HANNOVER, Germany — There are “many, many, many reasons” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has dedicated his life to Jesus Christ and His Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But one has special significance.
“This is God’s very truth,” he said in a special meeting in Hannover, Germany. “And I know it because of what it does for my children.”
Offering remarks on Nov. 6 from the same stand occupied by a Primary choir, Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles directed his thoughts to them — and his own children, grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
“I know now what I knew yesterday, and what I will know tomorrow: This Church will bless those children,” he said.
With his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, Elder Holland began a three-country European ministry visit in Hannover. There he addressed young adults, single members, youth and missionaries, and participated in leadership training. Elder Holland was accompanied 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.
His stake conference message — defined by the tender singing of the young choir performing Primary songs — was broadcast to stakes in Northeastern Germany.
Quoting President Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder Holland said: “My plea — and I wish I were more eloquent in voicing it — is a plea to save the children. Too many of them walk with pain and fear, in loneliness and despair. God bless us to be mindful of them, to lift them and guide them as they walk in dangerous paths, to pray for them, to bless them, to love them, to keep them secure until they can run with strength of their own.”
The visit marked Elder Holland’s first extended international assignment since a sudden illness left him fighting for his life and unable to walk.
“I can not run anymore,” he said. “But these children can run toward truth and happiness and the future — toward every good thing that you and God in Heaven want for them. But they won’t be able to do it on their own. Not now. Not soon. Only later, with maturity and with help.
“And so I repeat: Of the many, many testimonies that I bear and convictions that I have, not the least of them in this restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the precious place that a child holds and what this Church does for that child. This morning it is these children — your children. May it ever be so that they are safe and protected in our care and in this gospel.”
The next generation
Elder Holland’s trip — which also will include stops in Sweden and Finland — was in many ways “a walk down memory lane.” The Hollands lived in Solihull, England, from 1990 to 1993, while Elder Holland, then of the Seventy, served as president of the Church’s Europe North Area.
“We are returning to places where we served before, … all of which we visited time and time again when we were here. And so we are very, very pleased to be back.”
Elder Holland also spoke in each meeting about looking forward — asking youth to look forward to their missions and missionaries to look forward to a life of devoted service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In a special youth meeting following the stake conference, Elder Holland reflected on his life and his testimony.
Raised in St. George, Utah, Elder Holland said his friends mattered to him. “So when your parents ask you about your friends, do not get mad. Do not get irritated. …
“I would not send anybody out in the winter without a coat. I would not send a child off to school without breakfast. I would not, in my generation, send anybody to bed at night without family prayer. Then why on earth would I not care about your friends and how you spend your time?”
When it came time for missionary service, Elder Holland questioned. His family didn’t have much money, and he had a college scholarship. Plus he was dating the future Sister Holland.
But because of good friends, especially his future wife, he entered the mission field wearing a green corduroy suit.
And everything changed.
“I can not tell you what a crisis it would have been had I not gone,” he said. “It changed everything in my life — refined it, improved it. Everything. Everything that matters to me came through the 24-month passage of my mission.”
The Church has great confidence in its youth and young adults — and its missionaries, he said.
“The next generation, the future, is sitting in this room,” he said.
This generation, Elder Holland added, is better than he was at their age. “You are a better generation with more future, more fortune, more prospects and more promises.”
‘You are the future of the Church’
Just as Elder Holland directed his message to youth toward their mission, he directed the thoughts of missionaries to the rest of their lives.
A mission is not just a chance to study and teach the gospel and learn discipline and, for some, a new language. It is not a break from college, a site-seeing trip or a gap year or two.
“This is forever,” he said.
“You will either be better or worse [after returning from missionary service]. But you will never be the same. What you were when you left does not exist anymore. You have seen too much, you know too much, you have been taught too much.” — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
He promised the missionaries that they would go home different than when they arrived. “You will either be better or worse. But you will never be the same. What you were when you left does not exist anymore. You have seen too much, you know too much, you have been taught too much.”
Elder Holland said missionaries who ask those they teach to change their lives for the Church, only to return home and not be true to it themselves, are “flagrantly compromising their integrity.”
It is something Elder Holland cannot understand.
“It means too much to me,” he said. “My mission, the message, the change, the privilege, the blessings, the concept, the gifts, they mean everything to me.”
Elder Holland said, over the last 60 years, his mission has continued to inform his daily decisions.
During a time when military conflict rages in Europe, when refugees have fled nations and when inflation and living expenses are rising, Elder Holland spoke of the troubles — financial, physical, economic or personal — that life brings.
Elder Holland expressed deep empathy to anyone whose life is “interrupted or perhaps broken.”
Why is there hope in the world? he asked. “Because whatever the question, the answer is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
God loves broken things, said Elder Holland. The Savior taught that “unless a man cast away a kernel of grain, there will be no harvest at harvest time. ...
“It takes an act of faith to believe that financial problems can be overcome, that good health can be recovered or compensated for, that marriages that are struggling can be helped or healed, that children who stray may return,” he said.
Leaving his apostolic testimony of Jesus Christ, Elder Holland closed with a simple declaration: “Everything I have and everything I want can, symbolically, be found within the walls of this building and the brotherhood and sisterhood that you represent in our care for each other, our concern for each other, our forgiveness of each other, and our faith, hope and charity.”