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Episode 84: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Sister Patricia Holland, hosted by Sheri Dew, Part 1 — Service, health, faith and devotion to Jesus Christ


Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Patricia T. Holland, have dedicated their lives to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This special episode of the Church News podcast is the first in a two-part series featuring the Hollands sharing some of the lessons they have learned through their lives.

Elder Holland has served as a general authority since April 1989 and is a former president of BYU. Sister Holland served as a counselor in the Young Women general presidency during the organization’s formative years, when the Young Women theme and values were created.

They are joined by guest host Sister Sheri Dew, a former member of the Relief Society general presidency and the executive vice president of Deseret Management Corp. The three discuss their lives, leadership, service, testimonies and discipleship of the Savior Jesus Christ.

Listen to Part 2 — Episode 85: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Sister Patricia Holland on becoming disciples of Jesus Christ

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Transcript

Sister Patricia T. Holland: Well, I don’t think faith is faith until that’s all you have to hang on to. And we were both in our different kinds of illnesses, we were both driven to the point where it was life and death, and so faith was the only thing we had to hold on to. Not just your faith, but the faith of your children, your husband, your friends — everybody can join in their faith and everybody gets to have these miraculous things. They have the privilege of seeing them, and they have the grand intuition to add to that in every way. I felt like everything I’ve done that’s been a challenge has driven me closer and closer to the Lord. Everything.

Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife, Sister Patricia Terry Holland, have dedicated their lives to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This special episode of the Church News podcast is the first in a two-part series featuring the Hollands sharing the lessons they have learned through the course of their lives. Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has served as a General Authority since April 1989, and is the former president of BYU. Sister Holland served as a counselor in the Young Women general presidency during the organization’s formative years, when the Young Women theme and values were created. The Hollands are joined today by guest host Sister Sheri Dew, a former member of the Relief Society general presidency and the executive vice president of Deseret Management Corporation. The three talk about their lives, leadership, service and testimonies, and how in so many nations across the globe they have stood as living witnesses of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

2:20

Sheri Dew: We’re thrilled to get a chance to talk to you two. Thank you. 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: We love you. 

Sheri Dew: We love you. We love you, and we’re just a little microcosm of the whole Church that loves you, so we can’t speak for the whole Church, but let’s speak for the whole Church and tell you we love you. Let’s go back aways, and Sister Holland, I’m going to start with you. I’ve heard your husband say that you were a general officer of the Church long before he was called as a general authority.

Sister Patricia T. Holland: My aunt never stopped talking about it.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife Sister Patricia Holland pose at his home in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 14, 2022.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, pose at their home in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 14, 2022.

Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Sheri Dew: And I will say: I still remember — this would be a reflection, you would have no way of knowing — but I remember going to a General Young Women’s Meeting, and was sitting near the front, right behind a young President Jeffrey R. Holland, president of BYU, and I still remember you as President Holland. I don’t remember who you were sitting by, and you were getting ready to conduct. Do you remember that? You conducted a meeting, and I remember …

Sister Patricia T. Holland: You had just flown in from Israel, I think.

Sheri Dew: So sitting right behind you, I remember somebody saying, “How are you doing, President Holland?” And you said, “Well, we’ll be a lot better after this meeting is over.” And I just remember thinking all the pressure that goes into anything at the general level. So let’s go back to when you were a general officer, a counselor to Sister Ardeth Kapp, who was then the General Young Women President — as you’ve looked back at that service when you were pretty young, what lessons or insights have you carried forward with you, did you learn then that you’ve brought forward with you since that time?

