Why the United Kingdom will always be Elder Holland’s ‘spiritual home’

An emotional Elder Jeffrey R. Holland rose to speak at the dedication of the Solihull Ward Chapel in England on Nov. 11, 1995. “I am home,” he told the British Saints. 

A newly called member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the time, Elder Holland and his family had spent the previous three years living in Solihull — a town 10 miles southeast of Birmingham — while he served as Europe North Area president from 1990 to 1994. 

“It seems like there has not been a day since we left that we haven’t thought of you,” said Elder Holland, as he looked out over the chapel filled to capacity. “We love this country, this locality, and especially this people. This is my spiritual home.” (Ensign, February 1996)

Elder Holland expressed similar sentiments and emotion during a devotional honoring the 25th anniversary of the Solihull Ward Chapel dedication on Aug. 16. He was joined by Elder Patrick Kearon, senior President of the Seventy. Their messages were broadcast from Salt Lake City to 10 stakes in the Birmingham England Mission.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland is pictured with Solihull residents Pat and Paul Wilkinson and two of their children, Peter and Catherine, following the dedication of the Solihull Ward Chapel on Nov. 11, 1995.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland is pictured with Solihull residents Pat and Paul Wilkinson and two of their children, Peter and Catherine, following the dedication of the Solihull Ward Chapel on Nov. 11, 1995. Credit: Michelle Young

“I was born in the United States of America physically, but I was born to spirituality and eternal life in the United Kingdom,” Elder Holland said, referencing the strong testimony he developed as a young full-time missionary in the British Mission.

As he continued to reflect on his formative experiences in England, Elder Holland quoted an inscription he discovered on a small church in Leicestershire while serving as area president. 

“In the year of 1653, when all things sacred were either demolished or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley built this church, whose singular praise it is to have done the best of things in the worst of times, and hoped them in the most calamitous,” the inscription stated.

Amid the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Elder Holland told the Saints in England gathered in their homes, “This is the time for our best effort, not our worst. This is a time for our greatest hope, not a retreat into calamity. We’re going to be OK. Everything is going be alright. This will pass.”

Location of Solihull, England, about 10 miles from Birmingham.
Location of Solihull, England, about 10 miles from Birmingham. Credit: Church News graphic

Pat Wilkinson, a longtime resident of Solihull whose husband currently presides over the Birmingham England Stake, said members in the area were uplifted by Elder Holland and Elder Kearon’s messages.

“The U.K. has been hit fairly hard by the coronavirus, and so have some of the European countries,” she said. “For some members, they’ve not been able to go to church since March. To people who live alone or can’t get out, that’s been really hard for them, in addition to all of the other trials and challenges that people are dealing with in life.”

The devotional strengthened faith and renewed hope, she said. “One member said to me they felt like Elder Holland and Elder Kearon were sitting in their front room talking to them.”

Elder Kearon, an England native who also served in the Europe Area presidency, showed the video “Men’s Hearts Shall Fail Them,” in which President Russell M. Nelson narrates his experience of being on an airplane when the wing’s engine caught fire. 

President Nelson was calm and did not fear because he knew he was living righteously. “If you’ve got faith, you can handle difficulties, knowing that with an eternal perspective, all will be well,” he said in the video. 

President Nelson’s message is for all — including those who may have strayed from the Church, Elder Kearon said.

“To those who have drifted, come back,” Elder Kearon continued. “To those who are fearful, listen to the Prophet. To those who are hurting, our Savior brings us peace in our bereavement, in our loss, in our sin, in our pain, and He wants joy for you.” 

Drawing on the Savior’s words in Doctrine and Covenants 38:7, he said, “We know where we came from, we know where we’re going. We know He’s in our midst. We know that we can find peace in troubled times.”

Elder Holland echoed Elder Kearon’s words: “Broken things are made whole. That’s the story of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“It takes broken clouds to nourish the earth. It takes broken earth to nourish grain. It takes broken grain to make bread, broken bread to nourish us. … Things are broken in order to be whole, in order to give life. And the most precious broken thing of all was the broken heart of the Son of God.”

“The Savior asks us for a broken heart and contrite Spirit,” he said. “That’s what we need to be prepared to give. That’s what our sacrificial gift is supposed to be.”

The Solihull Ward Chapel, located about 10 miles southeast of Birmingham, England.
The Solihull Ward Chapel, located about 10 miles southeast of Birmingham, England. Credit: Pat Wilkinson

Quoting English poet John Donne, Elder Holland said, “We ask our daily bread, and God never says, ‘You should have come yesterday.’ … [No, he says,] ‘Today if you will hear [my] voice, today I will hear yours.’ … If thou hast been benighted till now, wintered and frozen, clouded and eclipsed, damp and benumbed, smothered and stupefied till now, God yet comes to thee, not as in the dawning of the day, … but as the sun at [full] noon, to banish all shadows.”

He continued, “If you have a marriage in trouble, it could be healed right now. If you’re going to help this child or spouse or parent get closer to the gospel, it can happen right now. If you want to help the missionaries, you can do it right now. And soon enough, soon enough, we will be able to worship in the temples again … all times are His seasons.”

Elder Holland closed his message by reciting the English hymn “Jerusalem” written by William Blake — the same words he quoted from memory during the dedication of the Solihull Ward Chapel 25 years ago — and the closing stanza of which reads: 

“I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant land.”

The St Alphege Church on Solihull High Street dates back to the 13th century.
The St Alphege Church on Solihull High Street dates back to the 13th century. Credit: Bill Boaden via Geograph.org