There has recently been discussion about Millenials and why many may be leaving organized religion on the whole. While the claim that the young are leaving the Church in droves is overwrought, the discussion of why organized religion has less of a grip on my generation has been fascinating.
In particular, I have been thinking about the argument that our generation simply isn’t interested in the questions that motivated Joseph Smith. Does the question of which Church is true simply not resonate? And what about eternal questions such as where we come from or what our purpose is on earth? Is it possible that we are less interested in coming to know absolute truth and less willing to even accept the notion of absolute truth?
And if so, should we soften our focus on being the True Church and focus more on universal christlike teachings?
Elder LeGrand Richards in his April 1972 talk The True Church made it clear why we cannot and can never do so
He emphasized that “the most important message to go out to all the world today” is the fact that Christ’s true Church was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. He emphasized that “[t]here is no message in this world today that could be told that would be as valuable to our neighbors and our friends who are not members of this church as to bear witness” of the First Vision of Joseph Smith and the restoration of his Gospel.
We need to teach to everyone with clarity that there is a true and living Church on the face of the earth. Why is that so important to explain? Because ultimately, any Church that is not led by the living Christ cannot lead to eternal life. “Anybody could organize a church and take from the scriptures certain passages and base their church upon that, but how can they take a living branch from a dead tree?”If the roots of the tree are not vibrant and alive, then grafting in even the best branches will never bring life.
No other Church can provide the things that our Church can. One of my favorite quotes from Preach my Gospel comes from Elder Oaks who explained: “We do not preach and teach in order to ‘bring people into the Church’ or to increase the membership of the Church. We do not preach and teach just to persuade people to live better lives. … We invite all to come unto Christ by repentance and baptism and confirmation in order to open the doors of the celestial kingdom to the sons and daughters of God. No one else can do this” (“The Purpose of Missionary Work,” missionary satellite broadcast, Apr. 1995).
If the world has moved away from caring about such a conception of truth, we must nevertheless teach and testify of it. We must help people understand that it matters which Church they join. It matters what they believe. These things truly do have eternal consequences.
If relitavism is the illness of our day, then the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the solution.
Elder Richards makes a bold declaration, but one that is ultimately correct. He notes that when Jesus came, he no longer preached of the Prophets of old but told his followers to preach of him. He declares that “[i]n that same sense, we know nothing by the restoration of the gospel, that it was brought by the Son of Man himself . . . and woe be unto us if we share not these marvelous truths with the world.”
This is our unique message to the world. It is the power to unite families forever. It is the power to seal on earth as it is in heaven. It is the blessing of being guided by apostles and prophets and the voice of the living Christ. It is the answer to all that ails modern society. This is the truth that the world needs even if it does not know desperately it needs it.