Elder Holland pleads with BYU faculty and staff to uphold the Church’s values

I quote from a Church News story released today:

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland pleaded with BYU faculty and staff on Monday, Aug. 23, to do their part to ensure the university “stands unquestionably committed to its unique academic mission and to the Church that sponsors it.”

“From one who owes so much to this school and has loved her so deeply for so long, keep her not only standing but standing for what she uniquely and prophetically was meant to be,” he said.

The address came one week before the start of the 2021-2022 academic year and as the campus community continues to discuss important issues — including LGBTQ issues — that can be “more divisive than unifying at the very time we want to show love for all of God’s children.”

The story continued:

Elder Holland said he asked BYU President Kevin J Worthen for a sample of the good things happening at BYU and was delighted to learn about the academic recognitions, scholarly rankings and athletic success.

But, he added, “the real successes at BYU are the personal experiences that thousands here have had, personal experiences difficult to document or categorize or list.”

Elder Holland also shared a few lines from another memo. “ ‘You should know,’ the writer says, ‘that some people in the extended community are feeling abandoned and betrayed by BYU. It seems that some professors (at least the vocal ones in the media) are supporting ideas that many of us feel are contradictory to gospel principles, making it appear to be about like any other university our sons and daughters could have attended. Several parents have said they no longer want to send their children here or donate to the school.

“ ‘Please don’t think I’m opposed to people thinking differently about policies and ideas,’ the writer continues. “I’m not. But I would hope that BYU professors would be bridging those gaps between faith and intellect and would be sending out students that are ready to do the same in loving, intelligent and articulate ways.’ ”

While Church leaders don’t get many of those type of letters, Elder Holland said the one he shared isn’t unique.

“Now, most of what happens on this campus is wonderful. … But every so often we need a reminder of the challenge we constantly face here,” the Apostle said.

Referencing a talk he gave at BYU 41 years ago while serving as BYU president, Elder Holland told the BYU faculty and staff that because the university is an extension of the Church supported by sacred tithing funds, “our integrity demands that our lives be absolutely consistent with and characteristic of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.”


The story continued:

“We have to be careful that love and empathy do not get interpreted as condoning and advocacy, or that orthodoxy and loyalty to principle not be interpreted as unkindness or disloyalty to people. As near as I can tell, Christ never once withheld His love from anyone, but He also never once said to anyone, ‘Because I love you, you are exempt from keeping my commandments.’ We are tasked with trying to strike that same sensitive, demanding balance in our lives.”

Referencing “musket fire,” Elder Holland said the Church will always need defenders of the faith but “friendly fire” is a tragedy.

“From time to time the Church, its leaders, and some of our colleagues within the university community have taken such fire on this campus. And sometimes it isn’t friendly — wounding students and the parents of students who are confused about what so much recent flag-waving and parade-holding on this issue means. Beloved friends, this kind of confusion and conflict ought not to be. There are better ways to move toward crucially important goals in these very difficult matters — ways that show empathy and understanding for everyone while maintaining loyalty to prophetic leadership and devotion to revealed doctrine.”

One commenter on Facebook wrote the following after Elder Holland’s address:

”I am grateful for this (and felt the talks the last couple of years have been similar in tone). I work on campus and there is a very powerful subculture currently among faculty and students to malign, mock, disprove, and disavow church teachings, particularly if they feel it bolsters their progressive political views. It is not something many of us feel comfortable even addressing, and it is campus-wide. Even working there, with the tuition discount for my kids, I have struggled and questioned if they would not be better off spiritually at another university out of state where nobody cares about church doctrine. It seems too common on campus to have doctrine be ignored while the philosophies of men are revered, and the other Utah universities house faculty who openly mock and seek to tear down testimonies…higher education once had BYU as a fail-safe for faithful members and in recent years it has become an even more insidious threat because believing students may become indoctrinated by faculty who are not believing and who are manipulating gospel principles to tear down the prophets, gospel doctrine, etc. That kind of spiritual manipulation is abuse and so destructive coming from someone held in high esteem as a scholar. I would protect my kids from the latter at all costs.”

What is going on at BYU?

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

22 thoughts on “Elder Holland pleads with BYU faculty and staff to uphold the Church’s values

  1. Lots of things are going on, but these two gentlemen do a good job of covering most of the bases. And as Ralph Hancock said, this trend has been going on for quite a long time.

