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Elder Holland, Bethesda and the art of healing

Published: Thursday, March 29 2012 12:29 p.m. MDT

"Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda" was painted by Carl Bloch in 1882.

Brigham Young University Museum of Art

All through high school, the first years of college and his mission, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland planned to be a physician. But somewhere along the way, he changed his mind and became a teacher.

As part of his message during a dinner in conjunction with the spring meeting for Collegium Aesculapium, Elder Holland spoke about what teachers and physicians have in common.

"As a teacher I still get to do a little of what you do as a healer, and certainly you as healers have the chance to do what I do as a teacher," said Elder Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "For both groups, the Savior is the example."

Collegium Aesculapium is a non-profit organization of LDS physicians and health professionals. Elder Holland was honored at the dinner held Wednesday, March 28, for his contributions to humanitarian aid.

Elder Holland cited New Testament scripture verses in Matthew 4 to emphasize three objectives in the Savior's earthly ministry: teaching, preaching and healing.

"Now the teaching and the preaching we know and would expect," Elder Holland said. "But healing is mentioned as if it were a synonym for teaching and preaching."

When the Savior called the Twelve Apostles in Matthew 10, he charged them with preaching and healing the people, Elder Holland said.

"The call is clearly for a certain kind of teacher, a teacher who in the process heals," Elder Holland said. "Tonight, I say the call is for more healers that teach."

Of the miracles performed by Jesus in the New Testament, three-fourths are healings of one kind or another, Elder Holland said. He focused on one miracle found in John 5, which recounts how the Savior went to the pool of Bethesda and healed a man who had been lame for 38 years.

The story became the subject of a famous painting in 1882 when artist Carl Bloch was commissioned by Copenhagen's principal Lutheran priests to paint the scene. Elder Holland displayed the image on a large screen and with the help of insights gained from the book "The Healer's Art" by Don H. Staheli and Lloyd D. Newell, described gospel principles he found in the faces, features and design of the remarkable piece of art.

After discussing the various characters throughout the scene, their positioning, facial expressions and hidden messages, Elder Holland said the Savior is the true focal point.

"Dressed in white and bathed in the most beautiful light, Christ is the grand, majestic central figure of the scene. Jesus lifts the covering, and with that lifting, literally and symbolically 'lifts' the lame man or at the very least the burdens which afflict him," he said. "Bloch clearly emphasized Christ as the true source of vitality, the more excellent way. Christ's figure is central, bright, active and powerful as opposed to the darkness around him, including Bethesda's waters."

Elder Holland concluded by saying the Savior's same loving hand reaches out to each of us. He also paid tribute to the health care professionals in the audience and everywhere for using their talents and gifts to bless mankind with the healing arts.

"Jesus' outstretched hand is always ready to lift and succor and heal. He came into the world to teach us, to love us, to heal our bodies and souls," Elder Holland said. "Thank you for assisting him in relieving suffering, in repairing the physical, the emotional and the spiritual, in teaching — and demonstrating — the relationship between health, wholeness and holiness."

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