Annual Broadcasts
A Prophet in the Land: Current Prophetic Emphases to Young Adults

A Prophet in the Land: Current Prophetic Emphases to Young Adults

S&I Annual Broadcast 2023

January 27, 2023


To our religious educators, let me express my gratitude for all you do to lift the youth and young adults across the Church. Quite literally, you have the future of the Church in your classes, and I continue to be inspired by the way you serve and care for your students.

I begin by taking you with me to an experience I had this fall on the Malad Summit, the highest point on the drive between Salt Lake City and Rexburg, Idaho. En route to a Church assignment, I received the distinct impression to relisten to President Russell M. Nelson’s young adult devotional entitled “Choices for Eternity.” As I crested the summit, I felt two distinct feelings. First, I became overwhelmed with a sense of love for the young adults of the Church. Second, I felt a sense of awe at the miracle of a living prophet called to teach these young adults in difficult times. I pulled my car over to capture the early impressions that would eventually lead to the remarks I will share with you today.

We live in tumultuous times, but the Lord has declared, “I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations.”1 But as Sister Wendy W. Nelson has taught, while Satan is abroad in the land, we also have a prophet in the land, who we can look to for truth and clarity in these latter days.2

Tonight, I will highlight five prophetic themes that the prophet and the apostles have been emphasizing, particularly to the young adults of the Church. If I were leading a Teachings of the Living Prophets course next semester, these themes would anchor the syllabus. Regardless of the specific course you are teaching, I hope you will allow these messages to influence both your curriculum and the way you teach and minister to your students.

The five current prophetic emphases we would have you reflect on include:

  1. Know your divine identity.

  2. Draw on the power of Jesus Christ and your covenants.

  3. Let God prevail, and follow His prophet.

  4. Teach truth with love.

  5. Take charge of your testimony.

1. Know Your Divine Identity

If I was trying to understand the prophetic emphasis from the prophet regarding young adults, I would start with his recent worldwide convening of young adults and his message entitled “Choices for Eternity.” Many young adults today are struggling because they do not understand their true identity. President Nelson asked:

Who are you?

“First and foremost, you are a child 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.”3

Note that President Nelson teaches with empathy and love, but he still teaches the central truth about divine identity. Listen to the following reference from his talk.

[Start video]

President Russell M. Nelson: “There are various labels that may be very important to you, of course. 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: ‘child of God,’ ‘child of the covenant,’ and ‘disciple of Jesus Christ.’

“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.”4

[End video]

The first prophetic emphasis for young adults we are highlighting is to help them know their divine identity. I strongly commend President Nelson’s full remarks in “Choices for Eternity” as a central resource to you as a religious educator working with young adults and the youth of the Church.

2. Draw on the Power of Jesus Christ and Your Covenants

Second, to preserve divine identity we must teach our young adults to draw on the power of Jesus Christ by keeping their covenants. President Nelson has taught: “Everything taught in the temple, through instruction and through the Spirit, increases our understanding of Jesus Christ. His essential ordinances bind us to Him through sacred priesthood covenants. Then, as we keep our covenants, He endows us with His healing, strengthening power. And oh, how we will need His power in the days ahead.”5

Last year I gave a BYU devotional entitled “Finding Christ’s Peace in Perilous Times,” where I quoted President Nelson multiple times.6 After the devotional, one of our deans said she loved the quote I kept using from President Nelson. I explained that there were actually four different quotes, all with a similar structure.

President Nelson has been using a phrased couplet, where on the left side of each statement he talks about the difficulty, peril, anxiety, and commotion of the latter days. On the right side of the couplet, he declares with confidence and hope that through Jesus Christ and keeping our covenants in Him we can overcome these challenges. I count no less than seven of these couplets in President Nelson’s general conference messages from the time he became the prophet. Let’s look at just two of these from his talk “The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation.”

Quote #1: “My dear brothers and sisters, these are the latter days. If you and I are to withstand the forthcoming perils and pressures, it is imperative that we each have a firm spiritual foundation built upon the rock of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.”7

Quote #2: “The Lord has declared that despite today’s unprecedented challenges, those who build their foundations upon Jesus Christ, and have learned how to draw upon His power, need not succumb to the unique anxieties of this era.”8

Again, in both statements the prophet starts by recognizing the challenges we will face in the latter days. He then follows with a promise that we can overcome those challenges and their associated anxieties as we turn to the Savior and learn to draw on His power.

