Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discussed the issues of faith, family and religious freedom on the campus of Chapman University on Thursday, February 26, 2015. Elder Holland was on the southern California campus when the Fish Interfaith Center was launched a decade ago, and he returned this week to help the center celebrate its 10th anniversary.
“That was a tremendous evening for me and it remains in my heart as a very, very sweet experience, particularly a sweet interfaith experience,” said Elder Holland about his first visit to the Fish Interfaith Center, located in Orange, California. Chapman University has 7,000 students and is one of California’s oldest universities.
Elder Holland focused his remarks on the “contemporary issues” of faith, family and religious freedom — “big issues that are intertwined, interlinked and interlocked so tightly that when one of them is struck, the other two are damaged, that when one of them is cut, the other two will bleed,” he told a campus audience. “These issues deserve our interfaith attention and our interfaith protection, because there is always strength in numbers.”
“Whatever our religious affiliation we all share concerns," said Elder Holland, "about the spread of pornography and the spread of poverty, of abuse and abortion, of illicit sexual transgression, of violence, crudity, cruelty, and temptation. Surely there is a way for people of good will who love God to stand against the forces of sin and error and abuse, whatever kind.”
Elder Holland expressed concern over a “cultural shift of our day” that “continues to be characterized by less and less affiliation with organized or institutional religion.” He cited data released by the Pew Forum on Religious Life in the last few years that indicates the religiously unaffiliated have increased from just over 15 percent to just under 20 percent of all U.S. adults in the past five years. One-third of all American adults under 30 are now counted among the religiously unaffiliated. The Pew Forum reported last year that three-fourths of the public see religion as losing its influence in everyday American life.
Speaking on the family, Elder Holland had a strong reaction to the current statistics that indicate there are 40 million abortions performed worldwide per year and 41 percent of all births in the United States are to unwed mothers. “We should be declaring boldly that inherent in the very act of creation is, for both parents, a lifelong commitment to and responsibility for the child they created. No one can with impunity terminate that life, neglect that care, nor shirk that responsibility … Generally speaking, no community of whatever size or definition has enough resources in time, money or will to make up for what does not happen at home.”
Elder Holland also spoke in support of traditional marriage. “So rather than redefining marriage and family as we see increasing numbers around us trying to do, our age ought to be reinforcing and exalting that which has been the backbone of civilization since the dawn of it,” he stressed.
Elder Holland said people of faith should resist efforts by some that would drive them from the public square. “To counter these trends every citizen should insist on his or her constitutional right to exercise one’s belief and to voice one’s conscience on issues not only in the privacy of the home or the sanctity of the pulpit but also in the public square, in the ballot box and in the halls of justice. These are the rights of all citizens, including people, leaders and organizations who have religious beliefs.”
“Such a group of people, leaders and organizations seem to me a perfect cluster for interfaith influence and interfaith activity. They must not be disenfranchised,” he concluded.