5 Highlights for “Lifted Up upon the Cross” by Elder Holland

by | Oct 22, 2022

drawing of man in suit

5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions

See also Teaching Helps

Elder Holland makes beautiful points about the profound meaning of the cross and our relationship with that icon. He also does a memorable job of addressing hardship and suffering. He upgrades our perspective about whatever complex problems we face.

You can find Elder Holland’s full talk here. Unless you opt to spend a lot of time on a particular quote, try to pick around 2 questions per quote. Choose the questions that resonate the most with you and make a meaningful discussion for your group of personalities. These highlights and questions fit right in with Lesson Template 1 or Template 2. You can also check out several other General Conference Talks with 5 Highlights.

All blue quotes by Jeffrey R. Holland (unless otherwise noted).

Possible Quote Sequence

  • Quote #1 contains 3 quotes. They do not have to all be used or even read together. You can mix and match all of the quotes on this page and prioritize them in any order that makes sense to you. You will not get through all the material if you have good discussions. Be at peace with that! Discussions are the ultimate goal.

Quote #1 (1-2-3 reasons)

Easter is essential to us. Christ’s atonement and resurrection are central to all our religious beliefs. Everything hinges on this extraordinary event. Nonetheless, we do not wear a cross to represent Christ or to signal our devoted Christianity. Every once in a while, we need to review why!

Explain to the class Elder Holland shared three reasons we do not use the cross as a symbol for our beliefs.

Reason #1

This has been my number one reason for several decades!

One reason we do not emphasize the cross as a symbol stems from our biblical roots. Because crucifixion was one of the Roman Empire’s most agonizing forms of execution, many early followers of Jesus chose not to highlight that brutal instrument of suffering. The meaning of Christ’s death was certainly central to their faith, but for some 300 years they typically sought to convey their gospel identity through other means.

While on my mission, one explanation I heard made complete sense to me. If your child was murdered with a gun, would you wear a replica of the murder weapon around your neck to remind you of him or her? Of course not! It’s an insult to have your memory reduced to something inferior. I can’t imagine the Savior wants the execution device that tortured Him to represent Him either.

We’re so used to that cross icon and so removed from the reality and brutality of ordinary, everyday cross-executions – that we don’t instinctively stop to think of Elder Holland’s point. A cross is a grotesque tool. The Savior is about so much more than His execution device. It’s just not an adequate symbol for us.

Possible questions: Why is it important to note that Christians, for the first 300 years after Christ, didn’t use a cross to represent their faith or the Savior? (1 – They were the purer, original band of devoted followers of Christ, and 2- by their example, someone is not proved or disproved a Christian by whether they use the cross or not.) Why would Ancient Christians avoid the cross as a symbol? (Because, in their time, the cross was a hideous object.)

Reason #2

I love this point. We’re not trying to blend in or identify as being like everyone else.

By the fourth and fifth centuries, a cross was being introduced as a symbol of generalized Christianity, but ours is not a “generalized Christianity.” Being neither Catholic nor Protestant, we are, rather, a restored church, the restored New Testament Church. Thus, our origins and our authority go back before the time of councils, creeds, and iconography. In this sense, the absence of a symbol that was late coming into common use is yet another evidence that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restoration of true Christian beginnings.

generalized: ambiguous, uncertain, hazy, imprecise, nebulous, unclear

restoration: reestablishment, revival, recovery, renewal

The original Christians were unique and different than their peers. That has been the marker of every faithful Christian…they are not popular, mainstream, or accepted in this world.

18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
(John 15:18-19)

Possible discussion questions: What is the difference between generalized and restored Christianity? Would you rather belong to the restored Church of Christ or the generalized Church of Christ? Why is it important to understand that the councils and creeds came centuries after Christ’s death? (Like the telephone game, the message changes a little each time it is passed to a new person – after that much time, the original messages are altered by multiple interpretations and opinions. The councils and creeds were founded in the fourth century. The means of checking facts and accuracy did not exist then.) How do you feel about Elder Holland’s statement that we are a restoration of true Christian beginnings?

Reason #3

Another reason for not using iconized crosses is our emphasis on the complete miracle of Christ’s mission—His glorious Resurrection as well as His sacrificial suffering and death. In underscoring that relationship, I note two pieces of art that serve as backdrops for the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in their sacred weekly temple meetings each Thursday in Salt Lake City. These portrayals serve as constant reminders to us of the price that was paid and the victory that was won by Him whose servants we are.