When I first recognized this pattern, I thought that the reference to Jesus Christ meant that if I anchored my testimony on the Savior, I could withstand the trials that were coming in the last days. But, increasingly, I also believe that President Nelson is calling us to be like the Savior.

Perhaps this is what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was speaking to when he charged us to “become ‘a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord’” in his message to the young adults at BYU.

[Start video]

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: “King Benjamin taught that a fundamental purpose of mortal life—perhaps the fundamental purpose of mortal life—is to become ‘a Saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord,’ which will require us—as he goes on to say—to become ‘as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father’ [Mosiah 3:19; emphasis added].”9

[End video]

3. Let God Prevail, and Follow His Prophet

To help young adults know their divine identity and draw on the power of Jesus Christ, we must teach them to put God first and follow His prophet. Nowhere has this message been taught more powerfully than in President Nelson’s charge to “let God prevail.” As if conducting an interview with the entire Church, the prophet asks us the following six questions:

  • “Are you willing to let God prevail in your life?

  • Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life?

  • Will you allow His words, His commandments, and His covenants to influence what you do each day?

  • Will you allow His voice to take priority over any other?

  • Are you willing to let whatever He needs you to do take precedence over every other ambition?

  • Are you willing to have your will swallowed up in His?”10

Years ago, I experienced what it would mean for me to let God prevail in my own life. After an early academic career on the east coast, it became clear that the Lord had prepared a different path that would lead me and my family to Rexburg, Idaho. At the time I lamented to my wife, “I feel like the rich young ruler, only I know how the parable ends, so I’m going to follow the path we are being led to.”

This was hardly the best attitude I might have chosen. The very next morning at a stake leadership meeting, one of the speakers discussed the same parable I had referenced to my wife the night before. He said he felt so sorry for the rich young ruler, as depicted in Heinrich Hoffman’s painting of the parable. He described how the young ruler seemed to be looking away as if he was thinking of everything he would be giving up. This very act of looking away was keeping him from seeing the better path that the Savior was pointing him to. Every time we let God prevail in our lives, we are giving up our natural self for something better in Jesus Christ.

The pattern of letting God prevail also requires us to seek and receive personal revelation. President Nelson taught this in his message “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives.”11 Heaven’s direction came not only in his Church service but in his life choices of where to live, his education, who to marry, his professional work, and in his parenting. Learning this pattern of receiving personal revelation is the first step to letting God prevail in our lives. It will also help our young adults to find and receive revelation that will bless them in this critical season of decision-making.

4. Teach Truth with Love

If you have watched the way our prophets and apostles teach, you will notice a pattern of teaching truth, even in the face of criticism. They do this with love, empathy, and Christlike concern for others, but they still teach the truths they are commanded to teach. President Nelson showed this pattern of teaching truth with love when he taught the primacy of eternal identity in his worldwide message to young adults.12 He did this when he taught about the relationship between the love and laws of God.13 President Dallin H. Oaks spoke of this responsibility in his address to young adults at Ensign College last year.

[Start video]

President Dallin H. Oaks: “Showing respect does not mean we walk away from our beliefs and fundamental doctrine on the family and its importance to God’s ‘plan for the eternal destiny of His children’ as revealed in the Family Proclamation.

“Please remember the responsibility we, members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, have as Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must declare the truth as God has revealed it. We are not free to pick and choose which truths we will preach and defend.”14

[End video]

In that same address, President Oaks described five ways we can teach truth with love:

  1. Avoid overly contentious settings.

  2. Love others, find common ground, even when we disagree.

  3. Hold to truth, even in our outreach to others.

  4. Be a light to the world.

  5. Stay anchored in Jesus Christ.

Some will argue that to love others requires we downplay the truths of God. But notice President Oaks’s counsel to hold to truth even in our outreach. In other words, these are not competing choices. Listen to Elder Holland’s counsel on this as he spoke to BYU faculty and staff of the importance of getting this balance right.

[Start video]

Elder Holland: “We have to be careful that love and empathy do not get interpreted as condoning and advocacy. Or that orthodoxy and loyalty to principle not be interpreted as unkindness or disloyalty to people. As near as I can tell, Christ never once withheld His love from anyone, but He also never once said to anyone, ‘Because I love you, you are exempt from keeping my commandments.’ We are tasked with trying to strike that same sensitive, demanding balance in our lives.”15

[End video]

When we ignore God’s truths, we may actually be limiting our ability to show the greatest love to His children. Elder D. Todd Christofferson explained why to the young adults at BYU:

“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. It means that we enhance our love by anchoring it in divine purpose and power. … 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

5. Take Charge of Your Testimony

The last prophetic emphasis to young adults I will highlight relates to taking charge of your testimony. If you want to follow the prophet, watch for what he repeats, paying careful attention when he uses the term “I plead with you.” In his general conference address entitled “Overcome the World and Find Rest,” President Nelson stated: “I extend to members of the entire Church the same charge I gave to our young adults last May. I urged them then—and I plead with you now—to take charge of your own testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel.”17

Let us listen to that same charge as it was given to young adults in his talk “Choices for Eternity.”

