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After the Reaction to Elder Holland’s BYU Speech, I Now See Why the Crowd Called for Christ’s Crucifixion

After the Reaction to Elder Holland’s BYU Speech, I Now See Why the Crowd Called for Christ’s Crucifixion

I’ve been reading the New Testament over the past month and have been pleasantly thrilled by one thing that I’d never before noticed or fully understood.

Jesus was famous. If you don’t believe me, read the gospels again.

When you read the book of Mark, especially, it is very clear that this was no ordinary man and people knew it. Crowds gathered around houses to hear him speak, the sick and lame were lined up in the streets to be healed by him, and people gathered by the thousands to hear him speak. It’s incredible to see how many times Mark described in one fashion or another how Jesus was being thronged by the multitudes.

jesus crowds

Often we speak of Jesus as an outcast who was “despised and rejected of men”, and while that was the case in some locations like his hometown and Jerusalem, in most places he went, Jesus was the star of the show.

However, Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time in Jerusalem, and that is where he was ultimately sentenced to death and accused of men. In Luke 23 we read the following account:

Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them.

But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.

And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go.

And they were instant [urging] with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.

I was thinking about “loud voices” again recently as I was blown away by some of the responses to Elder Holland’s talk at Brigham Young University. There were SO many loud voices, and they were sharing SO MANY things that Elder Holland did not say. He flat out did not say them.

Take this one for example. This is a screenshot from an Instagram story. A popular ex-Mormon Instagram account stated that Elder Holland said that “over his dead body would he let the church change to accept queer people”. Really? The thing I get a kick out of is the rhetorical question “Over YOUR dead body?” with the emphasis on “YOUR”, as if Elder Holland had actually said any of this.

crucify him crucify him

A popular exmormon Instagram account posting lies about Elder Holland’s speech.

Another lie the “loud voices” on social media have been spreading is that Elder Holland called for musket fire towards LGBTQ individuals. If you read his speech, he never said anything remotely close to that. The crowds have been massacring that metaphor and applying it to something Elder Holland never intended.

Was it the best metaphor? I don’t know. Then again, I’ve never liked violent metaphors like “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea…” but that came from Jesus himself, so who am I to correct Jesus or Elder Holland? The fact that these forceful metaphors were used speaks to the seriousness of the issues being discussed.

Fighting Against the Apostles

It dawned on me after reading many of these social media posts from the very loud crowd that so much of the noise was from people who had not actually watched or read Elder Holland’s speech at all. They heard reactions from others, perhaps saw small clips, but surely they didn’t watch the entire forty minute speech he gave, found here.

If they had watched the tears flow from Elder Holland’s eyes, they certainly wouldn’t have cast stones at that man as many have. I can’t tell you how many comments I read from people asking, “What did he say?”, then reacting emotionally after they were given an explanation from someone that was 280 characters or less. Basing your reactions on other people’s reactions without having full information is a dangerous course to take.

As I thought about this, the thought came to my mind that this was probably a very similar scenario to Christ’s presentation before Pilate.

I would bet that the majority of the people chanting “Crucify him, crucify him” to Pilate’s question, “What evil hath he done?” had never actually taken the time to honestly listen to Jesus’ full message. Their reactions and calls for death were solely because of the noise of the crowd, and this alone made them more than eager to cast stones at Jesus. 

A brother online posted a screenshot of the following scripture found in 1 Nephi 11, explaining that his wife was praying to know what to think about the Elder Holland speech and reaction and this was the scripture she opened up to:

And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.

And after he was slain I saw the multitudes of the earth, that they were gathered together to fight against the apostles of the Lamb; for thus were the twelve called by the angel of the Lord.

And the multitude of the earth was gathered together; and I beheld that they were in a large and spacious building, like unto the building which my father saw. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Behold the world and the wisdom thereof; yea, behold the house of Israel hath gathered together to fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

And it came to pass that I saw and bear record, that the great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

elder holland byu

We are now seeing members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints openly fight against an apostle of the Lamb. These are members in your neighborhoods, members in your ward, members who sit next to you in sacrament meeting. It’s incredibly sad to see.

