President Ballard invites students to embrace their divine identity

President M. Russell Ballard addresses students about their spiritual and eternal identity in his devotional speech. (Addie Blacker)

President M. Russell Ballard urged Millennials and Gen Zers to remember their divine identity as sons and daughters of God and to live the two great commandments in his devotional address on March 3.

“You are and have always been a son or daughter of God with spiritual roots in eternity,” he said. “It gives you an extraordinary identity that no one can take away from you.”

At 91 years of age and as a member of the Silent Generation, President Ballard expressed how he tries to understand and follow the current generation and it’s technological advances. He made some jokes about learning what TikTok is and how to use his smartphone.

President Ballard went on to say he, like everyone else, is tied to multiple identities; one of those identities being the generation in which he was born. He said that though these generational, cultural or ancestral identities are important, they are not the most important identity with which individuals should choose to identify.

President Ballard gave examples of what has happened when the human race focused too heavily on one particular identity that wasn’t related to their divine origin. He talked about the horrors of Auswitchz and the persecution of homosexual individuals, the Jewish and Roma peoples, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others that were identified as separate or different and suffered torture and death at the hands of their fellow human beings.

He gave modern examples of multiple identities that can be a distraction or hindrance to progress, specifically referencing identities based on association with political parties. He said though these identities can be positive, basing a whole identity upon political association has also invited “petty squabbling” and “demonization” between those considered to be the opposition.

President Ballard quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and referred to recent, divisive events that have occurred on campus.

In response to those events, Ballard admonished that the commandments, including those expressed in Doctrine and Covenants 59:5-6, should be “proclaimed, discussed and lived” more at BYU than any other location on Earth.

President Ballard referenced how, as children of God, students can live the second great commandment by loving their neighbors.

President Ballard gave the students “homework,” asking them to emulate Jesus Christ’s actions of lone spiritual reflection by taking personal time to contemplate their identity as a child of God and their relationship to Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and His Church.

He asked the audience members to “look deep in your souls and ask how you can fulfill your purpose of being a child of God by loving the Lord and loving your neighbor more faithfully than you ever have before.” He then asked them to share what they learn about themselves and their “true identity” with others.

Going off script and ignoring the teleprompter, President Ballard expressed this last thought before closing his speech:

“Now, I’m an old man, and I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around, but I do want you to know this: If I ever see you here or on the other side of the veil and you come up to me, I hope you’ll never say, ‘You didn’t tell me.’ I’m trying to tell you today, the best way I know how; from living 91 years, the little things in life are what matter most.”

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