Elder Holland’s “Salt Sermon”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a talk to BYU faculty on August 23, 2021. Complete Talk

Here is an excerpt where Elder Holland quotes other general authorities:

Three years later, 2017, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, not then but soon to be in the First Presidency where he would sit, only one chair — one heartbeat — away from the same position President Nelson now has, quoted our colleague Elder Neal A. Maxwell who had said:

“In a way[,] [Latter-day Saint] scholars at BYU and elsewhere are a little bit like the builders of the temple in Nauvoo, who worked with a trowel in one hand and a musket in the other. Today scholars building the temple of learning must also pause on occasion to defend the kingdom. I personally think,” Elder Maxwell went on to say, “this is one of the reasons the Lord established and maintains this university. The dual role of builder and defender is unique and ongoing. I am grateful we have scholars today who can handle, as it were, both trowels and muskets.”

Then Elder Oaks said challengingly, “I would like to hear a little more musket fire from this temple of learning.”


Seems like Elder Holland’s talk may be a modern version of Sidney Rigdon “Salt Sermon” from June 17, 1838. Rigdon’s sermon was a stern condemnation of Mormon dissenters.

“If the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? 
It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”
Matthew 5:13

(See also Rigdon’s July 4th oration where he took a militant stance against Missourians).

The Danites were led by Dr. Sampson Avard, and the group appears to have been formally formed about the time that Sidney Rigdon gave his Salt Sermon in Far West, in which he gave apostates an ultimatum to get out or suffer consequences.

Instead of Danites, we now have DezNat.

The modern apostates and dissenters in Elder Holland’s eyes are those who support gay marriage or are actively LGBTQIA+.

I was disturbed by Elder Holland’s violent imagery of using “muskets” to silence the voices of a marginalized group which has been subject to violence and murder over the years.

Note that a lesbian couple had been shot and killed in Moab, Utah a few days earlier. News Story.

See also: Orlando Nightclub Shooting

Firearms are prohibited in LDS Church Buildings. This policy should include metaphorical weapons as well. Firearm Reference.

Leaders should be extraordinarily cautious using fiery rhetoric against real or imagined enemies. Brigham Young may not have directly ordered the Mountain Meadows Massacre. But Young’s rhetoric stirred up those who committed the atrocity according to historian Juanita Brooks.

– Tom Irvine


Jana Riess Article

The overt, spoken message of BYU’s faculty meeting was that inclusion is important; the unfortunate and unspoken subtext of Elder Holland’s talk was that the voices of non-white, non-heterosexual, non-male members of the Church are unimportant.

As BYU looks forward to the second half of its second century, erasing difference and implicitly upholding one particular social location as normative for everyone won’t equip students to succeed in a diverse world.

See also: Washington Post Article


Blaire Ostler Post

My queer joy is queer power.

Say it with me.My queer joy is queer power.

Take notice at what cis-straight supremacists are pointing their muskets at. Lighting the “Y.” A proud gay BYU student embracing his identity over the pulpit. Queer youth sharing their testimony of God’s love for them just as they are. Color the Campus. BYU Pride. Supportive faculty and leaders. Happy queer families. Queer Mormon theology. Queer testimonials. Talk of same-sex sealings. Trans folks embracing gender euphoria through the Spirit.

They are pointing their muskets at what they perceive to be the most threatening. And what is most threatening to them? Our authentic expressions of queer joy.

Shame is a powerful tool. It worked on me. My community, church, and religion had me convinced that who I was, even down to my biological makeup, was so shameful that the only way out was to die. Indeed, queer shaming is a powerful tool. If they colonize your mind they don’t have to use muskets. Don’t forget that the war in heaven was a war of ideas.However, what has proven to be an equally if not more powerful tool is queer joy.

They will point their muskets at a rainbow “Y.” They will cut the mic when a queer teen shares her testimony. They will call happy queer families “counterfeit” because they know our queer joy is queer power. Our thriving, happiness, peace, and joy is a direct threat to their misguided attempts to shame us into submission.

