Young adults must be careful that labels — whether their nationality, their political allegiances or other designations — don’t replace their most important identifiers as children of God, President Russell M. Nelson, leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told a global audience Sunday night.
“The adversary rejoices in labels because they divide us and restrict the way we think about ourselves and each other,” Nelson said. “How sad it is when we honor labels more than we honor each other. Labels can lead to judging and animosity. Any abuse or prejudice towards another because of nationality, race, sexual orientation, gender, educational degrees, culture or other significant identifiers is offensive to our maker.”
The 97-year-old church leader’s remarks came during a worldwide devotional for Latter-day Saints ages 18 to 30 and livestreamed from the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City.
“If you identify yourself by your political affiliation, you will instantly be categorized as having certain beliefs — though I don’t know anyone who believes everything that their preferred political party presently embraces,” Nelson said. “...Some might label me as an ‘old man.’ But I’m a lot younger than Adam was and Noah, too. Ageism, racism, nationalism, sexism and a host of other ‘isms’ are universally limiting.”
More than 24,000 young adults attended the meeting in person, packing the center as well as the Tabernacle and Assembly Hall on a Temple Square undergoing major renovations. A choir made up of young members from Utah Valley filled the loft usually occupied by The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.
Additionally, Temple Square buildings were open from 3 to 9 p.m so young adults could gather before and after the devotional.
Nelson pointed out that it’s not wrong for various identifiers to be significant to people. Rather, he said, they shouldn’t “displace, replace or take priority” over the most important designations of “child of God, child of the covenant and disciple of Jesus Christ.”
He spoke about three “absolute truths” that should form the foundation of a person’s spiritual education: All will die, all will be resurrected and become immortal, and Judgment Day looms for everyone.
“These truths ought to prompt your ultimate sense of FOMO — or fear of missing out,” he said. “You have the potential to reach the Celestial Kingdom [the faith’s highest heaven]. The ultimate FOMO would be missing out on the Celestial Kingdom, settling for a lesser kingdom because here on Earth you chose only to live the laws of a lesser kingdom.”
Nelson said God cares deeply that all of his children have the chance to hear the gospel; that’s why temple work is so significant. The gathering of Israel, he said, is the most important cause on Earth today.
He encouraged young adults to ask questions and “immerse [themselves] in the rich reservoir of revelation.” Doing so, he added, will always lead to greater faith and more knowledge, even if some questions are not yet answered.
Nelson also said people who leave the church don’t deserve judgment any more than people who stay in the fold deserve criticism.
“If friends and family should step away from the church, continue to love them,” he counseled. “... Let your skeptical friends see how much you love the Lord and his gospel. Surprise their doubting hearts with your believing heart.”
‘What would a holy young adult do?’
Nelson’s sermon was preceded by his wife, Wendy Watson Nelson, who asked participants to consider one question in every facet of their lives: “What would a holy young adult do?”
This question, she explained, can increase confidence, productivity, gratitude and clarity of thinking; decrease anxiety and stress; provide motivation; lift moods; and help people resist temptation, detect deception and make better decisions.
It doesn’t matter how busy or monotonous someone’s life is, Wendy Nelson said, or how a person is feeling; this question will still work.
“In short, because this question puts you in touch with the Spirit of the Lord, and with the divine DNA in your spirit,” she said, “this one question can bring you more light and truth.”
For instance, she asked how holy young adults might start their day, talk to their friends and family or prioritize their to-do list. What would they read, write, watch, listen to and wear? If they were falsely accused, betrayed or misunderstood, how would they react?
Wendy Nelson said that among 30 young adults who applied this question to their lives, successes were reported such as increased gratitude for small things, better choices in music and other media, enhanced prayer and scripture study, and decreased jealousy of others.
She also said that, due to “the buffetings of Satan,” many young people have had sacred experiences removed from their lives altogether.
“Whether this has happened to you or not, I invite you to reclaim or to increase the sacred in your life by doing exactly what the Lord has commanded, which is to ‘practice holiness continually,’” she said. “As you live your life in crescendo, trying to be just a little more holy day by day and quickly repenting when you mess up, you will find joy in this life and eternal life in the world to come.”