Additional Resource

Stand for Truth

By President Dallin H. Oaks and Sister Kristen M. Oaks

Kristen-OaksDownload Photo

This talk was given at a worldwide devotional for young adults in the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 21, 2023.

President Oaks

Dear young adults, including soon-to-be-graduated high school students, Sister Oaks and I are thrilled to express our love to you and address you in this important devotional. These are stressful times for all of us, but the gospel of Jesus Christ gives us ample reason to be of good cheer. Through His prophet, God has given us the challenge to persist through adversity, and the teachings of Jesus Christ outline the path to prevail toward our divine destiny of eternal life.


Speaking to an audience like you, President Russell M. Nelson gave this important prescription: “As the world grows more and more secular and less spiritual, your growth should be more and more spiritual and less secular. Strive to stand for principle instead of popularity.”

Then he gave this challenge, which we adopt as the title of our devotional: “Know the truth and stand for it, even if the truth is not politically popular.”1

Our goal in our mortal lives and the path we should follow to prevail are given in the plan of salvation and, more recently, in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Consider the perspective in this valuable summary by President Nelson:

“Life is not a one-act play. There really is a premortal period. And there really is life after death. Premortal and mortal portions are but prelude to our postmortal life. Knowledge of the three degrees of glory, as revealed to prophets, gives us a glimpse of our postmortal potential. Eternal life is glorious and well worth the quest.2

As Latter-day Saints, we are blessed with modern revelation that gives us a greater understanding of the purpose of this mortal life. Like President Nelson said, we do not view it like a one-act play. For us, there are at least three acts in our eternal journey. Act 1 is our premortal existence. Our current mortal existence comes next, like Act 2. Our life after death is Act 3. This last act includes a literal resurrection of all who have ever lived, and a final judgment that assigns us to a kingdom of glory for which our deeds, decisions, and desires have qualified us.

The restored gospel of Jesus Christ provides unique access to the truth about our loving Heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation for His children.

The purpose of our life on earth, Act 2, is to grow toward our destiny of eternal life. We do this by overcoming what the Book of Mormon describes as opposition in all things, including many temptations to violate the commandments of God. Facing and overcoming temptation and drawing closer to God through right choices and repentance from wrong ones, helps us attain the eternal growth that is the purpose of the mortal life of the children of God.

We who have the gift of the Holy Ghost and the illumination of modern revelation are blessed with many insights. For example, the Book of Mormon promises that those who diligently seek “shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”3 I pray that all I love, and that includes all the children of God within the sounds of my voice, will act upon that invitation to find and know the truth.


The first truth concerns marriage. Marriage is central to the purpose of mortal life and what follows. We are children of a loving Heavenly Father who created us with the capacity to follow His commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. That power of creation is one of the most precious gifts we have in mortal life. 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. That commandment is central to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That reality explains why we have different values and refrain from certain behaviors that seem common among many around us.

Our attitude toward the definition of marriage and toward marriage itself are examples of that. Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ are uniquely concerned about recent changes in the nature and extent of marriage in the United States. This includes the increasing tendency of U.S. citizens, including some worthy young Latter-day Saint men and women, to postpone marriage. To demonstrate that tendency, let us look at two charts on marriage. While these figures are for the United States, they represent a worldwide problem.

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This first chart shows the significant reduction in the percent of citizens in the United States who have ever been married. In the last 30 years, this percent drops 8 to 9 percentage points for both men and women. Marriage is clearly on the decline in the United States.

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This second chart shows a related increase in the age of marriage of young Latter-day Saints. This portrays the average age of Latter-day Saint men and women at the time of their first marriage in the last 25 years. It shows an increase of about five years for both men and women.4

Consider what young adult Latter-day Saints miss when their marriages are intentionally delayed for a significant period: opportunities lost and blessings postponed. This means delays in the important personal growth that occurs in the relationship between a husband and a wife, growth in such qualities as sacrifice and humility. It means decreased opportunities to work together to build the kingdom of God. Most important, it means fewer children born to grow up with the blessings of the gospel. You know all of this, and you need to know that your leaders know that many of our singles are not marrying sooner for reasons beyond their control. I will say more on that later.

