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Elder Oaks Addresses Elections, Hope and Freedom at BYU

Students encouraged to be civil on social media

“Today, I say that if the Church or its doctrines are attacked in blogs and other social media, contentious responses are not helpful. They disappoint our friends and provoke our adversaries,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during an address to students at Brigham Young University. The Mormon apostle was the devotional speaker in the Marriott Center on the Provo, Utah, campus Tuesday, September 13, 2016.

Elder Oaks began his remarks by speaking about the national and local elections that are just around the corner on November 8. “This audience includes thousands who will soon have their first opportunity to vote.”

“The few months preceding an election have always been times of serious political divisions, but the divisions and meanness we are experiencing in this election, especially at the presidential level, seem to be unusually wide and ugly,” he expressed.

“We should also remember not to be part of the current meanness,” Elder Oaks stressed. “We should communicate about our differences with a minimum of offense.”

He continued, “TV, the internet, and the emboldened anonymity of the blogosphere have replaced whatever remained of the measured discourse of the past and have facilitated the current ugliness. Nevertheless, as the First Presidency always reminds us, we have the responsibility to become informed about the issues and candidates and to independently exercise our right to vote.”  

Elder Oaks emphasized when our positions on issues do not succeed, we need to “graciously” accept the results and “practice civility” with those who oppose our views.

“In the distressing circumstances that surround us, we must trust in God and His promises and hold fast to the vital gospel teaching of hope,” he said.

Elder Oaks said every generation faces challenges that can cause us to be discouraged. He told a story of when he was first enrolled at BYU, 66 years ago, at the beginning of the Korean War. At age 18, he wasn’t sure if his Utah National Guard field artillery group would be mobilized. His group was not asked to join the war, so he continued his formal education.

“While some abandon progress, you of faith should hope on and press on with your education, your lives, and your families,” said Elder Oaks.

Elder Oaks voiced concern over social and legal trends “that are likely to affect the fundamental guarantees that are so vital to fulfill our Church’s mission and to accomplish BYU’s educational mission.”

“I am convinced that a worldwide tide is currently running against both religious freedom and its parallel freedoms of speech and assembly,” he explained. “I believe religious freedom is declining because faith in God and the pursuit of God-centered religion is declining worldwide.”

In education, Elder Oaks said “open inquiry and communication are being replaced on too many campuses by a culture of intellectual conformity and the silencing or intimidation of opposition.”

The former BYU president recalled the first devotional address he gave on campus 41 years ago, when his oldest daughter was a freshman at BYU. His oldest great-granddaughter is now a sophomore on the Provo campus. “Times goes on,” he said.

Visit to listen to Elder Oaks’s entire address and other BYU devotionals.

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