ST. GEORGE, Utah — Young adult members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — those to whom current Church leaders will “pass the baton” — can look to “a future filled with hope” as they shine their light on a world faced with heavy challenges, said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Sunday evening.
“Refuse to accept the world for what it appears to be,” said the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “Shine the brightness of your hope on it and make it what it ought to be.”
Addressing young adults worldwide on Jan. 8 with his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, Elder Holland offered a powerful declaration that young people must never lose sight of hope or its sister virtues — faith and charity. Hope, he said, is essential to receive the inheritance God has prepared for His faithful children (Ether 12:32).
“To do that we must realize that hope is not just the message and the manner of the naturally optimistic; it is the privilege of everyone who believes,” he said.
The Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults was broadcast Jan. 8 from the M. Anthony Burns Arena on the Campus of Utah Tech University in St. George, Utah — the place where Elder and Sister Holland started their college education, dated and got married.
In June, Elder and Sister Holland will celebrate the 60th anniversary of their wedding in the St. George Temple — the very heart of this community built with hard work and toil on alkali soil and amid stunning red rock peaks and cliffs.
Peace and godly promise
This January, as the world is gradually coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, is “a welcome chance to say goodbye to a period that has been difficult for many and tragic for some,” said Elder Holland.
Even as things improve, there is still an average of over 1,700 reported COVID-related deaths each day. “This scourge has taken a toll, not only on physical health but also on the social, political and economic life of almost everyone on the planet, one way or another,” he said.
A different kind of scourge is still unfolding in Eastern Europe — “where millions of people, including members of the Church, have been devastated, displaced, or have given their very lives in a conflict they did not ask for and did not deserve.”
Elder Holland recalled meeting, just weeks ago in Europe, with Ukrainian refugees. “We laughed and cried and prayed with those who had left everything behind and fled with only the clothing on their backs,” he said. “We felt the same emotion and sorrow for our faithful members inside Russia who are also innocently affected by this conflict.”
In addition to these tragedies — as well as other troubling cultural and social issues — Elder Holland emphasized the world is still contending with “mass shootings, immoral content in entertainment, and political activity in which fundamental principles such as integrity, kindness and honesty seem to have been somehow forgotten.”
Elder Holland told the young adults: “We recognize the understandable malaise that hangs over your generation. We apologize that our generation has not resolved some of these problems that you now face, but we call you and every other young Latter-day Saint to be in the forefront of the moral force that can resolve these problems, that can turn back the tide of fear and pessimism and anxiety surrounding us.
“How important it is for you to pray not only for the Lord to prevail in your lives, as President Russell M. Nelson has asked, but also to pray that the values of your life will prevail with others who aren’t quite so sure yet.”
If, as individual disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, Latter-day Saints were all more loving, peaceful and kind, and all tried to keep the commandments of God, then “we have every reason to feel confident about the world’s condition and our own.
“Walking into the future this way, filled with peace and godly promise, we could have an absolutely stunning impact on the world,” Elder Holland promised.
Sister Holland addressed the congregation from the perspective of someone who was young once, but now has grown old. “As I look back at my life, and if I could live any part of it over again, I would do one thing differently — very differently: Simplify!” she said. “It seems to me that everything is better when it is simplified — our food, our clothing, our furnishings and our schedules.
“What I regret most is that in my youth is that I didn’t see the simple beauty of the gospel; I even made the gospel too complex. I felt it was too overwhelming, too difficult and sometimes even too mysterious. It seemed to me that even as a young adult I had to climb a mountain of righteousness, go through a fiery furnace of purification and unravel every doctrinal controversy known to mankind. I thought I had to do these things if I were ever to be acceptable before God.”
The gospel was never meant to be a mountain that young girl felt she could not climb, she said. “He wanted her — and everyone else in the world — to always be filled with hope. He wants us to know that the gospel is beautifully simple and simply beautiful.”
‘All things are possible’
But don’t misunderstand, she emphasized. “In speaking of hope, I do not mean that Christ should give us a magical wand or a modern light saber. Our hope has to be more than Pinocchio’s ‘when you wish upon a star,’ if it is to be the kind of hope the Savior taught.”
The sweet simplicity involved in discovering this gift of hope is that “you don’t have to search for it, you don’t have to run around chasing after it. You don’t — and you can’t manufacture it,” she said.
In fact, she emphasized, Heavenly Father has the larger portion of the task. “Our part is to come unto Him in lowliness and simplicity, and then we should worry not and fear not (Doctrine and Covenants 6:32, 34, 36–37).”
“Why so simple? Because behind everything Christ taught — in every scripture, story and parable — is the promise that with God ‘all things are possible’ (Mark 9:23), the promise that God’s power can wipe away every tear (Revelations 21:4). We are to let go of personal desperation and seek rest in the Lord.”