  2. I for one welcome Elder Holland’s comments. This has been an ongoing issue at BYU for a long time and it’s not just happening in the classroom. Students and professors openly mock the prophet, the family proclamation, and other church values on social media and there’s no pushback (and sometimes encouragement) from BYU-related institutions–all while our tithing dollars subsidize this behavior.

    It was getting to the point where I, like the comment on FB, was wondering whether to encourage my students to apply to BYU at all. At least at other universities it would be understood that their values would be questioned and attacked. Should have to worry about that at BYU.

    Worth noting that there’s lots of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth from these same people on social media today after Holland’s speech. Maybe this is the cleansing BYU finally needs to restore confidence it’s lost from so many members.

  3. I wonder if BYU is still relevant. Why encourage your children to attend to be exposed to the LGBTQ cult? They can get that elsewhere.

  4. With Pres. Worthin’s announcement of the new “Office of Belonging”, I wonder if faithful kids with testimonies will be welcomed at the Office of Belonging? Will this office be staffed with people who understand the Honor Code and who are willing to abide by that, promote that, and live it in their own lives? Because it seems like standing for truth and righteousness is not being promoted as much as it should be. Having spoken with many BYU students there are plenty faithful kids that do not feel comfortable at BYU, and who are afraid to speak out in class or to share their actual opinions in classes and in their work. Bullying by professors is a real thing that is happening on a regular basis at BYU. I have friends that work there as well. They’ve shared the same concerns as the person who made the facebook comment. One friend in particular said that the professors in her department made it a big deal to bash students who supported Trump, and/or who held conservative views. She says she works in fear of being “outed” as a conservative. I’m also an alumni, and I am one of those that have stopped giving money and supporting the university in every way I can. It’s actually quite sad for my husband, also a BYU grad, and I to have to encourage our kids to probably go to college somewhere else. The thing is the standards that govern BYU are very clear. If a person can’t or won’t live by those and support those, they really, literally should go work or go to school elsewhere. There are 50 kids that didn’t get in, who’d love to go to BYU, to live and love the Honor Code, and who would be happy to sustain the standards of the Church at BYU.

    But to answer your question, Geoff, what’s going on at BYU, is what is going on all over the church. Members are being tested and are having opportunities given to them to show which way they face, which master they serve. I would tell any parent sending their kids to BYU, to treat it like any other school and be prepared to stand up for what you believe in.

  5. I have long groused about my sacred tithings going to BYU. When BYU becomes more toxic than a secular school, regarding doctrine and testimony, a stand has to be made. A choice must be made.

    I was concerned in 2012, when religious professor Randy Bott taught the curse of Cain in a national interview that true doctrinal quality was greatly lacking. Now, it seems, testimony among staff also is questionable.

    I still feel my tithes would be better spent elsewhere.

  6. Rame, there is a whole line of thinking that says, “don’t grouse about where your tithings go because you pay it and the Lord takes care of things through the Brethren. Your obligation is to pay your tithing and then stop caring about it once it is paid.” I tend to agree with this line of thinking, but on the other hand it is very painful to see your money go for something so obviously out of whack with your beliefs. Maybe we can justify it by saying that BYU still does more good than bad? Anyway, there are things to think about there.

  7. Finally one of the General Authorities has stepped up to call out BYU for caving to the left. Church schools should absolutely align with the doctrine of the church. Those students who do not agree are welcome to attend ANY other school in the entire country.

  8. I think the answer to Rameumptom and Geoff above is still…I tithe back to the Lord what the Lord has given me. Not, my…tithings…his. Not your…tithings…his.

    Not to say I don’t understand your feelings perfectly, that once the tithes have been allocated they don’t sometimes get misspent by the subsequent stewards on things that do not reflect the Lord’s desires. While I write this I recall, who knows why, a moment in a “roadshow” where a “chorus line” of teenage boys did a synchronized forward hip thrust with concomitant gutteral “unh”. I wondered how a whole group of Youth leaders could watch them practice that over and over and think that was okay…even in the cultural hall. Tithing money was used in the budget of that show. Mostly to good effect. Now BYU is a large institution with far more influence, perhaps still mostly to good effect. I think Elder Holland thought that was still the case, but he did seem to think the balance was teetering. It is unfortunate those whose salaries are paid at least in part by
    tithes don’t see that there is a double whammy to their souls when they misuse the Lord’s money to advance causes not in line with the statements of brethren and the doctrine’s of the church. Perhaps it is why we see some of them fall so precipitously once they embark on that course. Thanks for the post and comments. Elder Holland’s talk was a refreshing read.

