PROVO, Utah — In addressing the questions regarding revelation, suicide, pornography, missionary work, kindness and same-sex attraction, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared candid and timely advice to students at Brigham Young University on Tuesday, Nov. 14, during a campus devotional.
Basing his remarks on questions he received from two young single adult stake presidents and several BYU professors, Elder Ballard shared counsel regarding some of today’s current and most pressing issues.
“In the end, I was surprised to receive 767 questions,” he said. “They cover a variety of topics, including life at BYU, dating, doctrine, marriage, revelation, seeking perfection and showing love to others.”
Recognizing he wouldn’t be able to address every question, Elder Ballard said reviewing the questions has been a blessing to him because it has given him the opportunity to consider the issues and challenges facing young adults today.
“My calling and life experiences allow me to respond to certain types of questions,” he said. “There are other types of questions that require an expert in a specific subject matter. That is exactly what I do when I need an answer to such questions. I seek help from others, including those with degrees and expertise in such fields.”
Sharing that he worries sometimes “that members expect too much from Church leaders and teachings — expecting them to be experts in subjects well beyond their duties and responsibilities,” Elder Ballard reminded listeners of his role as an Apostle — to invite others to come unto Christ.
“If you have a question that requires an expert, please take the time to find a thoughtful and qualified expert to help you,” he said. “There are many on this campus and elsewhere who have the degrees and expertise to respond and give some insight to most of these types of questions.”
Elder Ballard answered a handful of the submitted questions, beginning with counsel in response to differentiating between “debilitating perfectionism and Christ’s invitation to become perfect like Him.”
“We live in a world of comparison,” he replied. “Social media have made this worse as we go online and compare our seemingly less exciting lives with the ‘fake lives’ we see online.”
Recognizing that much of the “fake lives” on social media sites have been edited, and are boastful and unreal, Elder Ballard said that some may have unrealistic expectations believing they should be happy at all times, and if they are not, they feel like something is wrong with them.
“We should not compare ourselves with others,” he said. “Please remember the Savior is interested only in our personal growth.”
The second question Elder Ballard addressed was from a woman who asked about education and preparing for marriage.
“Get as much education as possible and plan on being employed sometime in your life after college,” Elder Ballard said. “At the same time, prepare for marriage and family.
“Some women will choose to work and raise a family. Others will need to work because that will be the only way to support themselves. Others may not need to be employed because their husbands can support the family through his income.”
Whatever the situation, Elder Ballard encouraged students to not delay marriage because of educational goals.
“You can accomplish both with hard work, sacrifice and planning,” he said. “In fact, with a companion's support, you can be more successful.”
For the young women who are feeling less valued because they have chosen not to serve a mission, Elder Ballard reminded listeners that President Thomas S. Monson’s announcement about lowering the age of missionary service made it clear that young women may choose to serve a mission, but are “not under the same mandate to serve as are the young men.”
“However, studying the gospel and sharing it daily can be accomplished by anyone with or without an official call,” he said. “Please remember that it doesn’t take a name tag to do missionary work. You can study, defend and share the gospel every day through social media and, most important, reach out personally to people around you.”
When Makenna Noble, a young adult from Mesa, Arizona, who attended the devotional, heard those words she felt a sense of relief. “I liked how he said how women weren’t required as men to go on missions and that you shouldn’t feel bad for not going. A lot of girls are going on missions right now, and whenever people ask me if I am going on a mission, I would have sad feelings since I wasn’t going, but I didn’t feel right about it. I liked that he said I didn’t have to feel that way."
When addressing the question of what message he has for the LGBT young single adults, Elder Ballard responded in a kind, frank manner.
“I want anyone who is a member of the Church who is gay or lesbian to know I believe you have a place in the kingdom and recognize that sometimes it may be difficult for you to see where you fit in the Lord’s Church, but you do.
“We need to listen to and understand what our LGBT brothers and sisters are feeling and experiencing. Certainly, we must do better than we have done in the past so that all members feel they have a spiritual home where their brothers and sisters love them and where they have a place to worship and serve the Lord.”
Elder Ballard taught that when a person loves God, he or she makes — and strives to keep — sacred covenants. Through living the gospel commandments a person will experience “untold blessings” allowing a person to become his or her very best selves — “exactly who God wants us to be.”
BYU student Nicole Boden, a junior studying linguistics, said she felt loved after hearing Elder Ballard's counsel.
