Elder Jack N. Gerard
General Authority Seventy
Elder Jack N. Gerard was sustained as a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on March 31, 2018, at age 60. At the time of his call, he had been serving as a Gospel Doctrine teacher and Sunday School president. He served as a member of the Sixth Quorum of the Seventy from 2010 to 2016.
Elder Gerard received a bachelor of arts degree in political science and a juris doctor degree, both from George Washington University. During his career, he has worked as president and CEO for several entities, including McClure, Gerard & Neuenschwander, Inc.; National Mining Association; American Chemistry Council; and, most recently, American Petroleum Institute.
Elder Gerard has served in a number of Church callings, including full-time missionary in the Australia Sydney Mission, ward mission leader, counselor in a bishopric, nursery leader, stake president, Scoutmaster, ward Young Men adviser, and bishop.
Jack Noel Gerard was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, on December 15, 1957. He married Claudette Neff in 1984. They are the parents of eight children.
Please respond to the question below on the devotional discussion board:
In discerning truth from error, is seeing really believing?
My dear young brothers and sisters, Sister Gerard and I are grateful to be with you today. We are pleased to be with your inspired leaders, President and Sister Eyring, and all others who devote their time and talent to your education and well-being. As a boy growing up not far from here, I used to visit this campus on special occasions. In those days, BYU-Idaho had a different name, was considerably smaller, and we viewed Rexburg as a big city. Today, you have the privilege to attend an institution growing in worldwide recognition and prestige, led by inspired leaders to prepare you for the ever-changing world in which we live—a world in which “if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”
So, in many ways, I feel like I’ve come home. I grew up just 35 miles due west of here, in the Mud Lake area, where we drove John Deeres, milked cows, and learned to waterski in irrigation canals behind a pickup truck.
It’s been rumored that President and Sister Eyring are accomplished waterskiers and that President recently demonstrated his skills in a video leading up to his devotional address on overcoming opposition. By show of hands, how many of you have seen this video?
But, how many of you have seen this video?
A few months ago, I participated in a briefing with senior Church leaders, which focused on artificial intelligence and the implications of the associated rapidly changing technologies. After a discussion on the positive benefits of technology, the conversation soon turned to the serious challenges posed by the same technological advancements. Part of the conversation centered on what has become known as “deepfake”—the ability to take someone’s image or voice and make it appear to do or say something that they did not do or say.
For example, remember the video of President Eyring waterskiing that I showed a moment ago, that some or many of you acknowledged you had seen before? It’s a fake. This fake video was created by simply photoshopping President Eyring’s head onto a stock video available on the Internet. It took only a few minutes to create, but appeared close enough to the real video of President Eyring that he shared just a few weeks ago, that some or many of you thought you had seen it before or were perhaps, at least, confused. This deception was possible with basic technology that some of you might already use as you create memes, images, or videos you share with friends. However, deepfake technology has taken us to an entirely different level of deception. Remember the second video? It too was obviously a complete fake—a complete deception that no one in this auditorium has seen before, including President Eyring. Did you notice the expression on his face when I shared the video? I was really tempted to turn around to catch his reaction seeing it for the first time.
The quality of professional deception is so good that experts say that in most circumstances, unless you have advanced skills, you cannot distinguish between reality and a fake. The video of President Eyring announcing your new aquatics major was created by a Church employee with no prior experience who simply found a man in the lunchroom—shown on your left—with a similar body shape who was willing to be filmed while reading a script. This fake video took only a few hours with readily available technology. Experts predict that within a few short years, deepfake technology will be readily accessible and, unless something changes, most humans will not be able to detect what is real and what is a deceptive fake.
This troubling trend that first appeared in 2017 and was primarily used in pornography—another great deception posed by the adversary—has raised alarms in the technology community. Just one month ago, Google released over 3,000 deepfake videos in an effort to entice research institutions to develop detection methods to identify fakes. Facebook followed by announcing a deepfake detection challenge with $10 million in prize money.
Each of us must learn to live in this fast-changing world where technological advances challenge our fundamental ability to discern with our eyes or ears—our natural senses—what is real and what is not. We have arrived at the point where technology can easily create alternative false realities. As a news anchor reporting on the subject said, “seeing isn’t believing anymore.” While technology advancements have been a great blessing to humankind, they can also be turned to uses that pose a serious challenge to our ability to assess truth from error, right from wrong.
How do we stay on the covenant path and survive the deceptive world in which we live?
Much of the answer was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith shortly after the Church was organized when “many false reports . . . and foolish stories, were published . . . and circulated, to prevent people from investigating the work, or embracing the faith.” The Lord promised the Prophet Joseph, “For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—Verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “abide” as “to endure without yielding.”
For each of us to come unto Christ and abide the day in which we live, to avoid the deceptive lures of the world that would take us from the covenant path, may I invite you to consider, or perhaps reconsider, two important principles: first, to follow the prophets with exactness by listening more completely to what they say; and second, as our prophet President Nelson has counseled, we must learn to receive revelation.
