Elder Jeffrey R. Holland visits dedicate West Point Chapel and addresses those who protect freedom. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stood in the historic Cadet Chapel at West Point and addressed those who serve in defense of freedom.
“We are as sobered and sad as you are about what is happening in Eastern Europe,” said Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on Friday, March 18. “A tragedy is unfolding for people we love and people we know, people we have prayed with and wept with, laughed with and worshiped with.”
Of those whose daily experiences are defined by the horrors of war and all that ripples from them, Elder Holland said “life is going to be very difficult for very innocent people.”
Speaking during a commemoration event marking Latter-day Saints at the United States Military Academy, Elder Holland looked back on the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the academy and forward to the continued contributions Church members will make as officers in the United States Army.
The Church organized a branch at West Point in 1956; cadets met on campus in either Bartlett or Thayer halls.
Elder Holland visited the academy in 2010 and initiated efforts to provide a chapel in which the cadets could worship. The effort “took some doing,” as leaders worked with the academy and headquarters. The result is the “strikingly, beautiful new building” which will serve the cadets, young single adults in the area and another unit from the Newburg New York Stake.
Located north of New York City, on a scenic bend in the Hudson River, West Point was founded in 1802, producing numerous notable military, political, business and civic leaders in U.S. history. In 1871, Willard Young — a son of President Brigham Young — become the first Latter-day Saint to join the West Point community. His father told him that the academy would give him an “uncalculatable advantage,” explained U.S. Military Academy Command Historian Sherman Fleek, who spoke at the commemoration. Brigham Young said to his son, “You are thereby enjoying a privilege which falls to the lot of comparatively few. You will do well to treasure up the instruction so abundantly provided there, that after you may be prepared to take a place in the foremost ranks of the great men of the nation.”
West Point chapel
Immediately before the commemoration celebration at West Point, Elder Holland dedicated a new building in Highland Falls, New York, which stands in the shadow of the academy.
With a granite rock exterior, the building reflects the look and feel of many structures on the service academy campus and sends a message of permanency in the community.
“There have been multiple attempts to construct a chapel at West Point,” said President Scott C. Woodbrey, president of the Newburgh New York Stake.
Elder David L. Buckner, an Area Seventy serving in New York, asked local members to remember the day and their feelings, to be like the building a “light on the hill” for others to see, and to make the building sacred.
Thinking of the beautiful building, Elder Holland shared a oft-told modern parable of a man who found a pearl while working his farm. He made immediate plans to display the pearl, traveling the world and searching for the perfect materials for a beautiful box to showcase the pearl. But soon after the exhibit to showcase the pearl opened, the man closed it. Visitors started talking more about the box than the pearl. “This building is just a box a beautiful box but just a box nevertheless,” Elder Holland said. “What matters most is what happens inside the building and furthermore, what happens inside the heart.”