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President Oaks calls on young adults to ‘stand fast with love’ in proclaiming truth


Just two days after President Russell M. Nelson spoke to young adults worldwide, the Church President’s message of knowing “the truth about who you are and of the destiny God has designed for us” was echoed and endorsed by his friend and first counselor in the First Presidency, President Dallin H. Oaks.

On Tuesday, May 17, President Oaks built upon President Nelson’s recent counsel during an Ensign College devotional — calling upon young adults and others to “stand fast with love” in proclaiming truth.

His devotional instruction also included examinations of race and LGBTQ issues.

President Oaks was joined by Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy and the Church commissioner of education.

During their discussion, the two men reaffirmed that Latter-day Saints can, in the words of President Oaks, “stand fast against the values and practices that draw us away from the Lord’s teachings and our covenants, privileges and obligations.” 

And they can do so with love.

So how can young adults and others stand fast with love?

Elder Gilbert answered that young adults of the Church can carry the “quiet strength of a disciple” of the Savior. “You can look to the example of Jesus Christ and His patterns of standing fast with love.”

Christ’s loving interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well and the calling of a publican to the discipleship are key examples. In both cases, Christ knew their shortcomings and weaknesses — but He treated them with love and taught them truth.

Audience members listen as President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy and Church Commissioner of Education, speak at an Ensign College devotional in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 17, 2022.

Audience members listen as President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy and Church Commissioner of Education, speak at an Ensign College devotional in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 17, 2022.

Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“Rather than condemning others, we should simply proclaim what we believe and invite others to follow the Savior. It is their opportunity to choose, not ours to compel,” said Elder Gilbert.

Elder Gilbert noted that the apostle Paul and others prophesied that the last days would be filled with commotion and peril. He asked President Oaks for clarification on such prophecies.

“When I think of commotion, I think of wars, rumors of wars, global pandemics, global warming, the rising tide of evil in the world around us and the anxiety that is increasing [around] us,” said President Oaks. “Perilous times surely include the present circumstances that fulfill the scriptural concern that people would call evil, good — and good, evil.”

Misconstruing good and evil is persuasive today because of the false doctrine that people are not accountable to God for their behavior, he said. Meanwhile, society’s so-called “intellectual supremacy” — which is pervasive in many colleges and universities — further clouds understandings of good and evil.

Finally, said President Oaks, there are those who seek to shame and intimidate people who advocate for goodness and truth. They seek “to silence opposition to their untruths.” 

Read more: President Nelson asks young adults, ‘Decide what kind of life you want to live forever’

Elder Gilbert warned of the power of peer pressure that causes many in the world to accept good as evil — and evil as good. Many today, like the Book of Mormon’s Korihor, repeatedly dispute and dismiss the inspired teachings of latter-day prophets. “Believers,” they might declare, are foolish.

Despite such peer pressure, Latter-day Saints must show courage and stay focused on the correct direction, he added.

Elder Gilbert noted that in recent general conferences President Oaks had focused his instruction on matters of the family, religion and the United States Constitution. He asked the veteran Apostle why he had chosen to emphasize his teachings on those key institutions.

BYU President Kevin J Worthen, left, greets Sister Kristen M. Oaks, center, and President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at an Ensign College devotional in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 17, 2022.

BYU President Kevin J Worthen, left, greets Sister Kristen M. Oaks, center, and President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at an Ensign College devotional in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 17, 2022.

Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The family, declared President Oaks, is a “core institution of civil society.” Religion, meanwhile, benefits and fortifies society in many ways, while helping to build strong, contributing citizens. Both institutions — the family and the practice of religion — are common targets of the adversary.

“As for the Constitution, the constitutional Bill of Rights guarantees: protect the good that religious believers — and the good their churches, synagogues and mosques — can do,” said President Oaks. “These protections include precious freedoms of speech, conscience and the liberty to exercise religion.”

Elder Gilbert then asked President Oaks for suggestions on what the Church’s young adults can do to stand fast with love in proclaiming truth.

