Elder Holland speaks to students in first ‘Leading by Faith’ conference

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Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to BYU students, faculty and visitors in the Joseph Smith Building. Elder Holland, along with Liz Darger and Melissa Sevy, spoke during the opening panel discussion of the Sorenson Center’s Leading by Faith conference. (BYU Photo/Christi Norris)

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to BYU students, faculty and visitors in the Joseph Smith Building on Nov. 18.

Elder Holland, along with Liz Darger and Melissa Sevy, spoke to attendees during the opening panel discussion of the first Leading by Faith conference sponsored by the Sorensen Center for Moral and Ethical Leadership. The center’s director, Jeff Thompson, said he hopes the Leading by Faith conference will become an annual tradition.

Darger serves on the Young Women general board for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is also the senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator at BYU in addition to being part of the NCAA Common Ground Leadership Team, a group which aims to foster inclusive athletic environments for all sexual orientations, gender identities and religious beliefs.

Sevy, founder and CEO of the wholesale marketplace Ethik, works to assist women in developing economies. Sevy is also a founding member and former president of the Social Enterprise Alliance of Utah. 

As the panel began, Thompson urged participants to imagine they were at home in a comfortable living room to facilitate a more open and comfortable discussion. 

Elder Holland, Darger and Sevy spoke to audience participants over the course of a 60-minute panel, answering questions asked by Thompson about topics such as showing faith as a leader and the importance of morality in leadership.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other guests spoke to BYU students, faculty and visitors in the Joseph Smith Building. Elder Holland, with Liz Darger and Melissa Sevy, spoke during the opening panel discussion of the Sorenson Center’s Leading by Faith conference. (Photo by Christi Norris/BYU Photo)

“We have an advantage at BYU, or in the Church, if we do keep Christ at the center of our lives,” Holland said. “That solves a lot of issues that wouldn’t necessarily be so easily solved without it.”

Holland said if participants didn’t have the gospel as an anchor or a template in their lives, then they would be going through the world in a similar fashion to those who are not members of the Church. 

Sevy used Holland’s metaphor of the gospel as a template as she built upon his thoughts. “With the template of the gospel, being able to lead a group of people is a great way to mobilize people to do something great,” Sevy said.

With the Sorensen Center’s focus on both moral and ethical leadership, Thompson said it is slightly different from ethical leadership centers at other universities. 

Kimberlyn Yellowhair, a member of the Sorensen Center’s Lead Out team, said she was excited about how the conference is bringing awareness to the Sorensen Center and how it can help students.

“The Sorensen Center is just a place where you grow,” Yellowhair said. “If you’re at a point where you are looking for something more, I think the Sorensen Center is capable of giving people something more.”

During the panel, Thompson shared the Sorensen Center’s model for leadership, focusing on Christ-centered leadership with three underlying principles of love, accountability and agency. The model highlighted both the moral and ethical aspects of a Christ-centered leader. 

The Sorensen’s Center has a leadership model that focuses on Christ-centered leadership. During the panel, Thompson shared the Center’s model for leadership and its three underlying principles of love, accountability and agency. (Made in Canva by Trevor Myers)

Darger pointed out the benefits of BYU’s focus on moral leadership. “We have the advantage of learning and promoting and embracing and receiving that learning about moral leadership, knowing that our Father in Heaven and Savior Jesus Christ really are the authors of all of it,” she said.

When sharing the difference between morality and ethics, Elder Holland said the terms ethics and honesty may seem negotiable to some people, referencing the well-known notion of honesty being the best policy.

“I never thought that honesty ought to be a policy,” Holland said. “As a rule, we ought to talk more about moral issues than ethical, though we wouldn’t want it to seem that there’s much of a difference there.”

The speakers each shared stories from their personal lives that applied to the aims of the Sorensen Center.

BYU master’s student Corinne Mayberry said she felt that the opening panel was a good reminder of how important students are in the eyes of the Church’s general authorities and other Church leaders.

Mayberry said what struck her most from Elder Holland’s remarks was the love and care with which he offered his answers and interacted with Darger and Sevy. “He embodies love and Christlike attributes,” Mayberry said.

At the end of the panel discussion, Holland expressed his gratitude for the Sorensen family and the Sorensen Center on campus and shared final spiritual thoughts. 

“God keeps His promises,” Holland said. “If we draw near to him, He will draw near to us.”

Following the opening panel discussion, participants were able to attend breakout sessions featuring guest speakers and student presenters.

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