BYU Broadcasting Content Director Scott Swofford spoke to students on Tuesday, Nov. 11, at the University Devotional to persuade them to be more authentic.
He quoted Elder David A. Bednar’s counsel from August urging students to “sweep the earth” with a “flood of truth and righteousness” in their online efforts. He was delighted in Elder Bednar’s simple qualification to be “truthful, honest and accurate.” Swofford said he felt Mormons have been trying to put their best foot forward for years.
“Look down at your feet,” Swofford asked listeners during the Devotional. “The problem is, nearly every mortal has two feet, and most require both of those feet to stand properly.”
Swofford spoke of his years observing focus group discussions on Mormons and the repetitive opinions that surfaced about the Church: polygamy, sexism, racism and exclusion.
“It was the widespread opinion that we exclude others from our faith, our communities, our sociality and our love,” Swofford said.
He spoke of his childhood growing up in Salt Lake City, where he rarely interacted with other faiths. He came to think heaven was only for Mormons. He explained how the statement “The only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth,” from the Doctrine and Covenants, is a true and awe-inspiring statement of LDS faith but has led to wrongful pride in some members.
“Often, though, particularly in testimony meeting, it is used as a constrastive statement of pride, exclusion and misunderstanding, as if we are more righteous than others, as if we can monopolize truth and as if being chosen makes us more beloved,” Swofford said.
He talked about the many amazing and faithful children of God he has met in his work, particularly a man he met while working in Egypt named Ahmed Sami, a devoted Muslim, father and ethical businessman.
“If I ever make it to the ‘entry queue’ for the celestial kingdom,” Swofford said, “I expect him (Sami) to be standing up there ahead, well in front of me, with the season ticket holders … I have no worry for his soul.”
He explained his certainty through the Lord’s plan of redemption and exaltation for those who die without the gospel and its ordinances. Swofford said God lets members serve as missionaries for their mortal learning but also to gather the elect.
“So as we seek authenticity, it would serve us to remember that all men are children of our Heavenly Father, and all ‘fall short of the glory of God,'” he said.
Swofford urged listeners to seek authenticity by acknowledging the “trailing foot” and not just showcase the “best foot.” He introduced the “state of striving.” Swofford said listeners can stand on both feet and reflect God’s love in their posts, tweets and pins by being honest.
He mentioned his work on the “I’m a Mormon” campaign. Countless people they talked to had inaccurate beliefs about the LDS faith, but when asked if they knew a Mormon who was contrary to those misconceptions, they claimed their acquaintance must be the exception. In their research they determined that five to 10 exceptions were necessary to combat the mistaken belief. That research led to thousands of profiles of “virtual, relatable, striving followers of Christ.”
Swofford recognized that by encouraging a new, authentic approach, he had perhaps just added another “should.” He gave an example of a presenter who covered a life-size cardboard cutout with sticky notes describing each commandment, responsibility, activity and worthy endeavor members “should” be doing continually. The image was soon overwhelmed.
He noted Jesus Christ was very adept at simplifying things with two overarching commandments. Love the Lord with all thy heart, and love they neighbor as thyself.
Swofford said he checks his decisions against those two commandments when all else fails. He said drawing on the pure love of Christ demonstrated in those commandments gives the ultimate authenticity.
He quoted Nephi’s humbleness and despair in the Book of Mormon, exclaiming, “O wretched man that I am!” Swofford bore testimony of his own wretchedness and human failing but shared the hope he felt because he knew “in whom (he had) trusted.”
“Today, here, in this gathering, I feel his love for you, though you are all also wretched in some way. I know his love will save us, and I know that about you because I know in whom you have trusted. I testify that you will go on, with both feet forward, the best foot and the real foot, to do mighty things in his name.”