Elder Holland’s CES Fireside September 9 2012

CES Fireside Elder Holland 9-9-2012

(Update: Church newsroom report on the talk gives a lot of the quotes from it!)

I absolutely loved Elder Holland’s recent devotional address because he really touched on some issues that have been on my mind quite a bit lately.

By beginning to talk about establishing zion, Elder Holland made it clear that for us in our day and time, what he would say is of the utmost importance. In our days, Zion is no longer a question of where we live, but of how we are going to live. He returned to this theme several times to emphasize that in our dispensation we do not have to flee or disengage and wait for zion to come again. In stead, we have an obligation to stand up with love and charity for what we believe.

Even though gay marriage was never explicitly mentioned, it was a clear subtext to Elder Holland’s remarks. The debate over Gay Marriage is one of the most prominent faces of the battle to define the role of religion in the marketplace of democratic discourse and ideas.

Elder Holland shared three stories that highlighted his principles. These stories were effective in that they were not especially politically charged and so showed principles that could be applied in more controversial situations.

First of all, Elder Holland strongly denounced the principle that we can leave our religion at the door!  ( My quotes are paraphrases until the actual devotional text comes out.)

“For the establishment of zion in the 21st century you never check your religion at the door. That kind of discipleship can not be…It isn’t discipleship at all.  We covenanted to stand as witnesses of God in all times and in all places and in all circumstances.

Yet, Elder Holland also made it clear that as we respond to those with whom we disagree, we have a real challenge to not commit the even worse sin.

“In righteous indignation we need to make sure we do not do the exactly same thing. Do not get angry and forget about your values.  Even when offended we can choose to exercise our religion Easy to be righteous when things are calm and everything is smooth. Test is when there is real trial or temptation.

Can we be faithful when there is the possibility of real transgression? The key question

Having to forgive our crucifiers is one of the biggest challenges that face us. No true disciple of Christ can check his religion at the door.”

Elder Holland gave us some principles and considerations by which we can respond to criticism and opposition in a Christ like fashion

“The Rule to respond is that it has to reflect our gospel beliefs. Have to make things better and not worse. Can not act so that we are guilty of a greater offense than she is.Live those standards in a righteous way. Every time Christ acted he acted in the right way….Start by remembering that  (those to whom we respond ) are children of God. Start by remembering that (they) has earthly parents that love (them). Be grateful that the people we are engaging are trying to get involved. Try to be at our best in the situation in a desire to help them be at their best. We keep praying silently about what ultimately will make this situation (and those affected )better. What the savior meant when he said “ judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”

Elder Holland acknowledges that this is an incredibly difficult thing to do. Indeed, in our days when society is increasingly polarized it stands as one of our greatest challenges. I think one thing Elder Holland acknowledged that I have not heard expressed on the pulpit is that those that oppose us on issues such as Gay Marriage are genuinely convinced that they are right and seeking to do what they view as moral. Therefore, these issues present especially challenges. I love how Elder Holland expressed these challenges.

People may think we are not supposed to judge anything…We have to help each other with that, because the savior makes it clear that sometimes we are under obligation to judge. “cast not your pearls before swine”

Can not surrender to the relativism of a post-deconstructionist world which posits that nothing is special or sacred.  That simply is not true….

“When we face these issues in a complex democratic society it can be challenging and confusing. People often ask why we are trying to push our views on others. Isn’t that judgemental? Must sensitively explain why some principles defended and some sins opposed wherever they are found. Issues and laws involved are not social or political but eternal in their consequences. While not wishing to offend those that disagree we are even more anxious to not offend God. He is our lawgiver.”

Elder Holland made clear, that we can respect the view point of others and show them charity. We can ‘hate the sin but love the sinner.’ We can discuss and try to come to consensus on certain issues, but we can never compromise on those things that we view as fundamental. At the end of the day, we have to stand up for a fight for certain things that we deem fundamental and core values. We must stand up for what God has declared to us.

