clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

What Elder Holland and the Rev. Teal have learned about the meaning of friendship

The Rev. Dr. Andrew Teal and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland talk at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City.
The Rev. Dr. Andrew Teal, a chaplain, fellow and lecturer in theology at Pembroke College, Oxford University, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, talk during the BYU International Center for Law and Religion Studies’ 2021 International Advisory Council reception and dinner at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The Rev. Dr. Andrew Teal signed the honor code when visiting Brigham Young University earlier this fall.

The Oxford theologian of the Church of England and Anglican priest has lived each standard to the letter, according to his friend, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, of BYU’s sponsoring institution, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Rev. Teal has paid tithing and lives the Word of Wisdom, the Latter-day Saint health code, which is impressive for someone from England where tea is a staple, Elder Holland said.

“When we talk about Andrew signing the honor code, he signed all of it,” Elder Holland said. “For all intents and purposes, he now sees himself as a Word of Wisdom keeper forever. ... I used to plead for that with investigators.”

The interesting insight was offered during a public conversation featuring the two faith leaders at a BYU International Center for Law and Religion Studies event held at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Thursday evening. About 300 people attended the event.

The Rev. Teal, a chaplain and theologian specializing in Christian church history at Oxford’s Pembroke College, was scheduled to spend the whole fall semester at BYU, but his visit was cut short due burns he suffered on his feet when he walked barefoot onto an Orem patio with heat-reflecting shingles. He received treatment at the University of Utah burn center and is flying home Friday.

Before returning home, however, organizers arranged to bring the two men together for one more public conversation about faith, friendship and other experiences. The conversation was moderated by Brett G. Scharffs, the director of International Center for Law and Religious Studies at BYU.

The Rev. Teal expressed gratitude for the opportunity to come to BYU. He originally planned to research and write a book giving an outsider’s perspective on Joseph Smith and the early Latter-day Saints as outcasts. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out.

“The place of research became the intensive care unit,” he said. “I was really looking forward to that, but obviously other things happened. … I was humbled and healed.”

Last month the Rev. Teal delivered a forum at BYU and described it as “an extraordinary experience,” He focused his forum remarks on the idea of sojourning together and cited passages of Latter-day Saint scripture. He reflected on the experience Thursday.

“When it was happening, I knew they weren’t my words,” the British priest said. “And the message was ’Don’t get in the way. Don’t block this. Don’t make this about the performance of you.’”

The friendship between Elder Holland and the Rev. Teal came about when Elder Holland’s son, Elder Matthew S. Holland, did a sabbatical at Pembroke College during his time as president of Utah Valley University. The younger Holland introduced himself to the Rev. Teal when he arrived at Oxford and they became friends, which later led to an introduction with his father.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, right, has a conversation with the Rev. Dr. Andrew Teal at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City.
Brett G. Scharffs, director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University, left, moderates a conversation between the Rev. Dr. Andrew Teal, a chaplain, fellow and lecturer in theology at Pembroke College, Oxford University, center, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, during the BYU International Center for Law and Religion Studies’ 2021 International Advisory Council reception and dinner at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The Rev. Teal remembered the first time he met Elder Holland and his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, outside of Oxford’s University Church.

“It was like the inflaming of souls who have known each other and been committed to something forever,” he said of meeting Elder Holland. “Our friendship ... was great fun. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but he’s got a sense of humor.”

In Nov. 2018, the Rev. Teal invited Elder Holland to deliver several lectures at Oxford and they shared a public conversation about Christian theology, including Latter-day Saint beliefs and doctrine, at the 1,000-year-old University Church.

Last April, the duo also participated in a virtual conversation as part of the 31st annual conference of the International Society.

One highlight Thursday evening came when Scharffs asked the Rev. Teal and Elder Holland to share what they have learned about friendship over the course of their lives and ministry.

The Rev. Teal spoke of friendship and truth.

“Friendship enables you to be true. Kindness enables you to be true. We think of friends who look us in the eye and tell us when we are being a fool, who try to bring us back to the path of goodness and righteousness,” he said. “In our society, we see this tragic collapse where people weaponize truth, where people who speak uncomfortable but real truths get castigated because they don’t belong to that group, or they’re not saying the words that people want them to say. It strikes me that if we can weaponize truth, if we make it something to attack somebody else, we are betraying our Lord, who never gave up on truth and never gave up on us.”

Elder Holland said one regret he had as a young missionary was not loving people beyond their interest in the church. He fears the same thing happens in neighborhoods or communities where those who aren’t Latter-day Saints are in the minority.

“I was interested in people as long as they were interested in investigating the church. And if it looked like they weren’t ... we were gone. ... I’ve always regretted that because it seemed like we were using people a little bit,” he said. “Friendship transcends that self-interest that can sometimes overcome us.”

With that idea in mind, Elder Holland wanted the Rev. Teal to know his love for him was genuine and not motivated by anything else. Elder Holland visited his friend in the hospital because he cared about him and not because he wanted to appear as a “good Latter-day Saint.”

“I didn’t want him to ever feel that he was secondary to that purpose, he was primary,” Elder Holland said. “Maybe we could all learn a lesson about the genuineness of why we want people in the church, why we want people at the ward party. For me, that’s friendship with a capital ‘F.’”

Brent G. Scharffs, director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University, left, moderates a conversation between the Rev. Dr. Andrew Teal, a chaplain, fellow and lecturer in theology at Pembroke College, Oxford University, center, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, during the BYU International Center for Law and Religion Studies’ 2021 International Advisory Council reception and dinner at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021.
Brett G. Scharffs, director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University, left, moderates a conversation between the Rev. Dr. Andrew Teal, a chaplain, fellow and lecturer in theology at Pembroke College, Oxford University, center, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, during the BYU International Center for Law and Religion Studies’ 2021 International Advisory Council reception and dinner at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Continuing on the theme of friendship and cooperation, the Rev. Teal said he would love to show the cynics in the academic world that they are wrong in their criticism of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Let’s work together,” he said. “Let’s work with commitment, openness, friendship — friendships can change the world. ... Pembroke is not just a place of welcome and tolerance, but friendship and advocacy, and joint commitment to scholarship. I’d love to see that, however it grows.”

Elder Holland acknowledged the Rev. Teal’s willingness to stand up to the church’s critics by telling about when he spoke to protesters outside of the Conference Center before October general conference.

“I don’t know how many people would have done what he did,” the church leader said. “Here’s one in a thousand.”

The evening concluded with a warm expressions and handshakes as the Rev. Teal once again expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to come to BYU.

“This is a great blessing because God is going to show you how kind he is, how kind our Heavenly Father is, through this community of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” the Rev. Teal said. “It’s overwhelming. I’m sad this is the last thing I’m going to do before I fly off tomorrow morning. But thank the Lord that I had the opportunity to say this has been astonishing. And you have been the quite literally divine, and I will never forget the unexpected ways in which you have reached out and healed me in his name. So thank you.”

Elder Holland commended the Rev. Teal for his charity and kindness.

“He personifies as beautifully as anyone I know this virtue: We believe all things. We hope all things. We have endured many things, and we hope to be able to do endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or a good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”