Formats for these events have differed. Some have featured live questions and some have used moderators. The moderator format was used for this month's event, where Elder Holland answered questions along with Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy and Carole M. Stephens of the Relief Society General Presidency.
If you want to get a taste of the tender loving concern Church leaders exhibited at this event, check out this video on Elder Holland's Facebook page. This is a teaser clip that Elder Holland put out a few days before the event where he answered a question from a young man that had returned early from missionary service due to mental health issues.
The very first questions at the actual event focused on marriage, which Elder Holland said was "the elephant in the room." One of the first questions was founded in fear of marriage among young adults. Each of the three leaders took turns addressing various viewpoints, with Elder Holland broadly ranging into territory that covered a wide variety of topics, including those that do no marry, same-sex attraction, and religious freedom. The trio spent more than half an hour of the event directly discussing marriage.
Here is my takeaway from the comments offered, which involves my own reading between the lines:
- Marriage requires risk. There are no guarantees.
- Don't pass up a good thing waiting for something better or perfect. (But make sure it's at least a good thing.)
- A functional marriage requires long-term sustained dedication and work by both partners.
- Go forward in faith not fear.
- Don't worry so much about marriage. Worrying may inhibit rather than help marriage prospects.
- Strive for and accept the ideal of an eternal marriage that begins as a young adult and continues forever. But accept your situation if it differs from the ideal, without becoming embittered about the ideal.
- Don't wait for the right financial, educational, or career situation before marrying or you will miss out on much more valuable marital growth that can occur as you work through these challenges together.
A mother of six that I know recently discussed what kind of faith it requires to willingly bear children. "You invite a child to come to your family," she said, "and you have no idea who is coming." You have no clue whether it will be a boy or a girl, or what kind of personality it will have. You don't know what kind of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health issues will arise. The kinds of lifelong joys and burdens the child will bring to you are also unknown.
But you move forward and have the child anyway. Why? Because you hope that in the long run it will be worth whatever sacrifices are required.
Pursuing marriage is similar in many ways. While there is great value in getting to know your future spouse during dating and courtship, the simple fact of the matter is that you cannot know up front how it's going to turn out. Nor, Elder Holland assured, can you know the long-term outcome during the first month, year, or even decade of marriage.
I know a couple that has been married for 3½ decades where one partner has developed a great interest in anti-Mormon groups and opinions. I'm sure that the day they were married in the temple neither partner dreamed that one of them would be leaving the Church decades later.
The day my wife and I were married we had no clue that I would be diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis just two years later. Or that I would experience a series of job losses during my career due to layoffs.
In the October 2015 general conference, Linda S. Reeves of the Relief Society General Presidency told of a sister who had two marriages fail "due to the addictions and unfaithfulness of her husbands," despite the woman's best efforts. Sister Reeves wanted to tell this sister, "You are doing all that Heavenly Father wants and hopes you will do!" The sister could choose her behaviors and attitudes, but she could not choose the outcomes because the agency of others is involved and must be respected.
Like choosing to have a child, getting married requires a leap of faith, regardless of how well you know your spouse-to-be. But, also like having children, marriage is worth the risk because you have the hope of eternal family joy. And even if it doesn't work out exactly as you hope, you can at least know that you are doing your best to follow the Lord's plan for you.
Yes, there are marital failures. But as Elder Holland notes, most marriages both inside and outside of the Church are happy marriages. Don't spend so much time focusing on problem marriages that it drains away desire and wastes energy that could be put to productive use.
Some have opined that one reason some LDS young adults fear marriage is FOMO: the fear of missing out. They are afraid that if they get married to the person they are dating they will feel like they may have missed out on better opportunities. At the same time, they worry that if they did hold out and marry somebody later they would regret having foregone the earlier relationship.
This is a recipe for a lifetime of perpetual inaction coupled with regret. Sounds fun, eh? Listen to Elder Holland. If you have a good thing, go for it. Then work to make that good thing a great thing.
I recognize that it is difficult for young adults to accept marital advice from people a generation or two ahead of them. Today's dating and courtship scene is wildly different from what people of my generation or those of Elder Holland's generation experienced. How could the advice these people give be relevant?
While things truly are different today, some core matters have not changed. You can trust the Lord's servants to give valuable teachings about marriage. But you must ultimately find out directly from the Holy Spirit what is specifically right for you. And then you must do it.
Some young adults say that they are struggling with their connection to the Holy Ghost due to worthiness issues. The answer, of course, is to accept Christ's grace into your life. Do as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency taught in the October 2015 general conference and "start where you are."
"God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord."A friend that has served as a bishop once told me of a man that came to him after having struggled with a pornography addiction for 25 years. He had counseled with leaders, had been through the Church's 12-step program, and had gone to therapy. But in counseling with the man, my bishop friend discovered that the man had never fully applied Christ's Atonement. After working to make that happen over the next few weeks, the man felt alive in Christ for the first time in years. He lost his seemingly insatiable appetite for porn. "It can't be that easy," the man told the bishop. "I'm here to tell you, my friend," said the bishop, "that it is." The man hasn't had a problem with porn in the years that have passed since that time.
I have seen enough cases that I know that it doesn't work that swiftly for everyone. But the answer to worthiness problems is to start now and move forward, however incrementally the progress may be. Christ "will not leave you comfortless" but will "come to you" (John 14:18). President Uchtdorf assures:
"My dear brothers and sisters, if we look at ourselves only through our mortal eyes, we may not see ourselves as good enough. But our Heavenly Father sees us as who we truly are and who we can become. He sees us as His sons and daughters, as beings of eternal light with everlasting potential and with a divine destiny."Satan wants you to wallow in your sins. He wants you to think that you can't progress; that it's hopeless. The Savior wants quite the opposite and will do all in His power to help you experience the light of the Holy Spirit once again so that you can know how to move toward an eternal marriage.
No, there is no guarantee that marriage will turn out as you hope. But you can have the guarantee that doing what the Lord commands is always right and will ultimately lead to ultimate joy. The Lord has promised it. And I promise that you can always trust Him.