Sister Patricia T. Holland: I learned a lot from Sister Kapp, for one thing. And to be called a serve on the general level was such an honor to me, but it took me to my knees. It was really quite overwhelming. Jeff had a, he was a busy, busy young president, as you say, and my focus in my life, my whole life, was to put my children first. So they were full-time, and then this seemed like such a full-time calling. And I was only going to go up one day a week, but we decided that the program needed to have more of a spiritual focus, and the program that was currently there was, just somehow didn’t hit the right notes for me, for her, for the board. We just felt like we needed something more spiritual for the young women to focus on, because what you focus on is what you become. And young women don’t have these values yet, they don’t have faith and divine nature and all of that. So that’s what we decided. It needed to be it’s focal, and have them repeat it enough that it really went into their hearts and souls and spirits. And we were absolutely left beyond compare. [We] can’t believe the miracles that had to take place to have a program make it through all that it had to do to become part of the Church. It was like 18 months.

5:32

Sheri Dew: Well, and we should say that that was when the Young Women Values came about, and my goodness, have had a phenomenal impact all these decades, we’re now talking decades. And I’ve heard Sister Kapp say — I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but I’ve heard it repeatedly — I’ve heard her say, “We couldn’t have done that without Sister Holland,” that you were so integral to that entire process of receiving revelation and moving forward, that you were just essential there for that season of time.

Sister Patricia T. Holland: Thank you. She believed in me. And I have to say, since I was driven to my knees, that I knew with all of these challenges that I already had, that I had to live by the Spirit. So it just kind of forced me to focus in a way that I’ve never focused before, and to focus on such — you know, the general level with young women all over the globe, and how can we change this? How can we enforce all of the things that you need to have within the lives of these young women? If they have these few spiritual moorings, that takes them through a lot of stuff. They can avoid a lot of tears, and have more peace and tranquility.

Sheri Dew: That’s beautiful. Now, Elder Holland, you were a very busy university president. And when I think about a president of BYU having a wife who’s a general officer, there had to have been times when you thought you would just pop. The schedule, the pressure, just the demands on the collective time of both of you and your family, but then you’ve lived a life now of busyness. Lots to do. Were there some formative things that happened during that period that you think that you’ve brought forward?

7:28

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Sure. It was a hard time. Later on, President Hinckley, who was the principal officer advising us at that time in the First Presidency, later said, “I don’t know what on earth possessed us to do that.” But I do. Pat was essential to — I say that with all the bias that I can claim — she was essential to that. And I don’t know that she could have gone another month. She lost weight, we were making sure that she got out the door and up to Salt Lake, but she was making sure that she got back to take care of us and raising children still. Duff was in the sixth grade and Mary was in junior high. So yeah, it was hard. That’s a long introduction to say it was hard, but I’m very proud of her doing that. I think she gave all that she could give, flat out, helping to write those values, and to work through the theme and all the things that we now take for granted or did take for granted in the Young Women’s program, from a program that was always kind of behind what we did for the boys. They had the Scouts, and they had merit badge sashes and all the rest. And the young women didn’t have much until that got almost reversed. Later on, it was the young men trying to catch up with the young women: “Why don’t we have values and themes?” and whatever. So it was a tremendously productive, spiritually productive time in the generation of that program. And I think she was essential to it, because she gave everything she had, but, I think, got released at about the time we and she could have survived and still hang in there; because more than that, we would have been a little bit pressed. I was actually — I don’t know that this is public, but I was actually thinking maybe I needed to step down if she was going to continue. I needed to support her. She’d always supported me. I’d step down at BYU, and we’d carry on that way. It didn’t come to that but it was, we were giving all we had.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Sister Patricia Holland their three children, Matthew, Mary and David.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Sister Patricia Holland their three children, Matthew, Mary and David.

Sheri Dew: It was a lot. 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: It was a lot, but it was good, and we learned to be disciplined and help each other, and the kids were great. The kids were phenomenal. They were magnificent about their support.

Sheri Dew: What did it do for your children to see this and to be in the middle of this whirlwind, but all for the Lord? What do you think it did for them?

