PROVO, Utah — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has put full-time missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on a timer — set at 59 years, seven months, three weeks and two days.
For this member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, that marks the time from when he finished his own full-time mission in Great Britain to when he spoke at the weekly Provo Missionary Training Center devotional Tuesday evening, May 10.
“I pray that 59 years, seven months, three weeks and two days from now, you will still feel about your mission the way I still feel about mine, and the way I want you to feel tonight — and tomorrow and the next day,” he said.
It was one of many references to time made by Elder Holland, as he spoke to the nearly 450 full-time young adult and senior missionaries at the Provo MTC, as well as the hundreds of others viewing the devotional broadcast at other MTCs worldwide.
He spoke of Greenwich Mean Time. Study time. Lifetime.
The Apostle was accompanied by his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, who also spoke. They were joined by their son, Elder Matthew S. Holland, a General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Paige Holland, as well as a number of family members and friends.
Greenwich Mean Time and mission time
Elder Holland briefly explained how Greenwich is longitude 0 degrees and how Greenwich Mean Time serves as the international standard of civil time, with both making Greenwich the starting point of time zones across the globe. He called his missionary listeners to make their mission service the Greenwich of their lives.
“If you do this right, if you do this the way God intends you to do it, your life forever will be marked — from before your mission and after your mission. It will be that Greenwich mark in your soul.”
That has been the case for Elder Holland, saying he has thought about his mission every day since and how it has shaped and formed his life.
“That has been true for me. Every significant thing I have, everything that I cherish,” he said, listing marriage, children, grandchildren, associations, opportunities, education and profession, “everything that has added up to make me whatever I am has come through that little, narrow, 24-month channel of my mission.”
He added: “It has been that for me, and I plead and pray and hope it will be that for you. … This experience is being put in your hands for you to make exactly what you will want it to be.”
A ‘Preach My Gospel’ abridgment
To help the training missionaries, Elder Holland offered highlighted instruction from “Preach My Gospel,” calling it his “abridgment” — similar to abridgments found in the scriptures.
He emphasized the value of “Preach My Gospel” in helping missionaries individualize messages, rather than recite the six lessons he memorized and gave as a missionary six decades earlier.
“You are doing it a different way,” he said, explaining that missionaries will give different lessons to different recipients because of differing circumstances and needs. “It is going to take skill, inspiration, wisdom and all the planning and preparation you can give them. You’ve got to be a lot better than I ever was, or my generation of missionaries ever were, to do this.”
A challenge — with accountability
He began with a First Presidency statement found in the introduction of “Preach My Gospel” when it was first released in 2004: “We challenge you to rise to a new sense of commitment to assist our Father in Heaven in His glorious work.”
That “challenge” — or invitation — from the First Presidency requires missionaries to be accountable, and not just during a mission tenure but forever, Elder Holland said.
“ ‘Accountability does not come only at the end of your mission. It is a principle that influences how you begin, how you think and feel about the responsibility the Lord has given you, how you approach your work, and how well you endure’ for the rest of your life,” said Elder Holland, citing Chapter 8, “How Do I Use Time Wisely?” from “Preach My Gospel.”
He included a declaration from Chapter 1, “What Is My Purpose as A Missionary?”: “Obedience to Jesus Christ is a lifelong commitment.”
‘Your Purpose’ and the gospel of Jesus Christ
He underscored the “active and engaging” verbs of “invite” and “come” and “help” in “Your Purpose” for missionaries, also from the first chapter: “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel though faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”
The Apostle reminded missionaries that their purpose contains the gospel of Jesus Christ — faith, repentance, baptism, confirmation, enduring and doing good — and that it is to help individuals understand both the fall of man and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. “No one should ever teach the fall of man without teaching the Atonement of Christ.”
Reminding listeners that the gospel can be found in the Book of Mormon and other scriptures as well as the teachings of prophets and apostles, Elder Holland shared three quotes from “Preach My Gospel”:
- “The Book of Mormon, combined with the Spirit, is your most powerful resource in conversation. … An essential part of conversion is receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true. (Chapter 5, “What is the Role of the Book of Mormon?”)
- “The doctrine of Christ can change how people believe and how they live; it also directs how you work and focus your efforts.” (Chapter 1)
- “Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none.” (Chapter 5, quoting Joseph Smith).
Study and ‘astonish’ with power and authority
He showed how Doctrine and Covenants 11:21 details the Lord’s study directives: “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men.”
Of personal and companion study time, he said: “You are only as good as those morning hours. I’ve said before … you make or break your mission from 6:30 to 9:30 in the morning.”
Elder Holland called on missionaries to teach the gospel by the Spirit and with power and authority.
And he called on the missionaries to “be astonishing,” noting that “astonish” is used frequently in the Book of Mormon to describe acts of missionary-type figures. He explained the word’s roots can be traced back to “thunder.”
“God is willing to arm you with thunder,” he said, adding he wasn’t talking about volume or tone of voice or theatrics. “This is God-given power to teach, and you teach in your own way — it can be a still, small, almost silent voice. … But it still comes with the force of an earthquake.”
He invited missionaries to savor, embrace and love it all — the good days and the bad, the challenges and the successes. “This Greenwich demarcation down the middle of your soul is only going to come once. Don’t miss it. Don’t miss a day, don’t miss an hour … because it is God’s very truth.”
Sister Holland: Fear and faith
In her remarks, Sister Holland also underscored a time element — an hour.
“I wish I could have each one of you in my home, one by one, for just an hour or so — that I could put my arms around you and tell you how much the Hollands love you, but most especially to convince you how much your Father in Heaven loves you,” she said, emphasizing that the decision to teach and testify and share the gospel is “the most important decision up to this point in your life.”
She acknowledged that training missionaries can feel uneasy and frightened at the start of their service. “It’s OK to feel scared,” she said, adding that “this is the most real thing you’ll ever do.”
She cited Hebrews 10:31 — “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” — and paraphrased verse 36, which reads: “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”
Sister Holland encouraged the missionaries to always exercise faith. “Faith isn’t really faith until that’s all you have to hold onto,” she said.
“I know this is God’s work. I know He loves you. I love you and I know Elder Holland loves you — more than anything else in the world, he loves missionaries,” she said. “We have testimonies that are not just something to hope for or believe in — we know. We know, sisters and elders, that this is God’s kingdom. You are doing His work, and therefore you will have His miraculous blessing to be with you.”