Brother Douglas D. Holmes
First Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency
Brother Douglas D. Holmes was serving as a counselor in a stake presidency when he was sustained as the first counselor in the Young Men general presidency on April 4, 2015. His Church service includes president of the Michigan Detroit Mission, bishop, ward Young Men president, stake Young Men president’s counselor, Gospel Doctrine teacher, ward mission leader, bishop’s counselor, and elders quorum president.
He received a bachelor of arts degree in family science and an MBA in finance, both from Brigham Young University. He is self-employed as an investor and developer.
He is married to Erin Sue Toone, and they are the parents of six children.
On the discussion board, please share what lessons you most want to remember from your BYU-Idaho experience?
On the discussion board, please share what lessons you most want to remember from your BYU-Idaho experience?
Brothers and sisters, what a joy it is for my wife, Erin, and me to be with you today.
Thirty years ago I received my master’s degree from BYU and vaguely remember some of the feelings I had as I sat in a commencement setting much like this. We had a two-year-old daughter, with a second daughter on the way. We had fears and uncertainties. Gratefully, we had a foundation of truth and understanding rooted deep within us, thanks in large part to what we had learned and experienced at BYU.
From your responses to the discussion-board question I posted—What lessons do you most want to remember from your BYU-Idaho experience?—it is clear you have gained a similar foundation. Your academic achievements are impressive and will help you make great contributions. More significantly, the depth of your commitment to be lifelong disciples of Jesus Christ will bless your families and make you leaders in your communities and the kingdom of God. Thank you for what you have contributed to the spirit of BYU-Idaho, and congratulations on this significant milestone in your life.
One of my classmates in my graduate program was your president, Henry J. Eyring. He was intimidatingly brilliant but also very kind. He was respected and admired by his peers. Most of our classes involved class participation, and when Henry spoke, people listened.
We all owe a great debt of gratitude to President and Sister Eyring and Elder and Sister Clark for the incredible contributions they have made to BYU-Idaho. Holy and sacred places are built by sacrifice and consecrated effort; such is the legacy of those who have guided this institution.
Hopefully it is not completely obvious to you, but I was not blessed with the native intellect of President Eyring or Elder Clark. As I entered graduate school, I felt intimidated and unsure of myself; in fact, Erin and I still remember her quizzing me with multiplication flash cards in preparation to take the graduate school admissions test. Thankfully my undergraduate experiences had built my faith. I knew God cared about my little family, and I knew He would provide strength and abilities beyond my own.
So, I made a commitment to trust in the Lord. As a sign of that commitment, each day I would study the scriptures before I opened my textbooks. I would honor the Sabbath, making it a day of worship and rest, not study. I ended up graduating with high honors and to this day feel tremendous gratitude for the divine help I received. I knew the Lord had magnified my abilities, so my feeling when I received my diploma was one of overwhelming gratitude. I hope you feel that gratitude today.
As I completed graduate school, I received a very good job offer from a prestigious consulting firm. Having lived on the equivalent of rice and beans for the previous three years, Erin and I were excited to accept. But I was hesitant for some reason. Others strongly encouraged me to accept the offer, and I desperately wanted to, but it just did not feel quite right. I clearly remember wrestling with the Lord during a sleepless night. Sometime after 2 a.m., I fully resolved that if this was not right for me and my family, I would turn the offer down. I had prayed about this many times before without receiving a clear answer, but now I petitioned the Lord with a heart fully committed to accept His direction. In that moment, in clarity and peace, the answer came.
With that backdrop to the message I have been impressed to share, let’s turn to the world in which you live, not the ancient history of my past.
More than at any time in history, we are bombarded by the philosophies of man, mingled with truth. These often-appealing but deceptive philosophies come at us in an electronic barrage from the popular and supposedly well informed, and they are magnified in our social media echo chambers. They gain momentum and credibility, not based on truth but on their popularity.
These philosophies of men were described by Lehi as “exceedingly great mist[s] of darkness,” [i] which blind our eyes and harden our hearts and lead us in exactly the wrong direction, until we end up depressed and wandering in a dark and dreary waste or lifted up in our own vain imagination, “being lovers of [our] own selves,” [ii] mocking the sacred and holy. [iii]
I believe that the defining challenge of our day is to discern, obey, and defend truth. [iv] This is not a small thing, for only the truth—a pure knowledge of things as they really are [v]—will make us free and lead us to happiness now and in eternity. [vi]
Let’s explore one popular man-made philosophy under the light of revelation, that has great relevance as you move to the next stage of your life.
