Lead photo courtesy of Flickr.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland is known and loved throughout The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a master teacher and a powerful speaker. “Elder Holland could read a cereal box” is how a friend of mine once expressed his love for anything Elder Holland teaches.
It’s difficult to put a finger on exactly why so many of Elder Holland’s talks resonate with so many of us. But I believe his command of the English language combined with the power of his personal witness and the sincerity of his love for members creates a unique style that makes each of his sermons moving and memorable. Classic talks like, “An High Priest of Good Things to Come,” “Safety for the Soul,” and “The Other Prodigal” are impossible to forget.
Elder Holland has now served as a general authority for more than 25 years, and his service as a leader in various capacities within the Church Educational System extends for more than two decades prior to that. Thus, he has given dozens and dozens of talks in settings like general conference, CES firesides, and devotionals at Church universities. While many of his talks are well-known and frequently quoted, here are five of the best talks you’ve never heard by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
1. "Bourne Upon Eagles’ Wings"
June 2, 1974 – BYU Fireside
Given not long after a visit Elder Holland made to the Utah State Prison, this talk is about God’s justice and mercy and the different forms of spiritual bondage we sometimes bring upon ourselves.
“Now, this Book of Mormon is some book! I’ve wandered off to a school or two and read books—both in and out of libraries. I didn’t think there was any other world but the inside of a carrel—not to be confused with that place where you put cows and horses. But I’ve never known a book, in all the searching that I’ve done and all of the reading that I’ve done, which was purported to have been brought by an angel and translated by the gift and power of God—except the Book of Mormon.
Can we also be accused of taking this book lightly? Some of us treat it like almost any other book: let it gather a little dust or press the rose from Mary Jane’s wedding, use it as a doorstop in the hallway, do almost anything with it but read it. I believe that we will be indicted for the resulting bondage that we incur and that we will serve some sentence in this life or the next for that which we fail to learn. I can’t spend all evening on that, but please remember, from the fifteenth chapter of John, ‘If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you’ (John 15:7).”
2. The Inconvenient Messiah"
February 2, 1982 – BYU devotional
This talk explores the demands of discipleship and uses examples from the Savior’s life to encourage us to reject the adversary’s offer of “convenient Christianity.”
“I ask you to be patient in things of the spirit. Perhaps your life has been different from mine, but I doubt it. I have had to struggle to know my standing before God. As a teenager I found it hard to pray and harder to fast. My mission was not easy. I struggled as a student only to find that I had to struggle afterwards, too. In this present assignment I have wept and ached for guidance. It seems no worthy accomplishment has ever come easily for me, and maybe it won’t for you—but I’m living long enough to be grateful for that.
It is ordained that we come to know our worth as children of God without something as dramatic as a leap from the pinnacle of the temple. All but a prophetic few must go about God’s work in very quiet, very unspectacular ways. And as you labor to know him, and to know that he knows you; as you invest your time—and your convenience—in quiet, unassuming service, you will indeed find that ‘he shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up’ (Matthew 4:6). It may not come quickly. It probably won’t come quickly, but there is purpose in the time it takes. Cherish your spiritual burdens because God will converse with you through them and will use you to do his work if you carry them well.”
"If you need a burden lifted, I want you to imagine I am in a personal, private, closed-door chat with you. I want to help you if I can." With those words, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland invites every readerof his latest book to become a friend, to receive instruction and encouragement, counsel and comfort, in any circumstance.
3. "Within the Clasp of Your Arms"
April 2, 1983 – general conference
In this talk, Elder Holland uses a powerful personal experience he had as a young father to illustrate the need for all fathers to stay close to their children.
“I threw off the covers and ran to the little metal camp cot that was my son’s bed. There on my knees and through my tears I cradled him in my arms and spoke to him while he slept. I told him that every dad makes mistakes but that they don’t mean to. I told him it wasn’t his fault I had had a bad day. I told him that when boys are five or fifteen, dads sometimes forget and think they are fifty. I told him that I wanted him to be a small boy for a long, long time, because all too soon he would grow up and be a man and wouldn’t be playing on the floor with his toys when I came home. I told him that I loved him and his mother and his sister more than anything in the world and that whatever challenges we had in life we would face them together. I told him that never again would I withhold my affection or my forgiveness from him, and never, I prayed, would he withhold them from me. I told him I was honored to be his father and that I would try with all my heart to be worthy of such a great responsibility.
“Well, I have not proven to be the perfect father I vowed to be that night and a thousand nights before and since. But I still want to be, and I believe this wise counsel from President Joseph F. Smith:
“‘Brethren, … If you will keep your [children] close to your heart, within the clasp of your arms; if you will make them … feel that you love them … and keep them near to you, they will not go very far from you, and they will not commit any very great sin.’”
4. "If Your Testimony Is Not Strong, Lean on Mine"
March 6, 1984 – Rick’s College devotional
In this talk, Elder Holland invites young adults who feel their testimonies are not yet secure to lean on his testimony until their own convictions become more certain.
“I don’t know whether you are as sure as you want to be about the truthfulness of the gospel. I’m not sure that you’re even sure you want to be sure. Or that you have the certainty you see in your neighbor on your right hand or on your left. Maybe in a religion class or maybe in church on Sunday or maybe just in table conversation. And maybe you feel…that things are expected and asked, and in a climate like we have at Rick’s College or BYU, that there are such visible expectations of your faithfulness and that in your heart of hearts you may not be sure.
“I don’t know exactly what your home experience has been or what your family has been like, or what your own personal experience in the Church is. Whether you’re old-time, long-term, fifth-generation Latter-day Saint, or new-term, first-generation convert. All of those complexities come together at places like Rick’s and BYU, and yet we make very real expectations of you; and we want you to live a certain way and we want you to believe certain things. And yet in your heart, you may not be sure. And I just ask you to hang in there. To not give up if you’re not absolutely certain, if you can’t say all of the things with all of the conviction that maybe you hear somebody else saying, or that maybe you hear your parents say and you were raised in that kind of a home but you’re not there yet. Just hang on.
“You’re a portrait God is still painting. And at this stage in your life, He is not finished with you. And while some things are available to you, including these kinds of convictions, don’t kick over the teakettle while you’re waiting, while you’re progressing, while you’re growing.”
5. "Be Not Afraid, Only Believe"
February 6, 2015 – CES Evening with a General Authority
In this talk, Elder Holland encourages teachers to help the youth of the Church replace doubt and fear with belief and optimism.
“When [Sister Holland and I] got married, we were both still undergraduates at BYU, with neither set of parents able to help us at all financially, no way to imagine all the graduate education we had yet ahead of us, and this with $300 dollars between us on our wedding day! Now that may not be the ideal way to start a marriage, but what a marriage it has been and what we would have missed if we had waited even one day longer than we did once we knew that that marriage was right. Sure, there was sacrifice; certainly there were restless days and weeks and months; certainly there was some burning of the midnight oil. But I tremble to think what we would have lost if we had taken ‘counsel from our fears,’ as President James E. Faust would later tell me over and over and over that I and no one else should ever do. What if we had delayed inordinately? What would we have missed? I still think the best definition of marital love is James Thurber’s, who said simply that love is what you go through together. I will be eternally grateful for what Pat was willing to go through with me—that she did not feel I had to have my degree and a car and a home and a career all in hand before we could marry.”
Nate Sharp is an associate professor in the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University and currently serves as bishop of the College Station 3rd ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Read more from him at aggielandmormons.org.