A review of Elder Holland’s LDS General Conference speech titled “Lord, I Believe” on April 7, 2013, Salt Lake City, Utah
By Russ Bales, Evangelical Christian and Jenna Wood, Christian and former Mormon
Elder Holland opened his speech with the comment, “Honestly acknowledge your questions and your concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe.”
Some questions immediately come to mind.
• Believe in what? Will a man who calls himself a prophet of God proceed to the core of the gospel message which is belief and trust in Jesus and forgiveness of sins?
• Or will his talk be designed to soothe the minds of those who are questioning their faith in the Mormon Church?
It was not unexpected nor surprising that the thrust of Holland’s speech focused on the latter. The Mormon Church is currently experiencing an exodus from its ranks unparalleled in the Church’s history since the Kirtland Bank failure. It naturally follows that an address to all Mormon believers would seek to reassure the faithful that all will be well if faithful Mormons will heed the counsel of the prophets.
Elder Marlin Jensen, a General Authority of the LDS Church and Executive Director of the Church History Department, was asked the question on January 31, 2012, “Did the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints know that members are ‘leaving in droves?’”
“We are aware,” he said according to a tape recording of his unscripted remarks. “And I’m speaking of the 15 men that are above me in the hierarchy of the church. They really do know and they really care,” Reuters article
Elder Holland encourages Mormons to “Stand strong until additional knowledge comes.” Holland is clearly acknowledging that many Mormons are starting to question the veracity of the claims of the LDS church. Holland is clearly admonishing the flock to stand unwavering during troubling times.
“Be candid about your questions as you need to be. But don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle.”
Holland makes a sober point insofar that we all do well to exercise faith. It takes faith to believe in an unseen God. Our faith in God is bolstered by the veracity of biblical history. Christianity is a reasonable faith. It is reasonable to consider that an intelligent designer created everything that is.
Where these writers would diverge from Holland’s admonition to not allow nagging questions to get in the way of faith is when the Mormon church asks its adherents to ignore the mountain of evidence that goes against the claims of the LDS church. For example, the uniquely LDS scripture called The Book of Abraham has been examined by several renowned Egyptologists. (See the video documentary) The consensus is unanimous. It is a book that isn’t what it claims to be.
As another example, the history of the Church itself is becoming problematic for many Mormons. The LDS Church doesn’t make it readily known that its prophet, Joseph Smith, married at least 33 women. 11 of those women were already married to living husbands. Such facts should be considered and such facts reveal the LDS church’s claims to be extremely problematic.
One last example is the race issue in the Mormon Church. The Church banned blacks from full membership in its priesthood from 1830 to 1978. Such things should cause Mormons to question the claims of the LDS Church and in no way should an alleged prophet of God encourage them to, “…hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes” when in actuality the LDS Church isn’t providing that additional knowledge. They’re not providing a public response to those nagging questions.
The knowledge of LDS claims are on the table. All one has to do is simply use an internet search engine to examine LDS claims. LDS leaders aren’t answering. They’re leaving their flock without answers to these hard questions and all the while repeating the mantra: just have faith.
Determining truth is important. Vitally important. What we all want most, next to being loved, is truth. No one wants to be lied to by the auto mechanic. No one expects their religious leaders to cover up facts. The Mormon Church, however, is unfortunately adept at doing that.
Determining truth is as simple as opening God’s Word. When the apostle Paul preached about Jesus, the Bereans in the Book of Acts didn’t merely take Paul’s word for it. They compared what he said to that which has been previously revealed:
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11
Regarding truth, Dave Hunt of The Berean Call states:
Truth is independent of time, space, and matter, and never changes. It has no location in the physical universe; it exists in the nonphysical realm of the soul and spirit. The indisputable fact that the brain is not the mind, with which we understand truth, provides one of the simplest proofs that we are nonphysical and eternal beings living temporarily in physical bodies. This solemn fact raises a question that most do not like to face. Preferring to give their attention to pleasures and plans related to this temporal world of the five senses, that which is of paramount importance is put off to “a convenient season” (Acts 24:25), which never comes. Every person must answer the great question: Where will my soul and spirit (the real “I” that is my unique self) be when this temporary dwelling in which I have lived these few years lies “moulding in the grave?”
Members of the LDS religion are warned constantly that if something goes against the teachings of the LDS doctrines and Prophets, then it is a deception and of Satan. Remember that Satan can (and does indeed) use facts to deceive! Satan abuses the facts of what one believes, even partial truths, and then distorts the interpretation of those facts and truths to weave a deception. Holland’s use of Jesus’ own words to try and distort the truth an interpretation of what Jesus was actually saying when he said,
“If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”
Jesus uses this parable not to imply that our “faith of a mustard seed” can move mountains and uproot trees by faith. No one can do such things, no matter how great their faith. The key to understanding the passages is the nature of faith, which is a gift from God.
The power of faith reflects the omnipotent nature of the God who bestows faith on His own to make the point that little is much when it comes from God. The mustard seed in the parable grows to be a huge tree, representing the tiny beginnings of Christianity when just a few disciples began to preach and teach the gospel. Eventually the kingdom grew to huge proportions, encompassing the entire world and spreading over centuries.
Holland used this parable of Jesus to suggest that what Jesus actually meant was if one of little faith (faith in the LDS gospel, not in the Gospel of Jesus Christ) will at least trust in “The Church” their faith will grow.
Faith of the mustard seed can be applied to all those that are seeking for truth and bring the Truth of the true Church, His church that he started from tiny beginning of Christianity that grew from just a few disciples teaching his gospel to the entire world!
When Satan attempted to deceive Jesus he failed because Jesus would not be separated from the Father’s guidance, purpose and character. Jesus, couldn’t be fooled into thinking there was anything more worthy of His attention than staying in alignment with the Father. He had a relationship with the Father to the degree that they shared common purpose, will and character. He knew the Father. He knew Truth.
Jesus said, “I am THE TRUTH, the way and the life…” (John 14:6) and “you shall know (be intimate with) THE TRUTH and THE TRUTH shall make you free” (John 8:32).
As a person on Facebook wrote: “What Holland teaches is clear –when confronted with questions, the answer must not conflict with what you once believed to know, and if you are not satisfied with that that answer, keep trying till you do, and keep it on your shelf with all the rest of the ‘unknowns.’ I cannot subscribe to this method of determining truth.”
There are too many unknowns on that shelf for many Mormons these days. The shelf is getting heavy.
General conference talks appear more as pep talk designed to help people feel good and maintain their testimony of the Mormon Church than words from prophets regarding God’s salvation message and truth.