“Wide variety of beliefs and moral agency exist for all, but no one is entitled to act as if God is mute on this subject or as if commandments only matter if there is public agreement on them. In the 21st century we can not flee any longer. We are going to have to fight for laws and circumstances and environments that allow free exercise of religion and our franchise. I know of no more important ability and no greater integrity than for us to demonstrate walking that path. Defending the laws of God with great charity. Distinguish perfectly between the sin and the sinner.  No harder distinction, but we must be able to explain it. We must show strength, courage and compassion all at the same tim

Elder Holland ended his remarks with the powerful call to action and stand up for our values. He made it clear that this was a matter of necessity for our communities to stop their moral decay, and also a matter of spiritual necessity. When Christ comes, he will judge us based on how involved we were in doing good in the world.  And active in our communities in promoting his gospel. For us, we do not have the choice to be passive. Our religion and our God demands a lot more from us

“If we do not take gospel blessings to our communities and countries, the simple fact is that we will never have enough policemen to enforce moral behavior even if it were enforceable ( and it isn’t). Those children in that home are sons and daughters of God. That mother is as well. We are not checking our religion at the door no matter how irresponsible some are. We can not solve everything ( there will still be poverty etc), but we can do something. We as Israel are the ones to do it. We are not to flee Babylon. We can live our religion so broadly and unfailingly that we find all kinds of opportunities to help ourselves and others.

Elder Hollands apostolic blessing really gave me the strength and courage to stand up for what I believe. Since I returned from my mission and took and more conservative stance on certain social issues, I have lost friends and faced a lot of opposition, but listened to Elder Holland made it clear to me that it is so important that I stand up for what I believe. Standing up for the faith needs to be done in a loving and charitable way, but inevitably it will lead to some kind of conflict as well. Just as the saints had to flee from bablyon, sometimes we will have to flee from the things that once filled our world. However, we will always be in a better place if we follow the savior and bravely defend what we believe.

Elder Holland

Fireside Notes

Israel, Israel God is Calling and Ye Elders Of Israel

“O Babylon O Babylon we bid thee farewell”

Message of these hymns- God is always calling the children of Israel to a place where all will ultimately be well.

This has been Israel’s history throughout the ages. When things got too sinful or the world became too secular, the children of Israel would be sent into the wilderness and start all over again ( Abraham, Moses, Lehi/Nephi, Pioneers of America (puritans), J. Smith, B. Young). ( Latter day reinactment of Israel travels.)

In our day something is different. This is a time of mighty accelerated change, Church will never again leave. “We’ve been kicked out of the frying pan into the fire and out of the fire and onto the middle of the floor, and here we are going to stay.” In these last days in this our dispensation we would become mature enough to stop running and plant our feet and our families and our foundations in every nation kindred, tongue and people—everywhere!

No longer think of zion as where, but how we are going to live.

Examples

1)    Hatred for a young man who had left his team to go to a different team.

2)    Girl with piercings and snow cone colored hair Was she a  1) Non-member, 2) returning member 3) Stake relief society president…

3)    Police officer coming to a family where the parents were all drinking and swearing and not taking care of the children. Demanding that the family change

What do they have in common. Three tiny very different examples of Babylon

One personal and rather minor, one more cultural and indicative of challenges with those that live differently than we do, one very large and serious matter with legal complication and complex history.

Intentionally not using sensational cases of pornography or sexuality etc.

1) One student said “we check our religion at the door” about the basketball game.

For the establishment of zion in the 21st century you never check your religion at the door. That kind of discipleship can not be…It isn’t discipleship at all. Stand as witnesses of God in all times and in all places and in all circumstances.

In righteous indignation need to make sure we do not do the exactly same thing. Do not get angry and forget about your values.  Even when offended we can choose to exercise our religion Easy to be righteous when things are calm and everything is smooth. Test is when there is real trial or temptation.

Can we be faithful when there is the possibility of real transgression? The key question

Having to forgive our crucifiers is one of the biggest challenges that face us. No true disciple of Christ can check his religion at the door

2) Rule to respond is that it has to reflect our gospel beliefs. Have to make things better and not worse. Can not act so that we are guilty of a greater offense than she is.

Live those standards in a righteous way. Every time he acted he acted in the right way.

Start by remembering that they are children of God. Start by remembering that she has earthly parents that love her. Be grateful that she is trying to get involved. Try to be at our best in the situation in a desire to help her be at her best. We keep praying silently about what ultimately will make this situation and her better. What the savior meant when he said “ judge not according to the apperance, but judge righteous judgement.”

We also have a responsibility to the 99 of the fold that have not strayed. This church can NEVER dumb down its doctrine in response to social goodwill or expediency. Our compassion and our love must never be interpreted as compromising commandments!

We are not bound to say all that we believe, but we are bound not even to look like what we do not believe!

People may think we are not supposed to judge anything…We have to help each other with that, because the savior makes it clear that sometimes we are under obligation to judge. “cast not your pearls before swine”

Can not surrender to the relativism of a post-deconstructionist world which posits that nothing is special or sacred.  That simply is not true.

