PROVO — Disciples of Jesus Christ are defenders of marriage, said Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during commencement exercises held in the Marriott Center at Brigham Young University on August 14.
“Wherever we go, you and I as disciples of the Lord bear a solemn responsibility to proclaim the will of God to all people,” he said. “And one of the more demanding opportunities of our time is to stand up for the truth regarding the sacred nature of marriage.”
Gone are the days of being a quiet and comfortable Christian, Elder Nelson told the graduates.
“Your religion is not just about showing up for church on Sunday,” he said. “It is about showing up as a true disciple from Sunday morning through Saturday night — 24/7. There is no such thing as a ‘part-time’ disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
A strong character is necessary for discipleship, for disciples will be put to the test, he said.
“At any hour of any day, we have the privilege of choosing between right and wrong,” he said. “This is an age-old battle that started in a premortal realm. And that battle is becoming more intense every day. Your individual strength of character is needed now more than ever before.”
Because of that, true disciples — those who are able to stand for what is right — are needed, especially those who are defenders of marriage, he said.
Speaking of the divine partnership of a husband and wife, Elder Nelson said that great partnerships are dependent upon each individual developing his or her own personal attributes of character.
“There is great power in a strong partnership,” he said. “True partners can achieve more than the sum of each acting alone. With true partners, one plus one is much more than two.”
A husband and wife can form the most significant partnership of all — an eternal family.
“Male and female are created for what they can do and become, together,” Elder Nelson said. “It takes a man and a woman to bring a child into the world. Mothers and fathers are not interchangeable. Men and women are distinct and complementary. Children deserve a chance to grow up with both a mom and a dad.”
As graduates go forth from BYU, they will likely encounter increasing debate about the definition of marriage, said Elder Nelson.
“Many of your neighbors, colleagues and friends will have never heard logical and inspired truths about the importance of marriage as God Himself defined it. You will have many opportunities to strengthen understanding of the Lord’s side of that argument by the eloquence of your examples, both as individuals and as families.”
Referencing the Apostle Paul's foreseeing the current circumstance, Elder Nelson spoke of the “perilous times [that] shall come” in the last days.
“After his remarkable prophecy of our time, Paul added this warning: ‘Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution,’ ” he said. “Ponder that! It means that during these perilous times, life will not be comfortable for true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. But we will have His approval. He gave us this assurance: ‘Blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ ”
Social and political pressures to change marriage laws are resulting in practices contrary to God’s will regarding the eternal nature and purposes of marriage, he said.
“We cannot yield," he said. "History is not our judge. A secular society is not our judge. God is our judge! For each of us, judgment day will be held in God’s own way and time. Man simply cannot make moral what God has declared to be immoral. Sin, even if legalized by man, is still sin in the eyes of God.”
The future of marriage and of countless human lives will be determined by the willingness of believers to bear solemn witness of the Lord and live according to the gospel of Jesus Christ, Elder Nelson taught. That doctrine is canonized in the Bible, when God created the heaven and the earth and man in His own image, in the image of God.
“God is the Father of all men and women,” Elder Nelson declared. “They are His children. It was He who ordained marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Marriage was not created by human judges or legislators. It was not created by think tanks or by popular votes or by oft-quoted bloggers or pundits. It was not created by lobbyists. Marriage was created by God.”
The Ten Commandments — along with revelation in the New Testament, Book of Mormon and modern revelation — forbade adultery and covetousness and commanded husbands to “love thy wife with all thy heart” and “cleave unto her and none else.”
Elder Nelson also spoke of true intimacy, as planned by the Creator, which is experienced only within the sacred union of a husband and wife.
“It is enriched by truth and ennobled by the honoring of covenants a husband and wife make with each other and with God. It is crucial to note that full fidelity to those covenants forbids pornography, lust or abuse in any form.”
Elder Nelson said it is important to love others “with malice toward none, with charity for all,” for “they as children of God are our brothers and sisters. We value their rights and feelings. But we cannot condone efforts to change divine doctrine. It is not for man to change.”
God loves His children, and if they love Him, they will show that love by keeping His commandments, including chastity before marriage and total fidelity within marriage, Elder Nelson taught. Although the “burden of discipleship is heavy,” he said that disciples of the Lord will have help and protection as they stand as defenders of marriage.
“The noblest yearning of the human heart is for a marriage that will endure beyond death,” he said. “Complete fidelity to covenants made in holy temples will allow husband and wife to be sealed together throughout all eternity.”
Combined numbers for June and August graduation included a total of 2,194 bachelor, master and doctorate degrees. Of those awarded, 1,805 earned a bachelor degree, 353 earned a master degree and 36 students received doctorate degrees.
Other speakers during commencement exercises included BYU President Kevin J. Worthen, BYU Alumni president Terry Seamons and a graduate, Phoebe Romney Cook. The graduates come from 50 states, five territories and 45 foreign countries. This year’s oldest graduate is 70 years old.