Many of the world’s trends are worrisome. But Church leaders are continually upbeat, so it probably is a good idea to try to emulate them. Elder Holland gave a great talk Feb. 6 to CES educators.
Here are some highlights:
We know for certain that if and when everything else in the latter days is down or dying; if governments, economies, industries, and institutions crumble; if societies and cultures become a quagmire of chaos and insecurity, nevertheless, through it all the gospel of Jesus Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that bears that gospel to the world will stand triumphant. It will stand undefiled in God’s hand until the very Son of God Himself comes to rule and reign as Lord of lords and King of kings. Nothing is more certain in this world. Nothing is more sure. Nothing could be more of an antidote to anxiety. As the Prophet Joseph declared, and as a generation of missionaries quote with fervor: The truth of God will sweep every country and sound in every ear. No unhallowed hand can stop it from progressing. Still true.
Elder Holland said one of his primary concerns is that members are delaying getting married and having children because they are so worried about the world.
Let me list some specific things that I think you should teach your students to be glad about and over which they should cease being fearful. I note, for example, getting married, having families, and welcoming children into the world. We in the presiding councils of the Church hear far too often—and perhaps you do as well—that many of our youth and young adults are terrified to get married. In extreme cases they are fearful that the world is about to end in blood and disaster—something they don’t want to take a spouse or child into. In less severe, more common cases, they are fearful that the world will just get more difficult, that jobs will be too hard to find, and that one should be out of school, out of debt, have a career, and own a home before considering marriage.
Good grief! On that formula Sister Holland and I still wouldn’t be married! Seriously, when we got married we were both still undergraduates at BYU, with neither set of parents able to help us at all financially, no way to imagine all the graduate education we had yet ahead of us, and this with $300 dollars between us on our wedding day! Now that may not be the ideal way to start a marriage, but what a marriage it has been and what we would have missed if we had waited even one day longer than we did once we knew that that marriage was right. Sure, there was sacrifice; certainly there were restless days and weeks and months; certainly there was some burning of the midnight oil. But I tremble to think what we would have lost if we had taken “counsel from our fears,” 15 as President James E. Faust would later tell me over and over and over that I and no one else should ever do. What if we had delayed inordinately? What would we have missed?
How should the Church teach the truth at a time when the secular world rejects the truth?
A number of you commented about other troubling contemporary issues—issues that bring other kinds of fear, challenging the belief of our youth in sometimes aggressive ways. One of you phrased it this way: “It is getting harder and harder to teach the doctrine of the Church without offending students who have become overly tolerant of the world’s view. How do we stay true to the doctrine without offending our students?”
First of all I would say that offense is more likely to come in how we present the doctrine rather than in the doctrine itself. Our doctrine is not new; it isn’t as if the students don’t know exactly what our position is going to be on virtually every trendy transgression that comes along. So, what a skillful and sensitive teacher or leader or parent has to do is make sure our determination to be righteous doesn’t come across as being self-righteous because our students will be quick to perceive the difference. That is why I say our manner, our method, our attitude and compassion will, once they are understood by our students, allow us to be as direct and as firm as we must be in proclaiming the commandments of God.
Furthermore, I would ask you never to hesitate to teach true doctrine simply because you are afraid it might offend someone. As section 50 of the Doctrine and Covenants declares, if we teach the truth by the Spirit and the students receive the truth by the Spirit, “he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.”
In such an exchange you may have heard students say what I have heard them say, something like, “I know how we are supposed to live, but do we have to impose that standard or that behavior or those beliefs on everybody else?” And of course the answer to that is, “No. We do not impose standards or behavior or beliefs on anyone.” But this Church, and we as CES teachers in it, are under covenant to teach standards of behavior, to mark the sure path, to identify the safe course, to raise an ensign of truth to the nations.
Elder Holland ended by quoting President Hinckley and President Monson. Who among us has not noted the optimism of these modern-day prophets?
President Gordon B. Hinckley: “God is at the helm. Never doubt it. When we are confronted with opposition, He will open the way when there appears to be no way. …
“Let not any voices of discontent disturb you. Let not the critics worry you. As Alma declared long ago: ‘Trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments’ (Mosiah 23:14).
“The truth is in this Church. … As the Psalmist declared: ‘Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep’ (Ps. 121:4).
“He who is our Savior slumbers not nor sleeps as He watches over this His kingdom.”
President Thomas S. Monson: “I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.
“My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.”
