Elder Ronald A. Rasband took an innovative approach during the Tuesday, Sept. 15 BYU devotional by discussing religious freedom and fairness for all and then asking students to comment on his Facebook page about their respectful conversations on issues like gay rights.
“I want to hear about your experiences and the successes you are having in creating friendships with those who see life differently than you do,” the senior president of the Quorum of the Seventy said.
Students responded eagerly to Elder Rasband’s social media invitation. There were dozens of comments within hours of the devotional’s end and the list continues to grow.
This may be the first time a church leader has ever turned a personal social media page into a discussion board. The LDS Church has previously only used hashtags, such as #LDSconf and #LDSface2face, to generate dialogue.
Asa Laws, a BYU senior majoring in Portuguese, commented on the page and mentioned a conversation he had with a friend Tuesday night. He said he loved being able to report back to a General Authority.
“I’m not necessarily seeking to become bros with (Elder) Rasband,” Laws said. “But as long as we can have respect, this can be a healthy form of communication for the leadership of the church, as well as the members.”
He said he agreed with Elder Rasband that reaching out in fairness will help members feel an increase of love for themselves and others.
“That’s what happens when you have a respectful, honest discussion with somebody about something like that,” Laws said. “I feel like I better understand the Savior’s love.”
Rachel Murphy, a sophomore majoring in genetics and biotechnology, also commented on Elder Rasband’s status.
“It makes me feel more connected to the church,” Murphy said. “It’s different in knowing they’re right there for us and they want us to talk to them.”
She said the more that members talk about issues like gay rights, the less taboo they become.
“The devotional made me more aware about having an active voice in society,” Murphy said.
Peter Wilson, a senior majoring in comparative literature, said sharing core beliefs on issues like religion and sexuality is an amazing experience, especially when talking to people who think differently. Wilson also posted on Elder Rasband’s page.
“I decided a long time ago that I always want to be an ally to anyone in the church who identifies as LGBT,” Wilson said.
He said religious freedom is not about either side playing the victim.
“We need to get beyond that and see everyone with the goal of loving and understanding,” Wilson said. “I’m grateful for one-on-one conversations with someone where you both come from completely different spaces.”
Elder Rasband said the LDS Church needs compassionate and determined young adults to work through social issues.
“These conversations need to be occurring in our schools, perhaps right here at Brigham Young University; in our homes; and in relationships with friends and coworkers,” Elder Rasband said.
He also discussed the importance of seeing others fairly, treating them with respect and expecting the same treatment in return.
“We need you to engage in dialogue reflecting the complexities of this issue and find solutions for how to best extend fairness to everyone,” Elder Rasband said.