President Oaks offered five suggestions: 

1. Avoid overly contentious settings

“I encourage you to refrain from participating in the contentious communications that are so common today,” he said. “Social media that generates conflicts to expand audiences … often fosters careless charges, false representations and ugly innuendoes that intensify the distance between different parties and their communications.”

Stand clear of the current atmospheres defined by hate and personal meanness, he counseled..

2. Love others and find common ground — even if we disagree

“We should seek to find common ground with those who might otherwise consider us their enemies,” he said. “Followers of Christ should be examples of civility.”

3. Hold to truth, even in our outreach to others

Loving those with different views and avoiding contention are both examples of civility. “But that does not mean we should refrain from participating in discussions and taking positions on those things we believe to be wrong,” said President Oaks.

4. Be a light to the world

“Show the world what you can do that is good as a disciple of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Lead a life that allows others to see the Lord’s goodness.

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, left, and Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy and Church Commissioner of Education, speak at an Ensign College devotional in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 17, 2022.

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, left, and Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy and Church Commissioner of Education, speak at an Ensign College devotional in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 17, 2022.

Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

5. Stay anchored in Jesus Christ

“One of the important ways that you can be a light to the world is by keeping the commandments,” said President Oaks. 

Do not seek happiness in the attractions of the world. Remember, wickedness never brings lasting happiness. “In these critical times, you need to anchor your life to the Savior.”

It is challenging to stand fast with love when truth is mixed with untruths, said Elder Gilbert. Prophetic direction remains essential today. The Lord’s prophets are not infallible — only Jesus Christ was perfect. 

“But that does not mean that our prophets are not called of God — or that we can pick and choose what prophetic direction to follow,” said Elder Gilbert. “God calls, elevates and qualifies those that He has chosen.”

Near the conclusion of their discussion, President Oaks and Elder Gilbert taught about a pair of widely discussed matters: race issues and LGBTQ issues.

Issues of race

On the subject of race, President Oaks said Latter-day Saints must start “by recognizing the very real challenges of racism, by condemning ongoing racial prejudice and by strengthening those who continue to face unfair biases.”

The Church, he added, is aligned with many secular efforts to reduce racism. He pointed to the Church’s ongoing work with the NAACP and other community organizations before citing this anti-prejudice teaching of President Nelson:

“Each of us has a divine potential because each is a child of God. Each is equal in His eyes. … God does not love one race more than another. … I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice.”

In condemning and fighting racism, President Oaks encouraged students, teachers and all Latter-day Saints to avoid extreme or “polarizing positions and teachings” that undermine the U.S. Constitution and other core institutions.

“We know that the Constitution was inspired of God and, despite its birth defect of slavery, its inspired principles — including the freedoms of speech and religion and its authorized amendments — have allowed subsequent generations to continue to improve and strengthen the rights of all of its citizens,” said President Oaks.

A gospel-centered approach to combating racism empowers all parties to support, apply and teach the power and light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Elder Gilbert cited a recent talk given by Elder S. Mark Palmer of the Presidency of the Seventy, who spoke of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nelson Mandela’s historic efforts to end South Africa’s system of racial segregation, even while seeking reconciliation.

Audience member leave the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, after listening to President Dallin H. Oaksfirst counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy and Church Commissioner of Education, speak at an Ensign College devotional.

Audience member leave the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, after listening to President Dallin H. Oaksfirst counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy and Church Commissioner of Education, speak at an Ensign College devotional.

Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

In more modest ways, Elder Gilbert observed the Church’s inner-city youth in Boston overcome ignorant attitudes while following a Church-inspired impulse to invest in and improve their own lives.

“I note that here at Ensign College, more than 50% of our students have a multicultural background,” Elder Gilbert said. “At BYU–Hawaii, more than 60% of our students are from Asia and the Pacific. At BYU–Pathway Worldwide, we have already served more than 10,000 students in Africa.

“We are well-acquainted with students of diverse social and cultural backgrounds in the Church.”

The Church Educational System, he added, helps students of different backgrounds, cultures and races “succeed in the Lord’s way.” 

