“Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the First Quorum of the Seventy,” Ensign, May 1989, 90
Jeffrey Holland stood at the brink of a promising academic career. He was completing a Ph.D. at Yale University and had offers to do graduate teaching there or take attractive positions elsewhere. He and Sister Holland had worried and prayed about what to do.
“I remember kneeling down to seek an answer,” he says. “Halfway through the prayer, it was so clear to me what we should do that I was quite literally unable to go on with the prayer. I think I just stopped and said something like ‘Thank you, Lord.’”
He picked up the phone to let Elder Neal A. Maxwell, then commissioner of Church Education, know that he would be returning to the Seminary and Institute Program. “My Yale professors thought it was incomprehensible that I would turn my back on these other opportunities,” recalls Elder Holland. “But I have never looked back.”
“Jeff has absolutely pure faith,” says Patricia Terry Holland. “His faith is so anchored, so sure.”
Born 3 December 1940 to Frank Holland and Alice Bentley, he was reared in a modest home in the southern Utah town of St. George. “I grew up with more security and unrestrained love than I can imagine a child having,” says Elder Holland. Part of his security was certain faith in the divinity of the Lord’s church.
“In my mind’s eye I see life very vividly as a path,” says Elder Holland. “And I see Christ on that path ahead of us, marking the way, calling out reassurance, taking us on his shoulders when we think the way is unsafe and finally impossible.”
One of those difficult times for the Hollands was at Yale. Living on a graduate student budget with two small children, Brother Holland served in the presidency of a large stake while Sister Holland was Primary president and then Relief Society president. Carrying a full academic load and teaching institute at Yale and in Amherst, Massachusetts, Jeff finished a three-year program in four years. “That task was like crossing the Red Sea for us,” he says. “It seemed impossible to do it all. There was no reason for us to have survived financially or emotionally except that we were blessed and given special sustenance from the Lord.”
Elder and Sister Holland feel that their Church experience in New Haven was worth at least as much to them as Brother Holland’s Ph.D. Within several months of being assigned to the Institute of Religion adjacent to the University of Utah, Brother Holland was asked to direct the Church’s Melchizedek Priesthood MIA program.
Since then, he has served as dean of Religious Instruction at Brigham Young University, commissioner of Church Education, and finally president of Brigham Young University, where he was serving at the time of his call to the First Quorum of the Seventy. He has also been a bishop, a counselor to three stake presidents, and a Regional Representative. Pat has served in many callings, including four terms as a Relief Society president and two years in the Young Women General Presidency.
The Hollands met in high school, marrying after Jeff served a mission to Great Britain and Pat studied music in New York City. They have three children—Matthew, twenty-two; Mary Alice, nineteen; and David, fifteen. “I am first and forever a family man,” says Elder Holland. “I look at life through the eyes of my wife and my children.”
As he contemplates his new responsibilities, Elder Holland feels himself drawn to the Lord’s command to “succor the weak.” (D&C 81:5.) “I do have a view of someone there ahead of me and leading me,” says Elder Holland. “It is the commanding image of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our days and years are a journey, and Christ is the Way of Salvation—literally the Way, the Truth and the Life.”