Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speaks at Neal Maxwell Lecture series

November 11, 2018

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said he first heard of former apostle Neal A. Maxwell in a June 1971 Church News announcing Maxwell had been made the church’s Commissioner of Education. He went on to be a close friend and colleague in the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

On Saturday, Holland spoke about his colleague and friend during the 2018 Neal A. Maxwell Lecture. The lecture was sponsored by the Brigham Young University Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.

More specifically, Holland told members of the institute that they have a profound responsibility to continue on course in academic pursuits but never at the expense of faith and spiritual knowledge — they must align.

Referencing the famous picture of Jesus Christ at the door knocking, Holland, a former BYU president, said there are many doors, but he referenced the door being the Maxwell Institute’s door.

“The question for all is how do we best open that door,” Holland said. “These topics absorb 15 of us when we toss and turn at night.”

Holland referenced the job of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve as they are members of the Board of Trustees of the university.

“If the university is to reflect the best the church has to offer, then the Maxwell Institute is the best the university has to offer,” Holland said.

Holland also noted that, when in the search for truth, it should be remembered that all truths aren’t equally important.

“There will be times when our faith will need an academic defense,” Holland said.

He added the Maxwell Institute must be engaged in work that builds the kingdom.

“We are at a moment in His church where there is near-tangible hastening of the work,” Holland said.

He noted that he was not an apocalyptic person, but in reference to a recent comment by President Russell M. Nelson Holland said there will be more revelation and that members really should take their vitamins and get enough rest because it will be exciting.

“The direction and priorities of the church are being discussed more than ever before,” Holland said. “Very few institutions in the church are looked to more than BYU. This university was a life changer for me.”

Holland spoke, with some tongue in cheek, about the department of Mormon Studies, attached to the institute and BYU.

With the new emphasis on the name of the church as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Holland acknowledged the Mormon Studies might take some time to find an alternative name.

“Obviously you’re going to have to find another name,” Holland said.

He added, “Take heart, it (finding a new name) doesn’t rank with the Missouri persecution. President Nelson understands renaming Mormon Studies is a concern.”

Holland noted that leaders in Salt Lake are wrestling with the same issues in many departments. Following his comments on the name change, Holland offered a sigh and said, “Having dealt with that elephant in the room, it’s up to you to decide.”

Holland also offered leaders in the institute the use of a front-end loader they may need to move the elephant in the middle of the room. His comments were met with spontaneous laughter.

What Holland did ask for was that the Maxwell Institute not hold back a dual track of scholarly endeavors and being committed to the Kingdom.

“The highest education includes salvational truths,” Holland said, in quoting Maxwell.

He said, “What we’re asking you to do is difficult. You can’t afford to ever be perceived that you are failing in that mission.”

Noting that Mormon Studies at other universities comes from a completely different perspective of scholarly discussion, he said Mormon Studies at BYU must be as his favorite Scottish Pastor George MacDonald stated, “One who believes must bear witness.”

“You’ll have to be comfortable being oddballs,” Holland said.

Quoting President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, Holland added, “This institute belongs to God. The Neal A. Maxwell Institute must be genuine and pervasive.”

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