Religion is what ties individuals and communities together in a turbulent and trying world, said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Speaking at the BYU Education Week Devotional, Elder Holland made a case for why religion is the most enduring force in human history and why it matters so much to society.
"Yes, in more modern times individuals can certainly be 'spiritual' in isolation but we don’t live in isolation; we live as families, friends, neighbors and nations," Elder Holland said. "That calls for ties that bind us together and bind us to the good. That is what religion does for our society, leading the way for other respected civic and charitable organizations that do the same."
The influence of religion and faith does more than connect a society, Elder Holland said. It can bring peace, whereas the world provides only chaos.
"The indisputable power of faith. The most powerful and enduring force in human history. The influence for good in the world. The link between the highest in us and our highest hopes for others. That is why religion matters," he said. "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 pointed to the many writers, artists, musicians and others whose creativity and exploration of religious themes over the centuries have added to our understanding and deepened our faith. From Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy to Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, from Leo Tolstoy to T.S. Eliot, Elder Holland spoke of the writers and artists who explored the religious themes that influenced him as a college student at BYU and even more so now.
"So the core landscape of history has been sketched by the pen and brush and word of those who invoke a Divine Creator’s involvement in our lives and who count on the ligatures of religion to bind up our wounds and help us hold things together," Elder Holland said.
Referring to a time when religion might have less impact on society, Elder Holland offered hope.
"But whatever the trouble along the way I am absolutely certain how this all turns out. I know the prophecies and the promises given to the faithful, and I know our collective religious heritage—the Western world’s traditional religious beliefs varied as they are—are remarkably strong and resilient," he said. "The evidence of that religious heritage is all around us, including at great universities—or at least it once was, and fortunately still is at BYU."
However, it is up to the faithful to work to preserve religious freedom by being true to those principles, he said.
"May we think upon the religious heritage that has been handed down to us, at an incalculable price in many instances, and in so remembering not only cherish that heritage more fervently but live the religious principles we say we want to preserve," Elder Holland said. "Only in the living of our religion will the preservation of it have true meaning."