Saturday, October 2, 2010

Thanks, Elder Holland

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
After President Monson's opening remarks at today's opening session of the 180th semi-annual General Conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland expressed his gratitude for all the members of the Church and their quiet and dedicated service to others.

His gentle spirit this morning prompted many feelings of gratitude within me.  We are coming into that season of the year set aside for remembering and for being thankful.  We may not be able to do all things, but we can all be grateful.  In this we are all equals.

My feelings of gratitude extended this morning to my family first.  When one becomes a grandfather many, many times (up to 35 and counting!), life becomes more filled with memories that push out expansive hopes or fears for the unknown future.  I have outlived all my fears now.  I don't get too worked up about what might happen now, because I have a lifetime of experience behind to whisper reminders that those things I feared most as a young man never happened.

The story of the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament is filled with the word "remember."  I was reminded frequently by Richard Holzapfel that perhaps it could be said "Thou shalt remember" might be considered the 11th commandment.

As Elder Holland reminded me this morning, remembering what others have done for me and counting my blessings is humbling.  I am more frequently aware than ever before how much I have to be thankful for and for God's goodness.  I find my prayers are more populated with gratitude than ever before.  Of course,  partaking of the sacrament is the essence and centerpiece of my gratitude, as we partake "in remembrance," so that we may "always remember" what Jesus has done for us (3 Nephi 18:11; Moroni 4, 5).

Sometimes, like the ungrateful and forgetful mortals we tend to be, we ask God if not always just rhetorically, "What have you done for me lately?" Alma reminded his people to ask themselves whether or not they had "sufficiently retained in remembrance" His deliverance and blessings (Alma 5:6-7). Later he reminds them at the judgment day we will all have "perfect remembrance" of all we have forgotten (Alma 5:18).

Best to remember here and now to be grateful. 

Elder Holland cited President James E. Faust's lifetime agony over his "sin of omission," when he neglected to show his gratitude for his grandmother by failing to carry in the tinder box filled with firewood she used to prepare all the family meals.  Then Elder Holland publicly thanked his aged mother for her sacrifice so he could serve his mission and for his parents' preservation of his savings so he'd have a financial cushion to begin his education after his return.  He lamented he would have to wait to tell his father, who died 34 yeras ago. 

The important theme of remembrance occurs routinely in the Old Testament -- over two hundred times.  It appears in The Book of Mormon dozens of times also.  Whenever the gospel has been upon the earth in every dispensation, the call to remembrance is part of it.

It seems if we fail to live in "thanksgiving daily" (Alma 34:38), God finds a way to help His forgetful and backsliding children frequently by "prompting" them to remember their gratitude.  "And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him" (Helaman 12:3).

"Because of the word" and our many blessings, we have testimonies and gratitude in varing stages of development (Alma 32:14).  Elder Neal A. Maxwell was fond of reminding us of our need for meekness in our discipleship.  Without it, our view in present deprivations or afflictions may prompt forgetfulness instead of gratitude.  Even Joseph Smith had to be reminded about how his suffering compared with Job's and the Savior's -- "Thou art not yet as Job" (D&C 121:10); "The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?" (D&C 122:8). 

I am routinely humbled when thoughts of "poor me" invade my remembrance of them and others like them.  Remembering our gratitude can bring the much-needed perspective.

Alma's suggests we must remember to "sing the song of redeeming love" about the days in which we now live, as well as the days gone by (Alma 5:26; 34:38).  Remembering what the Lord has done in preserving us in past days inspires courage in our present circumstances.

There is a wonderful treatise on "bread" in the gospel of John.  I love the symbolism in the sixth chapter.  Christ had just miraculously produced loaves and fishes for the hungry multitude of several thousand (see John 6:1-14).  We learn there was "enough and to spare," and they were "filled."  But like even the best and most expensive meals we consume today, the next morning some of those who had partaken and been eyewitnesses were hungry again.  The Savior reminded them, "Your fathers did eat [similarly miraculous] manna in the wilderness, and are dead."  He was telling them they would have remained forever dead, too, but for His offering the Atonement to them, an infinite and eternal blessing.  In the wilderness the children of Israel were impelled to gather the manna daily because of its perishable nature, but in Christ they would have the "true bread from heaven," filling them so that they would "never hunger" again (see John 6:31-58).

I must routinely pull myself back from excesses and hyperbole when I tend to get caught up in the heat of political rhetoric.  As you can no doubt discern from these pages, I am deeply concerned as a citizen of the United States of America that we are losing ground in preserving our precious constitutional liberties.  I see slippage everywhere, including the freedoms of religion, speech, and press.  Events in our country, and those around the world remind me of my need for thanksgiving for all the liberties we enjoy as Americans.  When I have rational thoughts, I remember that throughout recorded world history most mortals who have come to live on planet Earth have not had any such constitutionally protected liberties. 

Property rights here and now in America have always been vouched safe as a core element of the Constitution.  However, they are being trampled upon now and can be easily revoked, non-existent, or easily lost through the foreclosures we have witnessed in escalating numbers in recent months.  But wonderful as those property rights may seem now, they pale into insignificance when compared with even one of the least of the many mansions we may someday inherit from our Heavenly Father.  I have to remind myself to keep it all in perspective by remembering what I've been promised if faithful.

After the bread lesson, soon came the "light" lesson.  Fresh from the celebration of the great Feast of Tabernacles featuring illuminated candelabra in the courtyard of the temple at Jerusalem, the Savior taught His followers He was the Light of the world and they would never need to walk in darkness (see John 8:12).

Walking by the light of the Restoration can dispel all the darkness and clouds of political deception currently permeating our existence.  Even the minions of darkness cannot threaten its illuminating relevance in our lives.  I have been reminded this morning that overthrowing the divinely-given principles of the Constitution is not easily achieved.

Thanks, Elder Holland for reminding us to remember to be grateful for that assurance.


  1. "I must routinely pull myself back from excesses and hyperbole when I tend to get caught up in the heat of political rhetoric."

    Yes, so do I, but gladly, moderation can be learned and even become habitual. But for those like me who are not naturally temperate, it takes concerted effort, restraint, and "remembering", as you addressed in today's other post, to build up the habit of moderation.

    Our contemporary culture is perhaps beyond infantile when engaged in what today passes as political discourse, so calm and deliberation are not reinforced. But in one way, the culture motivates us towards a better way - "do we want to be LIKE THAT?"

    The "heat" that we feel is justified, so long as it is confined to dismay over the propagation of error and sin and concern for our future instead of anger and hatred of the opposition. Heated, irrational rhetoric is not justified, no matter the worthiness of the cause.

    It's all easier said than done.

    I find that the Brethren are quite exemplary in their official pronouncements, in tone, style, and substance. That's a pattern to follow.

  2. That's exactly how I feel, John. Well said.

  3. Don't forget to link your social websites to and create a profile as instructed by Elder Nielson in the Priesthood meeting!

    Good network meeting this morning!