Not called to condemn others, but we are called to make decisions every day that reflect judgment. Elder Oaks- Intermediate Judgments we have to make for our safety or that of others. Final Judgments- Only made by God who knows all facts. Righteous judgements not self-righteous.

Parents make decisions to  protect their children all the time. Can’t blame them for making rules about things like dating, lifestyle etc.

When we face these issues in a complex democratic society it can be challenging and confusing. People often ask why we are trying to push our views on others. Isn’t that judgemental? Must sensitively explain why some principles defended and some sins opposed wherever they are found. Issues and laws involved are not social or political but eternal in their consequences. While not wishing to offend those that disagree we are even more anxious to not offend God. He is our lawgiver.

Example of lesser law- Teenager- Now that I can drive I know I should stop at a red light, but should we get everyone else to do that. Don’t they have their agency?

Wide variety of beliefs and moral agency for all, but no one is entitled to act as if God is mute on this subject or as if commandments only matter if there is public agreement on them. In the 21st century we can not flee any longer. We are going to have to fight for laws and circumstances and environments that allow free exercise of religion and our franchise. I know of no more important ability and no greater integrity than for us to demonstrate walking that path. Defending the laws of God with great charity. Distinguish perfectly between the sin and the sinner.  No harder distinction, but we must be able to explain it. We must show strength, courage and compassion all at the same time.

3)    Example of officer and children: All of us should care about the welfare of others and the extended safety of our community. We must influence society beyond our own communities. Savior said “let your light shine” etc…

Quinten L. Cook- It is essential that values based on faith be visible in the public square

If we do not take gospel blessings to our communities and countries, the simple fact is that we will never have enough policemen to enforce moral behavior even if it were enforceable ( and it isn’t). Those children in that home are sons and daughters of God. That mother is as well. We are not checking our religion at the door no matter how irresponsible some are. We can not solve everything ( there will still be poverty etc), but we can do something. We as Israel are the ones to do it. We are not to flee Babylon. We can live our religion so broadly and unfailingly that we find all kinds of opportunities to help ourselves and others

Huge need is to share the gospel always not just as full time missionaries. Latter day saints are called to be the level in the loaf or the salt that never loses its savor. Our age group is the time in a persons life when our acquaintances are most likely to accept the gospel if it is presented to them. Start presenting it. If we do right and talk right and reach out generously, then when the savior cuts short his work, he will find us doing our best trying to live the gospel and improve our lives and our church and society as best we can. When he comes I so want to be caught living the gospel. I want to be surprised right in the act of spreading the faith and doing something good. I want the savior to say to me. I recognize you not by your title, but by your life—The way you are trying to live and the standards you are trying to defend.  You’ve tried to make things better by being better yourself and sharing my gospel fearlessly and compassionately. I believe you honestly tried.

I believe in your heart you truly loved me!

Live the gospel and then reach out and where you can go beyond that to serve in the widest community you can address.

Apostolic blessing: I bless you by the power of the priesthood and the commsion I’ve received, to know that God loves you and needs you in this last and greatest dispensation when everything is accelerated and more and more is expected. I bless you with apostolic authority that your prayers and righteousness ill be answers, that your personal fears will be lifted. That your backs and shoulders will be strong for the burdens placed on them (Temple reference?). Be strong of heart in the establishment of zion. I bless you to be true to each other and to those not of your circle to whom we should reach out. To be friends of the savior ad know him personally and have confidence in his company.

He will give us the strength and the holiness to be true disciples if we plea for it!

Blessing with a hope for happiness and holiness.

11 thoughts on “Elder Holland’s CES Fireside September 9 2012

  1. I enjoyed it as well, but I can’t tell you how profoundly I disagreed with his red-light analogy when referring to political decisions taking away others’ agency. My beef was that when someone runs a red light, there’s a good chance they’ll violently interact with someone who had no part in that person’s decision to run a red light. With gay marriage and many other political issues, all parties involved make those immoral decisions with their agency intact and do not take away the agency of others in doing so. While the meat and potatoes of his discourse were so wonderful, I fear that some of the subtext might encourage a gospel of intolerance among the young singles.

    • I disagree that this talk will encourage a gospel of intolerance. What I found interesting was that Elder Holland actually began by talking about an example of unacceptable bias and bigotry ( the case of the fans abusing their former player) and strongly encouraged charity and civility. Then, with the example of the girl with the piercing, he argued that our key focus should be on helping people do what is right rather than on judging or punishing. Furthermore, I thought it significant that Elder Holland seemed to acknowledge good faith on the part of those opposed to the church’s stance. Elder Holland is not encouraging intolerance or bigotry.

