New apostle desires to succor the weak, strengthen the weary

Less than a mile west of the gleaming, white Bountiful Temple, is the warmly inviting home of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, newest member of the Council of the Twelve, and his wife, Patricia T. Holland.

"We've owned it for more than five years and lived in it for 10 months or so," Elder Holland laughed during a Church News interview with the couple at their home. The occasion was eight days after he was called to fill the vacancy in the Twelve on June 23.The Hollands moved to Bountiful in 1989, just after Elder Holland became a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, having served since 1980 as the ninth president of BYU. But they didn't spend much time there, because he was called as president of the Europe North Area, necessitating their move to England.

"And if we had to walk away from it again tomorrow, we'd walk away," he said.

That spirit of consecration, symbolized perhaps by the proximity of the Holland home to the temple, has characterized their entire married life and extends back to the time they began dating in St. George, Utah, when he was senior in high school and she was a junior.

"Pat came from a very missionary-oriented family," he recalled, "and from the beginning of our courtship there was no question in her mind that I would go on a mission. I was already planning to go, but my desire was also fostered by Pat. By the time I was 19, wild horses could not have restrained me from going.

"And I would just leave a bit of a word of counsel to the young women of the Church," he said smilingly, "that a lot of young men in this Church have done very good things with their lives because young women in this Church wanted them to."

The apostle is inclined frequently to draw lessons from personal experience.

"I do love to teach," he mused. "From the time I was a very young man, I think I knew I wanted to teach."

It is a desire and talent he shares with Sister Holland, a former member of the Young Women general presidency and an accomplished pianist and vocalist who forsook a possible career in music to be a full-time wife and mother.

Both Hollands wanted "a quiver full" of children, as Sister Holland puts it, using the phrasing in Psalm 127:5. For a time, it seemed they might not have any.

"At the time we were married, I had some physical difficulties, and we were told we might not have any children," she said. "My heart was breaking, because all I've ever wanted to do was be a mother. We had occasion to fast, obtain a priesthood blessing, and go to the temple. Then we knew we would be blessed with children. We didn't know how many, but we knew we would be blessed."

Like her husband, Sister Holland draws lessons from life's experiences.

"We've learned that revelation always follows adversity," she said.

"Or accompanies it," Elder Holland added.

She said: "I guess it's because you're pushed to your extremity, so all you have to hold on to is your faith. And then, I think, you dig deep into your soul and find those reservoirs that you maybe didn't dream existed. That kind of searching and laboring opens the windows of heaven in a profound way."

Their faith and fasting brought what they both describe as three "absolutely perfect" children: Matthew, Mary Alice, and David, the latter serving a mission in the Czech Republic.

Enduring adversity and overcoming challenges, the Hollands say, have given them empathy for others who suffer hardships. It is a feeling that pervades their book writings and speeches, many of which have been prepared and delivered together, especially during the BYU years.

"I've always had a favorite verse of scripture to guide me in my dealings with other people," Elder Holland said. He quoted D&C 81:5.

"That counsel has always touched me," he said, "I have hoped that perhaps part of my opportunity in life would be to `succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.'

"I have always felt one of the greatest things I could do for people would be to stand with them and stand by them, giving them strength and comfort and hope in Christ."

Elder Holland, whose emotions seem to be very near the surface since this call, said he feels it is important for people to know that General Authorities feel deeply the adversity and pain of Christ's atonement, including some adversity and pain in their own lives.

His voice breaking with emotion, he said, "You could not have a more marvelous example of courage and perseverance in the face of adversity than President Howard W. Hunter. I believe such afflictions have made him a prophet. He didn't just "happen to live long enough" to be a prophet. He has been molded in God's hands. He has been fashioned on the potter's wheel. Some of that has been through an immense amount of adversity."

The Hollands, too, have been molded through their experiences. Each has achieved stature individually.

Prior to marriage did either make a list of qualities they looked for in a prospective mate?

"We were too young and inexperienced to do that," Sister Holland smiled. "When we started dating, I was only 16 and he was 17. I really believe the synergism of the relationship has made better people out of us individually and as a couple. I know it has me."