Sister Patricia T. Holland: It was really wonderful, especially since Mary was the same age as the young women. Mia Maid age, she — I conversed with her about so many things, and the way we should go, the pattern we should follow, a new pattern, and she was really blessed. And Matt was getting ready for his mission, and he saw his mother crying every morning to get the help of the Lord, because I did end up driving up here every day. I’d practice music with my children at 6 in the morning, at 5 in the morning, drove up to Salt Lake, home late with board meetings, and they saw how much we love the gospel, and they supported that. I’m not sure they could do that if we were doing anything else that required that much time that isn’t for the Lord, that isn’t to build the kingdom.

11:17

Sheri Dew: Well, you have three spectacular children and now grandchildren, and so what do you do as the patriarch and matriarch of your family to instill that continually in them, considering all the challenges that your grandchildren have today that maybe weren’t the same challenges that your children had?

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Here, again, I pay tribute to Pat. These kids have grown up knowing that when you have problems, you take it to the Lord. If they came home in tears about something, the first response from their mother was, “Well, we’ll pray about it.” It wasn’t, “Oh, you know, pull up your socks,” it wasn’t, “We’ll go punch that guy in the nose.” It wasn’t, “We’ll seek a professional counselor.” It was, “Well, we’ll pray about it. And if it’s really, really serious, we’ll fast about it.” That’s what they’ve known since they were little, I mean, really little. And thank heavens, they grew up with that and now pass that on to their children and a tribute to the role of a mother in their lives. And I think that, given this service, that was the one thing that worried her the most. I don’t think she worried that I wasn’t going to make it, she knew I’d make it OK at the university. I went to a lot of things alone, where it might have been both of us at another time, but that wasn’t going to be a big problem. She was not about to have the kids pay a price, the wrong price for this. They were willing to have her sacrifice for this, but she wasn’t going to ask them to sacrifice for anything else, and so they heard a gospel message from the beginning and it stayed with them.

Sheri Dew: So we’ve touched on BYU, your time as the president of BYU. A lot of really interesting things happened during your term: a national championship in football, which is pretty cool, but the Jerusalem Center is surely one of the pinnacle moments, would that be fair to say? 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: For sure. Yeah. 

Sheri Dew: What can you tell us about the range of challenges that that took? Because every time I’ve been in Jerusalem, which is only a handful of times, I’m just bowled over by the fact that it exists.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: I’ll start and Pat can fill in, because you watched this at my side. I gave a talk at BYU not long ago. We had a little 50-year anniversary of how long that program has been in place, and I gave a talk about the miracles that I had seen, and I think the number — large or small, some larger than others — was something like 35 things that had to happen in order for that place to exist, and if any of them had gone south, we wouldn’t have had it, and it really is a miracle. And I can’t regale you here with the reasons why we had no right to be where we are. I’ll give you this much of a little snippet: When we wanted to show President Kimball the property that we wanted to get, we’d looked all over. We’d looked everywhere and in the area for property, because we lived in hotels, we lived in kibbutz, we lived everywhere. We needed our own facility. So we had a little ugly piece of property, little L-shaped piece of property in a gully with some goats in it, but there was nothing else. So we took President Kimball — we wanted to take President Kimball to look at it. He was not really well, it was the time of the Orson Hyde Garden dedication — so he sent President Tanner; and President Tanner, brilliant, wonderful man that he was, took a quick look at this piece of property, and you could tell by the look on his face that we weren’t going to get that piece. He was not interested in that, and he started to walk. He walked up this gully and over across onto the brow of the hill, looking out over the Old City. The most spectacular view of the Old City, anywhere in that immediate area, the East Jerusalem. And he turned to the group and said, “This is the piece. Get this piece.” Well, he could have said, “If you were in London, get Buckingham Palace.” I mean, this was a place where the Supreme Court Building was going to be built. It was a green zone, wasn’t going to be any building on it, that’s why the Supreme Court Building had been built. There was concern about archeological digs. It was contested because it was appropriated Arab property from East Jerusalem; but Israel, the Jewish side of the community, was the governing body so it — I can’t begin to list all of the problems why this was not going to be available. 

