Elder Holland speaks at famed Yale chapel

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife, Patricia, didn't have much time for a leisurely stroll down memory lane, but their visit to New Haven April 25-27 did bring back a rush of memories as they returned to the campus of Yale University and nearby communities.

History not only was revisited but also was made during the Hollands' return. Elder Holland, who received his master's and doctoral degrees in American Studies from Yale 25 years ago, returned as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve to speak April 25 to a gathering of some 800 Latter-day Saints and friends in the famous Battell Chapel on campus. In two sessions the next day, he dedicated the new Wilford Woodruff Center, a multi-purpose facility "in the very heart of the campus" housing an Institute of Religion for students at Yale, Southern Connecticut State University, Quinnipiac College, Albertus Magmus College and the University of New Haven. The building will serve also as a meeting place for the New Haven Student, the New Haven City and the New Haven Spanish branches.Elder and Sister Holland also spoke at a youth fireside attended by about 500 people in the New Haven Stake Center on Saturday evening and at a sacrament meeting in the Woodbridge Ward on Sunday.

An extensive search of historical records has not been conducted, but some members of the Church associated with Yale think that Elder Holland's address might have been the first by a Latter-day Saint from Battell Chapel's pulpit. Elder Holland noted in his address that the Battell Chapel, a stone edifice built in 1876, was described 100 years ago as one of the finest church edifices in America and was perhaps the most elegant college chapel in the world.

Elder Holland mentioned the stained glass windows, particularly the rose window in the transept, in which is engraved a tablet with Yale University's motto: Lux et Veritas - Light and Truth.

He said that the motto, which he read nearly every day when he was at Yale, "resonates deeply in the heart of every member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." He quoted D&C 93:36-37: "The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth." He said, "Light and truth forsake that evil one."

Elder Holland said that the first half of the scripture - "The glory of God is intelligence" - is the motto of Brigham Young University, where he served as president from May 1980 to May 1989. The other half - "light and truth" (which in Hebrew translates "urim and thummin") - is the motto of Yale University. He declared that Yale's motto could be inscribed in any Latter-day Saint house of worship in the world, "for we believe that as we seek light and truth, we find both the source and the majesty of true intelligence and ultimately behold the glory of God. By stating that fact here in Battell Chapel, that the quest of Lux et Veritas is indeed the search for God, I am not saying anything novel, but only restating something that was once at the very heart of the mission of this institution."

Elder Holland observed that while Yale and many other acclaimed universities began as institutions promoting religious education along with secular learning, it seems that "The search for religious truth has now become largely irrelevant at these schools." He said that in an earlier era, "the profession of a learned discipline was not seen as antagonistic to confession of personal faith. Today, however, in too many institutions of higher education, confession of personal faith, particularly if it is absolutely central to a student's view of the meaning of education and the beauty of life, is too often viewed as an academic or political liability."

Elder Holland declared, "At the most basic level, it is not simply difficult, it is impossible to understand . . . the art, literature, and government of any civilization without understanding the religious views that undergird it. Even in modern times, how can we possibly understand an event in the Middle East without having a rudimentary knowledge of the tenet of Islam, Judaism and Christianity? Most of the time that is what most of the conflict is about. Or what of political intrigue in India? Or that long-running tragedy called Ireland? Because religion has been effectively banished from public schools and public discourse in this country [U.S.], most entering college students are hopelessly ill prepared to understand the religious traditions and diversities of faith that still animate the majority of the inhabitants of this planet."

Concluding, Elder Holland said: "As we approach a new century, more and more college-age students will be seriously searching for . . . Light and Truth. More and more of them ill be seeking for eternal verities, the truths that don't change, the values that are always sure. . . . The work of the mind, entered into by rigorous, diligent study, and the life of the spirit, entered into by meekness and adoration of the glory of God, are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, I believe the founders of this university knew they were inseparable. Latter-day Saints declare that they still are inseparable.' We declare that theevil one' still needs forsaking."

Music for the special meeting in the Battell Chapel included New York Metropolitan Opera star Ariel Bybee singing "O, Divine Redeemer." Congregational hymns, selected for their "Anglican-hymn quality," were "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" and "Press Forward, Saints." Doug Dickson, who studied piano performance at Yale, accompanied on the chapel's impressive organ.

In keeping with the requirement that a current Yale student introduce visitors who speak in Battell Chapel, LDS Church member Crystal Rose introduced Elder Holland.

Those attending the meeting in Battell Chapel were invited to an open house at the Wilford Woodruff Center, located on Trumbull Street.

In dedicating the Wilford Woodruff Center April 26, Elder Holland noted that the building was dedicated in honor of "that great son of Connecticut, ordained an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ at age 32, one of the restored Church's most successful missionaries ever in its history, [and] fourth president and prophet of the Church." Elder Holland said that Elder Woodruff was described at his funeral as "probably as angelic as any person who ever lived upon the earth."

Elder Holland expressed the hope that the Wilford Woodruff Center would be "in every way a `new haven' for those who seek the truth, love the truth, live the truth," and follow the Savior.

Dedicating the building to house the Institute of Religion at Yale was a special occasion for Elder Holland. While he was a graduate student at Yale, he served in the Hartford Connecticut Stake presidency, teaching and expanding the institute of religion for college and university students in the area. At that time, the stake covered all of Connecticut, half of Massachusetts, half of Rhode Island, and parts of New York and Vermont.

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