ORANGE, Calif. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve was the keynote speaker at the "Season of Dedication and Celebration" service for the new Fish Interfaith Center at Chapman University here. Held on Tuesday, April 26, the meeting drew dozens of community leaders, a wide range of faculty members and more than a thousand college students.
Elder Holland spoke about faith and the importance of interfaith courtesy.
Drawing upon an account in the New Testament, he encouraged members of all faith traditions to "hold fast to the things that you do know. Build on your firmest foundation, however limited that may be, and from that position of strength face the unknown."
Quoting a recent UCLA study that found that more than two-thirds of college students have "high levels of spirituality and idealism . . . and high levels of . . . religious involvement," Elder Holland said that Chapman University is a good example "for those of the current generation who hold high religious ideals and live by personal, compelling faith."
He expressed President Gordon B. Hinckley's "love and affection" for the Chapman community. He said that the Church president and the Quorum of the Twelve "send their commendation to you for the distinguished success of Chapman University . . . and their pleasure in the dedication of such prominent religious structures on campus."
Chapman University is a private school with an enrollment of about 5,000. The university, founded by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), maintains its religious affiliation, but is open to students of all faiths. According to LDS Institute Director Victor Morris, "Chapman has many LDS students; we have 22 members of the LDSSA."
Speaking at a press conference prior to the dedication, Elder Holland noted that four years ago, when Chapman was raising funds for the new center, the Church, through its charitable foundation, made a modest donation. Elder Holland said, "The school was so grateful for our donation, that they wanted us to participate in the dedication service."
In the press conference, he noted that "President Hinckley has set an example for us in reaching out to people of all faiths." In doing so, said Elder Holland, "we're not linking institutions, nor compromising doctrines, but we are trying to teach courtesy and respect . . . We all want the world to be a better, more perfect place."
Ronald L. Farmer, Dean of the Wallace All Faiths Chapel, was "delighted that a person of Elder Holland's stature was able to join us for this significant event in the spiritual life of the campus and community."
Dr. Farmer added that Elder Holland "spoke with eloquence and conviction to an overflow crowd regarding the power of one's personal faith and the importance of interfaith respect."
Brother Morris teaches a New Testament class that draws both LDS and other students. He said that the LDS students reach out to members of other faiths.
LDSSA President Jenna Black, a third-year Chapman student, said, "Going to institute makes school so much easier. I'm not any less busy when I attend, but I am more able to do everything." She added that she made the choice to attend Chapman because it allowed her to live at home and she liked the "small campus and the religious affiliation."
The mission of the Fish Interfaith Center, is to "provide sacred space . . . to integrate the spiritual and intellectual dimensions of life," explained Dr. Farmer. The Interfaith Center houses the Wallace All Faiths Chapel, a large room with vaulted ceilings that can seat hundreds. The building also has smaller rooms used for Bible studies, institute classes, group prayers, and other worship activities.
Elder Holland, speaking to Dr. Farmer, said it was "very rewarding" to be on the Chapman campus and praised Dr. Farmer's "enthusiasm and affection" for his work and for the new center.
In gratitude for Elder Holland's dedicatory address, Dr. Farmer made a donation to the Church's Perpetual Education Fund. In addition, he presented Elder Holland and his wife, Pat, who attended with him, a paperweight by the artist who designed the pulpit and altar of the Wallace All Faiths Chapel.