Sheri Dew: It wasn’t possible. 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Yeah. And about halfway through it, he said, “Don’t tell me your problems. Just get the property.” And walked off. So anyway, there we are. That’s the property we’re on, some many months later, and as a tribute to a lot of people who work very hard. Bob Taylor and Bob Thorne and Fred Schwendeman and Bob Smith and David Galbraith especially, and a whole host of people who lived with this. But one miracle after another, the right person at the right time, the right committee in the right hour, the Knesset in the right mood at the right moment, and on and on and on. And so there we are. We had the building two-thirds of the way up before we got a building permit. Now, we could have been told to shut down. They would have had every right to say, “You were ahead of the game. You were too fast.” We weren’t illegal, we were just eager; but they didn’t. We were there, and we’ve been there for 50 years now, and 50 in terms of the total program, not 50 in that building, but it’s a wonderful thing for the students of BYU to have a Jerusalem Center Project.

President Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, right, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stand together at the BYU Jerusalem Center in Jerusalem on Saturday, April 14, 2018. Elder Holland told students at Utah State University on April 23, 2021, that perfect leadership is exemplified by the Savior Jesus Christ.

President Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, right, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stand together at the BYU Jerusalem Center in Jerusalem on Saturday, April 14, 2018. Elder Holland told students at Utah State University on April 23, 2021, that perfect leadership is exemplified by the Savior Jesus Christ.

Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

17:40

Sheri Dew: Oh, my goodness. Sister Holland, what would you add to that from what you observed?

Sister Patricia T. Holland: What I observed is just totally what my husband was able to participate in. He is a man with perfect faith. His patriarchal blessing says he’s blessed with perfect faith. Because he has perfect faith, he has a lot of confidence there isn’t anything that can’t be done. He just, kind of like what he said President Tanner said: he would never say that cannot happen if he thought it was the right thing to do, no matter how hard it was. I watched him — sometimes he took calls from Jerusalem all night long with President Hinckley, which was such a hard time for him, too; so I saw his relationship with President Hinckley, with President Hunter, President Faust. What a beautiful relationship they contributed, not just to him, but to my marriage; but I just have to say that he is a man of miracles because he believes that it could be done.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: President Monson used to kid us. He said, “Jeff, you’re the only man in the Church who’s on a first-name basis with the entire rabbinic community in Jerusalem.” Because they all met me at the airport with these signs: “Jeff, go home.” Really. One of the trips in when it was at its most emotional, when it was at its most heated, with hundreds, many days and sometimes thousands turning into the streets, because they didn’t know what was going on. They just knew that somehow we were invading their space. So they met us at the airport and the stewardess came on and said, “We’d like everybody to deplane now except Mr. and Mrs. Holland.” Well, we knew there’s a little message in that. So they had everybody get off the plane and then they took us off and took us through the back part. They took us back to the warehouse part of the airline terminal. We were back with the food servers and all kinds of UPS people and we could hear this dull roar outside; but it was, I don’t know, 500 yeshiva students who were protesting our arrival. How they knew we were coming, how they knew what flight we were on, I don’t know. And they weren’t mean, they certainly weren’t violent.

Sister Patricia T. Holland: But they didn’t bother us because we were protected.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: They didn’t hurt us, but they were out there with signs saying, “Mormons belong in Salt Lake City” and “Jeff, go home.” So it was an international incident. We went, over one period of time, I went over to spend 10 days doing nothing but interviews. I think I had 40 interviews in that period of time. 

Sheri Dew: With the press?

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: With the press, just trying to tell our side of the story that we were not, for one thing, we were not a missionary center. This was not going to be a proselyting center. That was what people were saying and I guess fearing, but we just looked for a chance to tell our side of the story, and we were blessed in that regard. Blessed and given things to say in interviews that I never would have known to say then and wouldn’t have remembered to say afterwards, but just the love of the Lord and the help of heaven through that period. And it sort of turned the tide at a time when it really was beginning to get serious about how to adequately tell our story and not have it look increasingly like the Church was doing something wrong, or at least doing something unkind.