Kristen, please add your thoughts on this.

Sister Kristen Oaks

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.

We learn to sacrifice and serve as we can in few other ways. 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. I learn how to better love and help my husband; I have a friend to laugh with and cry with. I have an advocate, teacher, and cheerleader who in turn helps me.] Marriage is a built-in opportunity to learn communication and perspective. Life becomes better as our marriage becomes connected to something greater than ourselves and closer to our Savior. We want that for you. In the play, “Les Misérables” there is a line: “to love another person is to see the face of God.” Nowhere does that happen better than in marriage.

President Oaks

In secular terms, the postponing of children—even their significant devaluing—is evident in the trend just reported in a respected national poll which shows that the importance to adults of having children has dropped in the last 25 years from 66% to 33%.5

Kristen and I thought of the significance to the restored Church of this national devaluing of the importance of children when Kristen’s sister related a comment by her young grandson. As they read the Friend together and looked at a picture of Jesus, she puzzled over the Savior beckoning the children to come to Him. [Anders, 4 years old, responded with this inspired explanation:

“Don’t you get it? Jesus loves kids.”

Just remember, a loving Heavenly Father has a plan for His young adults and part of that plan is marriage and children.

Now, just for fun, we want to share what we once taught about “dating and hanging out.” Here is a video of what I said in 2005, when the oldest young adults with us today were only about age 12, and the rest of you were just children or not even born.

For many years the Church has counseled our youth not to date before age 16. Perhaps some young adults, especially men, have carried that wise counsel to excess and determined not to date before 26 or maybe even 36. Now I invite you to go back with me and view this video from the year 2005.

Video, President Oaks Speaking

“Men, if you have returned from your mission and you are still following the boy-girl patterns you were counseled to follow when you were 15, it is time for you to grow up. Gather your courage and look for someone to pair off with. Start with a variety of dates with a variety of young women, and when that phase yields a good prospect, proceed to courtship. It’s marriage time. That is what the Lord intends for His young adult sons and daughters. Men have the initiative, and you men should get on with it. If you don’t know what a date is, perhaps this definition will help. I heard it from my 18-year-old granddaughter. A “date” must pass the test of three P’s: (1) planned ahead, (2) paid for, and (3) paired off.

“My single young friends, we counsel you to channel your associations with the opposite sex into dating patterns that have the potential to mature into marriage, not hanging-out patterns that only have the prospect to mature into team sports like touch football. Marriage is not a group activity—at least not until the children come along in goodly numbers.”6

Sisters, you seem to have enjoyed those directions for single men. Now Kristen has a few words for single women.

Sister Oaks

President Oaks, that video about dating is really “dated,” but the principle remains the same—dating still precedes marriage.

Because I married at age 53, I know how the wait for a worthy companion feels and the longing and heartache and tears on my pillow that often accompanied it. I can testify of the Lord’s love for the valiant sisters who find themselves waiting, because I have felt it. My heart also goes out to the faithful brothers who desire this, also. The struggle is real. Dating and not dating can be stressful.

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. As Sister Michelle D. Craig has said, "Trials do not mean the plan is failing.” The plan includes growth and is meant to help us seek God. Sister Craig added, “Heavenly Father is more interested in your growth as a disciple of Jesus Christ than He is in your comfort.”7

If you find yourself marking time waiting for a marriage prospect, stop waiting and start preparing. Prepare yourself for life—by education, experience, and planning. Don’t wait for happiness to be thrust upon you. Seek out opportunities for service and learning. Most importantly, trust in the Lord, “calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come,”8 I promise, as you do happiness will come to you.

President Oaks

Kristen has given you sisters some valuable counsel. Her counsel is not dated. Actually, my counsel to single men is not dated either. Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ are just as concerned about marriage as we were twenty years ago. Our concern includes the causes, such as the shortage of homes young marrieds can afford to buy and the growing amounts of student debt. As you young adults know too well, you are not the cause of those circumstances but their victims. What to do? 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.

