President Russell M. Nelson speaks at BYU about God’s love and laws, addresses past policy changes

President Russell M. Nelson addresses the BYU community during the campus devotional on Sept. 17 (Addie Blacker)

President Russell M. Nelson addressed the BYU community at a BYU devotional Sept. 17 at the Marriott Center, which was filled to capacity 30 minutes before the devotional began.

He spoke to students anxious to hear his counsel, and was candid about the confusion that he said many church members felt over the Church’s stated policies in the recent past regarding LGBT couples and the status of their children in the Church. His remarks sought to clarify questions members have had about recent changes to a 2015 policy that prevented the children of LGBT parents from getting baptized at age eight unless they received permission from the First Presidency.

About the 2015 policy 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.

He said the Brethren “did not want to put young children in the position of having to choose between beliefs and behavior that they learned at home and what they were taught at Church.” They instead hoped to strengthen families and facilitate harmony and chose to do so by requiring First Presidency approval for the baptism of children with LGBT parents.

Since that time, he said 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.”

“We knew that this policy created concern and confusion for some and heartache for others, President Nelson said. “That grieved us. Whenever the sons and daughters of God weep — for whatever reason — we weep. So, our supplications to the Lord continued.

He said that where permission was sought for the baptism of children with LGBT parents, it was granted “in nearly every case where the LGBT parents agreed to teach their children about — and be supportive of — the covenant of baptism.”

“As a result of our continued supplication,” President Nelson continued, “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.”

That adjustment in policy occurred earlier this year.

President Nelson said Church leaders also decided that “LGBT parents may request that a baby be named and blessed by one who worthily holds the Melchizedek Priesthood” and clarified that “homosexual immorality would be treated in the eyes of the Church in the same manner as heterosexual immorality.”

President Nelson’s clarification of the policy decisions came as he spoke about how students can know the truth and understand which voices they can count on in an ever-changing world. He finished his clarification of the policy by professing its intention, which he said was and is love.

“Though it may not have looked this way to some, the 2015 and 2019 policy adjustments on this matter 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 said. “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.”

President Nelson began his remarks by talking about how just a few days prior, he and his wife returned from an international assignment and are now preparing for the upcoming General Conference. Following which, he talked specifically to the youth regarding God’s love for them and their duties as the House of Israel.

He spoke about five truths that he said he felt impressed to share with students. The first of which was about each person’s identity as sons and daughters of God.

“Let me clarify a distinguishing characteristic about your identity. You are the children who God chose to be part of his battalion during this great climax in the long-standing battle between good and evil, between truth and error,” President Nelson said.

In the fight between good and evil — between truth and error — President Nelson also spoke on the difficulties in distinguishing the good and the truth. 

This led to the second truth he shared:

“Truth is truth.  Some things are simply true,” President Nelson said.

Addie Blacker
The Marriott Center just before the BYU Devotional on Sept. 17. (Addie Blacker)

President Nelson continued to emphasize the importance of the reality of a divine law and plan, and stated that many of the world views expressed on this matter are false.

The third point President Nelson talked about was that God loves each of his children with a perfect love, and the reason he sent his children to earth is to enable them to live with him forever. That is accomplished through agency.

He gave some examples, including one when he was a young man pursuing advanced education. During that time, he joined a team to produce an artificial heart and lungs because, at that time, there was no such thing as heart surgery. 

He confessed there was a lot he didn’t know. At one point in his education, he referenced Doctrine and Covenants 88:38 which reads “And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.”

He said he was determined to follow every law because it is through following those laws that people are saved.

Early in his medical career, President Nelson was told that touching the heart would cause it to stop. However, he and his colleagues later found that wasn’t true. The divine law they found made operations possible.

President Nelson continued his talk by stating the fourth truth:

“The Lord Jesus Christ, whose church this is, appoints prophets and apostles to communicate His love,” he said. He addressed the LGBT policies at that point in his address.

The apostles and prophets communicate God’s love by not only caring about those who are active members of the Church but also to those who may be struggling to follow gospel laws and teachings, he said.

“My dear young friends, there is always a way back,” President Nelson said, speaking to those struggling with the gospel. “Jesus Christ and His gospel is the way. You have not committed any sin so serious that you are beyond the reach of the Savior’s love.”

The fifth and final truth President Nelson shared was that truth can be discovered personally. He invited all to seek truth through prayer and study, even to ask if the five facts he shared are true.

“For the spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not,” he said, quoting Jacob 4:13.

In closing, he invoked a blessing on those in attendance to be able to discern between what is right and wrong.

“I bless you with the power to detect the adversary’s deception,” he said. “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.”

Kao Kalia Yang, an author, activist and teacher, will be speaking at the upcoming forum on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 11:05 a.m. in the Marriott Center.

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