Jeffrey R. Holland is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly misnamed the Mormon Church).
Jeffrey Roy Holland was born December 3, 1940, in the small rural town of St. George, Utah. His parents, Alice Bentley Holland and Frank Holland, were blessed with four children, but one child passed away in its infancy. St. George was the ground in which Jeffrey, his brother Dennis, and his sister Debbie, grew up and where each of their characters were nurtured.
Jeffrey’s mother, Alice, was a descendant of Mormon pioneers, while his father Frank was an Irish convert to the Mormon Church. Alice and Frank built their home in St. George in hopes of raising a family that would serve the Lord.
All three children referred to their childhood as idyllic. Alice was the anchor of the Holland home with her love and guiding hand for each of her children. Jeffrey remembers his mother’s flawless character in giving to others. She gave of herself selflessly without thought of anything in return.
Frank’s formal schooling ended in the seventh grade, but his education did not. He continued to learn on his own and eventually became a public accountant and a civic leader in St. George. Those who knew Frank and were taught by him remember the love he had for the Book of Mormon. When as a small boy, Jeffrey remarked to his father that there were no baseball teams for boys his age in St. George, his father helped organize Little League baseball in the community. Even though much of Frank’s time was spent on his work and community affairs, his children always knew that family was first above all else.
As a boy, Jeffrey was obedient; he idolized his mother and never wanted to disappoint her. He remembers that the love he had for his mother was nourished by her gentle guiding force, which always made him want to live up to what she thought of him.
As Jeffrey grew, his personality radiated to all that met him. He was friendly, obedient to his parents, and obedient to the commandments. His mother stated that, “…[Jeffrey] was an obedient boy; he was always at church, and he always took care of his priesthood duties.”
Even as a young boy, Jeffrey knew how to work hard. When he was a paperboy and a grocery bagger, he also was a service station attendant. Because of his consideration and friendliness, people would deliberately seek him out to service their cars.
As a boy, Jeffrey loved sports. He was a member of Dixie High School’s state championship football and basketball teams in 1958, and he also lettered in football, basketball, track, and baseball.
Being on the sports teams in high school had its benefits. His involvement kept him close to a certain young lady who later became his wife. Pat Terry was a cheerleader at Dixie High School who had moved to St. George just as she entered high school. She and Jeffrey began dating two years before his mission.
At a time when it was not clearly defined that every worthy young man should serve a mission, Jeffrey as well had not solidified his decision to serve. It was Pat’s faith that helped him decide to go. Jeffrey states: “Her faith has always been as pure and as powerful and as strong as any person’s I’ve ever known.”
With determination to serve a Mormon mission and do as the Lord asks, Jeffrey was called to serve in the British Mission. Serving under two mission presidents–President T. Bowring Woodbury and President Marion D. Hanks—would prove to be a major spiritual inspiration in Elder Holland’s life. He learned to love the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon. Elder Holland states, “President Hanks had a profound influence on my life, as he did upon all the missionaries’.”
As he served under President Hanks, he was assigned to be on a team of traveling trainers. “Their assignment was to help other missionaries become disciples of Jesus Christ after the manner of Mormon, who recorded, ‘I have been called of him to proclaim his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life.'” As Elder Holland continued in this assignment, his love for the Book of Mormon increased and his ability to teach from it grew stronger through the years.
A bittersweet experience while Elder Holland was preparing to return home, was the mission call of his parents to the same mission he was serving in—the British Mission. Alice Holland remembers, “[My] son claimed to be the only missionary who ever said farewell to his parents at both ends of his mission.”
Upon returning home, Jeffrey continued his courtship with Pat Terry. While his parents were still serving their mission, Jeff and Pat were married in the St. George Mormon Temple on June 7, 1963.
Before leaving on his mission, Elder Holland intended to return home and become a doctor. When he came home he explained, “I came home from my mission believing that God intended for me to be a teacher.” Those who knew Elder Holland on his mission, including his mission president, knew of his talents as a teacher. “[Jeffrey] is by nature a teacher. He is a gentleman, a scholar, and a diplomat–but in all those things he is a teacher,” said his mission president, Marion D. Hanks.
After their marriage, Jeffrey and Pat moved to Provo, Utah, to attend Brigham Young University. As graduation approached in 1965, Jeffrey was having doubts about becoming a teacher in English, which was his academic major. Then came an opportunity to teach religion part time at BYU while he worked on his master’s degree in religious instruction.
The Mormon Church Institute
Upon completion of Jeff’s graduate work in 1966, the Hollands moved to Hayward, California, where Jeff taught at several institutes in the area. After a year of teaching, he was appointed director of the institute in Seattle, Washington. While there, he was able to establish an institute at the University of Washington where the Mormon Church would be a major force for good among the Latter-day Saint youth. President Brent Nash, who was the Seattle Temple President at that time, remarked, “Youth were drawn to [Brother Holland]. If he was able to bring some of those young people back into the institute, the gospel changed them.”
