There was a lot of talk about Elder Neil L. Andersen’s talk on “Spiritual Whirlwinds” in General Conference earlier this month. (If you’re not familiar with what General Conference is, click here to learn more about General Conference. You can read the April 2014 talks here. )
Elder Andersen’s talk really spoke to me. I’ve always identified with the little tree, blown and ripped about by whirlwinds. He specifically addresses some concerns close to my heart; same gender attraction and the difficulty balancing one’s testimony with one’s desires. Also the desire to protect those friends and loved ones who are gay and have left the church because they can no longer walk the tightrope that is being a “Mormon” and living this struggle.
I would like to share my favorite section of the talk.
In nature, trees that grow up in a windy environment become stronger. As winds whip around a young sapling, forces inside the tree do two things. First, they stimulate the roots to grow faster and spread farther. Second, the forces in the tree start creating cell structures that actually make the trunk and branches thicker and more flexible to the pressure of the wind. These stronger roots and branches protect the tree from winds that are sure to return.4
You are infinitely more precious to God than a tree. You are His son or His daughter. He made your spirit strong and capable of being resilient to the whirlwinds of life. The whirlwinds in your youth, like the wind against a young tree, can increase your spiritual strength, preparing you for the years ahead.
How do you prepare for your whirlwinds? “Remember … it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, … his shafts in the whirlwind, … when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power … to drag you down … because of the rock upon which ye are built.”5 This is your safety in the whirlwind.
President Thomas S. Monson has said, “Where once the standards of the Church and the standards of society were mostly compatible, now there is a wide chasm between us, and it’s growing ever wider.”6 This chasm, for some, stirs strong spiritual whirlwinds. Let me share an example.
This past month the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve published a letter to leaders of the Church across the world. In part it read: “Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We urge you to review … the doctrine contained in ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World.’”7
As the world slips away from the Lord’s law of chastity, we do not. President Monson said: “The Savior of mankind described Himself as being in the world but not of the world. We also can be in the world but not of the world as we reject false concepts and false teachings and remain true to that which God has commanded.”8
While many governments and well-meaning individuals have redefined marriage, the Lord has not. In the very beginning, God initiated marriage between a man and a woman—Adam and Eve. He designated the purposes of marriage to go far beyond the personal satisfaction and fulfillment of adults to, more importantly, advancing the ideal setting for children to be born, reared, and nurtured. Families are the treasure of heaven.9
Why do we continue to talk about this? As Paul said, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.”10 As Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have the responsibility to teach our Creator’s plan for His children and to warn of the consequences of disregarding His commandments.
Recently, I spoke with a Laurel from the United States. I quote from her email:
“This past year some of my friends on Facebook began posting their position on marriage. Many favored same-sex marriage, and several LDS youth indicated they ‘liked’ the postings. I made no comment.
“I decided to declare my belief in traditional marriage in a thoughtful way.
“With my profile picture, I added the caption ‘I believe in marriage between a man and a woman.’ Almost instantly I started receiving messages. ‘You are selfish.’ ‘You are judgmental.’ One compared me to a slave owner. And I received this post from a great friend who is a strong member of the Church: ‘You need to catch up with the times. Things are changing and so should you.’
“I did not fight back,” she said, “but I did not take my statement down.”
She concludes: “Sometimes, as President Monson said, ‘You have to stand alone.’ Hopefully as youth, we will stand together in being true to God and to the teachings of His living prophets.”11
Of special concern to us should be those who struggle with same-sex attraction. It is a whirlwind of enormous velocity. I want to express my love and admiration for those who courageously confront this trial of faith and stay true to the commandments of God!12 But everyone, independent of his or her decisions and beliefs, deserves our kindness and consideration.13
The Savior taught us to love not only our friends but also those who disagree with us—and even those who repudiate us. He said: “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? … And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?”14
The Prophet Joseph Smith warned us to “beware of self-righteousness” and to enlarge our hearts toward all men and women until we feel “to take them upon our shoulders.”15 In the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is no place for ridicule, bullying, or bigotry.
If you have a question about counsel from the leaders of the Church, please discuss your honest concerns with your parents and leaders. You need the strength that comes from trusting the Lord’s prophets. President Harold B. Lee said: “The only safety we have as members of this church is to … learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet. … There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes. … It may contradict your political views … your social views … interfere with … your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, … ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you … and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you …’ (D&C 21:6).”
I strongly believe that there are reasons for every trial we are blessed with. Given. Cursed with. Ask me on different days and I’ll call it something different. But I’ll still say thank you for what I learn for it at the end of the day.