Brett G. Scharffs addressed the BYU community on Tuesday, Oct. 18, in a forum address. He spoke on embracing audacious faith and appreciating the unique power and singular appeal of LDS doctrine.
Scharffs currently works as the director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, and he interacts with people from around the world on a daily basis. He has met individuals of almost every religious background, as well as many people who are not religious at all.
“I’ve come to welcome opportunities like these, because they give me a chance to talk not only about similarities between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other faiths, but also the opportunity to talk about some of the things that make us different,” Scharffs said.
He then spoke of the bold practices and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members should strive to be audacious in their faith and embrace their peculiar status in the eyes of the world, Scharffs said.
Scharffs said he learned as a young boy to take pride in things that made him different. Although the Church has become more inclined to emphasize its similarities with other Christian churches, Scharffs said some Church doctrines remain quite distinctive.
One of the distinctive topics Scharffs discussed was the pre-existence. He was assigned to live with a Catholic roommate named Tom when he was a freshman at Georgetown University. During one of their late-night talks, Scharffs asked Tom if he thought they knew each other in the pre-existence. Tom replied that there is no such thing as a pre-existence.
“I was stunned,” Scharffs said. “I thought of myself as a reasonably sophisticated and well-educated person, but I had no idea how unique and unusual the doctrine of the pre-existence is.”
Sharffs also discussed Church doctrines like the Godhead, the nature of God, human nature and the Restoration. He also explained the audacious claims attached to each one, including the claim that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are two separate entities and that God has a body of flesh and bone. Even the lack of LDS professional clergy makes the Church different, Scharffs said.
In addition to addressing the Church’s distinctions, Scharffs warned against the danger of being critical toward other religions. He said everyone must learn to embrace all truth, no matter the source.
“There are plenty of religious beliefs held by others with which I do not agree, but it would not occur to me that I am helping someone to the truth by blaspheming, mocking, scorning, or ridiculing their beliefs,” Scharffs said. “Let scoffers scoff, but don’t mistake them for friends or for seekers of truth and understanding.”
In closing, Scharffs said he is fully committed to the Church and strives to live the gospel with full purpose of heart.
“We have every reason to be fearless and bold, confident and courageous in our audacious faith,” Scharffs said.
Matthew O. Richardson, BYU advancement vice president, will deliver the next devotional address on Tuesday, Oct. 25.