Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stood before a capacity crowd at the BYU Marriott Center June 30 and described how he "literally wept" one day last week on a windswept hill overlooking Sarajevo, the site of the 1984 Winter Olympics, as he viewed "the scarred remains of one of the loveliest little mountain cities in Europe."
"I come to you today having just seen war, and war of the worst kind," he said. "In this tragedy that was once Yugoslavia I saw not the battle-lines of large nations nor differences that were entire continents apart. What I saw was the tragic, telling, catastrophic effects of a war between neighbors, a war between people living on the same street, a war among families clustered in groups of houses exactly like those in which you and I live."Elder Holland of the Quorum of Twelve was the featured speaker during the Annual Freedom Festival's Patriotic Service. He spoke to the theme, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." (Ps. 127:1.)
With colorful bunting draped in front of the podium, and with 2,000 school children dressed in either a red, white or blue shirt and arranged on bleacher seats to create an American flag in the background, Elder Holland emphasized that if this country should lose the virtues upon which it was founded, "then the great cause that we know as America would be betrayed, dishonored, and finally destroyed."
"Our special American history and our unique democratic experience in living together and prospering together declare the everlasting truth that freedom and self-government and civility and peace require something from the people, not just the government, people who know they must love the noble and demonstrate the moral, people who must reject the darker impulses and influences in this world, people who must practice virtue and protect the high hopes for safety and happiness which they and everyone of their neighbors have the right to embrace and uphold.
"The key to peace and liberty - private or public, individual or national - lies within the hearts and souls of you and me.
"The call to patriotism, even when we are not in war, is the call to every one of us, because war of the Bosnian brand is only a neighbor away."
Elder Holland referred to the writings of the Founding Fathers and other intellectual thinkers of the time to demonstrate how America's peace and prosperity lies in the quality of its values and morals.
"Since the first Pilgrims landed on our eastern shores, there was a belief that these settlers were led by heaven and that they had before them a great mission, an important obligation to live in a certain way and reflect certain ideals," he said. "They had obligations to God and to their fellow men and women."
The Founding Fathers knew, Elder Holland said, that a morally corrupt people could never enjoy the luxury of freedom. He then quoted the English philosopher, Edmund Burke, who said, " `Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon the will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.' "
It became apparent to the Founding Fathers, Elder Holland explained, that a successful society depended not only on the virtues of the people at that time, but it also depended on the continuation of those virtues in every successive generation to come.
"Clearly the key to true liberty lies in the human heart, and today that means our hearts - yours and mine, and our children and our children's children.
"America was founded on simple principles of personal virtue and private morality," he said. "From such a personal devotion would come the determination to live in peace and liberty and safety and freedom. These are blessings we want for ourselves, our children, our neighborhoods and our world.
"War waged for the triumph of these blessings will still need to be fought in our time, in our day, and forever. We pray it will not be a war of weapons and bullets, but it is a war nonetheless - a daily battle of discipline and morality and hard work and requiring help from heaven.
"We have to keep winning the peace in every generation by emphasizing over and over and over the fundamental need for virtue in the human heart."