Addressing “The Love and Laws of God” during a BYU devotional Tuesday, President Russell M. Nelson shared “five truths” with young adult members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and pled with them to pray about the truthfulness of each one.
“Ask your Heavenly Father if we truly are the Lord’s apostles and prophets,” he said. “Ask if we have received revelation on this and other matters. Ask if these five truths are — in fact — true.”
Speaking in the BYU Marriott Center, President Nelson also referenced the Church’s policy adjustments regarding those who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and their children. The 2015 and 2019 LGBT policy changes “were both motivated by love — the love of our Heavenly Father for His children and the love of the Brethren for those whom we serve.”
President Nelson — offering his first BYU devotional address as president of the Church — declared: 1) You are sons and daughters of God; 2) Truth is truth; 3) God loves every one of us with perfect love; 4) The Lord Jesus Christ, Whose Church this is, appoints prophets and apostles to communicate His love and teach His laws; and 5) You may know for yourself what is true and what is not.
Truth 1: You are sons and daughters of God.
“You already know this,” President Nelson said, clarifying “a distinguishing characteristic” about the identity of young adults.
“You are the children whom God chose to be part of His battalion during this great climax in the longstanding battle between good and evil — between truth and error. I would not be surprised if, when the veil is lifted in the next life, we learn that you actually pled with our Heavenly Father to be reserved for now.”
Truth 2: Truth is truth.
“Some things are simply true,” President Nelson taught. “The arbiter of truth is God — not your favorite social media news feed, not Google, and certainly not those who are disaffected from the Church.”
Many claim that truth is relative and that there is no such thing as divine law or a divine plan, added President Nelson. “Such a claim is simply not true. There is a difference between right and wrong. Truth is based upon the laws God has established for the dependability, protection and nurturing of His children. Eternal laws operate in and affect each of our lives, whether we believe them or not.”
Truth 3: God loves every one of us with perfect love.
There is a strong connection between God’s love and His laws, President Nelson continued, sharing two experiences to illustrate.
First, President Nelson said he came to see the significance of that connection as a parent. As President Nelson’s 10 children were growing up, “their mother and I established family rules to keep them safe and facilitate their growth.”
God’s love for His children is infinite, said President Nelson. “Just as the rules that my wife and I developed for our children were motivated by love, God’s laws reflect His perfect love for each of us.”
Second, President Nelson said he came to see the power of divine law during his career as a medical doctor and scientific researcher.
After graduating from medical school, President Nelson teamed up with other researchers to make an artificial heart and lung machine. One day, two truths articulated in the Doctrine and Covenants spoke to President Nelson’s mind. “These truths were, first, that all blessings are predicated upon obedience to law (Doctrine and Covenants 130:21); and second, that to every kingdom there is a law given (Doctrine and Covenants 88:38).
“I reasoned that if every kingdom had a law, there must be laws that govern the beating heart,” he said. “I was determined to discover those laws and obey them.”
The team of doctors learned that if they added potassium chloride to blood flowing into the coronary arteries, thereby altering the normal sodium/potassium ratio, the heart would stop beating instantly. Then, when they nourished the heart with blood that had a normal sodium/potassium ratio, the heart would spring back to its normal beating pattern. Literally they could turn the heart off long enough to repair it, and then turn it back on again.
“Decades later when I explained this to a group of medical students, one prominent professor asked, ‘But what if it doesn’t work?’ My answer? ‘It always works, because it is based on divine law.’”
Divine law is incontrovertible, said President Nelson. “Divine laws are God’s gifts to His children. …Let me say it as succinctly as I can: As you abide by God’s laws, you are progressing toward exaltation.”
Truth 4: The Lord Jesus Christ, Whose Church this is, appoints prophets and apostles to communicate His love and teach His laws.
Sometimes Church leaders are criticized “for holding firm to the laws of God, defending the Savior’s doctrine, and resisting the social pressures of our day,” said President Nelson. “But our commission as ordained apostles is ‘to go into all the world to preach (His) gospel unto every creature’ (Doctrine and Covenants 18:28). That means we are commanded to teach truth.”
In doing so, sometimes Church leaders are accused of being uncaring. “But wouldn’t it be far more uncaring for us not to tell the truth — not to teach what God has revealed?”
The commission of the apostles to teach truth does not give them the authority to modify divine law, President Nelson said.
For example, he said, consider the definition of marriage.
While many countries, including the United States, have legalized same-sex marriage, God has not changed His definition that marriage is between a man and a woman.
God has also not changed the law of chastity, he said.
And while the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles cannot change the laws of God, “we can adjust policy when the Lord directs us to do so. … Because the Restoration is ongoing, policy changes will likely and surely continue.”
President Nelson illustrated this point by addressing policy adjustments regarding those who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) and their children.
“Consider the policy announced in November 2015 related to the advisability of baptism for the children of LGBT parents,” he said. “Our concern then, and one we discussed at length and prayed about fervently over a long period of time, was to find a way to reduce friction between gay or lesbian parents and their children.”
Because parents are the primary exemplars for their children, leaders did not want to put young children in the position of having to choose between beliefs and behavior they learned at home and what they were taught at Church.
“We wanted to facilitate harmony in the home and avoid pitting children and parents against each other,” he said.
Thus in 2015, the policy was made to assist children and their parents in this circumstance, namely that children being raised by LGBT parents would not automatically be eligible for baptism at age 8. Exceptions to this policy would require First Presidency approval.
“The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have continued to seek the Lord’s guidance and to plead with Him in behalf of His children who were affected by the 2015 policy,” he said. “We knew that this policy created concern and confusion for some and heartache for others. That grieved us.
“Whenever the sons and daughters of God weep — for whatever reason — we weep. So, our supplications to the Lord continued.”
Read more: Church to allow baby blessings, baptisms of children of LGBT parents, no longer defines same-gender marriage by a member as ‘apostasy’
Church leaders also took note of LGBT parents who sought permission from the First Presidency for their children to be baptized, he said. In nearly every case where the LGBT parents agreed to teach their children about — and be supportive of — the covenant of baptism, the requested exception was granted, explained President Nelson.
“As a result of our continued supplication, we recently felt directed to adjust the policy such that the baptism of children of LGBT parents may be authorized by bishops without First Presidency approval, if the custodial parents request the baptism and understand that a child will be taught about sacred covenants to be made at baptism.
“We also determined that LGBT parents may request that a baby be named and blessed by one who worthily holds the Melchizedek Priesthood. …
“Finally, we also clarified that homosexual immorality would be treated in the eyes of the Church in the same manner as heterosexual immorality.”
Though it may not have looked this way to some, said President Nelson, the 2015 and 2019 policy adjustments on this matter were both motivated by love. “Because we feel the depth of God’s love for His children, we care deeply about every child of God, regardless of age, personal circumstances, gender, sexual orientation, or other unique challenges.”
Truth 5: You may know for yourself what is true and what is not.
President Nelson concluded his address with a challenge. “My dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to seek earnestly a confirmation from the Spirit that what I have told you is true and is from the Lord. …
“In my capacity as president of the Church, I invoke a blessing upon you, beloved young adults, to be able to discern between right and wrong, between the laws of God and the conflicting voices of the world. I bless you with power to detect the adversary’s deceptions. I bless you with greater capacity to receive revelation. And I bless you to be able to feel the infinite reach of God’s perfect love for you,” he said.