      However, what Elder Holland made clear is that the fight over Gay Marriage truly is a fight over the core principles of religious freedom. He made it clear that the stakes are high and that we have an obligation to defend the institution of marriage. This is not an excuse for bigotry and hatred.

      I agree that the example of the red light may not have been a very strong argument, but I think it worked as a simple analogy.

      • I reckon that’s where you and I are going to fundamentally disagree then, because I don’t see the battle over gay marriage as a religious battle, but a civil one.

        I too appreciated his emphatic statement that there is never an excuse to “leave your religion at the door,” not even in a sports arena where it might be common and excusable to get a little rowdy.

      • I tend to give the Prophet and Apostles the benefit of the doubt when they say that gay marriage is an essential issue of religious freedom. So many rights ma be ultimately limited by the aggressive stance of the ‘gay rights movement.’

  2. I would agree with symphonyofdissent on this matter, and go as far to say that this disagreement is exactly what Elder Holland was expressing. The churches stance on ALL issues is public knowledge, it’s not up for discussion, but must be handled with unwavering benevolence when confronted. This is not a time for dissention (“do not leave your religion at the door”) as religious principles are, in fact, under attack.

    I do agree that the red light analogy was a little weak, but it was simple, to the point, and easy for anyone to understand, and that is probably why he used it. If you do not believe that gay marriage is a moral issue then tell me why God stopped Alma and the sons of Mosiah when they were preaching against the church of God (Mosiah 27). Was it not the right of the civilians at that time to be preached to, whether for or against God (making that a civil issue)? Didn’t God break Alma’s agency by stopping him? If God did break the law of agency, then wouldn’t God have broken a law of eternal nature, by which God is supposed to abide by, and thus making God a liar and he would cease to be God? The answer to this is in what the angel tells Alma, “And he said unto me: If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God.” (Alma 36: 6-9). Basically, the angel tells Alma that if Alma wants to go to hell that is his own prerogative (God can’t stop Alma from doing that due to agency), but Alma can’t take everyone to hell with him. Alma himself was a catalyst producing so much hatred towards the church of God that the moral fiber of the society was diminishing. Alma was breaking the law of agency because he was, in effect, making morality so confusing to his fellow citizens that their ability to clearly execute their agency was being affected. Once other’s agency is being affected God can step in just as a police officer can intercede when a law is broken (i.e. running of a red light).

    Over my years I’ve learned 2 most important lessons: 1. God loves us much more than we think he does. 2. God is never wrong, thus his mouthpieces are never wrong, pray about it. Ultimately, just as Elder Holland expressed (and he didn’t actually say this, this is being inferred) gay marriage is most definitely a contributing factor (not the only factor) to the downfall of a moral society, and thus, the downfall of the society. This is not a time for talking, this is a time for acting; all those that stand for God need to stand now, enough said!

    • James, you craft an exceptionally well put-together argument. I will not fault you for that and I really admire the knowledge and familiarity you have with the scriptures to apply them to daily situations like this. It’s a knowledge I don’t have and wish I was better at. Thanks for sharing.

      My only rebuttal (and it’s a weak one) is that many doctrines of the Gospel seemingly contradict themselves. Satan’s plan was for us to be forced to do the right thing and to have the option to sin taken away from us. To me, legislating certain issues seems to be the same thing. Also, the Eleventh Article of Faith claims the right for Latter-Day Saints to worship “Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where and what they may.” Again, our fundamental disagreement shines through here, because I do not foresee the downfall of America or of society because we allow same-gendered couples the right to marry or adopt.

      To be certain, you’re absolutely right that Elder Holland never brought any particular issue to the table. For all we know, he could have been thinking about taxes and national debt when he was referring to politics. He could have been referring to the welfare system or healthcare reform (that would actually make a lot of sense, in some respects). So you’re right, let’s not get hung up on this issue since the meat and potatoes of his talk was really, really faith affirming and encouraging of tolerance and hopefully will be taken as such.

  3. GMP, first I would like to commend you for your civility. As we see often, many are prone to outrage when a disagreement arises, and it shows a lot of character to debate a topic without becoming unreasonable.
    The Eleventh Article of Faith states, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” The focus of this declaration is on “worshiping Almighty God”. I do not know of any time the church has stopped anyone from worshiping Almighty God, and I have yet to hear the claim that homosexuality is, in any way, “worshiping Almighty God”. Therefore, I fail to see a contradiction here.