  9. The church (and BYU) is in the position of the church in Zarahemla in Mosiah 26. The rising generation is listening to flattering words of the wicked and falling away.

    Alma the Elder was not directed to accommodate the sinners and false teachers, but instead to blot out the names of those who refused to repent.

    Every generation will have many those refuse to continue on in faith. Some don’t develop a strong testimony. The key is to uphold the standards without accommodating them.

    Some may find their way back, some may not. My brother left for a life of sin almost 40 years ago when he was just a young teen, no matter our father was stake president at the time. He just felt the need to rebel. He isn’t all the way back, but is closer to coming back today, having already made some huge lifestyle changes and having reading and praying.

    A purge of the apostates at BYU would be a good start.

  10. There are a lot of things that need to be done at BYU before I trust them again.

    First, passing around as fact the idea that the LDS Church is neutral about Evolution. Sure, there were a few leaders of the LDS Church that did hold to the theory of Evolution, but they were a small handful. The majority of Apostles, and *all* Prophets spoke out against the theory. That isn’t to say they shouldn’t teach the theory, but all teachers no matter what department need to treat as just that; a theory. Any educator not comfortable with treating Evolution as a tentative idea based on man’s philosophy should teach elsewhere.

    Make it abundantly clear that the “LGBTQ cult” is not accepted on campus. The only reason any person who claims to be other oriented should attend BYU is when they are in the process of repenting. What was once stated for military service should be doubly so on campus, “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” The moment they speak up or out in public, that indicates they are breaking moral law. If they break the moral law, then they should be liable (as any straight person) to losing their ability to attend.

    Defending or otherwise showing an acceptance of Socialism or Communism is tied directly to other sins. Again, that doesn’t mean not teaching about them as theories of men. It does, however, mean it should not be championed in any way. Once again *Prophets* have spoken out against both of these in very specific ways. If an educator insists these are valid political positions to hold, they can once again go teach at another University.

    This one might seem strange to some, but there needs to be more Religious department teachers that accept and teach the North American or “Heartland” theory of The Book of Mormon geography. At the least there is just as much evidence, both scriptural and other, as the South or Meso-American theories. I didn’t realize how questionable the South and Meso-America theory was until those who support it whole heartedly *defended* the questionable “Stone in the Hat” theory. I am not saying ditch either the South and Meso-America or the “Stone in Hat” completely, but there needs to be a balance toward the original translation and North America concept. I add this because rejecting or bypassing more than one legitimate idea has the consequence of building on an unsure foundation without another shelter. BYU professors are notorious for “guarding their territory” against the North American theory, leaving young students spiritually vulnerable.

    The above is somewhat connected to the “New Mormon History” that some professors have embraced. Although good research has come from it around the periphery, it’s philosophy of sophistry and rejecting the traditional LDS Church history and teachings is troubling. The history is based on naturalism and not on the divine nature of the Church and it’s founding. They have often woven anti-Mormon ideas in with orthodoxy to form a hybrid based on “fairness” or “lack of bias,” seeping even into the Saints books. This is what has confused so many unread members and turned off investigators. A re-invigoration and defense of orthodox and traditionalism in historical studies should be required at BYU once again. The “swearing elders” need to be repudiated, regardless of loss to reputation. More Truman G. Madsen and far less Leonard J. Arrington.

    I could go on, but these are the main problems I have with the modern BYU model. Some of these are huge issues and others my personal, but not alone, concerns that might not be openly recognized. To put it another way, BYU needs to become a “traditional” or “orthodox” LDS school once again, or they have no reason to exist. I do believe, however, there is a reason that LDS Church run schools should exist, even if it means they are de-franchised by the World.

  11. I listened to/watched Elder Holland’s address. Link to full transcript: https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/elder-jeffrey-r-holland-2021-byu-university-conference
    (also includes video)

    I’d say it’s the beginning of a course correction, as evidenced by the call/assignment of a new Commissioner of Education, GA 70 Elder Gilbert. Elder Holland effectively said Elder Gilbert was tasked with spending as much time as it takes in working with BYU Pres Worthen to put into effect the things he talked about. That, in combination with the rest of this address is evidence that a shake-up has begun, and they are starting at the top.

