In an address given to CES religious educators earlier this month, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland shared powerful insights on how we can handle teaching others of our faith and belief in the face of "troubling contemporary issues."
Here's what he had to say:
1. Be careful in how you present doctrine
"First of all I would say that offense is more likely to come in how we present the doctrine rather than in the doctrine itself," he explained. "Our doctrine is not new; it isn’t as if the students don’t know exactly what our position is going to be on virtually every trendy transgression that comes along. So, what a skillful and sensitive teacher or leader or parent has to do is make sure our determination to be righteous doesn’t come across as being self-righteous because our students will be quick to perceive the difference. That is why I say our manner, our method, our attitude and compassion will, once they are understood by our students, allow us to be as direct and as firm as we must be in proclaiming the commandments of God."
2. Don't hesitate
Even as we are careful with making sure our manner does not present doctrine offensively, Elder Holland advised that we should not hesitate when it comes to teaching truth. "I would ask you never to hesitate to teach true doctrine simply because you are afraid it might offend someone. As section 50 of the Doctrine and Covenants declares, if we teach the truth by the Spirit and the students receive the truth by the Spirit, 'he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.'"
3. Don't impose LDS standards on others
Elder Holland shared a common question some ask concerning LDS standards--and the answer.
"I have heard [people] say, something like, 'I know how we are supposed to live, but do we have to impose that standard or that behavior or those beliefs on everybody else?' And of course the answer to that is, 'No. We do not impose standards or behavior or beliefs on anyone.'"
Rather, he said, members of the Church are "under covenant to teach standards of behavior, to mark the sure path, to identify the safe course, to raise an ensign of truth to the nations."
4. Be the one
If we do not stand for truth, who will?
"Someone has to plant those doctrinal guide posts," Elder Holland reminded. "Someone has to say, 'Here is the truth, and here is safety.' Someone has to guide the way of those who are traveling narrow, often dangerous paths, perhaps for the first time."
Each of us is "among the 'someones' God has asked to mark the path of salvation."
In addition sharing how to speak to others' doubts, Elder Holland shared what we can do when it comes to our own testimonies, and doubts, and how we can keep our testimonies strong:
1. Remember our true foundation
When concerns arise, Elder Holland reminded, we should remember that we are built upon a firm foundation: "It is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God."
"That strength," he says, "undergirds our position on every question of doctrine, history, or Church practice that can and often does arise as the work unfolds. You have heard those questions. They are not new. They first arose in the neighborhood of Palmyra when the 14-year-old Joseph first reported his heavenly vision, and they continue in one form or another to the present day."
2. Practice patience
"I . . . readily acknowledge that everyone has some gospel question or other yet to be answered," he said. Though now we "see through a glass, darkly," Elder Holland promised that it will not always be so. If we are patient in all things, eventually, all will be made clear.
"Not all gospel questions have answers—yet," he says, "but they will come."
3. Put your testimony above contemporary issues
A personal testimony of gospel truths will overcome doubts. When you face an uncertainty, ask yourself this question, which Elder Holland shared:
"What conceivable historical or doctrinal or procedural issue that may arise among any group could ever overshadow or negate one’s consuming spiritual conviction regarding the Father’s merciful plan of salvation; His Only Begotten Son’s birth, mission, Atonement, and Resurrection; the reality of the First Vision; the restoration of the priesthood; the receipt of divine revelation, both personally and institutionally; the soul-shaping spirit and moving power of the Book of Mormon; the awe and majesty of the temple endowment; one’s own personal experience with true miracles; and on and on and on?"
Questions are sure to come, Elder Holland acknowledged. However, he said, "we would hope, for skeptic, believer, and everyone in between, that humility, faith, and the influence of the Holy Spirit would always be elements of every quest for truth, that foundational truths would always be the reference points in that quest, and that all other issues which may yet need resolving are pursued 'by study and also by faith.'
"At the end of the day, all of us must make distinctions between the greater and the lesser elements of our testimony. For me the greater pillars include those majestic truths mentioned earlier, their irreplaceable centrality in my life, and the realization that I simply could not live, I could not go on without them or without the blessings I have known or without the promises we have all been given in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."