This assignment proved to be a challenge for Jeff. Controversy and misinformation about the Mormon Church was infectious among the students and faculty on the campus. Jeff’s ability to make friends and touch hearts helped erase the ill feelings among the students and organizations of other faiths.
With the decision to pursue a career in the field of education, Jeff needed more schooling, including a doctoral degree. A Yale-educated professor at the University of Washington recommended Jeff for Yale’s American Studies program. He was accepted, and the Hollands moved to New Haven, Connecticut, in 1970.
The Hollands left New Haven and returned to Utah in 1972. This was the beginning of a new chapter in the Holland household. Jeff taught at the Salt Lake institute for only a few months before he was called to be the director of the [Mormon] Church’s new Melchizedek Priesthood Mutual Improvement Association. In this position, he was privileged to work with Elder James E. Faust, Elder L. Tom Perry, and Elder Marion D. Hanks, his former mission president.
After two years, Jeff was appointed dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University in 1974. Being young and new to the faculty, Jeff benefited from his academic credentials and his diplomatic skills. He knew how important religious education was at the university and encouraged religion as a strong central role.
After another two years, Jeff was named commissioner of education for the Mormon Church. In 1980, as commissioner, he was asked to serve on the search committee that would recommend someone to follow President Dallin H. Oaks, current president of BYU. A few days later, he was called into a meeting with the First Presidency of the Mormon Church. President Kimball, along with his counselors, told Jeff that he was to be the new president. Needless to say, Jeff was stunned and replied: “President Kimball, you’ve got to be joking!” President Kimball answered matter-of-factly, “Brother Holland, in this room, we don’t joke very much.” In 1980, Jeffrey R. Holland became president of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
As president of BYU and being in the public eye, President Holland needed the support and strength that only his family could give him. Because of his responsibilities as president, he was involved in a number of educational organizations. He raised one hundred million dollars in a fund-raising campaign, helped the school celebrate and deal with athletic successes, and helped counteract the protests against the building of the BYU Jerusalem Center.
During the years spent in Seattle and New Haven, the Hollands added three children to their family: Matthew, Mary Alice, and David Frank. Even though Jeff was busy with schooling and church service, he never allowed anything to take precedence over his family. Even as small children, the children received family spiritual training on a daily basis.
Serving as President of Brigham Young University proved to be a blessing and challenge for the Holland family. Sister Holland maintained as normal a family life as possible. She never wanted to be away from home two nights in a row, regardless of the university activity expecting her attendance. While her husband served as president of a large university, she was called to serve as a counselor in the Young Women general presidency of the Church. Because her family was her primary concern, it took an enormous amount of faith and sacrifice to accept the call. With the support of her husband and children, she did accept the call and the Lord blessed her and her family tremendously through those years.
Jeff and Pat remained available for each of their children. The children always felt that they could call on their father at any time; and when they did, he set aside everything and listened to them, or attended plays, recitals, and any other activity important to them.
The time spent in New Haven was a time of great spiritual growth, for both Jeff and Pat. Church service for Jeff included serving as a bishop in the singles ward and then serving in the stake presidency. Looking back later, Jeff knew that his service in New Haven prepared him for his future callings as a General Authority. He knew that there was more than one reason that he and his family were to move to New Haven. He believed that, “What I really got was an education in Church government–a quick course in how the [Mormon] Church was run in areas where it had not been long established, where branches and wards had to struggle.”
In 1989, President Holland was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy. At the [Mormon Church’s] General Conference, Elder Holland humbled stated, “[I have a tremendous amount of] gratitude to the Lord for the privilege of this holy calling and opportunity to serve. There is no sufficient way to express either the sense of responsibility or feelings of inadequacy one has in being called to such a ministry.” With this calling, Elder Holland continued to teach. His brother Dennis remarked, “All Jeff ever wanted to do was teach the gospel to students in a classroom. I was always sure that the Lord had the same goal in mind for him, but that the size of the classroom and the number of students were on a much grander scale than he was envisioning.”
After Elder Holland has served for five years in the Quorum of the Seventy, President Howard W. Hunter, then president of the Mormon Church, called Elder Holland to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. His call would now be totally focused on the role and mission of Jesus Christ and of testifying of it to the world. Elder Holland declared that being an Apostle is “to be a witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and all that he stands for, all that he is, and all that His church represents. There is an overwhelming sense of responsibility in that. It brings a deep desire to live up to the standard that the entire Christian world holds for the title ‘Apostle’, never doing anything that could ever diminish that office in anyone’s sight. This will be a lifelong refining process.”