[Start video]

President Nelson: “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 false philosophies of unbelieving men and women and then wonder why your testimony is waning.”18

[End video]

Taking charge of your testimony means that we encourage young adults to faithfully address their questions. A pattern for asking questions is outlined in the S&I Doctrinal Mastery resource page entitled “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge.” Elder Lawrence E. Corbridge discussed this topic, citing the difference between primary and secondary questions.19 Primary questions are at the core of a testimony. They include knowing God is our Father, Jesus is the Christ, and the Book of Mormon is true. Secondary questions include questions about details of Church history, polygamy, and priesthood authority. Secondary questions can and should be answered, but they are unending and rarely lead to a testimony without conviction in primary questions.

Elder Robert S. Wood shared his own path of anchoring on answers to primary questions even as he worked through secondary questions.20 In a devotional given to BYU–Idaho students, Elder Wood described staying up all night reading from the Book of Mormon and gaining his first clear witness of its truthfulness. The next week a friend from school told him he had evidence that the Book of Mormon was not true, claiming a list of anachronisms in the book. Elder Wood told his friend he was too late and that he already had a testimony. In other words, he already had an answer to a primary question. But he offered to take the list and work through the questions. Some of them were resolved immediately, and others took time.

In the meantime, Elder Wood served in the Church, was married in the temple, earned his education, and raised his family in the gospel. A few years after his eventual call as a General Authority Seventy, the last anachronism on his list was resolved by a professor at Cornell University. Can you imagine if Elder Wood would have waited to answer every secondary question before he moved forward with the faith?

President Nelson explained to our young adults how to address their questions.

[Start video]

President Nelson: “If you have questions—and I hope you do—seek answers with the fervent desire to believe. Learn all you can about the gospel and be sure to turn to truth-filled sources for guidance. We live in the dispensation when ‘nothing shall be withheld’ [Doctrine and Covenants 121:28]. Thus, in time, the Lord will answer all our questions.”21

[End video]


Brothers and sisters, we live in perilous times.22 But the Lord has prepared a pattern in all things so that we need not be deceived. Part of that pattern is the presence of a prophet in the land to teach us truth. Are we listening, and is it impacting how we teach and minister to our students?

Tonight I have outlined five current prophetic emphases that we would have you reflect on in your roles as religious educators. These themes and their foundational addresses are summarized in the following table:

Current Prophetic Emphases for Young Adults

Foundational Addresses

1. Know your divine identity.

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

2. Draw on the power of Jesus Christ and your covenants.

Russell M. Nelson, “The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation,” Liahona, Nov. 2021, 93–96

Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord” (Brigham Young University devotional, Jan. 18, 2022),

3. Let God prevail, and follow His prophet.

Russell M. Nelson, “Let God Prevail,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2020, 92–95

Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 93–96

4. Teach truth with love.

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

D. Todd Christofferson, “The First Commandment First” (Brigham Young University devotional, Mar. 22, 2022),

5. Take charge of your testimony.

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

See Lawrence E. Corbridge, “Stand Forever” (Brigham Young University devotional, Jan. 22, 2019),

See Robert S. Wood, “Be Ye Transformed by the Renewal of Your Mind” (Brigham Young University–Idaho devotional, May 13, 2003),

“Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” S&I Doctrinal Mastery

In identifying these themes, we have focused on the prophet’s anchor message, “Choices for Eternity.” Many of the other messages were given in settings where prophets and apostles were directly speaking to young adults across the Church Educational System. Each of these themes has been identified through careful review with the CES university presidents, including S&I’s administrator, Brother Chad Webb, as well as the leadership of the Executive Committee of the Church Board of Education. We encourage you to study these referenced foundational addresses. Know them. Incorporate them into your teaching and your curriculum. More importantly, integrate them into the way you respond to questions and minister to the needs of your students.

I know that a prophet of God leads us in these perilous times. May we follow this and other prophetic counsel we continue to receive is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.