Those approaching the holiday season already face the constant consumerism pulling hard at the wallet while trying to listen to voices persuading them to give time and resources to others. Taking a break from the flurry isn’t always a natural response, but a world religious leader visiting the U.K. offered a great two-part antidote to unchecked commercialism.
Last week, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns this paper, visited the United Kingdom, where he met with Prime Minister Theresa May and had an interfaith dialogue with former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. In these meetings, Elder Holland spoke on two values too often lost amid rampant consumerism and fierce political division: a sustained engagement with heritage and morally convicted service.
During his visit with May, Elder Holland presented her with a framed depiction of her own family history — a project that took 2,500 hours of research, compilation and publication, according to a news release. May was in the middle of what was likely her most fraught week as prime minister, having recently announced a Brexit deal secured with the European Union that resulted in the resignations of two of her cabinet members and an uproarious debate in Parliament. However, May took valuable time out of her busy schedule to meet with a faith leader from another country in an attempt to build interfaith and international connections.
In the presentation of her family history to May, both leaders took a few minutes out of a tumultuous period of political wrangling to reflect on heritage, locating the current moment within the broader arc of history — both personal and political. This reflection can be modeled on a personal level as families take time out of their busy holiday schedules to contextualize, and hopefully neutralize, their stress within a broader picture.
Additionally, Elder Holland spoke with former Archbishop Williams on an interfaith panel about how to both “inspire service and to serve inspiringly.” In their comments, both Elder Holland and former Archbishop Williams thoughtfully pushed back against the ethos of modern interpretations of Darwinian scholarship, which some perceive to advocate for competition, not interdependence. By focusing on how inextricably connected everyone is to each other — and to the world — these faith leaders prompted a productive conversation on religious inclusivity and equity.6 comments on this story
In the subsequent question-and-answer session with a packed auditorium, Elder Holland responded to a query about a hierarchy of truth by saying that he, as a faith leader, welcomes truth in all its forms from all denominations, doctrines, creeds and cultures. The fruits of that truth can be shared by meaningful service.
In both of these events, Elder Holland and the leaders he visited modeled a sustained engagement with heritage and service. Meanwhile, American consumers scrambled to get Black Friday deals. It’s a fitting juxtaposition that frames the need to look beyond oneself and give a little service, not only at this time of year, but year-round.