To borrow a phrase from the late Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife Patricia Holland have developed an “earned empathy” for others facing health challenges. Over the last several years, both individuals have undergone significant illnesses and health challenges that have put them in life or death situations.
In a new Church News video, the couple addresses their feelings about this “earned empathy” and what it has taught them.
“I don’t think faith is faith until it’s all you have to hang on to,” Sister Holland said. “And we were both driven to the point where it was life or death and so faith was the only thing we had to hold on to.”
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Elder Holland expressed, “I am a living witness of what it means for members of the Church to pray for the Brethren. I’ve come back from being told I might never walk again.”
Elder Holland was admitted to the hospital in June 2020 following several days of a non-COVID-19 illness. In the video he also shared that he has intentionally tried to be more public about his illness and age, often using a cane on assignments overseas, saying that he wants people to understand all of the hurdles that President Nelson and other Church leaders have had to overcome as they grow older.
Sister Holland has been more reserved and private about her health challenges, but she did share a personal experience about a near-fatal illness she endured at the 2018 Mission Leadership Seminar.
To anyone experiencing health crises or problems, Elder Holland shared this perspective: “When people have a bad day, if the first reaction they have is ‘Well, God doesn’t love me,’ I say, ‘Boy, then you’ve just eliminated a lot of people! and maybe most of all the Living Son of the Living God.’ [Life has] been a challenge for the best people I’ve ever known and certainly the best people I’ve ever read about.”
“Everything I’ve done that’s been a challenge has driven me closer and closer to the Lord,“ Sister Holland concluded. “I don’t think you can have light without having darkness, and that kind of hope carries you.”