Speaking to young adults from Newcastle to Novosibirsk and from Copenhagen to Cape Town, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland began his message by clarifying that his purpose was not to “recruit” them to attend institute.
“You don’t exist so institute can become a successful Church program,” said the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “No, it’s the other way around. Institute exists so you can become a successful Latter-day Saint.”
Rather than inviting them to “take institute,” Elder Holland invited young adults to allow institute to “take” them — closer to God and to His words in the scriptures.
Elder Holland’s message — titled “The Institute Journey: To Take or Be Taken?” — was part of a devotional for young adults across the Europe, Europe East and Africa areas on Sunday, March 7.
The broadcast was one of six offered by senior Church leaders in February and March to reach Latter-day Saint young adults worldwide.
The devotional also included a panel discussion with Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé, Young Women General President Bonnie H. Cordon and Brother Chad H. Webb, administrator of Seminaries and Institutes.
As he and other Church leaders have met with young adults around the world, Elder Holland said they have sensed there are some who feel distant from God, the Atonement of Jesus Christ and everyday experiences with the Spirit.
Institute isn’t just “a little comfort for a discouraging day” — institute can “take” young adults to the profound realization that their happiness and salvation is at the heart of everything Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost do.
Nephi declared in his final writings in the Book of Mormon, “I say unto you that the Lord God … doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world” (2 Nephi 26:23-24).
Though a simple statement, this truth is a “powerful comfort when we realize you and I are His world,” Elder Holland said. “That verse, along with many other passages of scripture, says to me that we are God’s highest priority, that His very purpose — His work — is to bless us.”
Institute’s journey can “take” young adults to the scriptures, Elder Holland noted, as he recalled studying Doctrine and Covenants 5 as a student in a religion class at Brigham Young University and learning the importance of scripture.
“The message of Section 5 is that in spite of all Joseph Smith had lying ahead of him to accomplish, he was to do nothing — he was to pursue no other gift — until he finished the translation of the Book of Mormon and offered that majestic scriptural witness for Christ to the world,” Elder Holland said.
Just as the foundation of the Book of Mormon was crucial to the Restoration of the gospel, he continued, “our lives can’t go forward on their prescribed courses without a foundation of scripture upon which to progress and build on.”
Scripture study is crucial preparation for another journey: serving a full-time mission. “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word,” the Lord told Hyrum Smith, the Prophet Joseph’s brother, in Doctrine and Covenants 11:21.
Elder Holland relayed the experience of President Hugh B. Brown, a late member of the First Presidency, who visited a mission and wanted to hold a testimony meeting.
Following several comments of “I know the gospel is true,” President Brown rose and said, “I am grateful that all of you ‘know the gospel is true,’ but I am waiting for one of you to say ‘I know the gospel.’ Then I would be more impressed when you say you know it is true.”
Know the scriptures, Elder Holland counseled his young adult audience. Then the Spirit will aid in teaching with the “power of God unto the convincing of men.”
Institute can also “take” one on a journey of hearing the Lord’s voice, Elder Holland added. “When we read or hear the scriptures, we are hearing the voice of God, and that is a special, sacred thing. That is a journey worth taking” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:34-35).
“I love the scriptures and wonder where my journey in life would have taken me without them,” he concluded.
Because of experiences in classes like those offered by the Institutes of Religion, “I can say ‘I know Jesus is the Christ and the gospel is true,’ because I can say ‘I know Jesus Christ and I know the gospel’ — at least I am beginning to know Them, and that is the privilege of a lifetime.”
Following Elder Holland’s remarks, he invited Bishop Caussé, President Cordon and Brother Webb to join him in answering questions submitted by young adults.
One young adult asked how to measure spiritual progress when major changes aren’t visible. Bishop Caussé responded by relaying the story of Naaman in the Old Testament who had leprosy and was offended when the Prophet Elijah told him to wash seven times in the Jordan River.
“The greatest achievements come from the consistent, little, simple things we do every day,” Bishop Caussé said. “I really testify that in my life, I’ve seen that. When we do this every day, and we turn to others … then we do more progress than we think we do.”
In response to a question about how to overcome constant feelings of inadequacy, President Cordon told of meeting with a young woman who had recently received a mission call. When President Cordon asked if there was anything that worried her, the young woman responded, “Am I enough?”
“As we discussed, really none of us are enough,” President Cordon said. “But through the grace of our Savior Jesus Christ, and through His Atonement, we are enough.”
One of the adversary’s biggest tricks, she added, “is to put a shadow on us” — when in reality, “we’re here in mortality to learn and to grow, and to stub our toes and pick ourselves back up and try again.”
To a young adult who struggles to know when the Spirit is directing them, Brother Webb said constant companionship of the Holy Ghost comes when trying to live the gospel and keep the commandments.
“Instead of it being an event, it’s part of the flow of our lives. … If it edifies, if it causes us to want to do good, to believe in Christ, as Moroni 7 says, then it’s of God and it’s from the Holy Ghost,” he said. “And I think it happens more often than maybe we realize.”
Elder Holland closed the panel discussion by reminding young adults of his love for them. This regional devotional was “an effort for the Church to say how much it loves you, and we love you and the officers of the Church love you,” he said.
The restored gospel of Jesus Christ “isn’t a fairytale. This is God’s very truth. …
“I know He has won the victory, and I want to be on His side. I want to be on the winning team. And I know that He will stand in these last days as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and that this will be His true Church.”
The devotional will be available on YouTube for 30 days in the following 17 languages: Albanian, Czech, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovenian, Swedish and Ukrainian.