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Elder Ronald A. Rasband, left, greets Nasr-Eddin Mofarah, Sudan’s minister of religious affairs in Bologna, Italy.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband, left, greets the Honorable Nasr-Eddin Mofarah, Sudan’s minister of religious affairs, in the Grand Hotel Majestic, a historic hotel in Bologna, Italy, on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021.
Tad Walch, Deseret News

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The importance of Christ’s name at the G20 Interfaith Forum

This article was first published as the ChurchBeat newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox weekly.

BOLOGNA, Italy — After Elder Ronald A. Rasband spoke at the G20 Interfaith Forum here on Monday, I had the opportunity to interview him alongside Doug Wilks, executive editor of the Deseret News.

Because the forum’s theme was “Time to Heal,” Doug asked him, “Can the world be healed?”

Elder Rasband already had expressed good cheer, calling himself “an optimist times 10,” and was encouraged by his meetings during the forum with government and faith leaders from around the world.

“And to be here and have these visits and have heads of state ministers, a patriarch and others want to visit with the church and talk about actionable items, I’m very optimistic,” he said.

He answered the question about healing the world with a statement and an experience.

“The great healer is Jesus Christ the Lord,” Elder Rasband said. “I’m an optimist. I believe that healing can take place, if people will humble themselves and approach God the Father, who is the father of us all, and Jesus Christ, his son.”

Elder Rasband had addressed a session of the forum with several other speakers, and he had noted their repeated concerns about the rise of hate speech around the world. He spoke passionately about the violence and depredations perpetrated against early Latter-day Saints.

“Yes, ladies and gentlemen, an extermination order in the United States of America,” he said during his presentation, his deep voice resonating against the walls of a stone hall in the 775-year-old Palazzo Re Enzo, a medieval red-brick palace.

The international audience gasped audibly.

“There were some visible heads turned,” said Elder Jack N. Gerard, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church Communication Department.

During our interview a few hours later, Elder Rasband talked about the experience and a decision he made in the moment as he neared the end of his talk.

“I had an interesting moment today,” he said, “and it had to do with how I was going to end my talk. I’d been through listening to seven other speakers. None of them closed in any faith-tradition way, in the name of God or anything like that. When it came to me, I had a moment of, ‘Do I just say thank you to this group, or do I close In the name of Jesus Christ?’ And I remembered who I was, and I thought, ‘The Lord would have me say his name to conclude this message.’ And so I did, and I was the only speaker today that invoked the name of the Lord or even deity, to my knowledge. I felt that was a very important thing to declare his name, ‘In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

“So I’m an optimist,” he continued. “I’m an optimist about healing, but I also know the signs of the times, and I know the difficulty that is going to happen in our days. But we can certainly be healers. We can certainly have that message and encourage others to do so with us, all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Correction: Last week’s email incorrectly stated that the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is currently a member of the NAACP national board of directors. He served on the board from from 2008 to 2020.

My recent stories

The world’s hunger calamity is spiraling out of control. Here’s how Latter-day Saint Charities has responded (Sept. 14)

In Italy, Elder Rasband tells global faith leaders: ‘The world needs us’ (Sept. 13)

G20 Interfaith Forum is all about connections and solving world problems, religious leaders say (Sept. 12)

What I’m reading

A judge granted the church’s motion for summary judgment to dismiss the lawsuit filed by James Huntsman, who left the church and then wanted his tithing contributions returned. A summary judgment typically means the motion showed “that no genuine issue of material fact exists,” according to the Cornell Law School.

A BYU professor is trying to help a family get out of Afghanistan.

My friend Jeff Call, who wrote a wonderful feature story on Tanner McKee when he was on his mission in Brazil, now has written about the splash McKee is making as a returned missionary quarterback at Stanford.

The BYU student who defaced LGBTQ chalk art is no longer enrolled at the school.

One journalist had a surprise special tour during the Pocatello Idaho Temple open house.

Elder Rasband shared the story of America’s persecution of the Latter-day Saints in the 1800s. This story from a British newspaper recalls persecution in England.

On Sept. 11, tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints participated in community service projects nationwide to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the tragic attacks on the United States.

The church has agreed to pay $250 million to the Boy Scouts of America for a $1 billion fund for those who have filed claims over sexual abuse.

The Caldor Fire did indeed burn through the site at Tragedy Springs, California, that memorializes the deaths of three members of the Mormon Battalion, as I wrote a few weeks ago. The graves, stone cairn and plaque at the site survived, but surrounding trees burned.

Elder Lance B. Wickman published a firsthand account of the attack on the Pentagon and fleeing Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001.

President Russell M. Nelson turned 97.

The Boston Red Sox teach deep breathing to all the hitters in their organization (paywall).

ESPN published a long look at the NCAA’s problems. One of the big quotes is from a Latter-day Saint:

“Being a university president right now is like getting a 1,000-piece puzzle on your doorstep every morning, and then the next morning you get another 1,000-piece puzzle and it’s totally different,” West Virginia University president Gordon Gee said on June 22 in Dallas after a meeting about playoff expansion. “I’ve been a university president for 41 years. I’ve never dealt with a pandemic, I’ve never dealt with all of the mix-up in terms of college athletics. I’ve never dealt with all of the mental health issues. Our students are under tremendous strain. The country is sort of upside down in its political configuration. As a university president, we’re in the middle of the storm. We’re catching javelins, and we don’t know where they’re coming from.”

The Athletic (paywall) published a look at BYU leaving the West Coast Conference for the Big 12. WCC commissioner Gloria Nevarez talked about how BYU fit in the WCC despite being different from the other faith-based schools in the conference:

Especially if one of those options includes a revamped WCC. The league has long stood firm in its membership profile, including faith-based, private schools from the West Coast (Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, Portland, Santa Clara, San Diego, San Francisco and Loyola Marymount are all Catholic schools; Pepperdine is affiliated with the Church of Christ) and Pacific is a Methodist institution. That’s what made BYU, despite the “800-pound gorilla” of football, as Nevarez calls it, a good fit. “When they said, ‘We can’t play on Sunday,’” she said, “our league was like, ‘OK!’”

Behind the scenes

Elder Ronald A. Rasband and Rabbi Gady Gronich talk immediately after the session in which they both addressed the G20 Interfaith Forum in Bologna, Italy on Sept. 13, 2021. Gronich stepped back up to the microphone at the end and pleaded for faiths to work together to accelerate positive changes in the world. Elder Rasband invited him to visit church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Tad Walch, Deseret News
Italian men and boys play a game of five-on-five soccer in Bologna, Italy.
I found these boys and men playing five-on-five soccer at 11:30 p.m. in a fenced field near our hotel in Bologna, Italy, during our stay there to cover Elder Ronald A. Rasband’s visit. It was one of three games going on within a small complex.
Tad Walch, Deseret News
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