Serious questions about moral behavior and relationships continue to arise in many nations. These issues are complex and difficult to understand outside their particular settings because of strikingly different cultural histories, customs, and understandings of scripture. For example, the issues include female submission, female genital mutilation, child brides, forced marriages, and sexual permissiveness.
They include cleansing and exploitation of widows, harsh conflicts over same-gender attraction and relationships, and varying legal, religious, and social definitions of marriage, to name just a few.
Over the last several years the need to resolve various moral and justice issues has intensified and become more complicated because of the growing international diversity of the church. The church has been told in previous counsel that we have been given the struggles and joys of diversity for divine purposes (Doctrine and Covenants 162:4). In response to my prayerful pleas for light regarding God’s purposes being worked out through our difficult struggles over various issues, God graciously blessed me with the following counsel:
5 It is imperative to understand that when you are truly baptized into Christ you become part of a new creation. By taking on the life and mind of Christ, you increasingly view yourselves and others from a changed perspective. Former ways of defining people by economic status, social class, sex, gender, or ethnicity no longer are primary. Through the gospel of Christ a new community of tolerance, reconciliation, unity in diversity, and love is being born as a visible sign of the coming reign of God.
6 a. As revealed in Christ, God, the Creator of all, ultimately is concerned about behaviors and relationships that uphold the worth and giftedness of all people and that protect the most vulnerable. Such relationships are to be rooted in the principles of Christ-like love, mutual respect, responsibility, justice, covenant, and faithfulness, against which there is no law.
b. If the church more fully will understand and consistently apply these principles, questions arising about responsible human sexuality; gender identities, roles, and relationships; marriage; and other issues may be resolved according to God’s divine purposes. Be assured, nothing within these principles condones selfish, irresponsible, promiscuous, degrading, or abusive relationships.
c. Faced with difficult questions, many properly turn to scripture to find insight and inspiration. Search the scriptures for the Living Word that brings life, healing, and hope to all. Embrace and proclaim these liberating truths.
7 a. A worldwide prophetic church must develop cultural awareness and sensitivity to distinguish between issues that should be addressed by the World Conference and those that are best resolved nationally or in other ways.
b. Fundamental principles of ethical behavior and relationships should be addressed by the World Conference. The Conference should not decide specific policies for all nations when those decisions likely will cause serious harm in some of them.
c. However, timely resolution of pressing issues in various nations is necessary for the restoring work of the gospel to move forward with all of its potential. Therefore, let the proper World Church officers act in their callings—as already provided in church law—to create and interpret church policies to meet the needs of the church in different nations in harmony with the principles contained in this counsel.
d. Where possible and appropriate, convene national or field conferences to provide opportunities for broader dialogue, understanding, and consent. In those gatherings, let the spirit of love, justice, and truth prevail.