The Deceit of Self Confidence
In today’s world, I often see messages about building self-confidence. One columnist for a popular publication wrote, “Confidence in yourself is absolutely critical to living a joyful life.” [vii] Another wrote, “Everyone knows that self-confidence is very important. . . . Self confidence and happiness are strongly connected.” [viii]
In addition to popular media, sociologists and psychologists have supported these views. They call it self- efficacy. And while a bit more sophisticated, they generally support the “pop psychology” reflected in these statements.
“Believe in yourself” sounds like exactly the kind of message you would expect to hear at a commencement ceremony. After all, we’re here to celebrate your accomplishments and look forward to all the great things you’ll achieve in the future.
Well, I have no desire to rain on your commencement parade—but I have to pause. If self-confidence is so critical to a happy life, why don’t I find any sermons on it in the scriptures? Why has God not told us how important self-confidence is and given guidance on how to build our self-confidence?
In fact, as I study the scriptures they seem to teach the exact opposite of this. Here we find phrases like these:
- Always remember “the greatness of God and your own nothingness. . . .” [ix]
- “[C]ursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh.” [x]
- “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding.” [xi]
And we could cite many more. [xii]
The scriptures present us with a paradox of sorts: we are children of God with limitless potential, but we achieve that potential—including eternal joy and happiness—only when we decide to trust completely and exclusively in God. Thus, the scriptures advocate not self-confidence but “God-confidence.” [xiii]
The Power of God Confidence
The teachings of the scriptures are powerful on this point. The examples they contain are even more pointed.
One of the most prominent examples of God-confidence is Nephi, who did many miraculous things in his life. I mention just two. First, getting the brass plates from the powerful and obstinate Laban. Despite initial failures and opposition from his brothers, Nephi remembered and trusted in the power of God. With this God-confidence, Nephi went back to Jerusalem “not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do” but trusting solely in God. [xiv]
Years later, Nephi built a ship that was described as “exceedingly fine,”—so fine it caused his arrogant and faithless brothers to marvel. It was clear these tasks were well beyond Nephi’s own ability and no amount of self-confidence could make up for that; however, Nephi received the command from the Lord to go and do and looked solely and constantly to the Lord to accomplish these seemingly impossible tasks. [xv]
An outside observer might describe Nephi as strong willed and self-confident. But Nephi was painfully aware of his own weakness. “[N]evertheless,” he said, “I know in whom I have trusted. . . . . O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh.” [xvi]
Nephi did not possess great self-confidence; he had absolute God-confidence. As he declared, “If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them.” [xvii]
You will also find this God-confidence in the lives of Helaman’s stripling warriors. These young men had never fought, yet faced a foe that was more numerous, more experienced, and physically stronger. But they knew God was with them and that He would deliver them. This God-confidence allowed them to fight “as . . . with the strength of God.” [xviii]
Helaman and his young warriors attributed their success not to their own abilities but “to the miraculous power of God, because of their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe—that there was a just God. . . . [A]nd they [did] put their trust in [Him] continually.” [xix]
These examples barely scratch the surface of this prominent scriptural theme. Time after time, remarkable accomplishments have been achieved by weak and simple people who trusted God’s power over their own. Think of the young stuttering Enoch, [xx] David facing Goliath, [xxi] Elijah defying the Syrian army, [xxii] the widow of Zarephath, [xxiii] Alma and the sons of Mosiah, Peter, Paul, Joseph Smith, and virtually all the prophets and faithful Saints from the beginning of time. [xxiv] They all put their confidence in God, not in themselves, and “out of weakness were made strong.” [xxv]
As with so many truths, Joseph Smith taught this succinctly and powerfully. He said, “Our only confidence can be in God; our only wisdom obtained from Him; and He alone must be our protector and safeguard, spiritually and temporally, or we fall.” [xxvi] How different this is from the popular wisdom of our day and its obsession with self-confidence as a key to success and happiness.
My hope for your future grew as I read your comments on the discussion board about the lessons you have learned and most want to remember. It is clear you have learned through experience how to put your confidence in God and receive His help in the daily practical needs of your lives.
Maddie Bishop shared, “I hope I never forget how much the Lord has helped and guided me.”
