It’s hard sometimes to explain to those who believe that the truth is relative that in reality there is an eternal truth that doesn’t change, and that men cannot modify or revoke the commandments of God as they wish.
It’s also hard to explain to some people that while God is loving and merciful, He is also just and somewhat demanding, even if His requests are ultimately for our own good. Surely God loves all of HIs children, but he is also asking us to do our part in this life, if we want to receive His chosen blessings.
In our modern and democratic societies, almost everything can be changed, as long as an agreement is found among those who have the power to make decisions. It’s therefore almost natural that some people would believe that the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should be able to simply modify what that for them are “outdated” or “unjust” commandments, to align them with the current trends in our society.
When Church leaders don’t make the “requested” changes, they are often accused of hating or discriminating people. But it’s not that simple. Prophets of God need to take a stand and defend what they know to be right. Prophets are not trying to win popularity contests. The scriptures teach that in the past many of them were criticized, attacked, and even killed, for telling people what they didn’t want to hear.
President Nelson’s BYU devotional The Love and Laws Of God is powerful, clear and a great example of what it means to defend the truth, while at the same time being loving and understanding of those who think differently.
In his talk at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, President Nelson reminded young adults of five important truths: (1) they are children of God, (2) truth is indivisible, (3) God loves them and (4) calls prophets to help them, and (5) they can know for themselves what is true.
On the fourth point of God appointing prophets to teach truth, President Nelson spoke openly of how delicate a task this can be for him and his fellow Church leaders. He said:
“Sometimes we are accused of being uncaring as we teach the Father’s requirements for exaltation in the celestial kingdom [the highest level of heaven revealed in scripture],” … “But wouldn’t it be far more uncaring for us not to tell the truth—not to teach what God has revealed? It is precisely because we do care so deeply about all of God’s children that we proclaim His truth.”
Even prophets cannot modify divine law.
Marriage and LGBT issues are areas in which teaching truth has become controversial in recent years. While many governments around the world have changed the laws regarding same-sex marriage, President Nelson reminded the audience that “God has not changed His definition of marriage.”
The prophet explained that there is a distinction between Church doctrine and policy, and this allows for flexibility in Church administration.
“Though we of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles cannot change the laws of God, we do have the charge to ‘build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations’ [Doctrine and Covenants 107:33]. Thus, we can adjust policy when the Lord directs us to do so. You have recently seen such examples. Because the Restoration [the process of fully establishing the Church of Jesus Christ] is ongoing, policy changes will surely continue.”
President Nelson’s illustrated this point with the November 2015 implementation and subsequent modification earlier this year of the policy that prevented the children of gay and lesbian parents from being blessed or baptized without First Presidency approval.
“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,” President Nelson said. “We wanted to facilitate harmony in the home and avoid pitting children and parents against each other.”
I know that many criticized that decision because instead of considering that the motivation was to “reduce friction between parents and their children”, something that seems obvious, they insisted that the decision was motivated by discrimination or even hate.
According to the Church Newsroom, however,
even a new Church policy does not cut off dialogue on the topic with each other or continued prayer to God for additional guidance, and so it was with the November 2015 policy.
“We knew that this policy created concern and confusion for some and heartache for others. That grieved us,” President Nelson said. “Whenever the sons and daughters of God weep—for whatever reasons—we weep. So, our supplication to the Lord continued.”
From the end of 2015 until the spring of 2019 (when the policy was changed), Church leaders continued to pray to God for help. They noted that, in almost every case in which LGBT parents sought an exception to the policy for their child, the requested exception was granted. In April 2019, the Church announced three important changes: first, that baptisms of children of LGBT parents may be authorized by local bishops without First Presidency approval; second, that children of these couples can now also be named and blessed; and third, that homosexual immorality will be treated in the eyes of the Church in the same manner as heterosexual immorality.
What really matters is that
“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 challenge.”
Read the full text of President Nelson’s address, “The Love and Laws of God.”