    There is a very common misunderstanding of the doctrine of the premortal existence, especially pertaining to the logistics of God’s plan. There is, and always was, only 1 plan, which is God’s plan. God, in his infinite wisdom, hardly needed council from his children on how to orchestrate “…the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39). Lucifer (who became Satan after the rebellion) sought to manipulate God’s plan and take away glory and power from God, our Father. This is illustrated in Moses Chapter 4: 1–4 “…Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor. But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me – Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” Pay attention to the semantics, especially the pronouns, of Lucifers response compared to Jehova’s response. Lucifer says “I” and “me” and Jehova says “thy” and “thine”. To further this, “…which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning” which portrays that God already chose Jehova from the beginning and Lucifer was trying to step in. Satan is a master of lies, and deception, he is very good at what he does, and he knows us better than we know ourselves. Satan, and his followers, continue to perpetrate deceit which, through the study of history, is done best by shades of grey. In Alma 45 it was “little dissensions” (such as what we are speaking of) that led believers to not believe and not listen to Helaman and other prophets, which ultimately led to the fulfillment of Alma’s prophecy (also Alma 45) and the downfall of the Nephite society. Therefore, you are correct, you cannot legislative morality, but you sure don’t sit idly by and watch the legislation of immorality. But, we can all agree that we should abhor the sin, but love the sinner. All matters should be dealt with benevolence.

    I believe President Boyd K. Packer sums up the plan of happiness best with this:

    “There are three parts to the plan. You are in the second or the middle part, the one in which you will be tested by temptation, by trials, perhaps by tragedy…

    “Remember this! The line ‘And they all lived happily ever after’ is never written into the second act [of a play]. That line belongs in the third act, when the mysteries are solved and everything is put right…

    “Until you have a broad perspective of the eternal nature of [the plan], you won’t make much sense out of the inequities in life. Some are born with so little and others with so much. Some are born in poverty, with handicaps, with pain, with suffering. Some experience premature death, even innocent children. There are the brutal, unforgiving forces of nature and the brutality of man to man. We have seen a lot of that recently.

    “Do not suppose that God willfully causes that which, for His own purposes, he permits. When you know the plan and the purpose of it all, even these things will manifest a loving Father in Heaven” (The Play and the Plan [satellite broadcast, 7 May 1995], 1–2).

    Due to your eloquence in writing, and rhetoric, I am led to believe you are an intelligent person. You seem to have thought much about this matter. I urge you to further your study not in ways of worldly knowledge, but rather, spiritually as many times spiritual matters do not follow the dictates of human logic (not a direct quote, but Elder Packer said something to that effect in his book “Life Lessons Learned”). If you are struggling with the words of any Prophet it is best to consult the source of the knowledge and go to humble prayer. As your brother I ask you to put this little dissension aside, pray to know the knowledge of God, and stand with us. I love you, and God loves you!

  4. Interesting discussion on gay marriage. Also, great comments on Elder Holland’s talk. As usual, he gives an outstanding talk and draws a very delicate line and accurate, as to what we should do as members of the church, and what we should not do. I would point out that the church rarely enters the realm of political discussions and when they do, there clearly is purpose in it. They have come out not only in word, but in monetarily supporting family organizations who vehemently oppose gay marriage as an attack on the fabric of society. I believe they know exactly what they are doing and are wisely trying to protect an institution that is at the center of God’s plan. While the ‘other side’ attacks anyone who disagrees with them as “bigots, un-American, impinging on their ‘rights’, etc.”, in an effort to cut off all debate by calling us names, the church has wisely stepped in and maintained their position. Even when churches are vandalized, temples spray painted and members attacked. The church takes a stance of being firm but dignified in responding. Elder Holland’s talk furthers this by asking the members to also follow such an example. It is difficult to be civil in discussing this topic when supporters almost inevitably start conclusory and emotional arguments to make sure they don’t lose any ground. It seems there will be more difficult times ahead on this but it IS more than just a benign, civil issue. If successful, it would open legal doors and, I believe, have a host of unanticipated consequences. At what point does a society, based on tolerance of evil, start to fall into a unalterable slide into destruction? I’m trusting the leaders of our church to provide a proper moral judgment on this and I think they have handled their opposition with the utmost dignity and class. We can disagree with gay marriage supporters without hating them. Now if they could only understand that.

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