    To repeat: Calling/assigning a new Commissioner of Education simultaneously with this talk is evidence of a big move.

    The talk was extremely diplomatic, loving even. It might also be described as a loving rebuke. And wrapped within all that diplomacy and love were a few stinging remarks.

    By reading from actual letters and memos, Elder Holland let everyone know that the Brethren are fully aware of what’s going on.

    It takes a while to turn a big ship, but it has begun.

  12. Book, I hope you are right. At this point, I would not pay for my kids to go to BYU Provo. (They will be adults and can go wherever they want). And my teenagers have heard from friends that the atmosphere in Provo is toxic, and they are looking at BYU Idaho or staying closer to home in Colorado. At least at a secular school you know what to expect — ie, the secular world. Going to BYU and getting the secular world is not attractive to my teenage young men.

  13. The critics of the Church are full of grief and rage over this. A line has been drawn and the disbelievers have been called to repentance. If we haven’t been, we need to pray for the Brethren during this challenging season (1 Nephi 11:35).

    I watched the talk and could feel the tough love coming from Elder Holland. The other side, some who are members and former BYU alumni,, are calling it hateful.

    If anyone had the authority to call out BYU, it was Elder, former President, Holland.

  14. Anonymous, I am happy to say that I don’t really participate on social media very much these days. I closed my Facebook account and I never had a Twitter account, and I don’t visit the other LDS blogs because they might as well be secular blogs for how much they support the Brethren these days. No reason to waste time there. But every once in a while somebody sends me a Facebook comment or refers me to one blog or another, and from what I have seen the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth is pretty out of control. Somehow they have turned Elder Holland’s talk into an “anti-gay talk,” which is both sad and hilarious at the same time. This is yet another sign that the great separation is taking place right in front of us, with one group increasingly moving to the Great and Spacious Building and another group desperately holding onto the Rod. And of course when you use this scriptural comparison with ProgMos, they inevitably make fun of you, mocking, etc. They don’t see (or refuse to see) the application of the BoM to our day.

  15. “And of course when you use this scriptural comparison with ProgMos, they inevitably make fun of you, mocking, etc.”

    Deeply ironic, isn’t it?

  16. @MT. I was reclining while listening to the video of Hancock being interviewed. Even at 1.25x speed, it literally put me to sleep. 😉

    That interview dragged on too long. Podcast/radio hosts, especially if (but not only if) they are on the same side of an issue, need to do “show prep” with guests, so they can both speak from notes and not pause and hem/haw while searching for words.

    The subject was so important, and I picked up enough good stuff from Hancock early on, that I wanted to hear the whole story, so I went back to your time mark and listened again.

    Hancock is much in agreement with Bruce Charlton as far as the decline of academia, and the establishment and entrenchment of PC-ism. Especially as it pertains to a lack of a metaphysical religious underpinning.

    Elder Gilbert’s predecessor as Commish of Education was the first “head to roll”, disguised as a polite and standard/common transfer of duties, or a retirement, I suppose. But it also shows from which end and in which direction the Brethren are weeding. Pres Worthen is next in line. Wiki says he’s 65 and been there 7 years, so retirement may be a polite cover _if_ he needs to go. And then vice-presidents, and after that, department heads, no? All dependent on whether the people actually change. One principle of organizational reform is: If the man won’t change, change out the man.

    Also possible are “innoculation” orientations for incoming students. And devotionals that also more directly/overtly innoculate students against apostacy. I could also see innoculation coming from the ecclesiastical side, from leadership of student wards and stakes. The solutions can be multi-directional.

    The weeding may take a few years to wait for employment contacts to expire, and for tenured profs to retire. Or the Brethren may decide to just buy out some contracts. I’m just thinking out loud here.

    The Lord apparently doesn’t like to harm the tender plants by pulling the tares, so it may take a full undergraduate cycle of 4 years to make major strides.

    We live in interesting times. It’s getting more and more like the Book of Mormon.

  17. Am I reading too much into this?

    Helaman 13
    24 Yea, wo unto this people, because of this time which has arrived, that ye do cast out the prophets, and do mock them, and cast stones at them, and do slay them, and do all manner of iniquity unto them, even as they did of old time.
    25 And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.
    26 Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.
    27 But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.
    28 Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.

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