Elders Oaks, Holland preach hope amid political divisions and challenges

Two senior apostles addressed students and young adults during a devotional held at the Salt Lake Institute of Religion, adjacent to the University of Utah on Jan. 18.

Just two days before the inauguration of the next president of the United States, Elder Dallin H. Oaks was joined by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in offering counsel regarding political divisions and in facing opposition and challenges.

In his remarks, Elder Oaks preached hope despite the uncertainties following a polarized political election. He quoted from remarks he gave to students during a devotional at Brigham Young University in September 2016, saying, “These words are just as timely after the presidential election as they were before, how ever we feel about the outcome.”

Quoting from his address in September, Elder Oaks urged listeners to “remember not to be part of the current meanness. We should communicate about our differences with a minimum of offense.”

He also repeated his admonition to “accept unfavorable results graciously and practice civility with our adversaries.”

He encouraged attendees of the devotional to live out the next presidential term “with the results of the democracy that is established in a divinely inspired constitution.”

“I’m not making an argument for the outcome of the election, but I make an argument for democracy on which our freedoms depend, and we cannot have democracy if we cannot accept outcomes with which we disagree as well as outcomes with which we agree,” Elder Oaks said.

Again quoting from his September address, he said, “We must trust in God and His promises and hold fast to the vital gospel teaching of hope. … When we trust in the Lord that all will work out, this hope keeps us moving. Hope is a characteristic Christian virtue. I am glad to practice it and to recommend it to counter all current despairs.”

Elder Oaks expressed his love for the nation and said he believes as late President Gordon B. Hinckley used to say, “It will all work out.”

Elder Oaks said that as Latter-day Saints try to keep things in perspective and understand that there must be opposition in all things, “it helps us understand what we see and experience in the world around us.”

In Heavenly Father’s plan for His children, “we cannot grow without making choices and we cannot make choices unless there is opposition,” Elder Oaks explained.

Seeing opposition in terms of the “big picture” encourages individuals to seek balance in life. “Perspective properly practiced allows us to achieve balance in our [lives] and that balance calls on us to abstain from some of the attractions of the world, to practice spiritual maintenance to keep our spiritual senses in tune and our spiritual progress in balance with the intellectual progress that you come to a university for,” Elder Oaks said.

After acknowledging many of the “enormous challenges” present in the world — from wars and rumors of wars to natural disasters to political and economic worries — Elder Oaks returned to his “preaching of hope.”

“We are the children of God. He has placed us on this earth for a purpose. He will not abandon us. He won’t make it easy for us because of the principle of opposition in all things but He will make it possible.”

“Let us trust in God our Eternal Father,” he said, “trust in His plan and keep our eyes fixed on our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Light and Life of the world who assures us of immortality (the Resurrection) and Who gives us the opportunity for eternal life.”

Elder Holland spoke of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “a bright German young theologian who was growing up in Nazi Germany in the ’30s.” Bonhoeffer came to America to study at the Union Theological Seminary in New York just immediately before Hitler invaded Poland in 1939. Even though he was encouraged to stay in America where he would be safe, Bonhoeffer returned to Germany. “He went back and joined the underground against the Nazi regime, was captured and kept in prison, and … was executed two weeks before his camp was liberated by the allied forces.”

While in prison, Bonhoeffer wrote remarkable letters to family members and friends in Europe and the United States. Elder Holland quoted one of those letters, saying, “We must follow Christ with every ounce of our being in every moment in every part of our life. Christ must be brought into every square inch of the world and its culture. One’s faith must be shining and bright and pure and robust.”

Elder Holland then asked the students, in good times or in bad, to “follow Christ with every ounce of our being in every moment.”

The same commitment to following Christ was seen in the Saints who followed a call to serve in the Muddy Mission, located in present-day Nevada. “The Muddy,” located in Moapa Valley, was intended as an outpost on the Colorado River, which was thought to become a great transport to the West Coast. It was a miserable and difficult place to settle.

Elizabeth Claridge McCune was 15 years old when Brigham Young and his company went to Nephi, Utah. She recorded how excited the members of the Church felt when he and his company arrived. “The sermons were grand, and we were happy until President Young announced that he had a few names to read of men and families who were to be called and voted on as missionaries to go and settle … the ‘Muddy.’ ”

Immediately, when President Young announced the name of Samuel Claridge, Elizabeth began to sob. “I know that my father will go and that nothing could prevent him, and I should not own him as a father if he would not go when he is called,” she wrote. Her family had just built a new house and they were fixed comfortably. Their friends tried to persuade her father not to answer the call. “ ‘I shall sell everything I own,’ said he, ‘and I will take my means to help build up another waste place in Zion.’ ”

Elder Holland then asked the audience how one cultivates that sort of spunk or backbone.

Don Schollander was a world-renowned swimmer and contemporary of Elder Holland’s during university years in New England. In a press conference, he explained what it took to be a top competitor. “In top competition a whole new ingredient enters swimming — pain. You learn the pain in practice and you will know it in every race,” Mr. Schollander said. “… [Y]ou have a choice. You can back off, or you can force yourself to drive to the finish, knowing that the pain will become excruciating. … If you push through the pain barrier into real agony, you’re a champion.”

Elder Holland said, “It is not coincidental that the word that’s used for Christ’s experience in Gethsemane is that He was in ‘an agony.’ The last few meters of a race count. Gethsemane really counted. Calvary really counted. Carthage really counted. Handcarts really counted. The Muddy Mission counted. And your lives count.”

Elder Holland quoted John Taylor, who said, “I heard the Prophet Joseph say, in speaking to the Twelve on one occasion: ‘You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. … God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.’ ”

In closing, Elder Holland said, “Whenever it is that God reaches out and wrenches your heartstrings, I bless you to be strong, to be faithful and to be true. That is the way of Christ, that is the way of the gospel. It is the way that we have His presence, Heaven’s presence, in every square inch of your life.”

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