HANNOVER, Germany — Speaking in a picturesque city located at the crossing point of railways and motorways in the heart of Germany, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland offered a powerful testimony: “God is in our lives,” he said.
“I want to begin with the declaration that God loves you and He loves me. And He loves us in spite of our inadequacies and in spite of our mistakes …,” said Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “We are asked to love Him with all our heart, might, mind and strength. The reason He can ask that is because that is the way He loves us.
“When you are in doubt, and when you are in need — and including when you do not have the answers to prayers that you thought you would have or wanted to have or pled to have or wept to have — remember, above all else, that God loves you the way He has asked us to love Him.”
Speaking on Friday, Nov. 4, to Latter-day Saints under the age of 35 — the first day of a three-country global ministry visit to Europe — Elder Holland turned his thoughts to his wife, Sister Patricia Terry Holland — who has ancestry in this part of Europe and who, a few years ago, was so ill doctors did not expect her to live.
“Maybe it is appropriate that in these lands, in the language of her roots and her origin, that she can be with us tonight — a testimony of the power of the priesthood, the love of God and answers to prayers,” said Elder Holland.
In the fall of 2014, Sister Holland went to bed with the chest cold and woke up the next morning unable to breathe.
Elder Holland and his children sat with Sister Holland for days as her lung capacity deteriorated to 15 percent. A pulmonologist who was also a Latter-day Saint asked Elder Holland to bring his family together. “We had doctors there, we had nurses there, we had technicians there, we had everybody there. They were all crying, except for her.”
Sister Holland was ministering, helping everyone she loves deal with what she thought would be an inevitability.
Elder Holland is not sure why his wife recovered and other people equally ill do not, why he and his family were granted the answer to their prayers. Or why some families do not experience a similar miracle.
But with his wife by his side, after traveling across the globe as a special witness of Jesus Christ, Elder Holland testified of miracles and God’s love.
It is a powerful testimony that he not only shared at the end of his remarks, but also at the beginning.
“God hears and answers prayers,” he said.
Elder Holland told the congregation that he and Sister Holland are humbled and honored that “so many good people doing so many good things” had gathered for the meeting.
This, he said, is the “greatest of all dispensations,” because unlike dispensations of the past, there is no way to flee Babylon, only the responsibility to conquer it.
“You are being called on to do what no other generation, no other dispensation, has had to do. You are to cease fleeing, make an about-face and confront Babylon and be victorious.”
Many Latter-day Saints at the meeting felt strengthened by Elder Holland’s testimony to deal with their own challenges.
Eliza Staiger came to the meeting with a prayer in her heart and the desire to be brave. “So many of our friends are leaving the Church right now,” she said, expressing her hope to “know how to help them.”
She drew strength from Elder Holland’s testimony. “He testified of things I also know to be true,” she said. “You could feel his love for the gospel, for Jesus Christ and for the whole Church.”
She left the meeting with renewed strength and joy to share her testimony.
Rachel Zander said her challenge is “finding her spot in the Church” — especially after being unable to attend Church during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have to find our spot again, find where we belong,” she said. “It was important to feel the Spirit. Sometimes it is not about what people say, it is how you feel. It felt good to be here.”
Sara Haferstroh came to the meeting seeking answers. She was surprised to find them. During her remarks, Sister Holland asked the congregation to seek hope and charity. Her words confirmed the feelings Haferstroh has had recently while reading the Book of Mormon.
Tobias Kroes said many German Latter-day Saints deal with anxiety and loneliness. While listening to Elder Holland, he found peace and understanding that life can be a refiner’s fire.
Sebastian Harth just started dental school and is the only Latter-day Saint in the program. He longs for the strength to not be influenced by the world. As he listened to Elder Holland’s testimony, he realized his struggles are an opportunity to get to know God in a way he would not without his experiences.
Sebastian Keil listened as Elder Holland spoke of the state of the world. “There is no wilderness, no place to flee,” he said. “We are called to be in the world but not of the world.”
‘The power of God’
Elder Holland was accompanied to the meeting by Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Marcia B. Nielson, and Elder Erich W. Kopischke of the Europe Central Area Presidency and a General Authority Seventy and his wife, Sister Christiane G. Kopischke.
Elder Kopischke asked the congregation to open their ears and hearts to Elder Holland’s message. “I promise you the Spirit will speak to you,” he said.
Sister Kopischke spoke of overcoming anxiety with the help of the Lord. “The scriptures give me knowledge and teach me about Christ’s character,” she said. “The Lord helped [others] in their hour of need and the Lord helps me.”
Sister Nielson spoke of learning to hear the voice of the Lord — just as hearing aids amplify her ability to hear the spoken word. “We all have the opportunity to hear Him better,” she said.
Elder Nielson, the former executive director of the Church’s Missionary Department, spoke about the challenges the pandemic brought to missionary work — especially initially as the pandemic intensified and nations closed their borders.
Quoting Elder Holland, he spoke about the understanding that the Church “didn’t come this far only to come this far.” Missionary work moved forward because of and in spite of the pandemic. “Your amazing generation performed a miracle,” he said.
Sister Holland spoke of her heritage in this part of the world and the strength she gains from it.
After eight decades of living, she reflected on what it would be like to be a young woman again. If she could go back, she wondered how she would live life with more hope.
“I would simplify. I would just make life much more simple,” she said. “I would just like to start over and practice finding joy in the simple things.”
Faith is the belief in God, she said. Hope is to feel His love. And charity is for “Him to be able to work through us.”
“There is only one power, and that is the power of God,” she said.