Sister Patricia T. Holland: He told the students that they would have to sign a handbook of rules, but in that handbook of rules the paramount thing was that they couldn’t proselyte, because they would just have sent us right back home, building or not. They would have taken the building over had they seen us as proselyting. They said, “We’ve lost too many of our people to the Holocaust, to these wars, we can’t lose any more.”

21:58

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: They kept speaking about the spiritual Holocaust.

Sister Patricia T. Holland: And so they did. The students there are still aware that they have to do that, but interestingly enough — we were talking with a mayor who at that time was [Mayor Theodor “Teddy”] Kollek. And I remember my husband showing him the Jerusalem Center, sitting down, looking at the view. And he hadn’t really made any comments as they walked through the building. And as he got to the view, he said, “Well, you’ve taken a prime piece of property and made it the most beautiful building in the city.” And then he said, “And I know your students are not going to proselyte, but what are you gonna do with the light in their eyes?” 

Sheri Dew: So when I think about your lives together: you’ve had such diverse and rich experiences, many of them very much together, so let’s talk about the unusual assignment you received to go preside over the area in Chile, for what, two years?

Elder Jeffrey D. Holland, left, shakes hands with Chile President Sebastian Pinera at the Chilean presidential palace. They are joined by Elder Jorge F. Zeballos, far left, and Elder Francisco J. Vinas.

Elder Jeffrey D. Holland, left, shakes hands with Chile President Sebastian Pinera at the Chilean presidential palace. They are joined by Elder Jorge F. Zeballos, far left, and Elder Francisco J. Vinas.

Credit: Photo courtesy of the South America South Area

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Well, yeah, let me give you the background on that. President Hinckley had told us where he wanted two of the brethren to go before he said who the two would be. He said, “I’m toying with the idea of having two members of the Twelve go out to the Philippines and to Chile.” These were high growth areas, very high growth; and as a result, some inactivity, considerable inactivity in some areas, but a lot of growth with a lot of potential, and essentially the same history. Created as areas at the same time, same number of stakes, same number of missions, roughly the same number of members. Well, I came home from that meeting, I said, “Honey, get ready. We’re on our way to the Philippines,” because I was the 11th member of 12. President, then-Elder Eyring with Sister Eyring’s health, I knew that probably wouldn’t happen. So I said, “Well, I know we’re going. I’m the youngest there by quite a bit, and I’m the junior available and get ready.” So he calls us in, we’re all ready to hear about the Philippines. He said, “You’re going to Chile.” Well, we just — you could have knocked us over with a feather, and we didn’t know any Spanish. I couldn’t have ordered an empanada. I didn’t know anything about it. And we said, “Well, let us at least go — You do know that we don’t speak Spanish?” He says, “Yeah, I do know that you don’t speak Spanish.” — And I said, “Well, let us go to the MTC.” “Oh no, no, no, we haven’t got time for that. Just grab a dictionary. You’re quick studies. Just go.” So in six weeks, we were gone, and Elder and Sister Oaks, as newlyweds, were going to go spend their honeymoon in the Philippines, in Manila. 

So we got out there, and we were only going to go for a year; actually it was going to actually work out to be about 11 months. And I knew I needed to meet the missions and the missionaries and the stake presidents. So we started in the north and just went from Arica to Punta Arenas. We were going as fast and as hard as we could, didn’t spend an ounce of time worrying about learning Spanish or anything else, but acquired a little as we went. 

