Date more, marry earlier, don’t delay having children — even for financial reasons — and show love to LGBTQ members and those with gender dysphoria.
This was the advice offered by apostle Dallin H. Oaks and his wife, Kristen Oaks, to a global gathering Sunday of young single adults between age 18 and 30 in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Hundreds attended the hourlong devotional with the couple, which was streamed from the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City under the theme, “Know the truth and stand for it, even if the truth is not politically popular.”
Oaks, the 90-year-old first counselor in the faith’s governing First Presidency and next in line to lead the worldwide faith of 17 million, said church leaders are concerned about the tendency of U.S. citizens, including some young Latter-day Saint men and women, to postpone entering committed relationships.
“Marriage is central to the purpose of mortal life and what follows,” said Oaks. “We are children of a loving Heavenly Father who created us with the capacity to follow his commandment to multiply and replenish the earth.”
The power of creation is “one of the most precious gifts we have in mortal life,” he said, but “central to that gift is the law of chastity, the commandment that our powers of procreation be expressed only within marriage between a man and a woman.”
Delaying childbearing, he said, “means fewer children born to grow up with the blessings of the gospel.”
Housing is a ‘concern’
And young couples should not postpone their families due to finances.
“Our concern includes the causes, such as the shortage of homes young marrieds can afford to buy and the growing amounts of student debt,” said Oaks, still recommending that such families go “forward with faith, and do the best you can in housing market circumstances less favorable than I and your grandparents encountered in our early years. And, especially, work to minimize student debt.”
Marriage “is a gift. Not only does marriage give us the opportunity for children, it gives us the opportunity and incentive to begin a journey of growing with one another,” said Kristen Oaks, echoing her husband. “... When I was single, I always looked for opportunities to serve. Now, every night at dinner, my service project is sitting directly across from me.”
Husband and wife both reiterated the need for more and better dating.
“For many years, the church has counseled our youth not to date before age 16,” Oaks said. “Perhaps some young adults, especially men, have carried that wise counsel to excess and determined not to date before 26 or maybe even 36.”
[Read a transcript of Sunday’s talks by President Dallin H. Oaks and his wife, Kristen.]
Kristen Oaks described waiting until she was 53 to marry then-apostle Oaks, whose first wife, June, died of cancer in 1998 at age 65.
“I know how the wait for a worthy companion feels, and the longing and heartache and tears on my pillow that often accompanied it,” she said. “When my faith and future seemed tested — when I wondered why life seemed so hard when I was doing my best to live the gospel — sometimes I felt I must have been doing something wrong. I wasn’t doing anything wrong.”
She encouraged the young adults not to just mark time while waiting for marriage but to “prepare yourself for life — by education, experience and planning. Don’t wait for happiness to be thrust upon you.”
Her husband then turned to two other concerns facing the church’s young people by introducing a letter from a 16-year-old member.
“I truly don’t understand why so many youth in our church don’t see any problem with people changing their gender every other day, dating people who are the same sex or identify as no gender,” the teen had written. “... At ward [congregational] or stake [regional] youth activities, I am asked my pronouns, or at school I am asked to dance with a girl who thinks she is a boy. I know we are supposed to love everyone and show them respect, and I always do. I [just] feel that there is a line being crossed. ... I wish we heard more talk from church leaders about this problem.”
The answers, Oaks said, can be found in the faith’s family proclamation, the teachings of the prophets, the new “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet and words of other leaders.
Regarding transgender members, “affected persons and family members should therefore take the long view,” Oaks said, “and seek to rely and act on eternal principles.”
The former Utah Supreme Court justice said his views have subtly evolved.
In the past, he has referred to “continually trying to balance the dual commandments of love and law,” Oaks said, “but I now believe that goal to be better expressed as trying to live both of these commandments in a more complete way.”
He then added: “Anyone who does not treat individuals who face gender identity challenges with love and dignity is not aligned with the teachings of the first and second great commandments.”
On LGBTQ members, Oaks repeated the church’s position that being attracted to a person of the same sex is not a sin, only acting on it is.
He then referred to recent statements from church President Russell M. Nelson, urging members to eschew “labels.”
Nelson taught that “labeling is universally limiting,” Oaks noted, “because it divides and restricts the way people think about themselves and each other.”
No identifier should “displace, replace or take priority over these three enduring designations: ‘child of God,’” Nelson has said, “‘child of the covenant’ and ‘disciple of Jesus Christ.’”
As young Latter-day Saints work through these challenges, Oaks concluded, they should “be of good cheer, because [Christ] has overcome the world.”
Remember, he reminded them, God’s plan “is a plan of happiness.”