Sister Patricia T. Holland, former general officer and wife of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, dies at age 81 after faith-filled life

Sister Patricia Terry Holland — a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother — is remembered for her love of the gospel of Jesus Christ

After a faith-filled life defined by dedication, service and testimony, Sister Patricia Terry Holland — the wife of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — died Thursday, July 20, at the age of 81.

A former general officer in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sister Holland — the mother of three, grandmother of 13 and great-grandmother of five — will be remembered for her constant support of her husband and their efforts to share love and light in nations across the world. 

Funeral services will be held on Friday, July 28 at 11 a.m. in the Conference Center Theater. The public is invited to attend. For those who cannot attend, the funeral will be broadcast. There will not be a public viewing. Following the funeral, Sister Holland will be buried in St. George.

Born Feb. 16, 1942, in Enterprise, Utah, to Maeser W. and Marilla Terry, Sister Holland embodied the faith and legacy of her pioneer ancestors. That faith carried her from the isolated farming community of her youth to marriage and motherhood, general Church leadership and the visibility of her husband’s callings, and — in recent years — through illness that illustrated her tenacity and character.

Sister Patricia Holland speaks during a devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, May 10, 2022. | Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

Fighting for her life

On a cool fall evening in 2014, after Elder Holland had left town on a Church assignment, Sister Holland went to bed at her daughter’s house with a chest cold. She awoke the next morning unable to breathe. 

Without any idea what was happening, Sister Holland wondered if she was having a heart attack. 

The family rushed her to the emergency room. Days later she was diagnosed with a vicious form of pneumonia. 

As Sister Holland lay fighting for her life, doctors told her husband to gather his family.

“That is one of a handful of seminal moments in the history of the family,” said Elder Matthew Holland, the oldest son of Elder and Sister Holland and a General Authority Seventy. “It came out of nowhere.” 

The next 30 days were foreboding, he continued. “She appeared on the cusp of life.”

Despite repeated blessings, Sister Holland did not seem to be getting better. “It was an extended period of waiting,” he said.

Daughter Mary Alice Holland McCann added: “It was terrifying. There were two or three occasions when we thought we were going to lose her. … But she held on and fought through.”

Son David Holland said those days and weeks were a time of great family reflection. 

The time was especially tender for Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who has “spent his life with the throttle fully open,” said David Holland. “It forced him to sit down for long periods of time and have those moments of silent contemplation.” 

The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles cleared Elder Holland’s busy calendar. “For the first time in anyone’s memory, [Elder and Sister Holland] had an empty calendar to be together and fight their way toward her health,” said David Holland. “It had a lasting impact on both of them.”

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The Jeffrey R. and Patricia Holland family, circa 1980. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

She worried about everyone else

McCann brought Halloween, then Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations to her mother’s hospital room. 

“It was literally the fight for her life,” she said of the months in the hospital. “Somehow she did it gracefully.”

Robbed of the ability to take in enough air, Sister Holland was asked by her doctors not to talk. Still “she kept trying to talk to the nurses and ask them how they were doing,” said McCann.

Sister Holland knew all the medical professionals who entered her room by name. She knew their circumstances. If a nurse was sad, she recognized it, once even sending McCann to the gift shop to buy slippers for a medical professional having a hard day. 

“While she was there battling for her life, she continued to be more worried about everyone else,” said McCann.

For Sister Holland, those months were a time to focus on her husband and children and her scriptures. 

While she was in intensive care, doctors moved her scriptures from her bed to a shelf in the room. Without the sacred books in hand, she recited the comforting phrases from Psalm 37: “Trust in the Lord … . Rest on the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”

When she began to improve, she said, “I wanted my Book of Mormon in my hands, holding it, and when I slept, I wanted it under my pillow. With doctors telling us that I wasn’t going to make it, ... I knew if I did live, it would be because of the blessings of the true gospel that the Book of Mormon teaches.”

Through her faith and determination, and the faith and determination of her husband and family, Sister Holland recovered. 

High school yearbook photos of Jeffery R. Holland and Patricia Terry. The two started dating in high school and were married on June 7, 1963. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

A tradition of faith

Raised in Enterprise, one of two daughters in a family that also included five sons, Sister Holland was a self-proclaimed “tomboy”; she loved horses and dogs, milked cows and drove pickup trucks, and worked with a capacity that matched her brothers.

Most important, in the southern Utah community that included generations of pioneering Latter-day Saints — most of them aunts, uncles or cousins — Patricia was surrounded by extended family that descended from a long line of believers who were steeped in a tradition of faith.

“I couldn’t get away with anything,” she said in a 2018 Church News interview.

Families lived on what they could raise in the “very rural community,” and “people relied on what they could do with their hands,” she said. Everyone expected things to be hard.

Because of that, faith was “in the blood, it was in the air, it was in the concrete, it was in the lumber,” said Elder Holland. 

Added Sister Holland: “You told faith-promoting stories and recalled ancestors who sacrificed.”

When she was 16 years old, her parents moved to St. George so their oldest daughter would have someone to date. She met Jeffrey Holland. “He was smart. He was a wonderful student,” she said. “He knew how to make friends. He had this just wonderful ability to make people feel good.”

After attending Dixie College, supporting Elder Holland in his missionary service, and studying piano and voice with a faculty member of Juilliard School of Music in New York City, she married her high school sweetheart on June 7, 1963, in the St. George Utah Temple.  

Almost six decades later, while reflecting on the connection she shared with Elder Holland, Sister Holland would say, “I still continue to learn from my husband’s brilliant mind.”

