Elder Ronald A. Rasband, member of the Presidency of the Quorum of the Seventy, gave the devotional address Tuesday morning at BYU.
His remarks focused on the church’s stance on fairness and religious freedom for everyone, as well as what students and church members can do to combat discrimination and violations of personal agency.
“Because you are a sophisticated and intelligent audience I plan to speak to you with the candor that your generation craves,” Elder Rasband said.
Elder Rasband addressed possible concerns about religious interference in political affairs by stressing the importance of religious freedom both for the church and also for the future of the rising generation.
The member of the Seventy then told two hypothetical stories about individuals who were discriminated for their identity and for their beliefs.
The first story involved a story of a man who informed his coworkers that he was gay, and was ostracized and eventually fired because of this admission.
Elder Rasband’s second story was about a woman named Samantha who was attacked for her Mormon faith because her coworkers viewed her church’s stance on homosexuality with disgust.
“In today’s society, it is politically correct to empathize with Ethan’s situation but less so with Samantha’s,” Elder Rasband said. “But what about Samantha? What about her right to live authentically as a person of faith, committed to love and serving everyone but also with the right to choose what is right and wrong and to live accordingly?”
Elder Rasband admitted that in today’s society, those who live their religious beliefs are often criticized for being behind the times.
“Our society has become so blind by its quest to redress wrongful discrimination against one class of people that it is now in danger of creating another victimized class: people of faith like you and me,” Elder Rasband said.
He reassured the audience that the church leadership gives significant consideration to these sensitive issues.
“Despite what you may have heard or read over the years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has stood consistently for freedom of choice and conscience,” Elder Rasband said.
He also discussed how agency plays a role in the church’s stance on religious freedom.
“I am talking about someone telling you that the thoughts, feelings and beliefs you have are not allowed, valued or acceptable, because your views are not popular,” Elder Rasband said. “A war in heaven was fought for agency, and it is a gross violation of that agency to force someone to betray their conscience because their views do not align with the crowd.”
Elder Rasband reminded students that living authentically according to conscience and faith does not mean that the Lord will not enforce the corresponding consequences for actions.
“We are still accountable to Him for our choices,” Elder Rasband said. “The commandment to seek after perfection implies we start where we are and seek the Lord’s help to lift us to where He wants us to go. ”
He discussed the church’s efforts to ensure fairness and protection for all individuals and religious groups.
“With the passage of protections for both LGBT and religious people, our church leaders and others congratulated the LGBT community,” Elder Rasband said. “It was encouraging to see them protected across the state against eviction, housing discrimination or being fired from a job because of their sexual orientation. We also congratulated our religious friends of other denominations seeing them similarly protected in the workplace and in the public square.”
Elder Rasband pointed out that these compromises were made without dismissing truths or changing eternal doctrine.
“No doctrinal or religious principles were sacrificed,” Elder Rasband said. “No changes were made to God’s moral law and our belief that sexual relations should only occur within marriage between a man and a woman. The outcome was fair to all and reflects a consistency in moral standards and teachings and in respect for others.”
The member of the Seventy then offered three pieces of advice to help his students, and all church members, promote fairness.
“First, try to view others through a lens of fairness,” Elder Rasband said.
He reminded students that God loves all His children equally.
“That does not mean He excuses or condones sinful conduct; nor do we, in ourselves or others,” Elder Rasband said. “But it does mean that we reach out in love to persuade, to help, and to rescue.”
Elder Rasband said students must look to Christ to help them have pure love for everyone, which will help them remain calm and respectful when faced with sensitive issues.
“Second, let fairness guide your treatment of others,” Elder Rasband said.
He recalled Jesus Christ’s example of looking past what the world thought of individuals in order to teach them His gospel.
“You too can be unyielding in right and truth, yet still reach out in kindness,” Elder Rasband said.
He also encouraged students to allow a goal of fairness to guide conversations with those who might disagree with their beliefs.
“Please do not shy away from a dialogue regarding these important issues simply because you are worried that it might be difficult or uncomfortable,” Elder Rasband said. “We can pray for help and we can expect that the Savior will help us speak and act in a way that is pleasing to Him.”
The final piece of counsel that he gave reminded students that society needs action in order to achieve fairness and religious freedom for all.
“Third, I would encourage you to stand up for fairness if you see another’s rights being impeded,” Elder Rasband said.
He closed with an invitation to students to post comments on his Facebook page when they have conversations with those who have different beliefs.
“I stand with the leaders of our Lord’s church when I say that we need your generation’s natural understanding of compassion, respect and fairness,” Elder Rasband said. “We need your optimism and your determination to work through these complex social issues.”