There may be some who will respond to the first principle by immediately thinking, “I already do that—it’s simple—I’ve done it all my life.” But I would invite you to reconsider, to reflect, and, perhaps, ask yourselves, “How closely do I study what the prophets have taught, and do I truly follow with exactness?” Our challenge to abide the day and avoid deceit will not always be as direct as a deepfake but may come in subtle ways that we are hardly aware of, like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Understanding the voice of the Lord through His servants will become even more essential over time, for as the Lord promised, “whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same.”
Prophets of old and prophets in our day have foretold of our times. Perhaps never before has it been more critical to hear the voice of warning with clarity.
- Paul warned that “in the last days perilous times shall come.”
- Isaiah cautioned of “them that call evil good, and good evil.”
- Nephi warned in “thatday shall he [the adversary] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.”
- Furthermore, Nephi boldly reminded us of a more subtle approach when he declared that others “will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well. . . . Therefore, woe be unto him that is at ease in Zion.”
- And in our day the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith, “There shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”
I find in my own life to avoid the deceptive approaches of the world—as subtle as they may be—I have to be diligent in studying closely the words of the prophets and then asking myself, “How does it apply to me? What must I do to repent, to change, to become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ?”
Questions we might ask ourselves include: Has my commitment become too casual overtime?When invited to honor the Sabbath day, do I merely acknowledge the words of the prophets, or do I change and improve my Sabbath observance? Might I be deceived, not by something as dramatic as a deep fake, but by “the honors of men,” the pressures we feel from peers on the secular issues of our day? Do we treat the words of the living prophets like a menu where we selectively pick and choose what we decide to follow?
President Harold B. Lee counseled:
We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet, . . . “as if from mine own mouth.” . . . There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, the promise is that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.”
Joseph Fielding Smith further cautioned us that:
In this dispensation the same characteristics are shown by the people as were in ancient times. We are more inclined to accept as the word of the Lord something which was uttered in some former dispensation, but look with critical eye and unbelief upon that which the Lord delivers today through his chosen servants. Yet the word of the Lord is very clear on this matter.
As we follow the prophets, we learn to listen closely and completely to what is said. Perhaps like the children of Israel, we sometimes interpret the counsel too narrowly or simply miss the real purpose for their invitation.
For example, I’m sure you recall during the Worldwide Youth Devotional when President Russell M. Nelson called on the youth to “disengage from a constant reliance on social media by holding a seven-day fast.” He then counseled that “if you are paying more attention to feeds on social media than you are to the whisperings of the Spirit, then you are putting yourself at spiritual risk.” Many accepted the invitation and abstained from social media. However, many also interpreted President Nelson’s invitation as if it were a simple act of discipline and the denial was the sole purpose of the fast. Yet, as you read and study closely what President Nelson said, the fast was simply a precursor to accomplish the real purpose of abstaining.
After President Nelson invited us to fast, he then said, “See if you notice any difference in how you feel and what you think, and even how you think . . . . Notice if there are some things you want to stop doing and some things you now want to start doing.”  Many heard the prophet’s first invitation and fasted for seven days, but how many of us completed the invitation by identifying the areas we need to change and then made those changes?
When we look back over the past year we might ask ourselves, “What has changed?”Have we had other fasts to limit our screen time so we can more easily hear the whisperings of the Spirit? Or have we slipped back into our old habits and rationalized that we followed the prophet by abstaining for seven days?
Following the Worldwide Youth Devotional, President Nelson invited the sisters during the women’s conference to participate in a 10-day fast from social media. Remember that, sisters? Listen again to what he said: “Pray to know which influences to remove during your fast. The effect of your 10-day fast may surprise you. What do you notice after taking a break from perspectives of the world that have been wounding your spirit?” Powerful language: “that have been wounding your spirit.” President Nelson continued: “I urge you to record and follow through with each impression.” So we ask ourselves, “Have we adjusted our lives to avoid the self-inflicted wounding of our spirits?”I don’t believe any of us would consciously do anything to wound our Spirit; but have we followed through on the impressions we received?
Each impression comes to us through the power of revelation, which leads to our second principle.
In his first Sunday morning address to the Church following his setting apart, President Nelson delivered a powerful address that I hope you will study often. In his talk “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for our Lives” he said, “I am optimistic about the future . . . . But I am also not naive about the days ahead. We live in a world that is complex and increasingly contentious. The constant availability of social media and a 24-hour news cycle bombard us with relentless messages. If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation.”
Fundamental to our ability to abide the day and to see through the worldly deception around us, we must strengthen our ability to hear the word of the Lord through His prophets and personal revelation. The primary source of this revelation will be given to you by the power of the Holy Ghost, “that ye may know the truth of all things.” It will come as impressions to your mind and feelings in your heart and you shall “feel that it is right” and recognize what is not right.
Jacob taught in the Book of Mormon, “For the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. . . . It speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls. But . . . we are not witnesses alone in these things; for God also spake them unto prophets of old.”
As we act on the impressions we receive, the Lord aligns us with His will. He will reveal to us for our personal benefit the same direction He is giving His prophets for the benefit of the Church. Let me explain.
