Scott Taylor: For Elder Holland, heaven without his wife and children ‘wouldn’t be heaven for me’

Following Sister Holland’s death July 20, the Apostle’s words will resound ever the more powerful in temple open house videos shown in coming months

Over four decades of leadership roles first at Brigham Young University and then in the Church of Jesus Christ, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Patricia Terry Holland, have testified worldwide of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His gospel, and the Hollands’ love for each other and their family.

With Sister Holland’s death Thursday, July 20, Elder Holland could forgo all public speaking assignments over the next five months and still provide a memorable message of the eternal natures of marriage and families to hundreds of thousands across North and South America and Asia.

From July 31 through Dec. 16, temple open house tours conducted by the Church in Japan and Thailand, Brazil and Peru and across the United States will begin with an introductory video on the house of the Lord and its purpose.

About a third of the way into the open-house video, visitors will watch a brief message from Elder Holland. Only about 100 words and 50 seconds long, it becomes even more powerful and poignant now following his beloved wife’s death.

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President Jeffrey R. Holland stands with his wife, Sister Patricia Holland.
Sister Patricia Holland and her husband, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pose in their home in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 14, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Let me explain, with a bit of personal background.

In January 2015, my wife and I were serving on the public affairs subcommittee for the open house of the soon-to-be-dedicated Provo City Center Temple. Just days before the start of the first tours of that house of the Lord, we learned that the introductory video was being redone.

Debuting at the Provo City Center Temple open house was a new version focusing solely on the house of the Lord in general and its purpose — with no mention of a specific temple or Church history in the local area. The same video, with a few tweaks and additions, is used today.

The video features on-camera explanations of the temple by a young woman narrator/host and segments of individuals and couples speaking of blessings and perspectives from their temple experiences. Retained from previous versions were two of my favorite segments — one is a message about the house of the Lord from the President of the Church, then from the late President Thomas S. Monson and now President Russell M. Nelson.

The other is the brief message on eternal marriage and eternal families from Elder Holland.

With members of our committee and other volunteers hosting open house visitors over two months, I watched and rewatched that video dozens of times — including in some of the special-guest tours involving Church general authorities and their families prior to the public open house.

Elder Holland — who had presided at the temple’s May 2012 groundbreaking — brought his wife and family to the Provo City Center Temple with family members, and I shadowed their group in the temple, in case they needed directions or assistance. I stood apart in one of the sealing rooms, listening as Elder and Sister Holland sat with their family to teach and testify of the house of the Lord and its covenants. I don’t recall specific words or phrases, but I do remember the power, the love and the Spirit present.

Starting with the Moses Lake Washington Temple on July 31, the Church will host nine temple open houses through mid-December — from Brasília, Brazil, to Bangkok, Thailand; from Okinawa, Japan, to Orem, Utah; and in California, Texas and Peru. And there’s an open house for the Hollands’ own hometown house of the Lord, the St. George Utah Temple, to be rededicated in December.

Attendees will see the video clip of Elder Holland speaking the following words, with a cut to a family photo of the Hollands with their children and grandchildren:

“I don’t know how to speak about heaven in the traditional, lovely, paradisiacal beauty that we speak of heaven; I wouldn’t know how to speak of heaven, without my wife or my children. It would not be heaven for me,” Elder Holland says, his voice cracking with emotion.

“Now, you can say that’s wishful thinking, or you can say that’s just because you love each other and you’ve gotten cozy here on earth and you like each other’s company. It’s 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’” (1 Corinthians 11:11).

President Jeffrey R. Holland speaks of how the temple blesses him and his family.
In a screenshot from the temple open house introductory video, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speaks of how the temple blesses him and his eternal relationship with his wife and family. | Screenshot from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Latter-day Saints in attendance in coming months — including me — will hear the message and shed a tear or two for, and with, Elder Holland. Their eyes will continue to be moist as they ponder the plan of salvation, the sealing ordinance and the blessings of eternal marriage and family.

And then what better thing to do than to walk into the house of the Lord, with those feelings of love and gratitude percolating at the surface while passing through instruction rooms, sealing rooms and the celestial room.

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