PROVO — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 2015 policy preventing the children of LGBTQ couples from baptism came about because of love, according to President Russell M. Nelson, the church’s president. So did its subsequent reversal in April.
“Whenever sons and daughters of God weep, for whatever reason, we weep,” Nelson said.
Nelson addressed Brigham Young University’s student body Tuesday morning at a devotional, held in the university’s packed Marriott Center.
He spoke about what he believes to be five divine truths, including that God’s laws exist to protect the Latter-day Saints on earth.
The church updated its handbook for bishops and stake presidents in November 2015 to state that the children of same-sex couples couldn’t be baptized until the age of 18. In April, that policy was reversed, in addition to another policy that defined same-sex marriage as “apostasy” that could result in church disciplinary actions.
A Latter-day Saint president last addressed the student body in 2011, when the late Thomas S. Monson gave a speech titled “Be a Light to the World.”
Nelson, who donned a blue tie for the occasion, told the students that the first truth he wanted to share is that they are sons and daughters of God. He said he would not be surprised to learn that in the afterlife that they had pleaded with God to send them to earth during this time in history.
“You are the children whom God chose to be part of his battalion during this great climax of the longstanding battle between good and evil, between truth and error,” Nelson said.
The second truth, he said, is that truth, is truth.
“Some things are simply true,” Nelson said. “The arbitror of truth is God, not your favorite social media news feed, not Google and certainly not those who are disaffected from the church.”
The third truth he presented was that God loves everyone with perfect love.
“More than anything, our father wants his children to choose to return home to him,” Nelson said. “Everything he does is motivated by his yearning desire. The entire reason we are here on Earth is to qualify to live with him forever. We do that by using our agency to find and stay on the covenant path that leads back to our heavenly home.”
God’s laws, Nelson said, also helped usher in the introduction of heart surgery to the world. Nelson, a retired heart surgeon, said that there was no such thing as heart surgery when he began his career. Then came advancements such as the discovery that introducing potassium chloride to blood flowing into the coronary arteries would allow the heart to stop beating so that it could be worked on.
“Literally, we could turn the heart off long enough to repair it and then turn it back on again,” Nelson said.
The fourth truth, he said, was that prophets and apostles are appointed to communicate and teach God’s laws. He said there is always a way back to the church’s gospel.
“You have not committed any sin so serious that you are beyond the reach of the Savior’s love and atoning grace,” Nelson said. “As you take steps to repent and follow God’s laws, you will begin to feel just how much Heavenly Father and his beloved Son want you back home with him.”
He said the church’s leaders are criticized for holding to God’s laws and have been called uncaring for doing so, but that he believes it would be more uncaring to not share what they see as truth.
“It is precisely because we do care deeply about all of God’s children that we proclaim his truth. We may not always tell people what people want to hear. Prophets are rarely popular,” Nelson said, pausing for light laughter, “but we will always teach the truth.”
The power to proclaim God’s law does not give the church’s leaders power to change it, he said. He said that while same-sex marriage is legalized in the United States and many countries worldwide, God defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.
“God has not changed his definition of marriage,” Nelson said.
He said that new policy changes will continue. He pointed to the April reversal as an example, using the LGBT acronym and stating that the policy applied to those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Nelson said the 2015 policy came about because they did not want to turn children and their parents against each other.
He said the church knows that policy created confusion and heartache.
“Though it may not have looked this way to some, the 2015 and 2019 policy adjustments in this matter were both motivated by love, the love of our heavenly father for our children, and the love of the brethren of whom they serve,” Nelson said.
His final point came with a blessing to the students. Nelson said the students will know for themselves what truth is by listening to the Holy Spirit.
“I bless you with power to detect the adversary’s deceptions, I bless you with the greater capacity to receive revelation and I bless you to be able to feel the infinite reach of God’s perfect love for you,” Nelson said.