So about, I don’t know, two-thirds of the way in, started the new year, we were actually thinking, “We haven’t got long left to finish up here. We better hurry.” President Hinckley calls and says, “Well, you probably actually are doing some good.” So — yeah, it was a Gordon B. Hinckley compliment — “So why don’t you stay another year?” And they said the same thing to the Oaks. So we did, and so it turned out to be just a little under two years, 23 months kind of thing. And we learned enough Spanish to have fun. And in the second year, I got a little more serious about learning it, but we’d have been more organized about things if we’d have hadn’t been on the run from day one that first year, but it paid off. The word was we were in the area and having these meetings and talking to the members and doing all we could do with the missionaries. And the long and the short of it is — and I’ll let Pat say what she wants to say about it — but we were unprepared to love it as much as we loved it. We loved everything about it. We loved the people, we loved the language, we loved the music, we loved our non-member neighbors, we just loved everything about it, and had gone into it so totally anxious, not knowing the language, never having had any Latin experience. All of my experience had been in Europe or England, the Nordics, that part of the world. So just shows, — we’ve used that with missionaries, by the way, including senior couples, including mission presidents, a lot of people to say, “Don’t judge, don’t worry, don’t fret, don’t crawl in the corner and shed tears, you’re all going to be unexpectedly, delightfully surprised about how you respond to the area,” because we simply adored every minute of it, and it was the least likely thing in the world that could have happened.

27:27

Sheri Dew: So, Sister Holland, what was your reaction and experience in Chile?

Sister Patricia T. Holland: I just was proud of my husband. I thought, “This is wonderful. If President Hinckley thinks the Church needs to be developed in places like the Philippines or Chile, then he’ll go and he’ll do what he can do, and it will make a difference.” And he says we didn’t have any Spanish, but we both determined that we were going to learn enough Spanish to speak the gospel Spanish, Church Spanish, and I could go to the grocery store. And we did love it. The people are so devoted. There’s something really special about the Chileans and their faith, and just we loved being with them.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: I’ve only seen the gift of tongues once in my life, in my whole life. Now, setting aside the language that missionaries learn — I mean, there are ways that that gift of tongues is given to missionaries and a lot of others, but to actually just see the gift — I only saw once and I saw it from her. We were in Viña del Mar, a lovely sea coast place in a stake conference in the Saturday night meeting, and I was having her speak and she said, “I think I need to speak on tithing.” I said, “Honey, whoa.” This is six months into our experience or something. I said, “We don’t know the vocabulary for tithing. We don’t. I don’t know how you can do that.” And she said, “Well, I don’t know how I can do it either. But that’s what I think I’m supposed to do.” So she stood up, and for 20 minutes, spoke flawless Spanish. My Spanish was good enough that I knew what she was saying or whether she was in the right or wrong. And we actually didn’t know the word for tithing, but she spoke unassisted on the law of tithing. And I’ve never seen that before in my life, where she did not know the language and didn’t know the vocabulary and didn’t know the verb tense, but stood up and gave that sermon. So we had those kinds of blessings, we really did. We had miracles up and down the land.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife Sister Patricia Holland walk at the Benbow family farm in Castle Frome, England on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. Holland’s 4th great-grand parents owned the farm and converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1840 through Wilford Woodruff.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife Sister Patricia Holland walk at the Benbow family farm in Castle Frome, England on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. Holland’s 4th great-grand parents owned the farm and converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1840 through Wilford Woodruff.

Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Sheri Dew: You had been an area president in England.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Right.

Sheri Dew: Now an area president in Chile. 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: Yeah. 

Sheri Dew: And very different patterns of growth of the Church right in those two areas. So now taking both of those forward: what are some key learnings from those two experiences presiding over an area that are helping you today?

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: One was, that we saw in Chile, that people really will and can join the Church. We’d beaten our head against the wall often in Great Britain or Western Europe or Scandinavia, the places where we’d served, it was really hard. You fought to get convert baptisms. In Chile — call it believing blood, call it the promises to the people of Lehi, call it what you want — but we just saw wonderful, wonderful people in significant numbers come into the Church. What we had to do is make sure that they stayed and that the transition was firm. Those were days when we were just beginning to talk about retention, and Chile had had a lot of baptisms for decades prior to that; but they weren’t in Church, they weren’t in sacrament meeting, they weren’t going to the temple. So we tried to introduce an era, not claiming any great success, except that we really worked hard at it, that we continued to try to bring people in, but we would do everything we knew how to do to keep them. And it really helped form principles and ideas and habits that I have now 25 years later, 20 years later, to make sure that we teach that way; and that if I work with the missionaries, I’m talking that way about how they get them and keep them, and retention is a built-in part of of the missionary experience. And that, coupled with going to the less-active — we turned the missionaries loose on the less-active and we said, “Just go back to the legions that we’ve lost.” And we were at one point, we were bringing as many people back as we were baptizing.