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I love the talk. I’m saddened that the love of the Lord and the gospel has waned to such a degree that we have to “skillfully” convey the Lord’s will to students who would seem to love the world more than the Lord.
The Savior spoke many hard things, and he was not worried about turning away followers with the plain truth. His true disciples recognized this and plainly recognized this when they said, “To whom should we go. Thou has the words of eternal life”
I guess it takes a lot of work and skill to man the lifeboats and rescue those adrift in the sea, but at least the hard work to prevent someone from drowning is in a situation where they recognize they’re drowning.
What would the Savior have said to those who told him, “We are going, because we don’t value your teachings, which you claim will lead to eternal life.”
For at least a few generations, parents have abdicated the raising of their children to schools and the mass media (tv/movies).
The 60’s radicals became the tenured professors of the 1980’s and later. so that now we have two or three generations of progressives controlling academia and the media.
And what are the biggest influences in a person’s life from kindergarten through college? The number one influence, in terms of hours per week is school, and the number two influence is media. Parents and family are in third place.
And if parents don’t -activley- teach their children (daily prayer, daily scripture reading/study, weekly FHE, supplemented by the Sunday church block, CES’ seminary, and ward Youth Night), there is NOTHING to counter the false moral teachings the kids get at school, and from TV/movies, and now social media.
Academia and media are winning by default, because parents have essentially surrendered.
When schools used to teach proper morality, it wasn’t such a tragedy. But since progressives have taken over schools, what else could be expected that the kids would be indoctrinated in progressivism?
I like your comments about skillful conveyance. On the one hand, I certainly think it’s a good idea to present the gospel in a way that our presentation is not a stumbling block to recognizing the value of it. On the other hand, it is so important that people learn to follow the Spirit in recognizing truth, that I lament far more the wellspring of expressed pinings for more interesting sacrament meeting talks and sunday school teachers than I do the existence of straight forward, if not necessarily extraordinarily engaging, teachers of the truth.
Thanks for the overview. I’m so grateful for inspired leaders.
“in a way that our presentation is not a stumbling block”
While I do agree that we should try to use the best way to share the gospel your comment specifically brings to mind the Lord himself referring to the BoM as a stumbling block. Naturally we shouldn’t make it any harder but in some ways I worry trying to follow Elder Holland’s advice might end up with what he once called, smooth Gods and theological Twinkies for those who prefer a gospel of milk and find the meat unsavory.
Thank you for the link and your comments.
My sister recently posted one of those pictures on Facebook that we are all encouraged to pass on if we agree: “Straight Pride” with the side-by-side male and female silhouettes commonly used to indicate gender-neutral facilities. Our nephew, out gay this past year, magnanimously encouraged all to stand proud for their beliefs.
I don’t like what I call bumper-sticker religion (or politics.) I am not offended by any of it and I certainly applaud everyone standing up for their beliefs, but I find when I put the bumper sticker out there the firmly entrenched from the other opinion—the ones not likely ready for a heartfelt discussion whom I don’t want to engage—lash out; the ones firmly entrenched and of my opinion just pat me on the back, and the people I really want to talk to shy away. I want to be able to have a nice conversation with both sister and nephew about their positions, AND still hope that I might be influential; so I prefer not to stake out what appears to be an intractable position from the get-go.
So, to tie this in with the thread. We seem too often to rely in our discourse on pat phrases that sound like bumper stickers; pasting them on the walls of our prayers, and Sunday School classes, and comments and testimonies. Certainly we get pats on the back from those who agree, and feel justified that the vocal naysayers have found fault, and rarely find middle ground where real movement from entrenched positions can really occur. This takes great patience and understanding of both sides and I hope we can all learn better to take down all the posters and stickers that cause those we want to invite to see things from a faithful perspective to be repulsed before we even have an opportunity to engage. I truly believe the church is true but I know that if I begin with “I know the church is true,” I have likely already lost those I want to reach and can feel no satisfaction in other believers’ pats on my back. I must find another way to convey this feeling of my heart and certitude of mind—opening a door in invitation rather than closing one in exclusion.
There are those who will attach the label of ‘self-righteousness’ to behaviors such as avoiding vulgarity, keeping the Word of Wisdom, and dressing modestly (no intent here to engage in arguments over who is responsible for lustful thoughts). We cannot live our lives with the goal of pleasing others. The knowledge that the Gospel will stand as all other institutions falter and fail is both a comfort and a challenge.
“… dressing modestly (no intent here to engage in arguments over who is responsible for lustful thoughts). ”
That you have to apologize for praising modesty is telling.
I agree with Amy E.