In October 2016 general conference, Elder Holland’s address “Emissaries to the Church” spoke of the important role of home teachers in the lives of members who face hardship and tragedy. One of the stories he shared was that of Troy Russell, a Latter-day Saint from Las Vegas, Nevada, who in 2015 experienced a heart-wrenching accident:
“On May 30 of last year, my friend Troy Russell pulled his pickup truck slowly out of his garage on his way to donate goods to the local Deseret Industries. He felt his back tire roll over a bump. Thinking some item had fallen off the truck, he got out only to find his precious nine-year-old son, Austen, lying face down on the pavement. The screams, the priesthood blessing, the paramedic crew, the hospital staff—they were, in this case, to no avail. Austen was gone.”
Elder Holland went on to describe “three redeeming forces” that pulled Russell out of despair following the accident: the reassuring spirit of Father in Heaven; his wife, Deedra; and a “home teacher extraordinaire.”
Even though Russell was able to recover from his trauma, the family’s trials were not over. In September of last year, Russell’s wife, Deedra—the woman who Elder Holland said helped pull her husband from despair in 2015—was struck by a drunk driver who was traveling the wrong way in the Virgin River Gorge in Arizona. Deedra survived but has undergone 18 surgeries and months of recovery.
On Tuesday, January 18, Elder Holland delivered a devotional address at Brigham Young University in which he spoke about the Russells’ continued trials and their examples of forgiveness and faith. Members of both the Russell family and of the family of the drunk driver attended the devotional.
Elder Holland drew on the response of both families in the wake of the accident to teach several principles. He spoke about how the drunk driver’s family showed genuine remorse for the harm that was caused. In fact, the entire extended family chose not to buy Christmas gifts for each other this past year and instead donated the money saved to the Russell family to help pay for Deedra’s medical bills.
Speaking of forgiveness, Elder Holland said, “As angry as Troy and Deedra might justifiably have been over this terrible experience, they have felt that they could not and should not withhold forgiveness for him who gave offense.”
Read this story on Church News for more of Elder Holland’s address.