“He talked about a lot of things going on in my life personally, so it was very nice to hear him speak. You could tell that he personally had spent a lot of time thinking and talking to people to be able to better understand. As a woman in the church and a member of the LGBTQ community, it was very nice to feel that amount of love from one of our general authorities.”
Addressing the question, “Where does the Church stand on LGBT civil rights?” Elder Ballard said the Church believes in “fairness for all.”
“We believe that the core rights of citizenship should be protected for all people — for LGBT people, for people of all faiths, and for everyone else,” he said.
The best approach to balancing rights, Elder Ballard taught, is to protect the core rights of all groups and then find “reasonable compromises in other areas when rights conflict.”
Using the recent Utah nondiscrimination legislation as an example, Elder Ballard said that “we condemn, in the strongest terms, bullying or harassment of any kind. Every person is a child of God. Everyone is entitled to love and respect.
“The reason that the Church supported the LoveLoud festival, here in Utah County, was to send a strong message that LGBT youth or anyone else should never be mistreated and if any were troubled, they should seek help from friends, family members and trained professionals.”
Addressing the topic of suicide, Elder Ballard said he is aware of the problem and has personal experiences with close family and friends who have taken their own lives.
“Suicide is a very complicated subject — experts point out there are multiple causes including anxiety, depression and chemical imbalance that can lead to despair and loss of self-control,” he said. ‘Be careful in what you say about suicide and recognize that we do not know the full circumstances surrounding every suicide. The Lord alone has all the facts and only He would know the intent of one’s heart. We should not judge those who do take their own lives and we should support and comfort those who are left behind after such a death of a loved one.
“Always remember every life is precious — a gift from a loving Heavenly Father.”
Answering the question, “My boyfriend struggles with pornography, what should I do?” Elder Ballard encouraged transparency and complete honesty — especially to anyone who is considering marriage.
“Talk with each other and find out where a person’s heart is and what he or she is doing to become a Saint through the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” he said. “However, you shouldn’t be asking these kinds of personal questions when you first meet someone — and certainly not during the first date!”
Recognizing a person may be able to help another person who is sincerely trying to find freedom from habitual use or addiction to the “new drug” of pornography, Elder Ballard said that “too many men and women suffer in silence because we have unintentionally demonized those who are addicted to pornography.
“Parents, family members and friends can do much more to help those in trouble by being willing to listen and offer support and encouragement. Nevertheless, boyfriends and girlfriends are not responsible to ‘save’ their friends from sin, each person has that responsibility.”
To those wondering about if they should proceed in a relationship where pornography is a factor, Elder Ballard said “only you can decide, with the Lord’s help.”
“If you choose to remain in a relationship with someone struggling with this temptation, help him or her turn to God in prayer, in fasting and in regular scripture study,” he said. “Additionally, encourage visits with parents, family members, priesthood leaders and/or professional counselors to get additional help and support. There is always hope if they sincerely choose to fight this battle. It may not be easy, but it is worth it!”
Elder Ballard addressed a question about how a person can move forward after a Church leader has done something that hurt his or her trust.
“I know this happens because the Lord has only mortals to work with as He invites us to receive His blessings, ordinances and words,” he replied. “I can imagine how you feel because we live in a world where people sometimes say hurtful things, misuse the trust they have been given, and don’t always live Jesus’s teachings as they should. We are, after all, human — we are fallible, flawed and imperfect.”
Elder Ballard asked listeners to remember that at some point in life, he or she may disappoint and fail others too. Whether it is letting down a family member, Church brother or sister, or friend, Elder Ballard recognized that no one — no father, mother, child, professor, student, missionary or mission president to name a few — is perfect.
“The Lord provided the only real solution to living with other mortals,” Elder Ballard said. “He asks us to forgive and love one another.”
To family and friends who are less active, Elder Ballard encouraged listeners to love them.
“Please don’t preach to them! Your family member or friend already knows the Church’s teachings. They don’t need another lecture! What they need, what we all need, is love and understanding, not judging. Share your positive experiences of living the gospel.”
In closing, Elder Ballard shared three suggestions about seeking answers to gospel questions. First, while searching, studying and praying for answers, “please remember you have to be living right to get the answers you seek.”
Second, be still. “Most all of our concerns in life are answered in the quiet times of thinking, praying and reaching out to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ for guidance, peace and joy as we strive to live the gospel.
Third, keep focused on what is really essential. “Don’t look beyond the mark, trust Heavenly Father, He has given us His eternal plan so, ‘Stay in the boat and hang on!’”