Primary General Presidency Teaches How to Be a “Defender of Zion”

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News Staff Writer

  • 11 May 2018

Sister Joy D. Jones, General Primary President, and her counselors, Sister Lisa L. Harkness and Sister Cristina B. Franco, speak at BYU Women’s Conference on May 4.  Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.

Article Highlights

  • An unshakable testimony can be obtained by anyone who desires it.
  • True doctrine reveals the lies of Satan.
  • We can show respect while still addressing disagreements.

“Sisters, I promise you that whether it’s in the boardroom or the bakery, at some point, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, you will be called upon to articulate what you know and believe.” —Sister Joy D. Jones, General Primary President

PROVO, UTAH

Courage and courtesy are necessary in defending faith, taught the Primary General Presidency during a session of BYU Women’s Conference held in the Marriott Center at Brigham Young University on May 4.

After standing together and singing with the congregation, “Do as I’m Doing,” the Primary General Presidency—Sister Joy D. Jones, Sister Lisa L. Harkness, and Sister Cristina B. Franco—addressed participants about how individuals can be “defenders of Zion.”

As disciples of Jesus Christ, each individual must be prepared to articulate what he or she believes, the presidency taught.

“It may be that in our daily lives, some of us are seldom asked to stand—literally or figuratively—to defend the gospel of Jesus Christ and His kingdom here on earth,” Sister Jones said. “On the other hand, some of us may be required to speak up on a regular basis to defend truth: perhaps at school, at work, with friends, or even with our families.

“Sisters, I promise you that whether it’s in the boardroom or the bakery, at some point, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, you will be called upon to articulate what you know and believe.”

A defender of Zion

“More than ever, we need to have an unshakable testimony to be a defender of truth and a true defender of our faith in Jesus Christ,” said Sister Franco. “We really can’t protect and uphold something that we don’t have.”

Fortunately, Sister Franco taught, a witness of the Lord and an unshakable testimony can be obtained by anyone who has a desire to have that conviction.

“What then is required to obtain it?” she asked.

First, she explained, a person needs to study, ponder, and pray.

She said that the “essentials” found in Preach My Gospel are a good place to start. Truths such as “God is our loving Heavenly Father,” “the gospel blesses families,” “Heavenly Father reveals His gospel in every dispensation,” “the Savior’s earthly ministry and Atonement,” “the Great Apostasy, Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith,” and “the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ” are all essential to an unshakable testimony.

“We need to stand as valiant witnesses of God defending our beliefs, the Church, and its doctrine—even if we stand alone,” she said.

Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, speaks at BYU Women’s Conference. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.

Sister Lisa L. Harkness, First Counselor in the Primary General Presidency, speaks at BYU Women’s Conference. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.

Sister Cristina B. Franco, Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency, speaks at BYU Women’s Conference. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.

It is possible to be bold, kind, and respectful while still standing up for one’s beliefs, Sister Franco taught.

“Dear friends, don’t be discouraged as you defend and in positive ways stand up for truth. Not everyone will agree with you, but as President Henry B. Eyring said: ‘The best days are ahead for the kingdom of God on the earth’ (“Fear Not to Do Good,” Oct. 2017 general conference).

“Opposition will strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ. … Faith always defeats fear. Standing together produces unity. And your prayers for those in need are heard and answered by a loving God. He neither slumbers nor does He sleep.”

Who is our foe?

“Satan’s attacks are many and varied,” Sister Harkness said in her first address as the First Counselor in the Primary General Presidency. “They are devious in their subtlety and obnoxious in their frequency.”

The adversary is able to attack with ferocious quickness or patiently lead a person from one untruth to another.

“He is creative, clever, and persistent in his approaches to our weaknesses,” she said. “His attacks come to old and young, to the teen and the middle-aged. His deceptions are camouflaged as wisdom and his lies as truth.”

But Heavenly Father has provided for both a person’s defense and victory over the “forces of evil,” she taught.

“True doctrine reveals the lies of Satan; it gives us purpose and courage to stand firm, faithful, and true against his deceiving tactics and temptations,” she said. “Hearing and understanding the doctrine of salvation prompts us to act.”

Where is this true doctrine found? In the Book of Mormon, she said.

Speak up

Sister Bonnie Oscarson, former Young Women General President, said in a general conference talk, “The Lord needs us to be brave, steadfast, and immovable warriors who will defend His plan and teach the upcoming generations His truths” (“Defenders of the Family Proclamation,” Apr. 2015 general conference).

“Are we who are disciples of Christ willing to follow Sister Oscarson’s counsel even when we risk a loss of respect?” Sister Jones asked. “Are we willing to face opposing opinions without being oppositional? Are we willing to step off the sidelines when it comes to defending the truth—and still not be defensive?”

Whether it is standing up to friends, classmates, or members of a person’s community, it takes both courage and courtesy to defend faith. Sometimes personal abuse or sacrifice comes with standing up.

“Some of our most articulate moments and greatest influence come with how we live, by being happy in a family, happy in being obedient, happy in the way we dress, serve, and work,” she said. “It sometimes seems increasingly in vogue to joke in demeaning ways about children, husbands, prophets, service in the kingdom, etc., which may be another opportunity for each of us to speak up.”

Even the Savior, with His supreme example, faced others who did not agree with His teachings.

“Not everyone agreed with what He taught, but He stood for the truth,” she said. “He had enemies, but He loved them and always treated others with kindness.”

The Savior set the example of showing sincere love versus tolerating others who are doing things with which He didn’t agree.

“We can still love another person and not support his or her choices. … We can show courtesy and respect while still addressing issues of disagreement,” she said. “And we must make appropriate judgments to protect ourselves and our families.”

One-by-one, stand for righteousness, truth, goodness, and decency. As a woman is willing to open her mouth, the Lord will help her know what to say.

“May we all rise up even as President Nelson charged the brethren of the Church [in the last general conference] and be covenant disciples of Jesus Christ,” she said. “May we proclaim through word and deed.”

Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, poses for a photograph with two attendees. She taught women at BYU Women’s Conference that if they are willing to open their mouths, the Lord will help them know what to say. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.