Elder Holland invites change in religious education

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks to audience members in the Joseph Smith Building auditorium during a Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship lecture on Nov. 10. (Claire Gentry)

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles made a call to former scholar, educator and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Neal A. Maxwell as a young graduate student seeking advice. Elder Holland called Elder Maxwell without ever meeting him prior.

“As I look back on it, it was a silly and embarrassing thing to do. Some incipient graduate student Elder Maxwell has never met asking via a telephone call what he should be when he grew up, but commissioner Maxwell could not have been more gracious. That phone call started a professional, then a personal and then an apostolic friendship that will continue wonderfully and warmly forever.”

Holland accredits that conversation with inspiring his pursuits in religious education within the Church.

“My life continues to have his fingerprints all over it. I care about his name, the life he lived and the legacy he left,” Holland said.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke at the Neal A. Maxwell Lecture titled “The Maxwell Legacy in the 21st Century” on Nov. 10.

Elder Holland said the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship will be the means of communicating Elder Maxwell’s legacy to a new generation of the Church “who have never heard Elder Maxwell’s voice, nor delighted in his prose nor felt the fire of his faith,” he said.

“The Maxwell Institute both gathers and nurtures disciple-scholars. As a research community, the Institute supports scholars whose work inspires and fortifies Latter-day Saints in their testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and engages the world of religious ideas,” according to the Maxwell Institute website.

Jesus Christ and God support all the work of the Church including the work in Church education, according to Elder Holland.

“Brothers and sisters, we are in a moment in this Church, His Church, the Savior’s Church, when there is a demonstrable, near-tangible hastening of the work,” Elder Holland said.

Holland also emphasized the severity of the hastening of gospel work by quoting President Russell M. Nelson from an interview on Mormon Newsroom.

“You are witnesses to the process of restoration. If you think the Church has been fully restored, you are just seeing the beginning, there is much more to come. Wait until next year, and then the next year. Eat your vitamin pills, get your rest, it’s going to be exciting,” Elder Holland read.

With changes occurring now and in the future for the Church, Elder Holland mentioned changes that will need to happen within the Maxwell Religious Institution.  

The first of these changes involves the name of the program “Mormon Studies.” Just as with the rest of the church and its transition and redirection to a name centered on Christ, the Maxwell Institute must do the same, according to Elder Holland.

In a letter addressed to Elder Holland from President Nelson, Nelson promises blessings for the Institute if following through the challenge to transition to a more Christ-centered name.

“If they can claim the name of the Lord Jesus Christ some way in their name, the Lord will bless them in their mission,” President Nelson said.

Elder Holland notes another change that must be made in the 21st century for the Maxwell Institute is to “capitalize on their positionality,” Elder Holland said.

“Share what we might take for granted but which others might see true jewels in the Latter-day Saint crown,” Elder Holland said.

He touched on topics such as family history work and the Joseph Smith papers as examples of topics to be outwardly shared and studied by members and non-members alike.

The Maxwell Institute requires scholars, but more than anything it requires those who are always willing, to uphold the greater mission of the Church, according to Holland.

“We know that not every seminar you hold in the academic world will be a formal first lesson from Preach My Gospel, nor will every essay you produce be submitted to the Ensign for the entire Church to see,” Elder Holland said. “While we are not obligated to declare everything we believe at any given time in any one setting we are also not to even look like what we do not believe.”

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