The full transcript of Elder Holland’s talk is here

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland told the faculty and administration at a university conference held at BYU that “’a house divided against itself…cannot stand’ and I will go to my grave pleading that this institution not only stands but stands unquestionably committed to its unique academic mission and to the Church that sponsors it.”

This speech comes at a time when some have been concerned that BYU is falling prey to corrosive influences in the world contrary to the gospel, and that some faculty may be part of that trend. Elder Holland took this issue straight on and made it clear that BYU must reflect the gospel.

Through emotion Elder Holland was clear that he loves BYU and commended all those who have made it such a rich experience for hundreds of thousands of students. In fact, as a child of 7, “We were driving back to St. George from one of our rare trips to Salt Lake City. As we came down old highway 91, I saw high on the side of one of the hills a huge block ‘Y’ — white and bold and beautiful.

“I don’t know how to explain that moment, but it was a true epiphany for a 7-year-old. If I had seen that ‘Y’ on the drive up or any other time, I couldn’t remember it. But I saw it that day, and I believe it was a revelation from God. I somehow knew that bold letter meant something special and that it would one day play a significant role in my life. When I asked my mother what it meant, she said it was the emblem of a university. I thought about that for a moment then said quietly, ‘Well, it must be the greatest university in the world.’”

Speaking of those who have gained so much from BYU, Elder Holland noted, “One of our colleagues seated here this morning speaks of his first semester, pre-mission enrollment in my friend Wilford Griggs’s History of Civilization class. But this was going to be civilization seen through a BYU lens. So as preambles to the course, Wilf had the students read President Spencer W. Kimball’s “Second Century Address”[2] and the first chapter of Hugh Nibley’s Approaching Zion.[3]

“Taken together, our very literate friend says these two readings ‘forged an indestructible union in my mind and heart between two soaring ideals — that of a consecrated university with that of a holy city. Zion, I came to believe, would be a city with a school [and I would add, a temple, creating] something of a celestial college town, or perhaps a college kingdom.”

“Such are the experiences we hope to provide our students at BYU,” Elder Holland said, “Then imagine the pain that comes with a memo like this one I recently received…

“’You should know,’ the writer says, ‘that some people in the extended community are feeling abandoned and betrayed by BYU. It seems that some professors (at least the vocal ones in the media) are supporting ideas that many of us feel are contradictory to gospel principles, making it appear to be about like any other university our sons and daughters could have attended. Several parents have said they no longer want to send their children here or donate to the school.

“’Please don’t think I’m opposed to people thinking differently about policies and ideas,’ the writer continues. ‘I’m not. But I would hope that BYU professors would be bridging those gaps between faith and intellect and would be sending out students that are ready to do the same in loving, intelligent and articulate ways. Yet, I fear that some faculty are not supportive of the Church’s doctrines and policies and choose to criticize them publicly. There are consequences to this. After having served a full-time mission and marrying her husband in the temple, a friend of mine recently left the church. In her graduation statement on a social media post, she credited [such and such a BYU program and its faculty] with the radicalizing of her attitudes and the destruction of her faith.’”

To a school where so much is excellent, Elder Holland reiterated words from an address he gave to BYU when he had been president only three weeks. “I said then and I say now that if we are an extension of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taking a significant amount of sacred tithes and other precious human resources, all of which might well be expended in other worthy causes, surely our integrity demands that our lives be absolutely consistent with and characteristic of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. At a university there will always be healthy debate regarding a whole syllabus full of issues. But until ‘we all come [to] the unity of the faith, and . . . [have grown to] the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ,’ our next best achievement will be to stay in harmony with the Lord’s anointed, those whom He has designated to declare Church doctrine and to guide Brigham Young University as its trustees.”

He emphasized that BYU’s unique mission must in no way be discarded. In President Spencer W. Kimball’s “Second Century Address” to BYU, he used the word “unique” eight times, and “special” eight times.

Elder Holland said, “It seems clear to me in my 73 years of loving it that BYU will become an “educational Mt. Everest” only to the degree it embraces its uniqueness, its singularity. We could mimic every other university in the world until we got a bloody nose in the effort and the world would still say, ‘BYU who?’ No, we must have the will to stand alone, if necessary, being a university second to none in its role primarily as an undergraduate teaching institution that is unequivocally true to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in the process.