Just as a small group of Pharisees and corrupt rulers stirred up a crowd to call for the crucifixion of Jesus, similar antics are at play with the venomous reaction to Elder Holland’s words spoken on BYU campus. 

Where Do You Stand and Who Do You Sustain

There appears to be an ever increasing divide in the church over many issues. Please ask yourself this question as you consider where you stand: If your stance is in opposition to the living prophets and apostles, can you really be on solid ground? The first section of the Doctrine and Covenants declares:

Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh;

And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.

And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;

For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;

They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth fold and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.

I would invite you to follow the counsel of and sustain our living prophets and apostles. They are seers and can see what we cannot. They are witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are here to speak truth, and not pleasing words.

Please listen to the words of the prophets with a humble heart before you listen to the noise of the social media crowds – even the noise from so-called “temple-going, Relief Society President, Instagram Influencers.” Please listen to the prophets words and ask, “Lord, is it I?” Please listen to their words without expecting to have your belly rubbed and to have everything be pleasing. The truth isn’t always comfortable.

If the crowd in Jerusalem would have received the words of Christ with a humble heart, blood wouldn’t be on their hands.

The Two Most Important Paragraphs from Elder Holland’s Recent Address At Brigham Young University
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Joni

Monday 8th of November 2021

Dear Ben , This is a brilliant and sensitively written article. I appreciate your insights and your spirit. Many will not understand or hear the truths Elder Holland spoke. Sad. Especially this "We have to be careful hat love and empathy do not be interpreted as condoning and advocacy. . . .Christ never once with held His love from anyone. He also never said "Because I love you, you are exempt from keeping my commandments."

Steven

Monday 11th of October 2021

Hey Ben, I watched the entire talk a few times. I love Elder Holland. At least one of his talks has been pivotal in my life. I recognize his authority as a profit of God. But... He is also a man and his message to BYU faculty (and the world... he was well aware that the world was his audience) had a lot of his trademark rhetoric (crescendos of righteous anger and quivering jowls, followed by soft humility and tears of empathy, repeat), but little of the spirit along with some half-truths. It was Jeffrey Holland the man doing most of the speaking this time. Here are a few of the things Jeffrey Holland said:

1. His statement about the BYU graduation speech was not true. You have loosely agreed, but you point out that it wasn't the right place for this student to "come out" and that Holland was shaming the faculty for letting it happen, not the student. Why? Is it wrong for him to be gay? The Church, including Elder Holland, has indicated that being gay is not a sin and that there is no shame in "coming out." Was it wrong to include an experience core to who he is and core to what he has learned while in college? Certainly not--it's almost a cliche in graduation speeches. If he had talked about finding the (female) love of his life and marrying her while at BYU, would there be ANY outrage? Would anyone call it the wrong place for such an anecdote? No. On the contrary, stories about finding companions at BYU are also a cliche of talks in wards, stakes and at general conference.

2. The first time Holland shed tears for his gay brothers and sisters it was touching. At this point, though, it feels like it's become part of his schtick (he IS a master of rhetoric... or more precisely, a doctor of rhetoric). This time he even claimed to be scarred by the pain of his gay brothers and sisters. Perhaps you hear this and see a man with incredible empathy. Let me help you see it from a different perspective. My 14 year old daughter tried to end her life, in part because of her sexuality. I lived most of my life wishing I were dead rather than feeling an attraction to other men. The church has even suggested in the past that it would be better for my daughter and I to BE dead rather than give in to our desire to love and be loved by another human. Now, pretend that's you and your daughter and consider how you would feel about Holland's rhetoric. You might think, "Hey Holland, enough of the performative empathy. You are a prophet. We don't need the burden of your metaphorical scars and tears, we need your guidance. And if you have none (the Church's current position on LGBTQ folks is "we don't know why you are this way, but just hold on"), then please hold your tears and your tongue and let us work through our faith without also dodging your musket fire."