In God’s plan we can have it all, but not in the sequence the world seems to dictate. We want to help by reminding you of God’s plan and the worthy examples of our predecessors. Our early pioneers left their homes and possessions to bring their families to spiritual safety in the Mountain West. Today, we urge you not to leave spiritual safety and family to obtain material possessions.


Now I address some issues that are also of concern for the well-loved high school students in our audience.

Nationwide, your peers are afflicted by anxiety, vulnerable to drugs, addicted to social media, and seeking counseling in record numbers. You are affected by these influences, but for you the good news outweighs all of that. You know you are children of God, a uniquely divine heritage. God loves you. He is a powerful mentor, and He has promised to help you if you but seek Him in the way He has taught. Establish in your mind and your personal priorities the powerful truth that you are a beloved child of God. His love endows you with the self-respect, the strength, and the motivation to move against whatever problems you face in your life. And never forget that His servants love you. We love you.

I just received a valuable letter from a 16-year-old girl who lives in a state where we have few members. I will call her Amy. Her letter is important because she expresses feelings that are common in young people all across the Church. Amy’s lengthy letter includes these portions. I have asked one of your peers to read her words.

Video of Young Woman reading Amy’s Words

“I feel like I sometimes get inconsistent and confusing messages from the Church. In my day-to-day life, I see members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on social media act as if they aren’t part of this gospel. … I feel like I am the only young woman in my ward who sees the things I see wrong with the world. … 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. …

“At ward or stake 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.”9

President Oaks

This is a letter from a young woman who is about the age of the high school seniors in this audience. Why does her letter strike me so profoundly? She wants to do what is right, but she feels surrounded by values and behaviors she feels to be wrong, and she just doesn’t know what to do about it. She wants to stand for truth but she doesn’t know how to do it with love. In a devotional to young adults at Ensign College, Elder Clark G. Gilbert and I described this challenge of standing fast with love while proclaiming the truth. We can still love others and find common ground without compromising the truths we know.10

In Amy’s letter, she writes about Church friends who are confused about their gender, a condition called gender dysphoria. This confusion can assume different forms at different times in a person’s life. Affected persons and family members should therefore take the long view and seek to rely and act on eternal principles. I have pondered this subject for some time. Now, in the love I feel for those concerned with such subjects, I have felt impressed by the Spirit to use this opportunity to emphasize some of the precious truths the gospel of Jesus Christ reveals to help us with such confusions.

Young men and women, your Church and Seminary and Institute leaders and teachers and your parents have the responsibility and the inspiration to teach you the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. You have the valuable booklet For the Strength of Youth, which builds on the principles of our Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and the covenants we made when we were baptized and which we renew each Sabbath by partaking of the sacrament. Its initial pages contain this promise: “With these truths as your guide, you can make inspired choices that will bless you throughout eternity.”

When Jesus was asked which was the great commandment, He gave two. First was to love God, which we show by keeping His commandments. Second was to love our neighbor.11 We must do both, and that is not easy. Many of us have a tendency to give less attention to loving our neighbor and to over-emphasize keeping the law [commandments]. That is surely my tendency because of my legal training. After all, loving God and showing our love for God by keeping His commandments is the first great commandment. And of course, it is easier for us to judge ourselves and others on whether we are obeying the law. However, it is also vital for each of us to keep the second commandment, which is “like unto it,”12 to love our neighbors the way Jesus loved us.13

My favorite divine example of combining and keeping both of these two great commandments is what the Savior did when confronted with this issue. Chapter 8 of the Book of John reports how a group of scribes and Pharisees brought a woman to be judged by Jesus.

Their motive was to trap the Savior into choosing to contradict either the law of Moses or the law of Rome, which did not allow the capital punishment directed by the law of Moses in such circumstances. But the value of the example for us today is how Jesus avoided the trap and taught a powerful lesson of how to apply both of the two great commandments.