“If any of you have faced attitudes of prejudice, know you are part of a Church that is striving to root out attitudes of racism both within the Church and across society,” affirmed Elder Gilbert. “You are part of a Church that believes in you, will provide you opportunities to grow in the gospel of Jesus Christ and is committed to your education and future success.”

LGBTQ issues

As with issues of race, the Church has reached out in good faith to build bridges on issues related to same-sex attraction, said President Oaks.

“Through its support of the Fairness for All initiative, the Church is supporting rights for LGBTQ individuals in housing and healthcare, while we also preserve our own basic rights of conscience and freedom of religion.”

In seeking common ground, he added, “we encourage fair treatment and respect for others, and we ask the same for ourselves.”

Showing respect does not mean turning from the Church’s beliefs and fundamental doctrine on the family and its importance to God’s “plan for the eternal destiny of His children” as revealed in the Family Proclamation, President Oaks taught.

“Please remember the responsibility we, members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, have as Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “We must declare the truth as God has revealed it. We are not free to pick and choose which truths we will preach and defend.”

President Oaks said Latter-day Saints must show love in the way they teach truth — but they must always continue to teach truth. In his talk Sunday evening, May 15, President Nelson gave an example of this directive while speaking of “our first identity”:

“There are various labels that may be very important to you, of course. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that other designations and identifiers are not significant. I am simply saying that no identifier should displace, replace or take priority over these three enduring designations: ‘child of God,’ ‘child of the covenant’ and ‘disciple of Jesus Christ.’”

Elder Gilbert cited President Oaks’ recent lecture at the University of Virginia, where the Apostle counseled against being “unduly influenced” by voices that “polarize and sow resentment.”

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, waves as he leaves the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, after he and Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy and Church Commissioner of Education, spoke at an Ensign College devotional.

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, waves as he leaves the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, after he and Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy and Church Commissioner of Education, spoke at an Ensign College devotional.

Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

There is a difference, said Elder Gilbert, between experiencing same-sex attraction and acting in ways that violate covenants.

“Many frame LGBTQ issues as an all-or-nothing ‘Hobson’s choice’: In other words, they say to be loving to our LGBTQ friends you must promote behaviors that violate sacred covenants — or they say to be loyal to our Church you must ignore the reality of same-sex attraction and condemn those who experience it.”

Both statements are wrong, declared Elder Gilbert.

The Church promotes understanding in society at large that reflects its teachings about kindness, inclusiveness, love for others and respect for all human beings.

“Individuals or groups who do not treat our LGBTQ members with empathy and charity are not aligned with the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ,” said Elder Gilbert. “At the same time, ignoring God’s laws has never been the Savior’s pattern for showing love.

“Remember, Jesus asked us to love God first.”

Heavenly Father, concluded Elder Gilbert, loves all His children.

“Please know of our admiration for so many students who are striving to live their covenants and respect the principles of the Honor Code,” he said. “We recognize your commitment and appreciate your example. We welcome you and want you to feel a sense of belonging as we work together to be true to the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ.”

Elder Gilbert and President Oaks concluded the devotional with their own testimonies of Christ and His work, His Atonement and His gospel.

Elder Gilbert testified that staying “anchored in Christ” will bless His followers “with the character, spirit and demeanor to interact with others in proclaiming truth with love. I know that Jesus Christ is our Example — and I look to Him in all we do.”

President Oaks said the commandment to “gather scattered Israel” can be accomplished only “if we stand fast in the truth of the great principles of the restored gospel, revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith.”

He also reassured that “we can trust in the great promises of the Lord. If we are prepared, we shall not fear.”

The Church’s Church Educational System leadership was well-represented at Tuesday’s devotional. Ensign College President Bruce C. Kusch, Brigham Young University President Kevin J Worthen, BYU-Pathway Worldwide President Brian K. Ashton and Brother Chad H. Webb, Administrator of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion were all in attendance.

People are given cookies outside of the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, following an Ensign College devotional featuring President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy and Church Commissioner of Education.

People are given cookies outside of the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, following an Ensign College devotional featuring President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder Clark G. Gilbert, a General Authority Seventy and Church Commissioner of Education.

Credit: Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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