Focus on children and youth, Elder Holland tells Spanish-speaking devotional in California

While in Ventura, California, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speaks to Spanish-speaking members from eight stakes and ministers one-by-one to an early morning seminary class

With the chapel filled and people standing in the foyers to hear, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told Spanish-speaking members in eight stakes around Ventura, California, “Les amamos, les amamos, les amamos” (“We love you, we love you, we love you”).

Elder Holland brought the love and greetings of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency with him to the devotional on Friday, Dec. 9.

At times speaking in Spanish and at times using a translator, Elder Holland testified of the truthfulness of the gospel and the great love the leaders have for the youth of the Church. 

“I want the young people of these stakes and in this devotional to understand why parents care and pay attention to your development and ask you to do certain things and act certain ways — that it matters to them who your friends are, and it matters what kind of friend you are. It matters how you spend your time and who you spend it with,” he said in the Ventura California Stake center.

He counseled parents to give increased attention to the children and youth, and he told the youth that the decade between 12 and 22 is a crucial time for them, full of making decisions that will impact the rest of their lives.

“I want every young man within the sound of my voice to commit to a mission, if you are healthy enough and well enough to go,” he said. “I’ve gone around this Church declaring what I declare to you tonight and that is no young man was more affected by a mission than I was. No one was more blessed by a mission than I.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks to Spanish-speaking members from eight stakes at a devotional at the Ventura California Stake center, Dec. 9, 2022. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Holland also asked the youth and leaders in the audience to be missionaries right now — especially among the Latino community around them — because “Dios vive, hermanos y hermanas, Dios vive. La iglesia es verdadera” (“God lives, brothers and sisters, God lives. The Church is true.”)

He said the Apostles feel the love and prayers of Church members around the world and are blessed by them. He told them he has experienced a miracle because of it — because two years ago this month, two weeks before Christmas, Elder Holland was told he might never walk again.

“But I walked in here tonight and stand at this pulpit through the hand of the Lord and the miracle of faith from people like you who pray for people like me,” he said. “I’m here because the Saints pray for the Brethren. And I’m so grateful. And that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come tonight — to tell you of my gratitude.””

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Ministering to a seminary class one by one

Before the Spanish-speaking devotional, Elder Holland met with the senior seminary class of the Thousand Oaks California Stake. 

Stake President Lee Mackay said a few families of the students had been praying for miracles for their children over the last few months, and they were overwhelmed when the miracles occurred. 

“As Elder Holland greeted each student by name and shook their hands around the room, I was able to watch as they felt the power of his and the Savior’s love for them,” President Mackay said. 

Ezra Teo, 17, said he was slightly nervous before the meeting — but he became calm as he played the piano in the room while the students waited for Elder Holland. Then the calmness remained while Elder Holland spoke with the class. That made him realize two things.

“First, although I might not have been overcome by the Spirit, the answers I received were just as profound. The answers were very simple but were the answers to my questions and prayers,” Ezra said. “Second, I cannot make or expect the Spirit to cause me to feel a certain way. The Spirit I had was already enough of a testimony to me that the words Elder Holland said were true.” 

There wasn’t enough time for Ezra to ask his own question, but he said the answers Elder Holland provided to those that did ask questions were — upon later reflection — answers to his own question in their own way.

Miriam McGregor, 18, said Elder Holland answered their questions of how they could feel God’s love — even if they didn’t think they deserved it; how they should deal with rejection as they plan for their future; and how they could strengthen their relationship with Heavenly Father. 

“From meeting Elder Holland I learned that the gospel is simple for a reason,” Miriam said. “If you don’t feel that you deserve God’s love, take someone else’s word for it until you can believe it yourself. He said to us, ‘Believe me, God loves you.’” 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Sister Tracy Y. Browning, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, visit with the senior seminary class of the Thousand Oaks California Stake before a devotional in Ventura, California, Dec. 9, 2022. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

She said that when Elder Holland was speaking, she felt like she understood the gospel completely.

“I felt the Spirit so strongly in that room, I will never forget that feeling. My friend said she wished we could stay there forever, just listening to him give us advice,” Miriam said.

