The following is an excerpt of the transcript of Elder M. Russell Ballard’s speech given at Brigham Young University-Hawaii’s graduation ceremony on 15 December 2007. It is very good and well worth the reading in its entirety here:
(the highlighting is my own doing)
There is perhaps no other time in its history when the Church has received more attention from the news media and on the Internet than right now. Obviously, that is being driven by the fact that one of our faith, Mitt Romney, is seeking the office of President of the United States. It’s as if a national conversation is going on about the Church. The Church, of course, is politically neutral. We do not get involved in politics. Still, because of this attention Public Affairs is making a concerted effort to define the message of the Restoration rather than letting others define our beliefs.
That word conversation is important. There are conversations going on about the Church constantly. Those conversations will continue whether or not we choose to participate in them. But we cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches. While some conversations have audiences in the thousands or even millions, most are much, much smaller. But all conversations have an impact on those who participate in them. Perceptions of the Church are established one conversation at a time.
The challenge is that there are too many people participating in conversation about the Church for our Church personnel to converse with and respond to individually. We cannot answer every question, satisfy every inquiry, and respond to every inaccuracy that exists. As I said at General Conference in October, we need to remember that there is a difference between interest and mere curiosity. Sometimes people just want to know what the Church is. And some who seek answers want them to come directly from a member of the Church, like each one of you. They appreciate one-on-one conversations.
Now all of you know that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are reminded and encouraged continually to share the gospel with others. The Church is always looking for the most effective ways to declare our message. Preaching the gospel of the Restoration has always been special to me. I loved being a missionary in England. I loved being a mission president in Canada. And I love my present calling which allows me opportunities to share the message of the Restoration of the Gospel to the world and to testify that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in 1820. Through Joseph the gospel that Jesus established in New Testament times was brought back. It had been lost with the deaths of the apostles of old. I can share with the world the knowledge that priesthood authority, the doctrine and the ordinances of the New Testament Church, are once again on the earth. This is the most important work that we can participate in.
Now, to you who are graduating today, along with the other students at this wonderful university, may I ask that you join the conversation by participating on the Internet, particularly the New Media, to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration. Most of you already know that if you have access to the Internet you can start a blog in minutes and begin sharing what you know to be true. You can download videos from Church and other appropriate sites, including Newsroom at LDS.org, and send them to your friends. You can write to media sites on the Internet that report on the Church, and voice your views as to the accuracy of the reports. This, of course, requires that you understand the basic principles of the gospel.
We are living in a world saturated with all kinds of voices. Perhaps now, more than ever, we have a major responsibility as Latter-day Saints to define ourselves, instead of letting others define us. Far too many people have a poor understanding of the Church because most of the information they hear about us is from news media reports that are often driven by controversies. Too much attention to controversy has a negative impact on peoples’ perceptions of what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints really is.
Please continue reading here: