Wednesday, March 7, 2012

BAM! Elder Holland

So, I have a confession to make: I love General Conference. I know, I know, that kind of goes against my self-given reputation as an angry old man. And you know what? That shows depth of character, folks.

I believe this sums it up quite well.

I not only enjoy Conference, I look forward to it. I get excited about it. Do I never get bored during conference? Heck, am I going to agree with everything that gets said? No, but that's not what's important. What I love is the opportunity to see all the Church at least figuratively gather together again and hear from the General Authorities. It reminds me what it is I'm a part of. It helps me remember that, though I may have so many weird eccentricities, I do still fit into the greater framework that is the membership of the Church. For me, it's like a family reunion; there are some family members that I love and that I'm excited to see after a long separation, despite the fact that I know they'll say or do something crazy. (Not to say that I think the General Authorities will say or do something crazy--conference is a lot more regulated than your average family reunion, after all).

So, in honor of the fact that the April 2012 General Conference is less than a month away (fun fact:it technically opens in March), I wanted to usher us into the Conference mood the best way I know how: with talks by Elder Holland.

I'll start with some of my favorites from his BYU devotionals this time around, and then maybe write a Part II with some actual conference addresses.

"Remember Lot's Wife"
This is the first devotional I went to at BYU following my mission, and it is great. A wonderful sermon on not letting the past dictate our lives or ruin our present or our future. My favorite quote:
...I would, on occasion, look out of the window of the President’s Home across the street from the Brimhall Building and picture there on the sidewalk two newlywed BYU students, down on their money and down even more on their confidence....I would see you sometimes as couples, sometimes as a group of friends, sometimes as just a lone student. I knew something of what you were feeling. Some of you were having thoughts such as these: Is there any future for me? What does a new year or a new semester or a new major or a new romance hold for me? Will I be safe? Will life be sound? Can I trust in the Lord and in the future? Or would it be better to look back, to go back, to go home? To all such of every generation, I call out, “Remember Lot’s wife.” Faith is for the future. Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there. Faith trusts that God has great things in store for each of us and that Christ truly is the “high priest of good things to come.”

"A Robe, A Ring, and a Fatted Calf"
A beautiful sermon on forgiving the honest seeker of redemption. My favorite line:
When a battered, weary swimmer tries valiantly to get back to shore, after having fought strong winds and rough waves which he should never have challenged in the first place, those of us who might have had better judgment, or perhaps just better luck, ought not to row out to his side, beat him with our oars, and shove his head back underwater. That's not what boats were made for. But some of us do that to each other.

"The Bitter Cup and the Bloody Baptism"
Before I say another word about this devotional, I must say that that is one of the most engaging titles I have ever seen. You can tell it's going to be a good talk when the title sounds like an Edgar Allen Poe story. Anyway, this is a powerful call for members of the Church to live according to their faith and to engage in their beliefs, rather than languish in apathy. My favorite line:
Indeed, you may one day be released as the glamorous gospel doctrine teacher and be called to that much vacated post of gospel doctrine believer and obeyer. That will test your strength! Surely our sometimes clich├ęd expressions of testimony and latter-day privilege don't amount to much until we have had open invitation to test them in the heat of battle and have in such spiritual combat found ourselves to be faithful. We may speak glibly in those Sunday services of having the truth or even of knowing the truth, but only one who is confronting error and conquering it, however painfully or however slowly, can properly speak of loving the truth.
"Oh, Lord, Keep my Rudder True"
Let's be honest, everyone's favorite Elder Holland moments come when he's dropping the hammer on someone. In this case, he's referring specifically to an incident at a BYU football game in the 80s, but his message--the importance of loyalty--goes beyond the immediate context. I recommend especially the story he shares from a Vietnam soldier, towards the end of the talk. My favorite line:
His Father in Heaven asks Cain, "Where is Abel thy brother?" and Cain fires back, "I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:9; emphasis added). Maybe the answer to that question is--as Professor Chauncey Riddle once said to me--"No, Cain, you are not expected to be your brother's keeper. But you are expected to be your brother's brother."
Ah...great talks. As I said, I'll return with a follow-up post with some of my favorite Elder Holland moments from General Conference, but in the meantime, feel free to tell me which devotionals I should have included, or which general authorities you view in the same way I obviously view this one.


  1. I remember loving David B Haight's talks, as the last years of his life corresponded with my first real spiritual awakenings. Something about the way he spoke, very reflective of a long and happy life, resonated with me. Likewise, more recently I grew to love listening to Joseph B Wirthlin for many of the same reasons. So I guess I'm a sucker for the sentimental old GAs :)

    Excellent post and well timed for me coming in the wake of the priesthood ban nonsense, plus some personal study on Joseph Smith's...shall we say, unseemly, early ventures into polygamy. It's good to be reminded that the church is a tremendous source of inspiration as well.

  2. Ooh, ooh, and Marlin K Jensen is my favorite among the current bunch, I think.

    And another thought: It's funny to imagine that younger folks are coming of age with the likes of Bednar, Cook and Cristofferson as "their" General Authorities. I still think of Hinckley, Haight, and Maxwell as some of "my" GAs, and I've spoken to older members who look back fondly on McKay and leaders of their youth. No particular point there, just the observation.

  3. While I occasionally enjoy other apostles/prophets, none are so engaging to me as Holland. I'm 100% with you on this one. My favorite talk he ever gave was when I was at the MTC. I've gotta find that one...

  4. I'm going to throw in a second for Joseph B. Wirthlin. When I was a kid, I found him so boring. But then I listened to him and just loved that man. He remains the only person (and I do not just mean GAs, I mean all people) who has told life stories about sports that have meant anything to me and which I was genuinely interested to hear. I call that miraculous.

  5. Love love love "Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence" and "The Other Prodigal." Oh, and "An High Priest of Good Things to Come." And "Lessons from Liberty Jail"....basically I just love Elder Holland. :)

  6. For anyone who has not picked up a copy of "Trusting Jesus" do it now. I mean now. It is absolutely my favorite book. It's a collection of Holland talks and it's incredible. I am working through his other collections now, but my copy of "Trusting Jesus" is so marked up that I can basically turn to any page and get a little pick me up.