Jacob Richards said, “The biggest thing I've learned from being at BYU-Idaho is that as long as we keep our faith in Jesus Christ strong . . . the Lord will add his power to your efforts and things just work out.”
Cindee Mouritsen shared, “I want to remember the spiritual and intellectual growth that I received as I fasted to understand . . . difficult concepts. A few times I felt overwhelmed and almost defeated. During those challenging moments, I turned to fasting and prayer and received answers and knowledge in quiet miraculous ways.”
Logan Browning said, “If you focus on the Savior and choose to become like Him, you will become who you are meant to be.”
What a blessing to leave this institution with that understanding in your heart. I pray you will never forget these lessons.
As in all things, Jesus Christ provides the perfect example of placing complete confidence in God. He said, “I can of my own self do nothing.” [xxvii] “[T]he Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” [xxviii] And He taught His followers that they must look to Him, not themselves, for their strength. You will remember these powerful words:
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” [xxix]
Brothers and sisters, this is the great promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ: we can, through the Holy Ghost, receive the very power, wisdom, and love of God. In essence, we make a rather lopsided trade: we trade our limited strength, wisdom, and abilities for God’s. As Elder Neal A Maxwell observed, this is “the only unconditional surrender which is also a total victory.” [xxx]
When we do this, we in fact have tremendous confidence. We move forward with purpose under the guidance of the Holy Ghost. We face obstacles, like Nephi, with resolve and resilience. We know who we are and in whom we trust.
The Way Forward
Why was I impressed to share this message with you today? First, you must recognize that many of the popular, reasonable, and appealing philosophies of our day, like “everyone knows that self-confidence is very important,” simply don’t withstand examination under the pure light of truth. Seeking, living by, and defending truth are absolutely critical to your spiritual and temporal survival. We cannot simply adopt, even unwittingly, the philosophies of men absent the light of revelation. I invite you to continue to be diligent seekers and defenders of truth.
Second, in the coming days and years you will face challenges both large and small. You may not need to return to Jerusalem after multiple failures, or give your last meal to a stranger, but you may not have a job yet, or more significantly a spouse, or you may struggle with a persistent illness or you are simply concerned about your future success. Your spiritual and temporal success will depend not on your self-confidence but on your God-confidence: your faith in God, the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost. I pray you will always remember, as king Benjamin encouraged, the greatness of God and your own relative nothingness [xxxi] but also remember God’s desire to give you His strength, fill you with His love, and guide you in His path.
In closing, I would like to remind you of three lessons that will help you avoid deception and build your God-confidence every day:
First, feast on and obey the word of God. This is the best way to both avoid deception and increase our God-confidence. It is the iron rod—composed of the scriptures, the words of living prophets, and the whisperings of the Holy Ghost—that enables us to navigate safely through the mists of darkness which permeate our world. Letting go for even a moment makes us vulnerable to the subtle and pervasive deceits of the philosophies of men. [xxxii]
Daily feasting on the word of God also reveals to us God’s perfect attributes and character. As we come to know Him better, we naturally love and trust Him more. When we see Him more clearly, we see ourselves more clearly. We see that we are His “[s]ons and daughters, children of a King,” [xxxiii] potential heirs of all that He has and is. [xxxiv] As our understanding of God grows, we increasingly fall to our knees and experience one of the great paradoxes of the gospel: we don’t climb to heaven, we fall to heaven. [xxxv]
I testify and promise that your confidence in God will continue to grow as you feast on and “live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.” [xxxvi]
Second, I invite you to “live in thanksgiving daily.” [xxxvii] When we “always remember him,” [xxxviii] we see God as the source of all that is good, “the fountain of all righteousness,” [xxxix] and we feel gratitude for every blessing, opportunity, challenge, and gift we receive. When we willingly recognize the source of our blessings, our confidence in God increases.
President Henry B. Eyring is a great example of this. Years ago, he was prompted to record each day how he saw the hand of the Lord in his life. [xl] I know of no one who has more confidence in God than President Eyring. I am certain that has grown as he has recognized the hand of God each day in His life. I was inspired to learn that President Henry J. Eyring has followed his father’s example.