“If at a future time that mission means foregoing some professional affiliations and certifications, then so be it. There may come a day when the price we are asked to pay for such association is simply too high, too inconsistent with who we are. No one wants it to come to that, but, if it does, we will pursue our own destiny, a ‘destiny [that] is not a matter of chance; [but largely] a matter of choice; . . . not a thing to be waited for, [but] a thing to be [envisioned and] achieved.’”

A faculty member wrote Elder Holland a description of what he thought was the “call” to those who serve at BYU:  “The Lord’s call [to those of us who serve at BYU] is a . . . call to create learning experiences of unprecedented depth, quality and impact. . . . As good as BYU is and has been, this is a call to do [better]. It is . . . a call to educate many more students, to more . . . effectively help them become true disciples of Jesus Christ, to prepare them to . . . lead in their families, in the Church, in their [professions, and] in a world filled with commotion. . . . But [answering this call] . . . cannot be [done successfully] without His . . . help . . . I believe,” the writer concludes,” that help will come according to the faith and obedience of the tremendously good people of BYU.”

This means, of course, that BYU and the faculty who teach there must be able to stand with the gospel, rather than follow the popular ideologies that undermine it.

He quoted Elder Neal A. Maxwell: “In a way[,] [Latter-day Saint] scholars at BYU and elsewhere are a little bit like the builders of the temple in Nauvoo, who worked with a trowel in one hand and a musket in the other. Today scholars building the temple of learning must also pause on occasion to defend the kingdom. I personally think,” Elder Maxwell went on to say, “this is one of the reasons the Lord established and maintains this university. The dual role of builder and defender is unique and ongoing. I am grateful we have scholars today who can handle, as it were, both trowels and muskets.”

Doctrine that does not move when the world adopts different and ever shifting values will have to be defended in a world that disdains it.

Elder Holland quoted Elder Dallin H. Oaks “who said challengingly, ‘I would like to hear a little more musket fire from this temple of learning.’ He said this in a way that could have applied to a host of topics in various departments, but the one he specifically mentioned was the doctrine of the family and defending marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Little did he know that while many would hear his appeal, especially the School of Family Life who moved quickly and visibly to assist, some others fired their muskets all right, but unfortunately didn’t always aim at those hostile to the Church. A couple of stray rounds even went north of the point of the mountain!”

Certainly BYU faces challenges in many areas from a world whose values are contrary to the gospel, and Elder Holland pointed to one that has become problematic. He said that the Brethren, for instance, are “not deaf or blind to the feelings that swirl around marriage and the whole same-sex topic on campus.” Elder Holland said he and “many of my Brethren have spent more time and shed more tears on this subject than we could ever adequately convey to you this morning or any morning. We have spent hours discussing what the doctrine of the Church can and cannot provide the individuals and families struggling over this difficult issue.”

He expressed dismay that “too often the world has been unkind, in many instances crushingly cruel, to these our brothers and sisters.” Yet, he said, “we have to be careful that love and empathy do not get interpreted as condoning and advocacy, or that orthodoxy and loyalty to principle not be interpreted as unkindness of disloyalty to people. As near as I can tell, Christ never once withheld His love from anyone, but He also never once said to anyone, ‘Because I love you, you are exempt from keeping my commandments.’

He said, “Musket fire? Yes, we will always need defenders of the faith, but ‘friendly fire’ is a tragedy — and from time to time the Church, its leaders and some of our colleagues within the university community have taken such fire on this campus.”

Elder Holland’s purpose today was to remind the faculty and administration at BYU how unique and divine the school’s destiny is. Just like the 7-year-old boy he once was, Elder Holland still sees BYU as “the greatest university in the world “ and left an apostolic blessing upon it.

It included these words. “I bless your devotion to gospel truths…will be the saving grace in some student’s life.”

He pled: “From one who owes so much to this school and has loved her so deeply for so long, keep her not only standing but standing for what she uniquely and prophetically was meant to be.”