First and foremost, each person is a child of God, taught President Russell M. Nelson during a devotional broadcast worldwide to young adults ages 18 to 30 on Sunday, May 15.
“My purpose tonight is to make sure that your eyes are wide open to the truth that this life really is the time when you get to decide what kind of life you want to live forever,” he said. “Now is your time ‘to prepare to meet God.’”
Addressing a capacity crowd in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City, with thousands more watching from overflow areas on Temple Square and hundreds of thousands more watching online, the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said righteous choices in mortality will pay unimaginable dividends eternally. “If you choose to make covenants with God and are faithful to those covenants, you have the promise of ‘glory added upon [your head] for ever and ever.’”
He said three fundamental truths will help young adults prepare their course:
“First: Know the truth about who you are.
“Second: Know the truth about what Heavenly Father and His Son have offered you.
“And third: Know the truth related to your conversion.”
‘Know the truth about who you are’
“I believe that if the Lord were speaking to you directly tonight, the first thing He would make sure you understand is your true identity. My dear friends, you are literally spirit children of God,” testified President Nelson.
Designations, labels and identifiers can be important and positive, but can be of unequal value and also change with the passage of time, he taught, but if any label replaces the most important identifiers, the results can be spiritually suffocating.
President Nelson then ranked in order of importance his designations: “First, I am a child of God, I am a son of God; then a son of the covenant; then a disciple of Jesus Christ and a devoted member of His restored Church. Next would come my honored titles as a husband and father, then Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Other labels — such as a medical doctor, surgeon, researcher, professor, lieutenant, captain, Ph.D., American and so forth — would fall somewhere down the list, he said.
With that in mind, he told the young adults that first and foremost, each of them is a child of God. Second, as a member of the Church, they are a child of the covenant. And third, they are a disciple of Jesus Christ.
“Tonight, I plead with you not to replace these three paramount and unchanging identifiers with any others, because doing so could stymie your progress or pigeonhole you in a stereotype that could potentially thwart your eternal progression,” President Nelson said.
Labeling is universally limiting, he said. Labels divide and restrict the way people think about themselves and each other. Labels can also lead to judging and animosity, abuse or prejudice — which is all offensive to God.
“Please do not misunderstand me,” he said. “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.’”
Any identifier not compatible with those three basic designations will ultimately disappoint and let a person down, because it does not have the power to lead to eternal life and the celestial kingdom, continued President Nelson. Worldly identifiers will never affirm divine DNA and divine potential.
“Make no mistake about it: Your potential is divine. With your diligent seeking, God will give you glimpses of who you may become,” he said.
‘Know the truth about what God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, have offered you’
Heavenly Father’s plan for His children makes the richest blessings of all eternity available, said President Nelson, and God knows all and sees all.
“In all of eternity, no one will ever know you or care about you more than He does. No one will ever be closer to you than He is. You can pour out your heart to Him and trust Him to send the Holy Ghost and angels to care for you,” he explained.
God’s ultimate love for each of His children was demonstrated when He sent a Savior and Redeemer, who then overcame the world — and is the only enduring source of hope, peace and joy.
Satan can never replicate any of those things, nor will he help anyone. On the other hand, God’s work and His glory is to bring about the “immortality and eternal life of man.”
President Nelson said God’s divine love deepens for each person as they make and keep covenants. He also cares deeply that all His children hear of the restored gospel.
“That is why temples are so significant. And that is why the gathering of Israel on both sides of the veil is the most important cause on earth today,” he said. “You, my dear colleagues in this holy work, have an essential role in this gathering and I thank you for it.”
‘Know the truth related to your conversion’
Each person must own their own conversion, no one else can do it for them, said President Nelson.
He invited the young adults to consider a few questions about what they want to do, such as, feel peace about their concerns, know Jesus Christ better, learn how His power can heal them, and experience the power of the Atonement. Seeking to answer those questions will require much effort, he said.
To that end, he went on to say: “I plead with you to take charge of your testimony. Work for it. Own it. Care for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. Feed it truth. Don’t pollute it with the false philosophies of unbelieving men and women and then wonder why your testimony is waning.”
President Nelson told them to pray earnestly and humbly every day, nourish themselves in the words of the ancient and modern prophets, seek to learn to hear Him better, and spend more time in the temple and in family history work.
“As you make your testimony your highest priority, watch for miracles to happen in your life,” he promised.
He also said he hoped they had questions, and that they sought answers with the fervent desire to believe — because the Lord in time will answer with greater faith and more knowledge.
“Now, please hear me when I say: Do not be led astray by those whose doubts may be fueled by things you cannot see in their lives. Most of all, let your skeptical friends see how much you love the Lord and His gospel,” he said. “Surprise their doubting hearts with your believing heart!”
As each person takes charge of their testimony and helps it grow, they will become an instrument in the hands of the Lord, helping in the cause of Jesus Christ, gathering Israel, going to work and marveling at what happens when they let God prevail.
A blessing and a promise
When President Nelson began his address, he remarked on the fact that the devotional came on the anniversary of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood — May 15, 1829, when the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery knelt in the woods near Joseph and Emma Smith’s home in Harmony, Pennsylvania.
In 2015, President Nelson dedicated the Priesthood Restoration Site, which he called the most significant of all the assignments he had received up to that point, and a singular moment in his life.
“This is a singular time in your life. There won’t be another quite like it,” he said at the young adult devotional. “You are establishing priorities and patterns that will dramatically affect not just your mortal life but also your eternal life.”
At the end, President Nelson told the young adults how much he loves them and believes in them. He blessed them to know the truth about who they are and to treasure the truth about their glorious potential.
He blessed them to take charge of their own testimonies, and to have the desire and strength to keep their covenants.
“As you do, I promise that you will experience spiritual growth, freedom from fear and a confidence that you can scarcely imagine now,” he said. “You will have the strength to have a positive influence far beyond your natural capacity. And I promise that your future will be more exhilarating than anything you can presently believe.”
Sister Nelson: ‘What would a holy young adult do?‘
Sister Wendy W. Nelson told the young adults that Jesus Christ has made it clear He wants everyone to become increasingly holy. And so she talked to the young adults about one question she said could change their lives.
That question would increase confidence and decrease anxiety, motivate, increase gratitude and decrease stress, help resist temptation and many other benefits. It can bring joy, comfort, love and peace, she said.
As a Brigham Young University professor, psychologist and marriage and family therapist for 30 years, Sister Nelson learned the power of questions. She asked 30 young adults across the U.S. and Canada to experiment with one question, in just one situation a day, for three days: “What would a holy young adult do?”
They reported back to her that they saw their perspectives change completely. They spent less time on social media and more time with general conference talks and uplifting podcasts. They turned off certain shows and prayed more and read scriptures more. They worried less about what others wanted and more about what God wanted.
Others said they reinstated many spiritually strengthening habits that had been lost since returning home from a mission. And they reported feeling more of the love of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
“As you live your life in crescendo, trying to be just a little more holy day by day and quickly repenting when you mess up, you will find joy in this life, and eternal life in the world to come,” said Sister Nelson. “And, you will begin to experience, in a most profound and unforgettable way, exactly what our Savior, Jesus Christ, promised when He said: ‘I am able to make you holy.’”