Possible discussion questions: Why is the resurrection essential to us? Does the cross remind you of the resurrection? Both of these scenes are touching in their own way. How do you feel about one or the other? Why is it important to commemorate both of these events for Easter? (You can’t have the resurrection without the crucifixion, and the crucifixion loses meaning without the resurrection. If we don’t resurrect, then the crucifixion doesn’t matter.)

Quote #2 (you = symbol)

  • Possible engagement tool: Ask, what is your favorite icon, representation, or symbol of Christ? (Accept multiple, varied answers and compliment their choices) Then say, “Now listen for the symbol President Hinckley highlights.”

“President Gordon B. Hinckley once taught, “The lives of our people must [be] … the symbol of our [faith].” These considerations—especially the latter—bring me to what may be the most important of all scriptural references to the cross. It has nothing to do with pendants or jewelry, with steeples or signposts. It has to do, rather, with the rock-ribbed integrity and stiff moral backbone that Christians should bring to the call Jesus has given to every one of His disciples.”

Don’t you love the word “rock-ribbed”? It means uncompromising or resolute.

integrity: uprightness, honor, ethics, character, principles, morals

Possible discussion questions: How is your life a symbol of faith that others can see? What does the phrase rock-ribbed integrity mean to you? What does having a stiff moral backbone look like for you? (Somewhere in there, these phrases remind me of having “a thick skin.” In other words, not worrying about what others think or say about you.) Do we sometimes need a thick skin because of what others might say about us?

Quote #3 (bear not wear)

We have joy, and we have sorrow. They are all part of the plan. They each do their excellent work on us in turn!

In every land and age, He has said to us all, “If any man [or woman] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

This speaks of the crosses we bear rather than the ones we wear. To be a follower of Jesus Christ, one must sometimes carry a burden—your own or someone else’s—and go where sacrifice is required and suffering is inevitable. A true Christian cannot follow the Master only in those matters with which he or she agrees*.

*agrees: meaning when and where we want to because it’s pleasant or desirable.

No. We follow Him everywhere, including, if necessary, into arenas filled with tears and trouble, where sometimes we may stand very much alone.

There’s a reoccurring theme these days at General Conference. Super rough times are coming, and we won’t always have large support systems around us. This seems to tie into President Nelson’s quote directly:

I urgently plead with each one of us to live up to our privileges as bearers of the priesthood. In a coming day, only those men who have taken their priesthood seriously, by diligently seeking to be taught by the Lord Himself, will be able to bless, guide, protect, strengthen, and heal others. Only a man who has paid the price for priesthood power will be able to bring miracles to those he loves and keep his marriage and family safe, now and throughout eternity. (The Price of Priesthood Power – April 2016)

Possible Questions: Elder Holland points out that bearing a cross is more relevant than wearing a cross. Do you agree? What is the significant difference between the two for you? (perhaps one is superficial and doesn’t require effort – the other marks our soul’s dedication to Christ). Why is it important to know that suffering is part of the journey?

Quote #4 (the cost)

Our hardships deepen us and make us more complete. I know with certainty that many of the better and brave things I do now – directly result from the awakening that happens from struggles, tough hard luck, and deep disappointments. Such experiences produce wholeness and a capacity we cannot get any other way.

“…there is a cost to discipleship. To Araunah [ah-raw-nah], who attempted to give him free oxen and free wood for his burnt offering, King David said, “Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: … [for I] will [not] offer … unto the Lord my God … that which doth cost me nothing.” So too say we all.

As we take up our crosses and follow Him, it would be tragic indeed if the weight of our challenges did not make us more empathetic for and more attentive to the burdens being carried by others. It is one of the most powerful paradoxes of the Crucifixion that the arms of the Savior were stretched wide open and then nailed there, unwittingly but accurately portraying that every man, woman, and child in the entire human family is not only welcome but invited into His redeeming, exalting embrace.

Possible discussion questions: How do hard times benefit us? Why is personal growth important? Can you grow much without trials and hardships? What happens when we repeatedly get free goods or services for a long time? If the Gospel were easy to live, would it develop us as much as a Gospel that requires sacrifice?


Summarize class discussion highlights and/or share your testimony and feelings about Elder Holland’s talk. Thank your class for their excellent contributions and insights.

Final Comment

Thank you for preparing yourself to teach Elder Holland’s General Conference talk. Every once in a while, we need to have a candid discussion about the cross icon and why we don’t use it. Have faith in what you are drawn to teach. Bless your heart, and God speed.

Put the quotes in any order that makes sense to you. If you would like tips on how to feel more confident while teaching – try “9 Tips for More Class Participation.

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  1. Heather Steele

    This reminds me of why I personally start the New Year and celebrate every day of the year Easter.

    • Shawnie Cannon

      Everyday is Easter…isn’t it?


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