Echoing Elder Holland’s teachings, Sister Holland said hope is linked with faith and charity. “Please do not do as I did when I was younger and make these virtues so huge and complex that we feel despair trying to understand them. Cherish their simplicity.
“I offer you this one simple little sequence. Faith is the conviction that there is a God, hope is trusting He will help us, and charity is His love working through us to bless others.”
Sister Holland added that “illuminating faith, hope and charity is the unspeakably beautiful — and unspeakably simple — gift of the ‘Light of Christ.’ This light, so closely linked to hope, is a gift given to every man, woman and child who ever has been or ever will be born into mortality. It is embedded in our very natures. It is part of our very souls. “
The Light of Christ is one of the fundamental reasons for hope, she said
“My wonderful young friends, my most earnest prayer tonight — my ‘hope’— is that you as young adults all over the world will receive this call as your personal ministry, that you will take the hope of which the Savior spoke and carry it like a torch to those who feel the world is very dark and a very difficult place. … The bearing of this light is to be your latter-day ministry.”
Be of good cheer
Elder Holland added to Sister Holland’s counsel the scriptural encouragement to face the future as cheerfully as possible. Someone once wrote that “of all the encouragement Christ extends to us in the scriptures, of all the hope He repeatedly offers to us, that which we repeatedly fail to accept is the encouragement to ‘be of good cheer’ (John 16:33),” he said.
“May we please take Christ at His word in that regard. ... May we embrace that happy, hope-filled invitation tonight as we seize yet another chance to start a new year and make of our lives exactly what we want them to be.”
In spite of the burdens the Savior bore, He was optimistic, positive and helped others be the same, said Elder Holland.
“The grandeur of the Savior’s example in this matter deserves our reverence as we face a new year — a year that might hold some challenges for some of us,” he taught. “Think about it. How could Jesus speak of cheerfulness in the midst of all the anguish that He faced moving toward the crucifixion? Even in the fateful atmosphere that must have prevailed at the Last Supper, Christ is still reminding His disciples of the reason for and their duty to ‘be of good cheer’ (John 16:33). I have wondered, with the pain that lay ahead of Him, how could He speak so positively and expect His brethren to view all of this so buoyantly.
“Surely, this manifestation of His faith, of His hope and charity, comes because He knows the end of the story. He knows righteousness prevails when final accounts are completed. He knows that light always conquers darkness — forever and forever and forever. He knows His Father in Heaven never gives a commandment without also providing the way to fulfill it. A victory makes everyone cheerful, and Christ was the victor in the contest with death and hell. That is heavy theology tonight. But that is what [His disciples] were to be happy about. Christ triumphant is the source of our hope in this new year and every year — forever.”
Given life’s distractions and Lucifer’s temptations, staying hopeful and cheerful may be difficult, said Elder Holland. At some point, the hopes and convictions of all of God’s children will undoubtedly be tested and refined in the crucible of personal suffering. “My beautiful young friends, untested faith isn’t much faith at all. We say we are built upon the rock of Christ. We had better be because life has its storms and squalls, and a sandy foundation simply will not hold when the wind blows and the rain descends and those floods come” (Matthew 7:26–27).
Change whatever is wrong
Then Elder Holland spoke to any “wrestling with the burden of guilt — and nothing so damages and deflates our hope and brings greater alienation from God than transgression brings.”
Elder Holland said he and Sister Holland consciously chose to not talk much about sin or guilt, but it “would be irresponsible” not to talk some of what the Lord has said “is our obligation to teach.”
There will always be a universal need for the hope-filled principle and practice of repentance, he said. “I ask you, tonight, to deal with the burden of transgression immediately, starting this hour, sin being the greatest enemy of hope and happiness that I know of in all the world. Go before the Lord with your confession and go before the bishop if your sin requires it. But change whatever is wrong, large or small. Repentance is the way we get a fresh start; it is the way we get an elevated future. Life is difficult enough without carrying a pack of mistakes on your back. ... Unload that. Change anxiety for peace. Change sorrow for happiness. Christ gave His very life in order that you could be free to do that.”
Following repentance, God’s children are free to do as Nephi asks all to do: “Press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope” (2 Nephi 31:20).
Closing, Elder Holland blessed the young adults “that the simple but exquisite power inherent in the principles of salvation — such as faith and hope and charity — will always be evident and efficacious in your life. I bless you to know, as I most assuredly do, that the gospel of Jesus Christ is personally precious, everlastingly hopeful, and eternally true. I testify with apostolic authority that it is so, and as such is the only unfailing answer to life’s many challenges — yours and mine — the only way to be exalted in the grandeur of eternity.”