The world needs religion to help direct its moral compass, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland told a packed Marriott Center at the BYU Education Week Devotional on Tuesday morning.
In a world that is seemingly getting less religious, Elder Holland used the speech to address a concern for the direction and attitude of society toward religion as it relates to a study from the 90s by Will and Ariel Durrant. The Durrants said, “There is no significant example in history of (any) society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.”
Elder Holland, an apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, expounded on the warning saying, “If we are not careful, we may find religion at the margins of society rather than the center of it, where religious beliefs and all the good works those beliefs have generated may be tolerated privately but not admitted (or at least not encouraged) publicly.”
To illustrate the point that a moral society needs religion as an influence, Elder Holland shared a heavily annotated devotional acknowledging literary, political and religious leaders who were influenced by the guidance of their faith.
“Voices of religious faith have elevated our vision, deepened our human conversation, and strengthened both our personal and collective aspiration since time began.” —Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
“Just to remind us how rich the ambiance of religion is in the Western culture and because this is Education Week, may I mention just a few of the great religiously-influenced, non-LDS pieces of literature that I met while pursuing my education on this campus 50 years ago, provincial and dated as my list is,” Elder Holland said. “I do so stressing how barren our lives would be had there not been the freedom for writers, artists, and musicians to embrace and express religious values or discuss religious issues.”
Elder Holland began with the literary leaders, including:
- 1. King James Bible
- 2. “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan
- 3. “Divine Comedy” by Dante Alighieri
- 4. “Paradise Lost” by John Milton
- 5. “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville
- 6. “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
- 7. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain
Elder Holland also included classic international authors such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, George Herbert, John Donne, William Blake and Robert Browning. He included American writers such as Emily Dickinson, William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor.
Shortly after recognizing literary influences in the religious sector, Elder Holland continue to recognize evangelical leaders and political leaders — both past and modern — who paved the path, driven by faith and preserving or creating religious freedom.
8. Martin Luther: Began the Protestant Reformation in 16th-century Europe
9. John Calvin: Protestant theologian
10. John Wesley: An Anglican cleric and theologian in the 1700s
11. Billy Graham: American evangelical Christian
12. Pope Francis: The current pope for the Catholic church
13. Dali Lama: The spiritual leader of Tibet
14. Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer: Burned at the stake in Oxford for their conviction of the Bible
15. William Wilberforce: Allowed Christianity to drive him to help abolish slavery in Great Britain
16. Martin Luther King Jr.: Fought for racial and civil justice in the United States
17. George Washington: The first U.S. president who prayed at Valley Forge
18. Abraham Lincoln: U.S. president who helped abolish slavery in America
These examples were used to illustrate how history has been influenced by religion.
“So the core landscape of history has been sketched by the pen and brush and words of those who invoke a Divine Creator’s involvement in our lives and who count on the religion to bind up our wounds and help us hold things together,” Elder Holland said.
Elder Holland emphasized that religion is what makes people better and drives people to do good.
“Voices of religious faith have elevated our vision, deepened our human conversation, and strengthened both our personal and collective aspiration since time began,” Elder Holland said.