Twenty-five years ago, President Gordon B. Hinckley called Elder Jeffrey R. Holland into his office and gave him a special assignment: Move to the United Kingdom and preside over what was then the Europe North Area.
Elder Holland, then a fairly new member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, and his wife, Patricia, and a son, David, lived in Solihull, England for three years, from 1990-1993.
“We loved all of your nations, we loved your languages but we especially loved the people — we especially loved you,” Elder Holland said as he addressed a conference originating in the Edinburgh Scotland Stake Center on June 7 and broadcast to 56 stakes throughout Northern Europe.
“It was a tearful day for us when our service came to an end, and we returned to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City.”
Elder Holland spoke of his days as a young man serving as a missionary in Great Britain when he “read the Book of Mormon seriously and voraciously for the spirit it gave to me. It was while reading this sacred record that I felt — again and again — the undeniable whispering of the Holy Ghost declaring to my soul the truthfulness of its message. To those first convictions have been added, one way or another, endless other quickening moments and sanctifying manifestations that give meaning and purpose to my life.”
He bore testimony of the Book of Mormon as “a true witness — another testament and a new covenant — that Jesus is the Christ” and that Joseph Smith “was and is a prophet of God.”
He spoke of the conversion of his great-great-great-grandfather on the Isle of Man in the earliest days of the Restoration, who said: “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so” (George Q. Cannon, in Andrew Jenson, Historical Record 6:174).
Elder Holland’s visit coincided with the 175th anniversary of the Church in the United Kingdom. Elder Orson Pratt of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated Scotland for the preaching of the gospel in May 1840, having climbed a hill near Edinburgh Castle and asking the Lord for 200 souls who would receive the gospel. By the time Elder Pratt left Scotland 10 months later, his prayer had been answered, as witnessed by his entry in the Millennial Star: “On the 30th of March (1841) I left upwards of 200 disciples under the watch-care of Elder George D. Watt, a faithful and humble brother from Preston in England. The prospect is still cheering in that city (Edinburgh) and no doubt there will be hundreds who will yet embrace the message which God has sent to them” (Breck England, “Gospel Seeds in Scottish Soil,” Ensign, February 1987).
During his travels, Elder Holland addressed the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Foreign Affairs in the House of Lords at the UK Parliament on Wednesday, June 10. (Please see Church News, June 14, p. 11.)
Accompanied by Elder José A. Teixeira of the Seventy and president of the Europe Area of the Church, and Elder Clifford T. Herbertson, an Area Seventy, Elder Holland presided over a priesthood leadership conference and met with missionaries in the Scotland Edinburgh Mission.
Among other activities, Elder Holland, Elder Teixeira, Elder Patrick Kearon of the Seventy and first counselor in the Europe Area presidency, and Elder Herbertson met with missionaries in the England Birmingham Mission on June 11 and with missionaries in the England London and England London South missions on June 12.
On the evening of June 11, Elder Holland spoke at a devotional for young single adults in the Harris Manchester College Chapel at Oxford.
Elder Holland's eldest son, Matthew S. Holland, who is president of Utah Valley University, was in Great Britain on university business and delivered a lecture at Oxford University on June 11 on the subject of Abraham Lincoln’s leadership qualities.