Like many (Here are some more links) I was struck by Elder Holland’s Sunday Afternoon talk (Video and Mp3 Link) on and powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon. I always look forward to his talks as some of the most inspired and poignant. His “And None Were With Him” talk was life changing for a close friend of mine and got me through a very difficult period in my life while I was struggling with a lot of burdensome decisions in regard to conversion and dealing with my father. Elder Holland’s wise council has been a rock and a strong source of testimony in my knowledge that the leadership of the church is inspired.
As someone that has had his judgment clouded by doubts and uncertainty, the force of Elder Holland’s testimony was especially striking. I certainly didn’t expect such an emotional no-holds barred talk from its rather unassuming beginning. Elder Holland began speaking of external calamities in the latter days and then moved inward by focusing on the tree of life parable. I loved his description of the mist and fog falling over everyone members and non-members alike. He used this metaphor much more poignantly than Sister Ann M. Dibb’s had in the morning session ( whose smiling while talking about tragic death truly made me cringe). I loved Elder Holland focus on the fact that the Book of Mormon both begins and ends with the same poignant plea.
Elder Holland’s use of the Book of Mormon dog-eared by Hyrum Smith was especially powerful. I recently read Terryl Givens masterful By The Hands Of Mormon which led to me believe that the prophet did not value the text of the Book of Mormon very much. Thus, it surprised me to hear that the 12 chapter of Ether was quoted. I also find it poignant that Joseph Smith bore powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon even when in prison and facing death. Elder Holland presents this as proof of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, and I don’t think one can go quite that far, but at the least I think one can conclude that Joseph and Hyrum truly believed in their calling and that it was true for them. I found his argument that two condemned men that could be dying would not be likely to quote a forgery in their dying hour. It would have been so easy for Joseph Smith to denounce his work in the early years of the church as he was tarred and feathered and persecuted, but I find it profound that he preserved despite all of that.
I loved that Elder Holland directly took on alternative theories of the Book of Mormon history calling them “pathetic.” I’ve read a lot of the more advanced environmental theories to explain the books origin and frankly find it rather lacking. The Book of Mormon contains so many beautiful and profound elements that as Elder Holland says, “burst with Semitic structure” and could only come from an ancient work. As Elder Holland’s great grandfather declared “ No wicked man could write such a book as this, and no good man would write it unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.”
I find it true that members leaving the church must go crawling around or over the Book of Mormon. They often must deny the spiritual impact it has had on their life. It truly does become a stumbling stone for so many individuals and a millstone that drags them down. It is easy to find reason to doubt if that’s what we are looking for. Instead, we should feast on the sweet sweet words of the Book of Mormon and be enriched spiritually.
I felt the spirit so strongly during Elder Holland’s testimony. I loved that he compared his testimony to those whose lives are described in the Book of Mormon. I feel like Elder Holland was trying to leave a legacy for future generations of his powerful witness. My only fear is that his grim talk about death at the end of the talk might mean that he is aware of some illness or condition that might end his life. I sincerely hope that we will continue to be enriched by Elder Holland’s brilliant voice and talks for years to come. He clearly understands the meaning of the Book of Mormon to millions on a deep and profound personal level. Such a profound witness is unfortunately uncommon and a true treasure for this generation.