The meaning of sustaining

Sustaining our Church leaders means more than raising our right arm to the square. It is an action verb that will strengthen our testimony and help us realize the blessings the Lord has in store for us.


Windmills on the Kinderdijk in the western Netherlands. The 19 old windmills here are the largest concentration of historic windmills in the country and were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Windmills on the Kinderdijk in the western Netherlands. The 19 old windmills here are the largest concentration of historic windmills in the country and were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

In 2005, after two years of studying urban planning at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, I was a little bored and in need of a different perspective on the subject, so I went to The Netherlands to continue my studies at Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen. Though my time there was short, I fell in love with The Netherlands. It is a beautiful country with a complex, intriguing society, which offered me a lot to learn, see, and experience even in just a few months’ time.

But one of the most endearing things about Holland [Note 1] is that all the things one might traditionally associate with the Dutch really do represent the way the country actually is. Wooden shoes—they actually use them (they say they’re great for gardening). Tulips. Cows and cheese. And windmills.

My branch president in Nijmegen, President Van Rooij, was obsessed with windmills. He planned someday to build one in his backyard. He also said that, among other things such as the scriptures and testimony, any good talk will refer to windmills. I am putting his counsel into practice today. I figure this is also appropriate in this branch, with a name that originates in Dutch (Boswijck, meaning “little town in the woods” or “heavy woods” in 17th-century Dutch), in a city that was once named New Amsterdam.

Why does Holland have so many windmills? The country wouldn’t exist without them—literally. Much of it, anyway. See, about 25% of The Netherlands lies below sea level. A full 50% of it is less than three feet (one meter) above sea level. A lot of it is man-made land. These man-made portions of land are called polders; the embankments or levees that surround these polders are called dikes (from the Dutch word dijk). Windmills harness the wind’s power to pump water out and help the dikes in keeping the polders and other low-lying areas dry.

Windmills sustain polders, just as we sustain Church leaders

Now you’re probably asking, what does this have to do with general conference, other than the fact that one of the Apostles has the last name Holland? In the Saturday afternoon session, President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, stated:

“It is proposed that we sustain Thomas Spencer Monson as prophet, seer, and revelator and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Henry Bennion Eyring as First Counselor in the First Presidency; and Dieter Friedrich Uchtdorf as Second Counselor in the First Presidency.

“Those in favor may manifest it.

“Those opposed, if any, may manifest it.

“It is proposed that we sustain Boyd Kenneth Packer as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the following as members of that quorum: Boyd K. Packer, L. Tom Perry, Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, M. Russell Ballard, Richard G. Scott, Robert D. Hales, Jeffrey R. Holland, David A. Bednar, Quentin L. Cook, D. Todd Christofferson, and Neil L. Andersen.

“Those in favor, please manifest it.

“Any opposed may so indicate.

“It is proposed that we sustain the counselors in the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators.

“All in favor, please manifest it.

“Contrary, if there be any, by the same sign” (Ensign, November 2011, page 23).

We, as members of the Lord’s Church, were asked to sustain the leaders the Lord has called to lead and guide his Church and his work in our day. We all raised our right hands in a sustaining vote. But what does it mean to “sustain” our Church leaders? That’s where windmills provide a great metaphor.

Windmills do not by themselves create polders. Windmills are not simply constructed in the middle of water and turned on while everyone sits back and waits for land to appear. Dikes are pushed up first. Without them, there would be nothing to hold the water back. Windmills assist in the process of pumping the water out to create the polders and the land on which people live and buildings are constructed. Once that process is complete, windmills continue to pump out any water that may seep in. In short, windmills sustain the polders.

Likewise, we by ourselves do not call our leaders and others who serve in the Church. They are first called by the Lord. Without the Lord and his priesthood authority, there would be no leaders or others called and, indeed, no Church. [2] We are asked to sustain the Lord and those whom he has called work, just as windmills sustain the polders and dikes.

Remember our fifth Article of Faith: “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.”

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