Elder Holland, who at 53 is the youngest of the apostles, said he was shaped in part by the heritage of growing up in what was then a small southern Utah town where people "worked and labored and fought to raise crops, to be victorious over the alkali soil, and to survive the annual spring runoffs from the flooding Virgin River."

He added, "My family heritage and my gospel foundation in a little LDS community filled with believers have without question provided the bedrock of my faith. I pay tribute to my parents and all who taught and loved me in my youth. In so many ways they are the ones who have given me what preparation I have for this new calling." He applied that to his wife's family as well.

His mission, he said, was a pivotal decision in his life, strengthening his faith, increasing his ability to work hard, especially giving him a love for the scriptures - particularly the Book of Mormon, which he said has been " `a lamp unto my feet' from that day to this."

"My mission was like going into warp speed. I went in somewhat aimlessly and came out focused, fixed, determined to serve the Lord and all the people I could. It just changed me forever."

The Hollands were married in the St. George Temple a year after his return. She had studied music in New York in that length of time.

"In terms of temple covenants and heavenly possibilities, the highest and best thing I ever did in time or eternity was to marry Patricia Terry," Elder Holland said with a characteristic but genuine smile.

They attended BYU together. His experience shaped his decision to be a teacher, specifically in the Church Educational System. He taught in the institute program three years after graduation, during which time their first two children were born. Then came graduate training.

"My decision and the blessing I had to go to Yale was a very important time in our lives, one that the Lord directed from the beginning. I absolutely loved every minute of my graduate education, but far more important was the Church experience we had there."

After only 10 months in the area, he was called to serve in the presidency of the Hartford Connecticut Stake. "At almost the same time, Pat as a very young mother with two pre-school children in tow, trying to give moral support to a husband in a Ph.D. program, was called to be Relief Society president in a very large ward with complex needs.

"It was one of the great spiritual, revelatory, rewarding times in our lives. And yet it was very hard. We had no money, and only an old, rickety car with bald tires in which to travel the stake and canvas the ward. And we loved it. We wouldn't trade it for anything. The blessings that were poured out upon us in school and in our Church work were boundless. They lifted our little family forever."

Eminently qualified with a doctorate in American studies, he passed up more lucrative opportunities to return to the Church Educational System. Assigned to the institute of religion adjacent to the University of Utah, he soon became director of the Church Melchizedek Priesthood MIA program. Later, he served as dean of Religious Instruction at BYU, commissioner of Church Education, and then BYU president. As a Seventy, he has served in the presidency of the North America Southeast and North America West areas of the Church and in the Young Men general presidency, as well as in the president of the Europe North Area.

Through these callings he exhibited a talent he denies he has, but one which Sister Holland candidly says attracted her to him. That talent is his facility as a teacher, speaker and writer.

"He has always inspired me as a teacher of the gospel, even when we were young," Sister Holland added.

Opening his scriptures, he read Alma 31:5, regarding the powerful effect the preaching of the word had on the minds of the people - more powerful than the sword or anything else.

"I love that phrase the virtue of the word of God,' " he said. "Ancientlyvirtue' was often translated as power,' and I certainly believe there is great virtue - great power - in the word of God. I want very much to teach as those Book of Mormon missionaries did -with great power and authority.'

"But more than that, I want to be with the saints wherever they are. I do love people, and I want to be as close as possible to all of them."

"It's true," Sister Holland said. "He does love people. Everyone he has ever met becomes his `best friend.' He has told me how much he wants to meet he members, to mix and mingle and love them forever."

Additional Information

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Family: Born in St. George, Utah, Dec. 3, 1940, to Frank D. and Alice Bentley Holland. Married Patricia Terry in the St. George Temple on June 7, 1963. Parents of three children: Matthew Holland, Mary Alice Holland McCann, and David Holland; grandparents of 1.

Education: Bachelor's degree in religious education and master's degree in English from BYU, doctorate in American studies from Yale.

Employment: Institute of religion teacher; director of Melchizedek Priesthood MIA; dean of Religious Instruction at BYU; commissioner of Church Education; president of BYU, 1980-89.

Church service: Member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, 1989-1994; former regional representative, counselor in three stake presidencies, bishop; missionary in England, 1960-62

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