First, the Savior effectively disarmed those who sought immediate application of the law. He did this by compelling them to examine themselves. “He that is without sin among you,” He said, “let him first cast a stone at her.”14 When the shamed crowd departed, the Savior applied the power of love. He mercifully declined to condemn the woman, and that loving act lifted her to a new life. The application of the law would come later, when she would be judged on the whole of her life (including repentance). But on that earlier occasion the Savior extended love and mercy by refraining from condemning and then affirmed the law by saying “Go, and sin no more.”15

The need to combine and apply both law and love, with inspired balance and timing, is ever present. Elder [D. Todd] Christofferson has reminded us that “Putting the first commandment first does not diminish or limit our ability to keep the second commandment. To the contrary, it amplifies and strengthens it. ... Our love of God elevates our ability to love others more fully and perfectly because we in essence partner with God in the care of His children.”16

Consider these two expressions, one by a recent speaker at BYU and the other in an earlier talk by a General Authority:

“The whole work of the plan of salvation, culminating in the great atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, is to enable us to become beings of love in the deepest form of connection with others.

“>This teaches us that commandments and all prophetic guidance—including the precious truths in the proclamation on the family—are to guide us in the ways of God that we might become beings of love.”17

Now, the other talk:

“Trying to please others before pleasing God is inverting the first and second commandments. It is forgetting which way we face. And yet, we have all made that mistake because of the fear of men. ...

“The Savior, our great exemplar, always faced His Father. He loved and served His fellowmen but said, “I receive not honour from men.” He wanted those He taught to follow Him, but He did not court their favor.”18

These descriptions of love and law are both true guides of what God has commanded us to do. I have previously referred to our “continually trying to balance the dual commandments of love and law,”19 but I now believe that goal to be better expressed as trying to live both of these commandments in a more complete way. 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. Thus, on the subject of God’s law, we need to remember that God has revealed again and again that He created male and female.20 And on the subject of our duty to love our neighbor, we need to remember that God has commanded us to love even those who do not keep all the commandments.

If you, a family member, or a friend is struggling with these issues of confusion of identity, I urge you to apply both the law of the gospel and the love and mercy of our Savior and Redeemer, who will help and guide you, if you patiently walk in His paths. Jesus Christ, who said He was the “light of the world,”21 teaches us the path we need to follow to realize our Heavenly Father’s choicest blessings. He teaches us through the scriptures, through His prophets, and through personal revelation. He loves us and will guide us as we seek to follow where He leads us.


A related and more familiar issue is the feeling of being romantically attracted to persons of the same gender. Of course, if not acted on, such attractions are not sins, but how do we deal with such feelings, in us or in others? My first advice is to remember that whatever our own variations in the diversity of our Father in Heaven’s creations, He loves all of us, and His perfect plan of happiness has a place for all. We show our love for Him by keeping His commandments, including love for His children.

As persons and family members experience such feelings, they should be careful with labels. President Russell M. Nelson spoke of this in the worldwide devotional last year. He taught that labeling is universally limiting because it divides and restricts the way people think about themselves and each other. Consequently, he taught, “No identifier should displace, replace, or take priority over these three enduring designations: ‘child of God,’ ‘child of the covenant’ and ‘disciple of Jesus Christ.’” Then he warned:

“Any identifier that is not compatible with these three basic designations will ultimately let you down. Other labels will disappoint you in time because they do not have the power to lead you toward eternal life in the celestial kingdom of God.”22

What does have the power to lead us to eternal life and the celestial kingdom are the covenants we make. Again, President Nelson taught us just last year:

“Once you and I have made a covenant with God, our relationship with Him becomes much closer than before our covenant. Now we are bound together. Because of our covenant with God, He will never tire in His efforts to help us, and we will never exhaust His merciful patience with us. Each of us has a special place in God’s heart.”23

Then, just a few months ago, President Nelson again reminded us that “keeping covenants actually makes life easier! Each person who makes covenants ... has increased access to the power of Jesus Christ.”24

Adding to the personal power that comes with keeping covenants is our Savior’s wonderful teaching that in the midst of the challenges of mortal life, we should “be of good cheer.”25 In a worldwide address a few months ago, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reminded us that Jesus gave that teaching on the eve of His crucifixion. How could He speak of cheerfulness in the midst of all of the anguish He faced? Elder Holland explained:

“Even in the fateful atmosphere that must have prevailed at the Last Supper, Christ was still reminding His disciples of the reason for and their duty to be of good cheer.

