PROVO — The restored gospel of Jesus Christ must be shared with all people — regardless of culture, ethnicity, religious background or heritage — and Latter-day Saints have an obligation to share their faith without arrogance or self-righteousness.
Speaking during the keynote session of the 84th annual Education Week at Brigham Young University, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf told thousands gathered at the Marriott Center Tuesday that when Jesus Christ established his church anciently, he knew there would be a great apostasy to follow.
Elder Uchtdorf, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Christ "established a divine pattern" for his church anciently, knowing that "future generations would recognize the same priesthood authority and structure" featuring apostles and a living prophet when the church was restored centuries later.
"Without the Prophet Joseph Smith (LDS Church founder), the world would still be in the same state of confusion and darkness" that existed during the Dark Ages with respect to religion, he said.
Latter-day Saints believe their faith is a restoration — rather than a reformation — of Christianity in its pure form, as revealed to Joseph Smith. Other faiths and historic religious figures were inspired by God at various times to keep the flame of belief alive, he said.
LDS prophets have recognized the goodness inherent in other faiths, and have urged believers of all stripes to build on their own beliefs by examining the LDS Church, he said.
Such was the experience of Elder Uchtdorf's mother-in-law, who was living in an apartment in Frankfurt, Germany, with her two daughters and was taught about the LDS faith by young missionaries in 1954. She was a lifelong Christian and was seeking greater knowledge of things spiritual shortly after her husband died.
She wanted to know the purpose of life, whether there was life before Earth life and what happens to the soul when a person dies. The information provided by other clergy had not helped her, he said.
After giving her a Book of Mormon and asking her to read selected passages, the missionaries returned two days later to ask about her impressions. She told them she had read the entire book and believed it was true. The family joined the church shortly thereafter.
"The spirit was able to teach her, for she was open and receptive to truth and light. There was no disdain for what she had believed in her Lutheran faith for so many years," he said, adding she had learned to quote and internalize many passages from the New Testament.
It prepared her to listen to the missionaries, he said. "When she heard the message of the restoration, she was flooded with light and filled with love and hope. 'It was as if something of great importance had been lifeless and inert but was now resurrected to life, beauty and activity,'" he said, quoting her recollection.
"She represents in many ways the multitude of converts that come into the church every day," from every faith and none at all, he said.
While Latter-day Saints should be willing to share their knowledge with everyone, "Having the fullness of the gospel should not cause any of us to feel arrogant or have a 'holier than thou' attitude," he said, but should inspire "great gratitude" for knowledge of the truth.
"Let us never be ashamed to testify of this restoration. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation."
Education Week runs through Friday and features scores of hourlong presentations on a variety of family and spiritual topics that run daily from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. For information, see the Web site at educationweek.byu.edu.