32:18

Sister Patricia T. Holland: They would have a cousin or an aunt or whatever they brought with them, so it was probably the best way to use missionaries.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: It was great proselyting. There’s always somebody behind that door that hadn’t been baptized yet. 

Sheri Dew: So you’ve touched on missionary work. Let’s go down that just a little bit further, because I’ve heard both of you speak to missionaries more than once; and Elder Holland, I’ve heard you say, “No young man loved his mission more than I did.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: That’s right. 

Sheri Dew: So now, with all the experience you’ve had in various areas of the Church and so forth — what do you wish every young man and young woman knew? Think about all these audiences you’ve stood in front of, taught, and tried to motivate and inspire. What do you wish a young man or young woman knew as they get ready to leave?

Sister Patricia T. Holland: That they don’t have to be afraid. They don’t have to approach Church work, missionary work especially, with fear, and they can develop faith. And we would hope that that’s what we were sent to do as we went to the various missions and spoke to them, and my husband was very good at teaching those principles, teaching the way to do missionary work, because we got to know missionaries in such a way that we never would have before, especially in Chile. We had nine stakes, and we could focus on missionaries, so we knew their emotional problems and the fears: “Am I going to be accepted here? What will I do when I go home? Will I have anything at home?” Many things turning around in their minds. I wish they could go with peace; and that’s something that we’ve learned to speak about, is that they’ll be blessed. They need to know that there are miracles in the Church. They’ve happened, and they will again and again and again.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: What I wish more missionaries had ready and with them in their heart and soul as they get ready to leave — you’re talking about them launching off on their mission — we were sad that not enough had read the Book of Mormon. Some had. Some had kind of read it in seminary, but — and I was one of those in an earlier day, maybe that’s why I was sensitive about it — but if missionaries come with a firm, powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon, they’re halfway there. They’re two-thirds the way there, and because of all the ancillary things that go with that, the Spirit that comes with that, the doctrine that comes with it, the love of the scriptures that they’re going to try to put in somebody else’s life that isn’t just for them, they’re going to help Mr. and Mrs. Gonzalez learn to do that. So if you’re narrowing it down to just some really basics and single things, that would have to be one of them. 

Another is — and this is something Pat taught repeatedly all over England and all over Chile — that it really is, and we say this, and we have to work at not having it be a cliche, but it really is the Spirit that does the converting. We’re supposed to get out there, and work as hard as we can, but then at some point, the hard work is done and the Spirit has to do the converting and the teaching. So if a missionary can learn what that is, know how to feel it, know how to find it, how to let it happen, how to get it into a meeting and watch it come across the face, into the hearts of the people sitting across from them in the kitchen, wherever they’re teaching this lesson. That’s something a missionary probably doesn’t know going out. There’s probably no way for them to understand it till they get there, probably begin to see it in the MTCs. But just those, those are really basic, and we repeat them so often that maybe people take them for granted, but they’re still true. Cliches really are true originally, we just need to keep teaching them and keeping them fresh. But it’s been one of the joys of our life. To teach missionaries is about as fun as anything we’re ever called on to do. So that’s the icing on the cake for a General Authority.

36:41
Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the first episode of a two-part special featuring an interview with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife, Sister Patricia Terry Holland, conducted by Sister Sheri Dew. I’m your host Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast. And don’t forget to join us for part two of this special conversation with the Hollands and Sister Dew and if you enjoyed their messages, and other messages shared in this podcast, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests and to my producer KellieAnn Halvorsen and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates of the Church on theChurchNews.com

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