Finally, forget yourself and serve others. Central to Satan’s great plan of misery is a focus on self—including self-confidence. The great plan of happiness, in contrast, teaches that the only way we actually find ourselves and true happiness is to lose ourselves in the service of others. [xli] I invite you to pray daily for and act on opportunities to serve others. As Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf has emphasized, we don’t have to think less of ourselves; we just need to think less about ourselves. [xlii]
Brothers and sisters, you have an incredible life before you. President Russel M. Nelson recently said, “You are among the best the Lord has ever sent to this world. You have the capacity to be smarter and wiser and have more impact on the world than any previous generation!” [xliii] God has a great work for you to do. As you walk with Him, [xliv] He will guide your path and give you power to do all things that are expedient. [xlv] Love God, continue to learn of and obey Him, recognize His hand, and serve His children.
God lives. Jesus is the Christ. His Church has been restored in preparation for His return. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
[i] 1 Nephi 8:23.
[ii] 2 Timothy 3:2
[iii] See 1 Nephi 8:7; 12:17–18.
[iv] See “Truth Endures,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson, address to CES Religious Educators, January 26, 2018, lds.org/broadcasts/article/evening-with-a-general-authority/2018/01/truth-endures
[v] See Jacob 4:13.
[vi] See John 8:32; Moses 6:59.
[vii] Carla Schesser, “Why Self-Confidence Is Crucial for Success (and How to Improve Yours), Huffington Post, Dec. 6, 2017, huffingtonpost.com/carla-schesser/why-selfconfidence-is-cru_b_8438592.html.
[viii] M. Farouk Radwan, “The Importance of Self-Confidence,” www.2knowmyself.com/self_confidence/building_self_confidence/importance_of_self_confidence; spelling standardized.
[ix] Mosiah 4:11.
[x] 2 Nephi 4:34.
[xi] Proverbs 3:5.
[xii] See Ether 12:27, 37; Alma 26:11-12; Helaman 16:15; 2 Corinthians 12:10; 2 Timothy 3:1-2.
[xiii] Several Christian writers are now using this term. I recommend reading an exceptional doctrinal address on the topic by M. Catherine Thomas, former associate professor of ancient scripture at BYU, in her address “The Doer of Our Deeds and the Speaker of Our Words,” Brigham Young University devotional, Dec. 7, 1993, speeches.byu.edu.
[xiv] 1 Nephi 4:1-6.
[xv] See 1 Nephi 17-18.
[xvi] 2 Nephi 4:19, 34.
[xvii] 1 Nephi 17:50-51.
[xviii] Alma 56:56.
[xix] Alma 57:26–27.
[xx] See Moses 6:31, 34; 7:13.
[xxi] See 1 Samuel 17.
[xxii] See 2 Kings 6:13–18.
[xxiii] 1 Kings 17:8-16.
[xxiv] While I have focused on examples from the lives of the righteous, the teachings of the prophets emphasize this doctrine over and over again. See Romans 10:2–3; Philippians 2:13; 1 Nephi 8; 2 Nephi 4; 12:11; Jacob 4:6–7; 5:48; Mosiah 4; Ether 12:27.
[xxv] Hebrews 11:34.
[xxvi]Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 161; emphasis added.
[xxvii] John 5:30. See also Mark 10:18.
[xxviii] John 14:10. See also John 5:19; 8:28.
[xxix] John 15:4–5. See also Doctrine and Covenants 88:50.
[xxx] Neal A. Maxwell, “Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 22.
[xxxi] Mosiah 4:11
[xxxii] See 1 Nephi 12:18.
[xxxiii] “Called to Serve,” Hymns, no. 249.
[xxxiv] See “Becoming like God,” Gospel Topics, topics.lds.org.
[xxxv] See “Falling to Heaven, The Surprising Path to Happiness,” James L Farrell, Deseret Book 2012.
[xxxvi] Doctrine and Covenants 84:44.
[xxxvii] Alma 34:38.
[xxxviii] Doctrine and Covenants 20:77.
[xxxix] Ether 12:28.
[xl] See Henry B. Eyring, “O Remember, Remember,” Ensign, Nov. 2007.
[xli] See Matthew 25:34-46; Mosiah 4:26.
[xlii] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Pride and the Priesthood,” Ensign, Nov. 2010.
[xliii] Russell M. Nelson, “Hope of Israel,” Worldwide Youth Devotional, June 3, 2018; lds.org/blog/five-things-the-prophet-invites-all-youth-to-do-now?lang=eng.
[xliv] See Moses 6:34.
[xlv] See Moroni 7:33; 10:23; Mosiah 4:21; 5:3; I Nephi 17:30; Helaman 10:4-5.