3. Holland relayed a complaint from a parent who was concerned that her child might be exposed to acceptance of gay people while at BYU. He used that parent complaint to beat up on BYU faculty. I am a teacher. A decent school administrator would NEVER do this. Never. And a good administrator would have even invited the mother to enroll her child somewhere else. And this is a university. Presumably most students at BYU are adults. That a mother would write this letter says more about the mother than it says about BYU faculty. And Holland's reaction says more about his nostalgia for BYU than it says about BYU faculty. The only thing that speaks loudly of BYU faculty is that none of them got up and walked out at that point.

To be clear, these three moments (and others in the speech) don't make me believe any less that Elder Holland is a prophet. Instead they confirm how important it is for me to seek confirmation of the spirit when I listen to our prophets speak. In this case, there was none. It doesn't make him less of a prophet; it makes him more human.

I realize you (like many of our LDS brothers and sisters) will tell me that Holland's words might hurt, but he is teaching and defending God's law, and God's laws don't change. To that, I will suggest a few examples where God's law didn't change, but where man's understanding of God's law changed dramatically. 1. Read the conversation between Moroni and his father about baptism at the end of the BofM. God not only set them straight on baptizing children, he let them know that their misunderstanding showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of God. 2. Study the "law" of celestial marriage in the church. My mom was a polygamist who married a Mormon who believed in marriage between one man and one woman. Her family loved her but was sad that she would choose a lifestyle/marriage that would keep her out of the celestial kingdom. This was the common understanding of teachings in the D&C prior to the 1890s. 3. Study the "law" that kept Black Mormons from receiving the priesthood and related temple covenants. You might say, "sure, but that was a policy change, not a change of the law." That's not how BY saw it, or more recently, it's not how Elder McConkie saw it (with many prophets between the two who concurred).

There may be a day when we look back on the Church's "policy" of not allowing gay members to fully participate in the temple and feel relieved that things have changed. It might even strengthen our faith in living prophets and in revelation. In fact, I have hope in that day. And I have hope that when it comes, those in the Church who now insist it is God's unchangeable law will have the grace that McConkie had when the law as he knew it changed (literally) overnight.

I don't think we need to march to Elder Holland's house and lynch him. But I also don't think we need to defend his mistakes and imply that those he hurt just didn't understand his intentions or don't understand the gospel. Ben, it's okay that Holland gave a crappy speech where he got lost in his own gift of rhetoric and his nostalgia for the BYU of yesteryear. He's still a prophet. He doesn't need you to defend him. You know who might need your empathy and your defense? 12 year old girls (and boys) who think they are monsters. I'm pretty sure Christ has more concern for the actual scars those kids are bearing than Holland's metaphorical scars.

And yeah, this is a really late response to your thoughts. Haha. Though we might disagree on things, I appreciate that you've created a forum for talking about the Gospel.

Julie

Saturday 18th of September 2021

Good article thanks

Karen

Wednesday 15th of September 2021

Thank you , Ben! :-)

True Christians follow Christ

Tuesday 14th of September 2021

Christ was crucified for SHOWING AND PREACHING LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE. Not for scolding people for showing love and acceptance, which is what Elder Holland did. Holland is not being crucified. He is being held accountable for his words and their consequences. This article gets it wrong on so many levels.

Caleb Fawson

Sunday 26th of September 2021

@Ben Arkell, what bible is you reading

Julie

Saturday 18th of September 2021

@True Christians follow Christ, no you missed the point. You’re to busy being offended by the topic and that the church cannot condone homosexuality, you entirely missed the point of being kind and loving everyone no matter their acts. Elder Holland doesn’t have an unkind bone in his body.

Ben Arkell

Tuesday 14th of September 2021

Christ was not crucified for preaching love and acceptance. He was crucified for teaching truth.

This article touches on the reactions of the crowds who never really heard the true message.

If you think Holland was scolding people for showing love, you missed the point of what he was saying.

He wants more love and more truth.