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Church president emphasizes love, clarifies policy for LGBTQ families

President Russell M. Nelson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints addressed students in the BYU devotional on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. Screen grab from churchofjesuschrist.org

PROVO — For the first time in eight years, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke Tuesday in person at the BYU devotional, emphasizing themes of love and truth, while clarifying changes in church policy involving the children of LGBTQ parents.

President Russell M. Nelson addressed students in a filled-to-capacity Marriott Center. He is the first church president to offer the BYU devotional since President Thomas S. Monson in November 2011.

“There is no group we would rather be with today, than you,” President Nelson told the crowd. “I wish to discuss five truths that I wish to share with you … Truth number one: you are sons and daughters of God.”

The devotional offered background and context on two recent policy adjustments involving the children of LGBTQ parents. In November 2015, a few months after a Supreme Court ruling legalized same-sex marriage, church leaders announced the children of those parents could not be baptized without special permission. Then, in April 2019, they announced a change that would allow those children to be baptized.

“Truth is truth. Some things are simply true. The arbitrator of truth is God. Not your favorite news feed, not Google, and certainly, not those who are disaffected from the church,” President Nelson said.

Over nearly 45 minutes, the church leader spoke at length about both the love of God and the importance of adhering to God’s laws, including the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

At times, he used his own experience as a parent to illustrate how a loving parent enforces rules.

“There is a strong connection between God’s love and his laws,” he said. “Our children did not always like or understand the rules, but because we loved them, we were willing to do all we could to guide and protect them. As much as I love my children, I can only imagine how much God loves each of us because His love for us is infinite.”

Referring to the 2015 policy change on baptisms for the children of LGBTQ parents, President Nelson said the intent was to keep families together, not to split them.

“Because parents are the primary exemplars for their children, we did not want young children to choose between beliefs or behavior they learned at home, and at church. We wanted to avoid pitting parents and children together,” he said. “We knew this policy created concern and confusion for some and heartache for others. That grieved us. Whenever the sons and daughters of God weep—for whatever reasons—we weep. So, our supplications to the Lord continued.”

“As a result of our continued supplication, we felt impressed to adjust the policy,” he added, speaking about the updated policy in 2019.

“The 2015 and 2019 policy adjustments on this matter were both motivated by love,” President Nelson continued, “the love of our Heavenly Father for his children, and the love of the brethren for those they serve.”

“My dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to seek earnestly a confirmation from the spirit that what I have told you is true, and is from the Lord,” he said.