Just a few months ago, I had the privilege to counsel with President Dallin H. Oaks on an important matter. During our conversation I felt impressed to share with him an experience I had while presiding at a stake conference a few weeks earlier. I shared how the strong impression came to my mind to teach the two great commandments and to remind the saints that the world seeks to hold us accountable to the second great commandment, to love our neighbor, but perhaps conveniently overlooks the first—to love the Lord by keeping His commandments. President Oaks lovingly smiled at me, walked behind his desk, opened his drawer, and showed me a thick file. The file contained his extensive study and work that he and the First Presidency had been working on for some time on the very topic that I had raised. He then kindly said, “Isn’t it great we are both listening to the same Spirit?” This body of work became the foundation for the talk he gave at general conference three weeks ago.
Through power of revelation, the Lord aligns His people with His prophets. The impressions I received were for the benefit of the stake where I had been assigned, without any prior knowledge that the Lord was guiding His prophet, seers, and revelators in the very same direction for the benefit of the entire world.
As we receive revelation line upon line, precept upon precept, we learn to trust the Lord and gain confidence in our ability to hear His voice. This confidence helps us distinguish the cares of this life—the possible deceptions—from those things that matter most, the things of eternal worth. In Proverbs we read, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Allow me to share a very personal experience which taught me this important truth.
Shortly after being called as a stake president, I felt a strong spiritual prompting to make some changes to the stake high council. I received a very strong impression that I should call a convert brother, a highly successful businessman, who had never before served on a high council. However, this brother had recently been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, and doctors said his life expectancy was less than a year. I felt confused wondering why I would receive such a prompting, because I could see with my eyes his condition and hear with my ears his prognosis. It made no sense to call someone whose capacity to serve was diminishing day-by-day and would likely not be with us for very long. I initially resisted the prompting, trying to rationalize in my mind that I felt bad for this good brother and was just trying to provide what help I could. We discussed it as a presidency and we each felt the same prompting, but our mortal minds kept telling us this made no sense.
Over the course of a few weeks, each time we met as a presidency, the Spirit became more intense. We finally agreed that we should issue the call. Needless to say, I was anxious. We scheduled the good brother and his wife to come to my office. When they arrived, we visited for a moment and I expressed to them that I felt a little uneasy but indicated the Lord had revealed to me personally and to us as a stake presidency that we were to call this good brother to the stake high council. Immediately after issuing the call, his wife burst into tears. My heart sank and my mind said I had really made a mistake this time. After she regained her composure and wiped back the tears, she shared with us that she was shedding tears of joy because the call was an answer to prayer and a fulfillment of his patriarchal blessing. Later, she shared with me a portion of his blessing, which reads that if he was found worthy he would be called to sit on the high councils of the Church. She explained that while he was going through treatments and various trials that she would read his blessing, often wondering how this line would be fulfilled since he was fighting so hard just to survive. On later reflection, she said, “It was a very amazing time in our lives to see how many people were touched by what our family was going through and what David had to endure. We had miracle after miracle, and I know it was because we were trying to fulfill our promises to the Lord with what we knew before we ever got to this earth.” David left us 13 years ago. I learned last night. Today is his birthday. He would have been 61.
“Trust in the Lord . . . and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
My dear young brothers and sisters, we live in a time of great challenge. You have been sent to the earth at this time for a wise and glorious purpose. You have been foreordained to succeed as you help prepare for the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You have been personally invited by prophets to participate in the gathering of Israel, the most important thing taking place on the earth today. In order to abide the day you must listen to and follow the teachings of the prophets and learn to receive revelation. As President Nelson promised, “You don’t have to wonder about what is true. You do not have to wonder whom you can safely trust. . . . Regardless of what others may say or do, no one can ever take away a witness borne to your heart and mind about what is true.”
I bear my personal witness and knowledge of God the Eternal Father, the father of our spirits. I bear witness of His only begotten Son, our elder brother Jesus Christ, who made possible our return to our Heavenly Father through His atoning sacrifice. I bear witness of the reality of the Holy Ghost, who testifies of the Father and Son and will reveal to us all things.
The Lord is mindful of each of you and desires to help you abide the day. We love you and pray for your success. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Doctrine and Covenants 38:30.
 Doctrine and Covenants 45, section heading.
Doctrine and Covenants 45:57.
 Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “abide.”
 See Matthew 7:15.
 Doctrine and Covenants 1:38.
 2 Timothy 3:1.
 Isaiah 5:20.
 2 Nephi 28:20.
 2 Nephi 28:21, 24.
 Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:22.
 Doctrine and Covenants 121:35.
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, “Chapter 9: Heeding the True Messenger of Jesus Christ.”
Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:107–8.
Russell M. Nelson and Wendy W. Nelson, “Hope of Israel,” Worldwide Youth Devotional, June 3, 2018.
 Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2018.
 Moroni 10:5.
 Doctrine and Covenants 9:8.
 See Doctrine and Covenants 9:9.
 Jacob 4:13.
 Proverbs 3:5–6.
 Proverbs 3:5.
 Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2018.