In the final month of his trial-filled 2023, President Jeffrey R. Holland will rededicate the St. George Utah Temple, with the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to preside, speak and pray at the Dec. 10 rededication of his hometown temple, a historic house of the Lord in the latter days.
And, it has not been an easy year for President Holland, who was admittedly at “the doorstep of death” during a five-week hospital stay this fall and who lost the love of his life when his dear wife, Sister Patricia Terry Holland, passed away July 20. She was buried in the St. George Cemetery, just six blocks northeast of the St. George temple, where they were married 60 years earlier.
President Holland also missed attending in person both the April and October 2023 general conferences because of recent health challenges. And he was scheduled to participate in the Sept. 6 media day at the St. George temple, but his son, Elder Matthew S. Holland, a General Authority Seventy, filled in and spoke of his family’s connection to the area and its pioneer temple.
Born and raised in St. George, President Holland has often referred to himself as a “southern Utah boy through and through,” with “red sand in my shoes and lava in my bones.” And next month, he’ll dedicate the house of the Lord built with a lava-rock foundation and red-sandstone walls that extend into the temple’s tower. Dedicated in 1877, the St. George temple is the longest-operating of the Church’s 186 dedicated temples.
Actually, President Holland has had a key role at the St. George temple since that Sept. 6 media day and through the public open house that ran from Sept. 15 through Nov. 11 — and at similar temple media days and open-hour tours for years. He’s briefly featured in an introductory Church video on the house of the Lord and its purpose, with that video available for viewing by those visiting a newly constructed or recently renovated temple prior to its dedication or rededication.
About a third of the way into the video, open-house visitors watch a brief message from President Holland about the temple ordinances and covenants that can lead to eternal marriage and eternal families. Only about 100 words and 50 seconds long, the message has become even more powerful and poignant now following his beloved wife’s death.
Attendees see the clip of President Holland speaking the following words, with the video cutting to a family photo of the Hollands with their children and grandchildren:
“I do not know how to speak about heaven with the traditional, lovely, paradisiacal beauty that we speak of heaven — I would not know how to speak of heaven, without my wife or my children. It would not be heaven for me [without them],” President Holland says, his voice cracking with emotion.
“Now, you can say that is wishful thinking, or you can say that is just because you love each other and you’ve gotten cozy here on earth and you like each other’s company. It is a lot more than that.
“There is something eternal in the statement that ‘neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord’ (see 1 Corinthians 11:11).”
Russ and Dana Moody, the co-chairs of the St. George temple open house and rededication committee, have not only watched that video dozens of times over the nine-week open-house period — they’ve also watched the guests watching the video and have seen their reactions.
“I’ve sat in that video many times with guests or groups,” Dana Moody said. “Every time he says that — with most everyone knowing that he just lost his wife — there is a ripple effect in the room. Everyone has a reaction, because everyone knows. And it makes his statement even more significant.”
Russ Moody describes the video segment as “so powerful” for viewers. “I love the comment that ‘it wouldn’t be heaven for me’ — to even contemplate being in heaven without your family, without your wife, without your children or without your descendants,” he said. “You can’t watch that video without becoming emotional as you realize the personal application in our own lives. I love how he communicates that.”
President Holland communicates that because he lives it, teaches it, exemplifies it and encourages it as an Apostle of the Lord — and will continue to do so at the Dec. 10 rededication of the St. George Utah Temple and beyond.
— Scott Taylor is a managing editor at the Church News.