President Mackay said the students had prayerfully and faithfully prepared for the meeting.

“His thoughtful and inspiring answers focused the students on Jesus Christ and His love, and on trusting the process and the leaders God has put in around us to help guide us,” President Mackay said. “We felt God’s love for all of us in that room through His witness, Elder Holland.”

Sister Tracy Y. Browning, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, joined Elder Holland for the weekend’s meetings in California. Miriam said she was excited when Sister Browning walked into the room as well, “wearing her famous glasses” she mentioned in her October 2022 general conference talk. 

“Here were servants of the Lord that knew without a doubt that the whole gospel was true. They have dedicated their whole lives to the Lord. For me, just being able to see their dedication and belief first hand was more powerful than their words,” Miriam said.

The seminary teacher, Charlotte Heathcote, said before Elder Holland walked into the room, she heard his voice in the hallway and recognized it as familiar, comforting and inspiring.

As she reflected on the experience, she had the impression that it was good that she knew Elder Holland’s voice.

“We need to be intentional about the voices we allow to have influence in our lives. I also felt impressed how important it is to be actively pursuing the gospel so that I recognize the Savior’s voice,” Heathcote said. “Prophets and Apostles point us to Christ.  If this experience didn’t change us, then what was the purpose?”

She said in the days since the experience, she has seen changes in her seminary class. They have a renewed commitment to seminary, more clarity in their identity as children of God and a confirmation that they are known and loved.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets Lana Zapata, a seminary student who had car trouble and arrived late to a meeting at the Ventura California Stake center. Thousand Oaks California Stake President Lee Mackay looks on, Dec. 9, 2022. | Elder Mark A. Bragg

Leadership instruction

Leaders of the San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Camarillo, Newbury Park, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks California stakes attended instruction on Saturday, Dec. 10, with Elder Holland and Sister Browning.

Sister Browning’s focus was on instructing leaders how to help members strengthen the faith of the rising generation through the Children and Youth program and the work of the support organizations.  

“Heavenly Father trusts His littlest disciples at 8 years old to make covenants with Him, through Jesus Christ, to come to know Him intimately, to recognize His voice, and to participate in the work of salvation and exaltation, in their own ways,” Sister Browning said. 

She continued, “He trusts them, at 8 years old, to access priesthood power, to bless their lives and the lives of their families and friends. He does all that because He knows that at 8 years old, they are capable of discipleship. Our stewardship is to help strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ and give them opportunities to be ‘doers’ as well as ‘hearers’ of His word.”

Elder Mark A. Bragg, a General Authority Seventy and president of the North America West Area, said the devotional on Friday and the instruction meetings on Saturday made the weekend “a great spiritual feast.”

“The members had prepared spiritually to listen to the counsel of Elder Holland,” said Elder Bragg. “In every meeting we were all very impressed with the reverence before, during and after the meetings. It was clearly evident that the leaders came spiritually prepared to listen to Elder Holland, to learn from the Holy Ghost and to understand ways in which they can be instruments in the Lord’s hands.”

Elder James E. Slaughter, an Area Seventy, said Elder Holland instructed the leaders to see themselves not as managers or administrators but rather as disciples of Christ teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ — building faith in Him in every activity, visit, meeting, council and interview.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets a young girl before a devotional for Spanish speakers at the Ventura California Stake center, Dec. 9, 2022. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Holland quoted from President Nelson’s April 2021 general conference talk, saying “Faith in Jesus Christ is the foundation of all belief and the conduit of divine power. Everything good in life — every potential blessing of eternal significance — begins with faith, faith that God is willing to guide us.”

With that message, Elder Holland asked those in the meeting to see themselves in each of their roles as representatives of the Lord. And he left them with an apostolic blessing, which Elder Slaughter said moved every heart in the room.

Elder Bragg said in speaking with several leaders after the meetings, they noted that the teachings, testimony and blessing from Elder Holland “were powerful manifestations of the Lord’s love for them and His love for this corner of His vineyard.”  

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