If you do not feel joyful, I do not blame you. There is a time and place for all our emotions. Your feelings are valid, and you owe it to yourself to honor them—all of them. However, keep in mind they are not pointing their muskets at our queer rage, grief, frustration, depression, or sadness. They are pointing their muskets at our queer joy, flourishing, and shamelessness.

Our queer joy is queer power.

Stay strong. Stay hydrated. Take your meds and make time for a walk. Stay safe today. You are powerful. Love you all.


Lindsay Hansen Park

I love my people. Mormons are, for better or worse, mine. And I am so sick and tired of seeing Latter-day Saint leaders sell pain as God’s love. I’m exhausted from seeing good, earnest people be led to believe that love is so harsh. It impacts more than people can ever imagine.

Here’s the worst part, Holland has no excuse here. He knows the impact of his words- he’s been presented with them over and over. Either he doesn’t care, he’s trying to prove something, or he’s just deeply cruel.

Sending love to my LGBTQ+ Saints trying their best to make it work. I’m really sorry our people are so damaged. Generations of pain and trauma comes out as sugar-coated severity and religious callousness and the most vulnerable pay the price. Instead of taking care of our own, we pass around violence and call it scripture.

Also from Lindsay

For those defending Elder Holland’s speech, saying it has been taken out of context- point your muskets at the ground my friends… Plenty of people are taking his comments and turning them into something. I’m hearing reports of increased homophobia and bigotry out there. The speech has emboldened people (like the kid at BYU spewing hate speech and washing off the chalk art) to be more hateful. Don’t try to tell me Holland’s words are benign. They are not. He is a man in a position of power and his words have consequences.


Abbey Boren

My dear loved ones!! If you’re willing to listen, I have some feelings I’d like to share.

This has been a hard week for me and for my communities. It’s been hard for members of my family. It’s been hard for members of the church in which I grew up. It’s been hard for friends who are members and allies of the alphabet mafia.

I have seen many posts reacting to certain events, and those reactions come from all ends of the spectrum. There have been pleading apologies, zealous declarations, and outraged mockeries of various parties involved. My post today is not about what was said by the leader of the church. My post is in response to some of the rhetoric I’ve seen this week.

The number one thing I’ve seen from those who support the words spoken by Elder Holland is: “This needs to be taken in context.” Many were concerned that certain analogies and admonitions were being quoted in a misleading way, making the statement seem harsher than it was. I’ve seen people say that one needs to watch the talk, rather than just read it, so that the true intentions and emotions of the speaker could be properly understood. Indeed, emotions can be a beautiful way to express one’s true intent. However, no emotion can cancel out the words that are being said. Words matter. If unkind words are said in a loving tone, they are still unkind. If untrue words are said as the speaker chokes with emotion, those words are still untrue. If false and misleading information is presented after a speaker has expressed love to the audience, that information is still misleading. Words matter.

I’ve also seen a whole lot of: “I know this man, and he is kind.” I understand where this one is coming from. This speaker used to be my very favorite. I loved the way he could make me feel hope when I had very little. I have listened to this particular discourse and read it multiple times, and I will say that in this instance while his words may have been nice, they were not kind. Humiliating and condemning a faithful individual for calling himself a “gay son of God” during a university-reviewed and approved speech was unkind. Speaking about the need for members to stand strong in their beliefs about the sin of LGBTQ lifestyles, and then calling on those members to metaphorically get out their muskets to defend the church-approved version of the family was unkind. Speaking about the love that he and his fellow leaders have for members of the community, then telling them they need to hide such a fundamental part of themselves is unkind.

