Provo celebrates freedom at annual Patriotic Service

Elder Matthew S. Holland, General Authority Seventy, addresses the crowd. The Freedom Festival’s annual Patriotic Service celebrated American values and hope for the future. (Payton Pingree)

America’s Freedom Festival at Provo hosted its annual Patriotic Service on Sunday, June 30 in the Marriott Center on the BYU campus. Elder Matthew S. Holland, General Authority Seventy, addressed the crowd as the keynote speaker of the event.

The evening began with opening remarks from Cameron Martin, the chair of the event, and music from the Utah National Guard 23rd Army Band. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Holland’s father, also attended.

Joy Moore is a 13-year-old from Saratoga Springs, Utah and the 2024 Freedom Festival’s youth speech contest winner. She addressed the crowd, speaking about how her years spent growing up in China taught her about the importance of the freedom of speech.

“I believe that America’s freedom to discuss past and present issues helps us to keep progressing and innovating our education,” Moore said. “We aren’t afraid of different views, we invite them and respectfully consider them.”

Vicki Garbutt, chair of the Freedom Awards Committee and Gala, announced this year’s honorees who have fought for freedom, two of which were in attendance. 

Walter Lee Robinson, now 100 years old, was part of the only regiment of paratroops in the Marine Corps during World War II and participating in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Todd Sylvester fights for freedom for those struggling with addiction and has dedicated his life to helping others through those trials.  

Boyd Matheson, the host of KSL Inside Sources, introduced Elder Matthew S. Holland as the keynote speaker.

Holland began by sharing how his father gifted him several books about influential figures in American history when he was a child, including his favorite book about Thomas Jefferson. He expressed his gratitude to his father and the blessings he brought to him throughout his life.  

“He’s my greatest living hero and best friend,” Holland said of his father. 

Holland continued by explaining the divine inspiration for the Founding Fathers’ work in creating the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  

“God-given rights are inalienable,” Holland said. “They are heaven’s eternal gift to you, making you unquestionably and inherently an agent unto yourself, now and forever.” 

He went on to discuss the vital importance of the U.S. Constitution and the liberties it grants citizens of the country.  

“What we have received, though it’s not without its failings, is a condition of ordered freedom that has unleashed unparalleled advances in human creativity, economic prosperity and religious liberty.” 

Holland explained how many Americans feel disheartened by the current state of politics and uncertainty for the nation’s future. He shared how the apostle Paul taught that all things should be done with charity in order to combat these doubts. 

“Different from its current connotation of simple almsgiving, charity in the Bible refers to the highest and holiest form of love of God and man,” Holland said. “Therefore, Paul’s injunction that all things should be done in charity establishes that even in our political life, we must seek to love God with all our heart and love our neighbor and even our enemies as ourselves.”  

The crowd at the Freedom Festival’s annual Patriotic Service sings “America the Beautiful.” The service celebrated American values and hope for the future. (Payton Pingree)

Holland spoke about the radical historical divide between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, and how Americans today should look to their example of finding resilience and unity despite differences of opinion. He also mentioned Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.’s battles for freedom and truth, and how citizens of the U.S. must continue to uphold those values.  

“As we vigorously defend those principles and how they translate into concrete policy, we remain peaceful and temperate and filled with love for others, including those who oppose our views,” Holland said.  

Holland acknowledged the attitudes of doubt and despair many take on when viewing the country’s divisiveness.

“In these tense times, rather than just hope to weather what’s ahead, it’s not unreasonable to hope that the current events may awaken the nation to a healthier political, economic and social set of practices,” he said.  

Holland asked all “true believers” in the crowd to refuse the path of pessimism when it comes to what lies ahead for the nation’s government. He concluded by expressing that hope and faith are intertwined, and that God has the ultimate power to save the country.

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