Elder Holland has carved out a niche for himself as arguably giving the most powerful conference talks in recent years, a tradition into which his most recent address falls as well. This post is a summary of Elder Holland’s conference address from the Sunday morning session and is intended to spur a discussion of the talk.
Summary of Address:
Elder Holland (hereafter “EH” for convenience) begins by expressing great sympahty for the remaining 11 apostles after the death of Jesus Christ. How totally dependent on him they had been; how unprepared they were. Three years had not been nearly long enough from their perspective. Jesus had warned them he would not remain with them, but they could not comprehend his words; now they were left alone. After the crucifixion, the struggling little church he left behind seemed doomed.
EH announces that he will use not only paraphrase but elaboration of the scriptural text here, a technique he employs to good effect, I think. The forlorn apostles turn to their chief, Peter, who in effect says “It has been a glorious three years. But that’s over. He has finished his work and risen from the tomb. What do we do now? We return to our former lives rejoicing. I intend to go a-fishing.”
But the fishing was not very good that day. Indeed, they caught nothing. In the distance they see a figure who called out to them, “Children, have you caught anything?” “Nothing” was their despondent reply (and to add insult to injury, he had been called them “children”).The figure tells them to cast their nets on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. A spark of recognition flares. Three years earlier they had undergone a very similar experience when the Lord had called them the first time to be his apostles; now it was happening again. They could not draw in their nets the multitude of fish (153 to be exact). And so John says simply, “It is the Lord.” Peter in his exuberance leaps over the edge of the boat.
(Aside: EH here says something like “moving this great rock of a man.” This is an allusion to Peter’s name. His given name was Simeon (often shortened to Simon in the NT), but he had an Aramaic nickname, Kaipha, which means “rock, stone.” That name comes to us via transliteration through Greek and English as Cephas, and via translation into Greek (petros) and transliteration into English as the name by which we know him best, “Peter” [or “Rock”].)
Jesus said, “Peter, do you love me more than you love all this?” He replied, “Yea, thou knowest that I love thee.” Jesus asks the same question again. Confused by the repeated question, Peter gives the same response. A third time the Savior asks, and a third time Peter replies, albeit the repeated question has no doubt forced a deep introspection in him. Perhaps he is thinking of how just days before he denied him thrice.
So Jesus finally responds, “Then why are you here? Why are we on this same shore having this same conversation that we had three years ago? If I want fish, I can get fish. What I need now is disciples, to feed my sheep, to save my lambs, to preach my Gospel, to defend my faith. I need someone who really loves me.”
Ours is not a fleeting message, but the work of almighty God, to change the world. Go, teach and testify, until the day when they will do to you exactly what they did to me. Turning to the others, he says “Did you like the Scribes and Pharisees think that this work would be killed simply by killing me? Did not my life and love touch your hearts more deeply than this?”
EH is not certain what our experience will be on Judgment Day. But he would not be surprised to hear “Did you love me?” In our mortal, childish grasp of things, do we at least understand the greatest command, to love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, soul, might and strength? The crowning characteristic of love is loyalty. We have neighbors to bless, children to protect, poor to feed. Devoted discipleship demonstrates [alliteration alert!] our love of the Lord. We can’t quit, can’t go back [sort of like the Matrix]. The Lord’s crucifixion is a beginning, not an ending. That handful of Galilean fishermen became Apostles. Those keys have been restored to earth, to be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
To those who have not joined, please come. (At this point there was a comment about people who pick and choose a few choice morsels from the banquet rather than feasting fully, but I didn’t quite catch the upshot; something about facing many long and empty nights.) He includes in this call every RM who once stood in a baptismal font. Yes, it changes the convert forever, but it does you as well. To the youth of the Church, love God and remain clean from the blood and sin of this generation. Father in Heaven expects your love at every stage of your life. He asks us each, “Do you love me,” and we need to be able to answer honestly “Yea, Lord, I love thee.” We must never look back until this work is finished, until love of God and neighbor rules the world.
Some Discussion Questions:
1. What did you think about the paraphrase technique EH used with his scriptural text? Did you like it or find it distracting? (As I indicated above, I was fine with it, but I’m curious what you thought.)
2. What did you think about the equation of “love” with “loyalty”? He doesn’t come out and say it that way, but do you read that as loyalty to the Church as an institution, or to the Savior himself? Is there a difference?
3. He broaches the time honored question of cafeteria Mormonism. What do you think he had in mind when he mentioned those who pick at a few hors d’oeuvres from the banquet? Can we pick and choose what we will believe and practice in this Church? On some level, aren’t we all cafeteria Mormons?
4. I saw on FB a returned sister missionary who commented on the image of the RMs who when they raise their arms to the square in the baptisml font, they change the convert’s life forever, but that raising of the arm to the square should change their own lives as well. She commented that as a sister, she was never able to have that experience. Any thoughts from that perspective?
Please feel free to discuss any other aspect of the talk you found to be of special interest.