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Elder M. Russell Ballard

"One of the most heart-wrenching stories in scripture occurred when 'many of [the Lord's] disciples' found it hard to accept His teachings and doctrine, and they 'went back, and walked no more with him,'" Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said. (See John 6:66.)

"As these disciples left, Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, 'Will ye also go away?'

"Peter responded: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art Christ, the Son of the living God'" (John 6:67-69).

Even today, followers of Christ face the same question. "For some, Christ's invitation to believe and remain continues to be hard — or difficult to accept," Elder Ballard said during the Sunday morning session of general conference.

Struggles include not understanding specific Church policies or teachings, concerns about Church history, imperfections in some members or Church leaders, difficulty living a religion that requires so much, or weariness in well-doing. "For these and other reasons, some Church members vacillate in their faith, wondering if perhaps they should follow those who 'went back and walked no more' with Jesus."

To these members, Elder Ballard asked, like Peter, "To whom shall [you] go?" The decision to leave the Church can have a long-term impact that can't be seen at the moment.

He said, "If you live as long as I have, you will come to know that things have a way of resolving themselves. An inspired insight or revelation may shed new light on an issue. Remember, the Restoration is not an event, but it continues to unfold."

Elder Ballard urged members, "Never abandon the great truths revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Never stop reading, pondering and applying the doctrine of Christ contained in the Book of Mormon."

Before making the spiritually perilous choice to leave, Elder Ballard encouraged members "to stop and think carefully before giving up whatever it was that brought you to your testimony of the restored Church of Jesus Christ in the first place. Stop and think about what you have felt here and why you felt it. Think about the times when the Holy Ghost has born witness to you of eternal truth."

The organization, doctrine and teachings found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be found in no other place, Elder Ballard said.

Accepting and living the gospel of Christ can be challenging, as it has always been. Elder Ballard said, "Life can be like hikers ascending a steep and arduous trail. It is a natural and normal thing to occasionally pause on the path to catch our breath, to recalculate our bearings, and to reconsider our pace." Not every hiker needs to stop, and there is nothing wrong with doing so if circumstances require a break. The danger comes when someone decides to leave the trail entirely.

"I don't pretend to know why faith to believe comes easier for some than for others. I'm just so grateful to know that the answers are always there, and if we seek them — really seek with real intent and with full purpose of a prayerful heart — we will eventually find the answers to our questions as we continue on the Gospel path," Elder Ballard taught.

"My heartfelt plea is that we will encourage, accept, understand and love those who are struggling with their faith," Elder Ballard said. "Just as we should open our arms in a spirit of welcoming new converts, so too should we embrace and support those who have questions and are faltering in their faith."

In closing, Elder Ballard testified, "Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer, and His restored gospel will lead us safely back to the presence of our Heavenly Parents if we remain on the gospel path and follow in His footsteps."

vjohnson@deseretnews.com

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