Mormon apostle Ballard sounds off on LGBT rights, marriage, bullying, suicide and more in BYU speech

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) LDS apostle M. Russell Ballard talks about the church's new program called Just Serve from his office in the LDS Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 24, 2017.

LDS apostle M. Russell Ballard used his Brigham Young University devotional address Tuesday to offer pithy answers to questions about balancing work and marriage, how to help a loved one with a porn addiction, where gay Mormons fit in the faith and what to think about suicide.

“Picture me as your grandfather who believes in you and is cheering for you,” Ballard counseled thousands of students and faculty attending the speech at the Marriott Center in Provo.

“I am a general authority but that doesn’t make me an authority in general,” he then quipped. “I worry that members expect too much from their leaders and teachers, expecting them to be experts [in areas and topics] well beyond their expertise. If you have a question that requires an expert, please take the time to find an expert to help you.”

Ballard, third in the line of succession to lead The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then responded to a handful of questions culled from the 767 submitted by the faith’s Young Single Adults.

Here is a sampling:

On perfection • Avoid comparing yourselves to others and putting too much stock in what some people post on social media, knowing what is portrayed is often “fake lives, edited, boastful and unreal.” Seeking perfection is a lifelong quest, possible only with the help of Jesus Christ.

On education and marriage • Get as much schooling as you can, but “don’t delay marriage because of education goals. You can accomplish both with sacrifice and planning.” Sometimes a companion’s support can help you “be more successful.”

On LGBT Mormons • Any member has a place in God’s kingdom. It may be difficult sometimes for gay Latter-day Saints to see “where you fit in the Lord’s church but you do.” Mormon leaders, along with the rank and file, need to “listen to and understand what LGBT members are feeling and experiencing. We must do better than we have in the past until all feel they have a spiritual home … a place to worship and serve the Lord.”

On LGBT civil rights • The best approach is to protect “core rights” of all people and then find “reasonable compromises in other areas where rights conflict.” The LDS Church successfully lobbied for Utah’s 2015 law protecting LGBT individuals from housing and job discrimination while safeguarding some religious liberties. Earlier this year, the Utah-based faith filed legal papers backing a Colorado baker who refused on religious grounds to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.

On bullying • The church strongly condemns “bullying or harassment of any kind.” Every person is a child of God and deserves to be treated with kindness and civility. That’s why the church supported August’s LoveLoud concert in Orem, to send a “strong message that LGBT people should never be mistreated.”

On suicide • I have close family and friends who have taken their own lives and “there are things we know and things we do not know.” Suicide is “complicated, with multiple causes,” including anxiety, depression, despair and loss of self-control. Only God knows the “full circumstances behind any suicide,” so none should judge those who take their lives. People should “love and comfort those left behind. … Every life is precious, a gift from a loving Heavenly Father.”

On talking about pornography with a potential spouse • Don’t do it on the first date. Don’t demonize those addicted to pornography. Only you know how to proceed in a relationship with those who may be hooked on porn but you are not responsible to fix or even help them.

On LDS leaders who betray trust • I can imagine how you feel, but mortals are all God has to work with. All humans are “fallible, flawed.” At some point in your own life, you may disappoint or fail your loved ones. “No father, no mother, no children, no professor, no student, no missionary or mission president is perfect. The only real solution … is to forgive and love one another.”

On missionary work in Mormon-dominated Provo • You all live in the mission field. The church has two missions in Provo. I challenge you to invite one person to church between now and Christmas. “It’s the best gift you could give the Savior.”

In the end, Ballard said, it is his mission as an apostle to help, nurture and support church members.

On his lifetime appointment to a position he will hold until he dies, the 89-year-old leader said, “I gave up my dream of early retirement and any real sense of privacy.”

And, he joked, a “release from my calling is not my best alternative right now.”