Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — President Russell M. Nelson joked with a purpose Sunday night about being more than 97-and-a-half years old — the oldest president and prophet in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"In short, I have lived a long time," the hale and hearty church leader said during a worldwide devotional for young adults ages 18 to 30. "And at this point, I have stopped buying green bananas."
After the long laughter of a capacity crowd of 20,000 young adults died down inside the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City, President Nelson said he no longer spends time on things that don't matter.
"You do matter to me, and your future matters much to me," he said, calling them futures that extend beyond this life to eternal glory.
President Nelson said his purpose Sunday night was to educate and prepare them for those futures and stressed three fundamental truths he said would set young adults on the right course for their futures:
- Know the truth about who you are.
- Know the truth about what Heavenly Father and his Son have offered you.
- Know the truth related to your conversion.
President Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, addressed the worldwide devotional, which drew an estimated 24,000 young adults, single and married, to the Conference Center's main hall and overflow seating in the center's Little Theater, at the Tabernacle on Temple Square, at the Assembly Hall, and at the new Social Hall Avenue Meetinghouse at 95 S. State Street.
Both said they hoped the young adults have questions, and Sister Nelson invited them to experiment with asking themselves one specific question once a day over a three-day period.
What did President Nelson say about labels and divine identity?
President Nelson said the way young people think about who they really are affects nearly every decision they make. He said three identities should be their priorities:
- "I believe that if the Lord were speaking to you directly tonight, the first thing he would make sure you understand is your true identity. My dear friends, you are literally spirit children of God."
- "Second, as a member of the church, you are a child of the covenant."
- "And third, you are a disciple of Jesus Christ."
"Tonight, I plead with you not to replace these three paramount and unchanging identifiers with any others, because doing so could stymie your progress or pigeonhole you in a stereotype that could potentially thwart your eternal progression," he said.
President Nelson said other labels young people may choose to use can be fun, positive and meaningful, though many will change over time.
"There are various labels that may be very important to you, of course," he said. "Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that other designations and identifiers are not significant. I am simply saying that no identifier should displace, replace or take priority over these three enduring designations."
Replacing those priorities with other labels "can be spiritually suffocating." And choosing identifiers incompatible with the three he prioritized "will ultimately let you down ... because they do not have the power to lead you toward eternal life in the celestial kingdom of God," he said.
President Nelson also denounced prejudice.
"Labels can lead to judging and animosity," he said. "Any abuse or prejudice toward another because of nationality, race, sexual orientation, gender, educational degrees, culture or other significant identifiers is offensive to our Maker."
What should young adults know about God and Christ?
President Nelson said God will preserve, protect and guide young people, healing their broken hearts and comforting them in distress.
"In all of eternity, no one will ever know you or care about you more than (God) does. No one will ever be closer to you than he is. You can pour out your heart to him and trust him to send the Holy Ghost and angels to care for you."
Christ's Atonement can cleanse them, he said.
"He will deliver you from your most excruciating circumstances in his own way and time," he added.
What did President Nelson say about the importance of questions?
President Nelson said the young adults must own their own conversions. He said he hoped they had questions about the gospel because "sincere questions asked in faith will always lead to greater faith and more knowledge." He asked them to consider asking themselves some questions:
- Do you want to feel peace about concerns that presently plague you?
- Do you want to know Jesus Christ better?
- Do you want to learn how his divine power can heal your wounds and weaknesses?
- Do you want to experience the sweet, soothing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ working in your life?
Answers will require effort, he said.
"I plead with you to take charge of your testimony. Work for it. Own it. Care for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. Feed it truth. Don't pollute it with the philosophies of men and then wonder why your testimony is waning."
What did Sister Wendy Nelson say?
Sister Nelson invited young adults to try an experiment that she said 30 of their peers in the United States and Canada had tried and approved. She said the question would increase their confidence, decrease their anxiety, motivate them,
"In just one situation a day — for each of three days — ask yourself what would a holy young adult do?" she said.
The experiment will help them because, she said, "this question puts you in touch with the Spirit of the Lord, and with the divine DNA in your spirit."
She said the young adults who tested the question found it worked no matter how busy or monotonous their lives were or whether they were happy or overwhelmed, lonely, overlooked or overjoyed. They reported increased gratitude, strength and positivity.
For example, she said, "How would (a holy young adult) talk with a friend, or shop, or play, or pray, or do laundry or read to a child? What would a holy young adult listen to or say, write or read, watch or wear? If a holy young adult were falsely accused, betrayed or misunderstood, what would she do?"
She compared some young adults to the Salt Lake Temple, which has been decommissioned during its lengthy, ongoing renovation.
"When a temple is decommissioned, that which is sacred related to ordinances and instruction, is removed. Sadly, the same can happen with people," she said, as she encouraged each to recapture that which is sacred in their lives.
Has President Nelson emphasized identity before?
President Nelson has emphasized divine identity for years. For example:
- During a BYU fireside in 2000, he said young Latter-day Saints should recognize that they are the children of Abraham, of prophets and of covenants. By taking the sacrament each Sunday, he said, Christ's Atonement literally becomes part of their identity.
- In a 2018 fireside, weeks after he became the church's 17th president and prophet, he told single adults that each is "an elect son or daughter of God, created in his very image."
- And in a 2019 BYU devotional at BYU, he said God had chosen young Latter-day Saints to be on earth at this time for a longstanding battle between truth and error.