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Sarah Jane Weaver: One word that describes coming to know the Savior of the world

It is hard to find a word in the English language that carries more power than the word ‘home’

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Elder Jeffrey R. Holland greets children after a member meeting in Hannover, Germany, on Nov. 6, 2022.

Simon Jones, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Sarah Jane Weaver: One word that describes coming to know the Savior of the world

It is hard to find a word in the English language that carries more power than the word ‘home’

hannover_69480_Simon_Jones.jpg

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland greets children after a member meeting in Hannover, Germany, on Nov. 6, 2022.

Simon Jones, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Students from Liahona High School lined the street of Nuku’alofa, Tonga, in November 2007. Above them, Latter-day Saints had placed a huge banner across the road.

“Welcome Home, Eld. and Sis. Russell M. Nelson.”

President Russell M. Nelson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, were visiting Tonga to rededicate the Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple.

I have never forgotten his response to the students and the banner: “How could they capture our feelings and their feelings with such few words, ‘Welcome home’?” President Nelson said.

It is hard to find a word in the English language that carries more power than the word “home.”

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Latter-day Saints in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, welcome then-Elder Russell M. Nelson to the country in November of 2007.

Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News

Used as a noun, adjective or adverb, the word refers to a place or residence or permanence and stability. The word carries personal significance for each individual user. In addition, as a verb, “homing” describes a return by instinct, such as birds flying to a destination, or the move toward accuracy.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we use the word to describe something very sweet.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, with his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, just completed a 10-day, three-nation ministry visit to Germany, Sweden and Finland.

The trip was in many ways a “going home” for the Hollands, who 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. The trip marked a return to places they served before, “all of which we visited time and time again when we were here,” and an opportunity to reconnect with “many of the people we knew then.”

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Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Presidency of the Seventy participates in member meeting for Latter-day Saints in Finland on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022.

Simon Jones, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Also returning “home” was Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Presidency of the Seventy, who served as a missionary in Finland in the early 1970s. During member meetings this month in Helsinki and Jyväskylä, Elder Nielson offered remarks in the Finnish language. His wife, Sister Marcia Nielson, said there have been few days he has not talked about and thought about his Finnish experiences and interactions and, most important, the Latter-day Saints he met in the country.

The same rang true for Sweden Stockholm Mission leaders, President Robert L. Davis and Sister Tiffany Davis, who both served as young missionaries in Sweden almost three decades ago and have now returned “home” to again serve in the nation. “It is a country we love, with a culture and people and members that are so amazing,” President Davis said.

After receiving the assignment to write about Elder Holland’s ministry, I visited Germany, Sweden and Finland for the first time this month. Still, I glimpsed why these countries — and so many more across the globe — are “home” to our leaders.

It might have been the enormous kindnesses shown to me and others by the local Latter-day Saints. Members shared their time, their testimonies and pounds of European chocolate. We heard them sing. And we saw — and then felt — their commitment to the Savior and His Church. Their light, their conversion and their testimonies strengthened mine.

I remember first understanding the concept of “home” as a Brigham Young University student completing an internship in Washington, D.C., in 1993. With other university students, I was living in temporary housing and attending a huge student ward for a few months. On weekends, we traveled across the Eastern United States.

One Sunday, while driving across West Virginia, we came across a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse just before sacrament meeting was to start. We were not dressed appropriately for worship services, but went inside anyway. We were greeted by kind members (one woman invited us over for a spaghetti dinner after Church) and sincere leaders (one of whom welcomed us to the meeting from the pulpit). I do not remember one other word spoken during the meeting that day. But I have never forgotten singing sacred hymns testifying of the Savior with a small group of people who follow Him.

I have never been back to West Virginia. There is no way I could find that chapel again.

But, for me, that place will always be “home”.

So will Tonga, Germany, Sweden, Finland and every other place I have gathered with faithful Latter-day Saints.

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Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with his wife Sister Patricia Holland, blows a kiss goodby to members in Helsinki, Finland on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022.

Simon Jones, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The final interview I conducted during Elder Holland’s recent ministry visit was with Anna-Leena Hartiala and Mimmu M. Hartiala-Sloan, who both donned traditional Finnish attire and altered plans to visit with me about their parents’ Dec. 29, 1951, conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Of her youth, Anna-Leena Hartiala described the Church in powerful terms: “It was one big family,” she said.

Speaking of his own mission to England, Elder Holland explained why the places that reflect our commitment to the Savior and his Church matter. 

He noted that everything that he cherishes — everything that matters most to him — “somehow came through or was shaped by, or modified by, or encouraged by, or eliminated” because of his decision to serve a mission and the time he spent in England among the British Latter-day Saints. “No one ever started with less and came back with more than I did,” he said.

And at the heart of it all, said Elder Holland, was “my coming to know the Savior of the world.”

President Nelson pleaded with members in his April 2019 general conference address to do the spiritual work to get to know the Savior and His Church. 

“My dear brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ invites us to take the covenant path back home to our heavenly parents and be with those we love,” he said.

Like every journey in which we embark that draws us closer to Jesus Christ, I am sure it will end with two powerful words:

“Welcome home.”

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