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Elder Holland’s Three Lessons to Become Better Saints

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Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared three key lessons with students at Brigham Young University on Tuesday to help them build spiritual resiliency for the days ahead.

“You may be asked to face more [difficulties in life] than you think you can — and certainly more than you want,” the former BYU president (1980–1989) and 27-year member of the Twelve said.

He pointed to some of the heartbreaking hardships endured by Troy and Deedra Russell of the Church’s Dutchman Pass Ward in Henderson, Nevada. This family, as Elder Holland detailed in October 2016, lost their 9-year-old son to an accident in May 2015. Troy accidentally ran over their son with his truck. And late last year, Deedra was hit and severely injured by a drunk driver while heading north on I-15 in southern Utah. She has been in the hospital ever since. Her recovery has included 18 surgeries — with more to come.

The Russells

One lesson the Russells’ experience teaches us, the Apostle explained, is that “there is a loving reason to obey gospel laws and a worthy reason to follow gospel principles.” Said another way, “the keeping of God’s commandments really is important” and “revealed do’s and don’ts are for a purpose.”

“We ought to acknowledge,” Elder Holland continued, “the tears of a Heavenly Father who simply asks us to take care of one another, to be careful rather than reckless with the well-being of our sisters and our brothers. Childlike obedience to His parental calls and divine warnings will spare us and others agony in the end. Thus the cry of His Only Begotten Son: ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments.’ It is part of the apostolic burden for us to stand with the Savior in that request. We always extend our love — always — but we are morally obligated to ask for obedience to the commandments as evidence of that affection.”

A second lesson, Elder Holland said, is the need to forgive others “for the relief and peace it brings us.”

The Russells “have felt that they should not withhold forgiveness for him who gave offense,” Elder Holland said. Part of that motivation, he added, was because “Troy has spent these last five years of his life struggling with his role, accidental as it was, in the loss of 9-year-old Austen.”

“Whatever the event, we all thank God for being the Father of forgiveness and for the gifts of mercy and relief He offers us, all of it ultimately coming to us through the majestic Atonement of His Only Begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Elder Holland said. “We are to join in and participate in that offering.”

And a third lesson is, as the Doctrine and Covenants and the Psalms both say, to “be still and know that I am God.”


“When you are being hammered on the anvil of adversity, when your soul is being refined with severe lessons that perhaps can be learned no other way, don’t cut and run,” Elder Holland said. “Don’t jump ship. Don’t shake your fist at your bishop or your mission president or God. Please stay with the only help and strength that can aid you in that painful time. When you stumble in the race of life, don’t crawl away from the very Physician who is unfailingly there to treat your injuries, lift you to your feet, and help you finish the course.”

Elder Holland (quoting Mosiah 3:19 from the Book of Mormon) said that a fundamental purpose of life is to “[become] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.” This requires us, the verse continues, to “[become] as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

That is why, Elder Holland said, his young student audience should “practice now and be strong now for those times of affliction and refinement that surely will come.”

“We don’t know why all of the things that happen to us in life happen, why sometimes we are spared a tragedy and sometimes we are not. But that is where faith must truly mean something, or it is not faith at all,” he said.

“Please, you absolutely beautiful young colleagues in this work: When your life seems to be one tear and tragedy and heartache after another, the meaning of which and the answers to which you cannot understand, I ask you to ‘hope for things which are not seen’ but which are true. As sure as you live, all of the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; of Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel; are waiting for you, short term, long term and forever.”

In brief remarks before Elder Holland spoke, Sister Patricia T. Holland shared equally hopeful thoughts.

Sister Patricia T. Holland

She testified “of a God who thinks peace regarding us, and not evil, a God that will hearken’ unto every one of us in our times of need.”

Sister Holland also told the students of the great care and concern that Church leaders have for them.

“I know how much those Apostles care for you because I live with one of them,” she said. “No one will ever know the prayers my husband has offered and the tears he has shed for you and those like you who may struggle with one kind of challenge or another. He loves you and I love you. I pray that my testimony and his message today will comfort you and strengthen you in good times and bad.”

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