Combating racism and the Black Lives Matter movement were among the topics stressed in President Dallin H. Oaks’ BYU devotional address.
“Of course Black lives matter. That is an eternal truth all reasonable people should support,” said the first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
While Black lives will always matter, many have used the movement to stand for other things that don’t “command universal support,” President Oaks said, such as abolishing police or making constitutional government changes. He said these things are appropriate to discuss and seek for, but not under “what we hope to be a universally accepted message: Black lives matter.”
President Oaks brought up many examples of recent racist events that have occurred around the world. He said that within the last century there has been the Holocaust, ethnic cleansing, genocide, discrimination in employment or education and many others. He specifically mentioned the tragic death of George Floyd and its impact on the Black Lives Matter movement.
President Oaks told the socially distanced audience in the Marriott Center that the current political climate heightens strong feelings and anger toward the recent push for racial equality. Inspiration, education and clear thinking are three helps he mentioned that will allow people to better understand and find solutions for racism.
“We must have clear thinking about how current events should be analyzed and acted upon in view of this nation’s shameful history of Black slavery,” he said. President Oaks emphasized the importance of using reason as people deal with racist and complicated conflicts.
Diving further into the topic of racism, President Oaks discussed how many view modern and ancient scriptures as racist. He asserted that with a proper understanding of scriptures and modern revelation, it is clear that there is no room for racism in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
President Oaks quoted many of President Russell M. Nelson’s teachings from the past two years that say God does not love one race more than another and racism is not to be tolerated or allowed in the Church. He urged all to follow President Nelson’s plea to root out racism.
“Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can unite and bring peace to races of all nations. We must unite in love with each other and our Savior, Jesus Christ,” he said.
In context of discussing those who wish to tear down statues or erase much of history, President Oaks shared a story of Winston Churchill who warned of the evils of Nazi Germany. After many tragedies came to pass, his colleagues wanted to punish those who did not listen to Churchill’s initial warnings.
President Oaks quoted Churchill who responded saying “Of this I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”
In paraphrasing Churchill’s thoughts, President Oaks made a plea: “Let us not open a quarrel between the past and the present, lest we jeopardize our attempts to improve our future.”
President Oaks said he hopes members of the Church can push forward in trying to improve society and love one another. He said there are things to be learned and remembered from the past while still hoping to change things for the better.
“Ours is the duty to unite and improve the future we will share,” he said.
President Oaks also addressed many other challenges students face today and said Christ is the answer to finding peace. He said increasing love for others can help ease hardships during this time when the pandemic causes disappointment and grief, anxiety levels increase, and hateful racist experiences occur around the world.
“Please do your part in what is required in these unusual circumstances. And remember that some of the burdensome restrictions, including even the wearing of masks, are not only for your immediate protection but also for the well-being of those around you,” President Oaks said.
“I remind you that the love of God for his children and the love of His Son, the Savior, are incomprehensible,” he said.
President Oaks also urged viewers to be kind to others during the tension-filled election season. “I urge you to treat others with civility and respect and to vote!”
For dealing with anxiety, President Oaks said listeners can trust in Christ’s promises of peace if they have faith in Jesus Christ. “Instead of being swept along in the anxiety that is characteristic of your generation, rely on the assurances of a loving Heavenly Father,” he said.
This devotional was the first one to be given to a public, in-person audience since March 2020. Students and faculty in attendance were selected through a random drawing sent out prior to the devotional to ensure social distancing and limit the audience amount.