Jeffrey R. Holland and Patricia Terry on their wedding day, June 7, 1963. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

‘She was in it for the good life’

Without any money and homesick for southern Utah, the struggling couple moved to BYU in Provo, where one night, on a walk across campus, Elder Holland asked his new bride if they should give up and go home. There in the literal shadow of the BYU President’s Home — where they at a future date would live — she insisted they stay. Sister Holland recalled during a BYU devotional in 1985, “If you stand on the south patio of the President’s Home, you can see the exact spot two vulnerable, frightened, newly married BYU students stood …, fighting back the tears and facing the future with all the faith they could summon.”

The couple welcomed the first of three children, and as their friends went off to law school, medical school and dental school, Elder Holland spoke about teaching in the Church Educational System. Sister Holland never blinked an eye, happy to be where he was. She supported him as he obtained master and doctor of philosophy degrees from Yale University.

“When I look back, my destiny must have been to walk the path we walked and take the route we took,” said Elder Holland, noting that if Sister Holland had resisted, they might have missed out on so many of the precious things they had.

“She was in it for the good life,” he said. 

BYU President Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, cook dinner together, Nov. 11, 1980. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

A tradition of service

Ever the constant support to her husband, Sister Holland also led.

In 1984 she was called to serve as first counselor in the Church’s Young Women General Presidency to President Ardeth G. Kapp.

“To be called to serve on the general level was such an honor to me, but it took me to my knees,” recalled Sister Holland in a Church News podcast interview. “It was really quite overwhelming.”

Her husband was serving as BYU president — with him, they offered memorable BYU devotionals that became known as “the Jeff and Pat show” — and she still had children at home. 

Sister Holland recalled practicing music with her children at 5 or 6 a.m., driving up to Church headquarters from their home in Provo, staying in board meetings all day and then driving home late to try to care for her family. The pressures of that time “drove me to my knees. … I knew with all of these challenges that I already had, that I had to live by the Spirit,” Sister Holland said.

Her children saw her petitioning the Lord for His help every morning. “They saw how much we love the gospel, and they supported that,” she said.

During her time of general service, the Church launched the Young Women values program and the first Young Women theme.

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Elder Holland said on one occasion President Gordon B. Hinckley commented about asking Sister Holland to take on so much during that period of her life. “President Hinckley said, ‘I don’t know what on earth possessed us to do that,’” recalled Elder Holland. 

“But I do,” Elder Holland added. “Pat was essential — I say that with all the bias that I can claim — she was essential” to the foundation of the Church’s Young Women program.

Sister Holland was released in 1986, turning her focus from all the young women in the world to the “one that mattered most” to her, her own daughter, said Elder Holland.

A year later, on March 12, 1987, Sister Holland offered a BYU devotional, titled “Women of Faith.”

“Whatever our circumstance we can reach out and touch and hold and lift and nurture,” she said. “But we cannot do it in isolation. We need a community of sisters, filling the soul and binding the wounds of fragmentation. I know that God loves us individually and collectively as women and that He has a personal mission and individual purpose for every one of us.” 

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife Sister Patricia Holland tour the Benbow family farm in Castle Frome, England on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. Holland’s 4th great-grand parents owned the farm and converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1840 through Wilford Woodruff. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Global ministry

Elder Holland was sustained as a General Authority Seventy on April 1, 1989, and then as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on June 23, 1994. During his three and a half decades of full time Church service, the couple embarked on ministry assignments across the globe and lived in England and Chile.

While serving in Chile from 2002 to 2004 — without any experience with the culture, the people or the Spanish language — the Hollands witnessed miracles.

For example, about six months into their assignment, they attended a Saturday night stake conference meeting in Viña del Mar. Sister Holland told her husband that she felt she needed to speak about tithing.

Elder Holland replied: “We don’t know the vocabulary for tithing. I don’t know how you can do that.” To which Sister Holland replied: “Well, I don’t know how I can do it either. But that’s what I think I’m supposed to do.” 

And for the next 20 minutes, she gave a sermon on the law of tithing in flawless Spanish. “I’ve never seen that before in my life, where she did not know the language and didn’t know the vocabulary and didn’t know the verb tense — but stood up and gave that sermon,” Elder Holland said. 

Sister Holland — a published author who received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from LDS Business College, now Ensign College, in 2012 — was known as an eloquent speaker. 

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In 2018, Elder and Sister Holland accompanied President Russell M. Nelson on his first global ministry as the new President of the Church, a ministry that included eight countries on three continents in 11 days.

“I have gained such a testimony of my Savior because of the things I have witnessed the last two weeks,” she would say at the end of the trip, which took them around the world. 

For Sister Holland, participating in the ministry trip was a miracle. Reflecting on the serious illness that almost claimed her life in 2014 and limited her lung capacity, she simply said: “I have felt like everything I’ve done that’s been a challenge has driven me closer and closer to the Lord. Everything. And I don’t think you could have dark days without having light, or light without having dark. We need both of them so they can inspire each other.”

Through it all, however, she never forgot her roots or the faith she learned in Enterprise that sustained her throughout her life. 

On Oct. 18, 2021, Elder and Sister Holland returned to her hometown in southern Utah.

Standing at the pulpit where she bore her first testimony and gave her first talk as a youth, Sister Holland humbly declared her witness of the Savior.

“I’ve traveled all over the world, standing at pulpits from here to Zimbabwe and India, and I have voluntarily, from my heart and soul and my faith, stood as a witness for Jesus Christ, for I know He is our Savior,” Sister Holland said. “I have seen too much, I have felt too much, I know too many things to ever say otherwise. This is His Church. He is with us, and we are children of a loving Heavenly Father.”

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Note: This article was originally published on Thursday, July 20, 2023 at 3:28 p.m. MT and was updated on Friday, July 21 at 10:01 p.m. MT to include funeral information.

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