Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Evening with a General Authority

Credit: Marianne Holman Prescott
Credit: Marianne Holman Prescott
Credit: Marianne Holman Prescott
Credit: Marianne Holman Prescott
Credit: Marianne Holman Prescott
Credit: Marianne Holman Prescott
Credit: Marianne Holman Prescott

“Be not afraid, only believe,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encouraged Church Educational System personnel during the annual “Evening with a General Authority” held in the Tabernacle on Feb. 6. The recorded event will be translated into 29 languages and available to instructors and others associated with the Church Educational System around the world.

“We know for certain that if or when everything else in the latter days is down or dying: if governments, economies, industries and institutions crumble; if societies and cultures become a quagmire of chaos and insecurity, nevertheless through it all the gospel of Jesus Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that bears that gospel to the world will stand triumphant, and we will stand undefiled in God’s hand until the very Son of God Himself comes to rule and reign as Lord of lords and King of kings,” he said. “Nothing is more certain in this world. Nothing is more sure. Nothing could be more of an antidote to anxiety.”

Drawing from the life of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder Holland shared an important incident in the late prophet’s life as a young adult. It was the mid-1930s when the future prophet came of missionary age. The world was in financial crisis, unemployment was high and few missionaries were going into the field. Young Gordon had finished his bachelor’s degree and was desperately anxious to attend graduate school and then somehow earn a living.

His mother had recently passed away and his father was alone facing all the economic pressures of the day, Elder Holland explained. “In the midst of these concerns, Gordon received a mission call to England, at the time the most expensive mission in the world with no equalization plan as there is today.

“As he prepared to leave with all of these emotions and such potential problems troubling him, his beloved father, Bryant S. Hinckley, quietly handed him a card on which were written just five words: ‘Be not afraid,’ it said, ‘only believe.’”

Drawing from the example of President Hinckley and the counsel from his father found in Mark 5:36, Elder Holland spoke of the need for leaders and students to “be not afraid, only believe” as they face their fears, anxieties and the uncertainties of life.

“With uncompromised confidence in God I ask you to summon full confidence in yourselves and build full confidence in your students by teaching with conviction and optimism that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most certain, the most secure, the most reliable and the most rewarding truth on earth and in heaven, in time and in eternity,” he said. “I ask you to teach that nothing — not anything, not anyone, not any influence — will keep this Church from fulfilling its mission and realizing its destiny declared from before the foundation of the world.”

The youth have no need to be afraid or tentative about the future, Elder Holland taught. What they do need to do is believe and rise up to make the most of the remarkable day in which they live.

“So what do we owe our students in this?” he asked. “We owe them a comparable testimony and a life ‘of good cheer.’ The Savior asked for that so often that I consider it a commandment.”

Elder Holland shared specific truths to teach students, in an effort to help them be glad and keep their fears, worries and pessimism away.

First, Elder Holland shared how important it is to teach the importance of marriage and having families.

“We in the presiding councils of the Church hear far too often — and perhaps you do as well — that many of our youth and young adults are terrified to get married,” he said.

With that perspective the youth and young adults are fearful of a difficult world, worrying that jobs will be too hard to find and that they are expected to be out of school, out of debt, have a career and own a home before considering marriage. Many young people fear that if they do marry, their marriage will end in divorce.

“We have our work cut out for us to preserve and perpetuate both the holiness and the happiness of marriage,” Elder Holland said. “You can begin by showing the blessing, the reward and the reality of a happy marriage in your own lives.”

That doesn’t mean instructors should be unrealistic about marriage, rather, they need to show students that every marriage takes work, he taught.

“But as always your first and most penetrating lessons to your students will be the lessons of your own life; show in word and deed that your marriage and family mean everything to you, because they should, they must,” Elder Holland said. “Help your students ‘be not afraid, only believe’ in marriage in these last days.”

Elder Holland responded to troubling contemporary issues that often bring fear and challenge to belief. Many instructors have expressed the difficulty they have in teaching doctrine without offending students who have become “over tolerant” of the world’s view. Elder Holland asked teachers to never hesitate teaching true doctrine because of the fear of offending someone.

“Offense is more likely to come in how we present doctrine rather than in the doctrine itself,” he said. “Our doctrine isn’t new; it isn’t as if the students don’t know exactly what our position is going to be on virtually every trendy transgression that comes along. So what a skillful and sensitive teacher or leader or parent has to do is make sure our determination to be righteous doesn’t come across as being self-righteous because our students will be quick to perceive the difference. That is why I say our manner, our method, our attitude and compassion will, once they are understood by our students, allow us to be as direct and as firm as we must be in proclaiming the commandments of God.”

Using the example of Karl G. Maeser taking a group of missionaries across the Alps by following a “homely set of sticks” positioned at crucial points on the path, Elder Holland spoke of the important role Church leaders and teachers play in helping youth along a safe path. Their guidance and direction along sometimes narrow and dangerous paths help the youth and young adults of the Church find safety and the sure way along the path to salvation.

“A student cannot stand on such sure ground if he or she does not know where it is, and they cannot know where it is unless parents, leaders and teachers like you and I declare it, lead them to it and walk that way with them.”

It is through building on the foundation of Christ that individuals are able to build a sure foundation, one whereon if men build they cannot fail.

“That strength undergirds our position on every question of doctrine, history or Church practice that can and often does arise as the work unfolds,” he said. “You have heard those questions. They are not new. They first arose in the neighborhood of Palmyra when the 14-year-old Joseph first reported his heavenly vision and they continue in one form or another to the present day.”

Many of those topics have been addressed in a series of essays, recently released by the Church, in an effort to be both accurate and transparent within the framework of faith. “Not all gospel questions have answers — yet — but they will come,” the apostle said.

Recognizing there are many individuals who are honest in heart and still have very legitimate inquiries, Elder Holland said it is important to look at the grandeur of the whole gospel message, rather than focusing on second- or third- or fourth-level pieces of that whole.

“We would hope, for skeptic, believer and everyone in between, that humility, faith and the influence of the Holy Spirit would always be elements of every quest for truth, that foundational truths would always be the reference points in that quest, and that all other issues which may yet need resolving, are pursued ‘by study and also by faith.’ At the end of the day, all of us must make distinctions between the greater and the lesser elements of our testimony.”

Elder Holland shared “a second witness from the prophets” by concluding with the impactful words of President Thomas S. Monson when he declared, “My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.” @marianne_holman

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