“Surely, this manifestation of His faith, of His hope and charity, comes because He knows the end of the story. He knows righteousness prevails when final accounts are completed. He knows that light always conquers darkness—forever and forever and forever.”26

Kristen, would you like to say some closing words to this beloved group?

Sister Oaks

All we have said here can bring blessings to our lives. We all know the story about the children of Israel being attacked by poisonous serpents in the wilderness. As God ordered, Moses fashioned a staff that] [symbolized our Savior, Jesus Christ. Then, Moses called everyone to look up and they would be healed from their wounds. Tonight, just like the Israelites, we are under attack for various beliefs we hold sacred. I ask you, too, to look to God and live. Look to the words spoken tonight, the words of our Prophet, the scriptures, the plan of salvation, and your patriarchal blessings. Pray and the Lord will be with you. That does not mean any of us will go unscathed, but it does mean we will not be alone, and we can go forward guided and protected from the evil around us. It means we will know the truth and relish in the Spirit. I invite you to look to God and live.


President Oaks

We have spoken about the plan of salvation—all 3 Acts that have been revealed, especially the purpose of this mortal life.

We have spoken about the role and timing of marriage and children.

We have taught that we should diligently seek to know Jesus Christ, to feel His love, and to have faith in Him and His loving guidance along the covenant path to our eternal destiny.

We have spoken of the two great commandments, love God and love our neighbors, and have taught that both should be observed.

In all our concerns, as we work through all our challenges, we urge that we be of good cheer, because He has overcome the world. We can too. Remember, our Father’s plan is a plan of happiness.

I testify of our Savior Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.



1. Sarah Jane Weaver, “Prophet Shares with Youth ‘Things to Know, Things to Do,’” Church News, March 17, 2019, 10.

2. Russell M. Nelson, “Faith and Families,” Church Educational System fireside for young adults, Feb. 6, 2005; and Teachings of Russell M. Nelson (2018), 260.

3. 1 Nephi 10:19.

4. This chart ends at 2015 to avoid irrelevant variations because of the reductions in missionary ages and the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. Aaron Zitner, “America Pulls Back from Values That Once Defined It, WSJ-NORC Poll Finds,” Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2023.

6. Remarks given to young single adults as a Church Educational System fireside telecast from Oakland, California, on May 1, 2005. See Dallin H. Oaks, “Dating versus Hanging Out,” Ensign, June 2006, 13–14.

7. Michelle D. Craig, “Wholehearted,” Liahona, November 2022, 60, 62.

8. Mosiah 4:11.

9. A. W. letter to President Oaks, March 28, 2023.

10. See Dallin H. Oaks and Clark G. Gilbert, “Stand Fast with Love in Proclaiming Truth,” Ensign College devotional, May 17, 2022,

11. Matthew 22:36–39; also see John 14:15.

12. Matthew 22:39.

13. See John 13:34.

14. John 8:7.

15. Joseph Smith Translation, John 8:11.

16. D. Todd Christofferson, “The First Commandment First,” Brigham Young University devotional, March 22, 2022,

17. Jenet Jacob Erickson, “Designed for Covenant Relationships,” Y Magazine, Spring 2023, 34.

18. Lynn G. Robbins, “Which Way Do You Face?” Ensign, November 2014, 9.

19. Dallin H. Oaks, “The Paradox of Love and Law,” Brigham Young University–Idaho devotional, Oct. 30, 2018,

20. Genesis 1:27, 5:2; Matthew 19:4; and Moses 2:27.

21. John 8:12; and 3 Nephi 9:18.

22. Russell M. Nelson, “Choices for Eternity,” worldwide devotional to young adults, May 15, 2022,

23. Russell M. Nelson, “The Everlasting Covenant,” Liahona, Oct. 2022, 6.

24. Russell M. Nelson, “Overcome the World and Find Rest,” Liahona, Nov. 2022, 96.

25. John 16:33.

26. Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Future Filled with Hope,” worldwide devotional for young adults, Jan. 8, 2023,

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