If this were another matter, I wouldn’t be posting about it. I respect beliefs that differ from my own, particularly those held by members of the church since I completely understand their mindset. However, when I start to see defense of harmful and abusive rhetoric, I feel I have to say something. This is literally a matter of life and death. There are people at BYU who are afraid. There are teenagers in the homes of active members who are afraid. I have had students stay in my classroom for hours after school because they are afraid to go home. They are afraid their parents will “find out” who they are. There are many who, when taught that it is immoral for them to ever seek out love in this life, decide to hasten the arrival of the next one.

Many reading this may think, “Oh, that’s such a shame. I would be supportive if this were my child! I would be different!” But do your loved ones know that? The phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin” really just means, “I think you’re wrong, but I want you to believe I’m overcoming my judgment of you in order to be the bigger person here.” The phrase “I love you, but I just can’t condone your lifestyle” really just means “I know I should love you, but I need to show you I’m right by constantly reminding you that I do not approve of the way you live or love.” Expressions of love should not include the word “but”, spoken or implied.

Believe me, your loved ones know what you believe. If you ask a gay son or daughter about their dating life, they will not mistakenly assume that you are going back on your beliefs. If you attend a gay wedding, they will not mistakenly assume that you’ve changed your mind about all of it. They will assume that you have realized that your love can shine with them in every aspect of their happiness.

I’ve had a pretty hard last couple of weeks. Part of that started at a wedding luncheon for one of my dear cousins. It was so wonderful to see my entire family together like that. We talked and laughed and ate, and it was beautiful. Then I had some conversations wherein well-meaning family members bore their testimony to me. And I had the realization that it was entirely possible that almost none of the people in attendance that day would come celebrate with me if I were ever to get married. I imagined a lonely luncheon. I imagined how it would feel to be sitting up there with the love of my life, looking out at whoever came and knowing that they were dying inside on the most wonderful, blissful day of my life.

I know my family loves me. But I know that many of them are disappointed in me. I know that many of them judge me. And I understand that. I understand the mindset they are in. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less.

Words matter. Your words. Words of your leaders. Words you repeat. Words you whisper. Words you shout. Words you write. Words you defend.

If you do not believe that those words spoken by a leader were harmful, then please listen to the voices of those at whom they were fired. Listen when we tell you that we feel betrayed by somebody we trusted. Please don’t invalidate our pain just because you yourself do not understand or experience it.

Your friendly neighborhood gae


Steve Cuno

Stop saying “struggles” and “same-sex attraction.” LGBTQ+ is not a disorder.


I work for a well-known, private corporation in a liberal state. I just completed a “Preventing harassment & discrimination” annual training, as did all employees. I learned about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), etc. The training included a statement that the company “prohibits discrimination, harassment, and retaliation of or against employees or applicants for employment on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, age, sex or gender, sexual orientation, gender expression and identity, pregnancy, national origin, military or veteran status, marital status, political affiliation, genetic information, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability, or any other status or characteristic protected by federal, state, and/or local law.” The company policies also prohibit making casual remarks or jokes that may be offensive. I support these policies.

The LDS Church and BYU are not bound by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or EEOC rules as far as I know. Elder Holland does not work at my company. But if he did, then he would have been fired if he had made those remarks.

My real point is that “all in” BYU students are going to be unprepared to interact with LGBTQIA+ colleagues if they go to work at a Fortune 500 company. Their BYU diploma may even be a hindrance to receiving a job offer.

– Tom Irvine


See also:

Let’s Talk About BYU

The Second Half of an Alternate Second Century

Elder Holland’s university address reflects a failure of moral judgment that is endemic to the Church

Elder Holland: Today is the Day to Turn Swords and Muskets Into Plowshares

Musket Fire

Utah politician calls for “muskets” to defend seminary against LGBTQ Mormon students

The OUT Foundation

KUER Article

Crushingly Cruel

When an LDS Apostle Calls You Out: Gay BYU Valedictorian Matt Easton

LGBTQ students at BYU light up the ‘Y’ in rainbow colors

People dressed in angel wings shielded LGBTQ students attending BYU from protesters


4 responses

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