“The test of a Christian life lies in deeds and actions. … The instinct given to all of God’s children to seek happiness is a proof that happiness is a reality and within the reach of all.”
These words are engraved in the stone walls of Stanford University’s Memorial Church. The inscription echoes the message shared by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as he spoke to more than 1,200 young adults in a multiregional devotional in the building on Sunday, Feb. 9.
“The wonderful thing about this invitation to receive [Christ], to come to Him and pursue the fulness of His stature, is that anyone can do it; everyone can do it,” Elder Holland said. “In fact, everyone is supposed to do it, with a child being the scriptural example of what success looks like.”
Stanford Memorial Church was constructed by Jane Stanford in 1903 as a memorial to her husband and is a place of worship for all religious denominations on campus. Elder Holland expressed gratitude for the opportunity to speak in the university’s “architectural crown jewel.”
He has personal ties to Stanford and the surrounding area. Nearly 54 years ago, he began his career with the Church Educational System in the San Francisco Bay Area, and his son David completed his doctorate at Stanford while living on campus with his family.
During his devotional address, he told the young adults that every activity and function of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bends toward a single purpose.
“The role of prophets and apostles and teachers, in effect, the purpose of meetings and missions, institutes of religion, and temples — indeed the activities of the institutional Church — is for the purpose of ‘perfecting the saints,’ of bringing the world to ‘the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man [or woman], unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:13).
“That is a longish, run-on sentence, but it describes a longish, run-on scriptural duty to which we are all committed,” the Apostle continued. “We are here together in the ongoing task of embracing the life and teaching of the Holy One of Israel, of having the image of Christ permanently stamped upon our countenance and His gospel fixed firmly in our hearts. We are here in the ongoing task of making His love, His godliness, His manner our own and to have that characterize the way we live and the way we talk and the way we think and the way we act.”
The knowledge and experiences made possible by the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ constitute everything of worth and significance in his life, Elder Holland said. “You need to know that is who I am and that is where I begin tonight,” he told audience members. “It is also where I plan to be when I die.”
With that in mind, he offered counsel drawn from his “personal quest for Christ” that would particularly apply to young adults — because he remembers the challenges and angst that he, too, faced years ago.
He pointed out an instance in which the Pearl of Great Price version of Adam and Eve’s story differs from that found in Genesis.
Instead of indicating that the couple “hid themselves” from God while He asked, “Where art thou?” the account in Moses reads, “Adam and his wife went to hide themselves,” and God calls out, “Where goest thou?”
The second version clarifies the impossibility of mortals hiding from the Lord, Elder Holland said, citing the Savior’s words in Doctrine and Covenants 38: “Mine eyes are upon you. I am in your midst and ye cannot see me.”
“Perhaps we can try harder to behave in ways that are consistent with the divinity of the company we keep,” Elder Holland suggested.
The Book of Moses version of the Garden of Eden story also presents a more accurate question asked by God, he added — where Adam is going is of greater consequence than where he is.
Bearing this divine query in mind — “Where goest thou?” — Elder Holland prompted the attendees to consider the destination they are moving toward and whether it leads to “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”
Should they find their direction in need of adjustment, he said, repentance is the form of strategic planning that allows them to correct their course.
He quoted Henry David Thoreau, who wrote: “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man [or woman] to elevate [one’s] life by a conscious endeavor. … To [affect] the quality of [our life], that is the highest of human arts.”
Every day, and especially every week when taking the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, there is an opportunity to affect the quality of one’s life — to draw closer to “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” No matter one’s personal destination, the first step in attaining it should be to come unto Christ, Elder Holland said.
Despite the challenges, setbacks and sorrows of life, Elder Holland encouraged young Latter-day Saints to be joyful and know that “this is the Church of happy endings! The victory is already won!”
He added, “Don’t worry about Christ running out of ability to help you. … His grace is sufficient. Be believing, and eat the ‘bread of life.’ ”
The invitation to strive for the fulness of His stature, Elder Holland said, is extended to every child of God. There is no special gift required to keep God’s commandments.
“Not everyone possesses boundless energy or a conspicuous talent,” he said. “We are not equally blessed with great intellect or physical beauty or emotional strength. But we have all been given the same ability to be faithful.”
Quoting the German Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died in a prison camp while opposing the Nazi regime, Elder Holland said, “‘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 [our] culture. … One’s faith must be shining and bright and pure and robust.’ ”
Amid whatever challenges arise in life, “wherever you are going, make your way to Christ first,” Elder Holland added. “Make your covenants there and keep them as you journey on. Then, if anyone asks you who sent you on your newly sanctified mortal course, take a page out of Moses’s book and simply tell them, ‘I AM hath sent you.’ ”
Elder Holland closed his remarks by testifying of the Book of Mormon: “It was while reading this sacred record so hungrily and even ravenously that I felt — again and again and again — the undeniable whispering of the Holy Ghost declaring to my soul the truthfulness of its message.”
The Book of Mormon, Elder Holland testified, is “the sacred expression of Christ’s great last covenant with mankind. It is a new covenant, a new testament from the New World to the entire world. Reading it was the beginning of my light.
“It led me to love the Holy Bible and the rest of the standard works of the Church. It led me to believe in an open canon energized with continuing revelation. It led me to and taught me to love the Lord Jesus Christ, to glimpse His merciful compassion, and to consider the grace and grandeur of His atoning sacrifice for my sins and the sins of all men, women and children from Adam to the end of time.”