Latter-day Saint Life

How I felt the Savior’s love through a letter from Sister Holland

Sister Holland_India.jpg
Sister Patricia T. Holland visits with women from Bangalore, India, in March 2014.
Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

I have a folder in my files called “Accomplishments.” Inside, you can find my university diploma, my certificate of missionary service, even my high school ACT score report. But one of my favorite pieces of paper I’ve kept in that folder is a letter from Sister Patricia T. Holland. That probably sounds like I’ve misclassified it—what is a letter from Sister Holland doing in my accomplishments? But I can think of no better place for it.

Let me back up. My first year as a “real adult,” as some would say, was in 2016. I had earned my diploma from Brigham Young University and was in my first full-time job. During that year, I turned to the words of female Church leaders as part of my regular scripture study. At one point, I decided to listen to several talks by Sister Holland, and I was so glad I did because her words helped keep me stable and gave me purpose during that year of transition.

I can’t even begin to describe how Sister Holland’s many insights made an impact on me, but let me mention a few that come to mind. Her talk “An Eye Single,” which she gave in a 1985 BYU devotional while her husband Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was president of the university, taught me to stay focused on God and His purpose for me. “I promise you that if this year your eye is fixed, centered, riveted, and so cemented that it cannot be distracted by the allure of the crowds or the vanities of this world—then you will hear your calling from God,” she said. “Your destiny rests in that call. Keep your eye single to God’s glory, and in doing so fill your bodies with such brightness of light that you will fulfill your destiny as one created in his image.”

Then, in her remarks “Fear Not,” given two years later in a BYU devotional, she reminded me that “The Lord wants you to succeed even more than you want to yourself. Have faith in a perfect Father’s love, fearing nothing. Remember that love is promised not just to those who have never made a mistake, but that love is promised to every one of us—who have all made mistakes.”

She also pushed me to “Eliminate all ‘would haves,’ ‘could haves,’ ‘should haves,’ and ‘if onlys,’” in her talk “Be Renewed in the Spirit of your Mind,” which she shared at BYU the following year. “What has happened is past and finished. Leave it there. Profound power will come in living and making things right in the present.”

▶You may also like: The scripture that brought Sister Holland peace after the loss of a baby

After spending hours with Sister Holland through her words that year, I wanted to thank her for the difference she made in my life. I put off the idea repeatedly though. Why would someone like Sister Holland, who had such stature, wisdom, and grace, care about a simple thank you card from me? But the idea kept coming back to me to write her a thank you note, and so finally, one day, I sat down to do it.

I can’t remember what I said in that note. I believe I referenced a specific talk she gave and explained how it changed my life—because it did. So many of her words did. Then I put the envelope in the mailbox, only half expecting it to reach Sister Holland.

To my surprise, it did.

To my even greater surprise, she wrote back.

Her letter became some of the best advice I ever received from Sister Holland. She wrote, “It is evident that those in your circle of influence are blessed in eternally significant ways because of your goodness, your faith, and your testimony just as I have been. Stay just that sweet, as I know you will. I will always treasure your letter and you. I love you,” she wrote.

Sister Holland, whose only interaction with me was a thank you note, believed I had goodness. I had faith. I had a testimony. And she loved me. Those words were invaluable to me, because I felt that of all of my accomplishments in life, blessing those I come into contact with through my faith, testimony, and character would be the greatest of them all—and receiving that note from Sister Holland was proof to me that I had made progress, and that she saw me for who I was trying to be. So I’ve kept her letter in my “accomplishments” folder ever since as a sweet reminder of what is truly most important in life.

But on July 20, 2023, I learned that Sister Holland had passed away. I was saddened to hear this, especially as I thought about her husband, Elder Holland, and their family, and considered the grief they must be feeling. I’ve also thought about countless others whose hearts and lives have been touched by Sister Holland just as mine has been. And so on the night I heard about her passing, I pulled out her letter and read it again. I turned to my copy of her book A Quiet Heart. On nearly every page, I’ve highlighted quotes that have inspired me. But as I reflected on Sister Holland and the impact her mortal life has made on my own, one of her thoughts in particular resonated more deeply than it had before.

Describing the Lord’s love and acceptance, she wrote: “We are the Lord’s disciples. He accepts us as we are, even as we are growing toward what we must become. Rest in that love. Bathe and luxuriate in it. Let it relax, calm, and comfort you. Let us keep our face to the Son and come unto him.”

As I read those words, I realized in a way I hadn’t before that all those years ago I had felt the Savior’s love and acceptance through Sister Holland in a profound way. She may not have known it—but in addition to her wisdom, her gesture of Christlike love that I felt in a simple note has made a lasting impact on my life. And I will always be grateful for that.

So once again, I just want to say thank you, Sister Holland.

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