Every Latter-day Saint is called upon to explain—and sometimes to defend—the doctrines and principles of the restored gospel. Every Latter-day Saint is told to stand as a witness of the truth. A prophet and seer, Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, had those same opportunities when he was invited to present the basic beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to law students at Harvard University.
“In the western world religion has historically been the basis of civil society as we have known it, and if I am not mistaken, men and women of the law are committed to the best—that is the most just—civil society. So thank you for taking religion seriously. You will not only be better attorneys but you will be closer to the truth in your own personal lives,” Elder Holland said.
The invitation to speak came from the Harvard Law Latter-day Saints, a student group at the prestigious university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The LDS law students sponsor an annual event called Mormonism 101, a lecture and question-and-answer session open to all law students, other interested students, and faculty. Harvard, established in 1636, is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States.
Elder Holland discussed doctrines and principles that members of the Church are frequently asked to explain. For example, he answered the question:
What are the differences between the LDS Church and other Christian faiths?
“We are not considered ‘Christian’ by some, I suppose, because we are not Fourth Century Christians, we are not Athanasian Christians, we are not creedal Christians of the brand that arose hundreds of years after Christ. No, when we speak of ‘restored Christianity’ we speak of the Church as it was, not as it became when great councils were called to debate and anguish over what it is they really believed. So if one means, Greek-influenced, council-convening, philosophy-flavored Christianity of post-apostolic times, then we’re not that kind of Christian. …
“We teach that:
God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are separate and distinct beings with glorified bodies of flesh and bone. As such we stand with the historical position that ‘the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament].’ We take literally at His word that Christ ‘came down from heaven, not to do [His] own will, but the will of him that sent [him]’ (John 6:38). … However, having made the point of Their separate and distinct physical nature, we declare unequivocally that They were indeed and are ‘one’ in every other conceivable way—in mind and deed, in will and wish and hope, in faith and purpose and intent and love. They are most assuredly much more alike than They are different in all the ways that I have just said, but They are separate and distinct beings, as all fathers and sons are. In this matter we differ from traditional creedal Christianity, but we do feel we agree with the New Testament.
“We also differ from fourth and fifth century Christianity by declaring that the scriptural canon is not closed, that the heavens are open with revelatory experience, and that God meant what He said when he promised Moses, ‘my works are without end, and … my words … never cease’ (Moses 1:4). We believe that God loves all His children and that He would never leave them for long without the instrumentality of prophets and apostles, authorized agents of His guidance and direction. The Book of Mormon and other canonized scripture, as well as the role of living oracles, witnesses to the fact that God continues to speak.”
“We are unique in the modern Christian world regarding … divine priesthood authority. … The holy priesthood which has been restored to the earth by those who held it anciently signals the return of divine authorization. It is different from all other man-made powers and authorities on the face of the earth. Without it there could be a church in name only, and it would be a church lacking in authority to administer in the things of God. This restoration of priesthood authority eases centuries of questions and anguish among those who knew certain ordinances and sacraments were essential, but lived with the doubt as to who had the right to administer them.”
Elder Holland also taught about God’s plan for His children, the difference between the Reformation and the Restoration, the role of Joseph Smith, and other basic beliefs of the Church. Read a Newsroom article.