somehow left it unsaid.

Our theology is so rich and deep. From the Atonement to the Restoration, to Temples, to Priesthood, to the degrees in heaven, to eternal marriage, and so many other wonderful doctrines that sometimes the fact that Jesus Christ is at the center of it all goes without saying. You and I know and believe what Joseph Smith said in the beginning years of the restoration,

“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and  Prophets,  concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and  ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only  appendages to it.” (History of the Church, 3:30.)

But if we don’t say it, if it “goes without saying” then our non-member friends, our less-active friends, our families become confused. They believe what we are actually saying, and like Woodward , get the wrong picture.

How do we clear up the confusion? How do we truly show what we really believe to the point that even the “main-stream media” gets it right? We simply connect the dots. We say it. We don’t leave it unsaid. When we talk about how the Book of Mormon has changed our life, we include that the book teaches about Christ. That He atoned for all of us. That it contains His visit to the people of the American continent.  When we teach our children about tithing, we teach them that in small part, it represents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and that as we sacrifice a little He will give us a lot.

In our talks, in our testimonies, in Family Home Evening, at work, at home, on the playground, at school we have to be obvious, conspicuous, bold in connecting everything about the Gospel back to its center, Jesus Christ. It simply can’t go without saying.

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6 Responses to It Has To Be Said

  1. Amanda Puffer says:

    Troy, this is one of my favorite subjects that you’ve given a talk on. I think about it all the time when talking to my friends now that we’re here at school. It’s so easy to let it go without saying and let the misconceptions stay. When talking to others about the church, I always try to incorporate the grace of Jesus Christ into our conversation. Thanks for being inspired! (Did you have trouble sleeping because you were so excited about the outcome of the championship? haha)

  2. Troy says:

    Thanks Amanda. I actually re-gave this one last Sunday. I was up watching the webcam of Toomers Corner. War Eagle!

  3. Christa-Ann Godsdaughter says:

    Well said Troy. Now would you consider writing something about how we cannot talk about God when we get together at church. You know socials and such. Now, I know that we are all at different places of understanding but if we do not let ourselves speak of God for fear of offending the ones with less understanding how are they to know that there is more to be reached for and how do we get to grow in the gospel and edify one another?

    I was 27 years old when I joined and I’ve been a member for 27 years and I have been privileged to be in several wards. And this issue is consistent, even here in Orem, Utah. Are we ashamed of God? Did Christ not say that for those who will speak for him he will in turn speak to the Father for?
    I tried to raise my children in the church and I recall my son saying “do you think those kids at church are any different than anyone else anywhere?!!”

    I have to admit I understand what he was saying now. I believe the Book of Mormon has a story about the Ramiumpton where people climb to the top of the ladder once a week and say I am so glad that I have the truth and I have been preserved, then they go about there business and never think about God or truth or integrity until it is time to go to the top of the ladder again.

    Oh, I can’t be perfect….yes, you can, the scriptures say so, after all you can do and then by the grace of Jesus Christ…I do not want to make others feel bad…how is this sharing our testimony as everything in the gospel testifies that we must do???….I have heard these excuses from the day I joined.

    I rejoice in the gospel. I know the greatest fullness upon the earth today is within the doctrine of this church (Mormons, LDS, Latter day Saints, The Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). I will testify wherever and however I can. And yes, I pay for that. But I have made covenants to honor him and witness of him and I will do all that I can to show that this is how he meant us to live…let the world do what they will this gospel is true and I will honor Jesus Christ, Heavenly Father, and the Holy Ghost.

    Thank you for giving me a place to share this. Best wishes in your journey of testimony, Christa-Ann

  4. Troy says:

    Hi Christa-Ann,

    Thank you so much for your comment. Not being ashamed to talk more about God the Father would be another good post. I have to smile, because often when we Latter-day Saints speak of Christ, we are also including the Father and the Holy Ghost but just not saying it. Perhaps it is one of those things that we leave unsaid far too often.

    In the October 2005 General Conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (one of my favorite) gave a talk called, The Grandeur of God. I think, perhaps, he felt a bit like you, that we are leaving God the Father out of our conversations, our adoration, our worship. Among other things he said, “ . . . Jesus did not come to improve God’s view of man nearly so much as He came to improve man’s view of God and to plead with them to love their Heavenly Father as He has always and will always love them.” It is a wonderful talk.

    Additionally, I believe we don’t understand or properly acknowledge the role of the Holy Ghost. He is far more than a mere “feeling” and is far more involved in our lives than we know. Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s first address after a long, painful period of cancer treatment gave special thanks to God the Father, Jesus Christ and then he said this, “but [praise]also to the Holy Ghost, about whom we speak less. Among His many roles I express my particular and personal gratitude today for the recent ways in which He has been the precious Comforter, including in the mid-night moments!” (April 1997) I miss Elder Maxwell.

    Again, thank you for your comment and insight.

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