On Thursday, June 23, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, fifty-three, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, filling a vacancy created by the reorganization of the First Presidency following the death of President Ezra Taft Benson on May 30. Also on June 23, Elder Holland was ordained an Apostle and set apart by President Hunter as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. In a press conference held later that day, Elder Holland expressed his feelings regarding his new calling.
“I’m not sure that you can understand the overwhelming sense of responsibility this call brings,” he said to members of the press and other observers. “I’m equally sure that you could not understand the unspeakable respect that I have for the office. My greatest wish, and hence my greatest anxiety, is that I will be adequate and appropriate and never in any way damage the dignity and respect that the Church and the world collectively hold for the office of Apostle.
“The last few hours have been nearly unbearable,” he continued. “I received this call at 7:30 this morning. … President Hunter issued the call, he conducted the business at the temple, he gave me my instructions, and he gave me my blessing. He did it all. How deeply moving his counsel and guidance and blessing to me were. It amounted to considerable instruction and time this morning. I consider President Hunter’s strength and sustaining power in his new calling to be one of the modern miracles of this church.”
Elder Holland has been personally acquainted with President Hunter for many years. As president of Brigham Young University, he traveled with President Hunter, then president of the Quorum of the Twelve, as they worked toward the approval and completion of BYU’s Jerusalem Center project. “When he issued the call, we had some tearful moments together,” Elder Holland said. “It was a tender time.
“As to my own sense of respect and responsibility, … I pledge to you, as I did to my Brethren this morning, everything I have and everything I know how to give.”
During the press conference, Elder Holland responded to questions about President Hunter’s first official statement as president of the Church and about the Church’s plans to commemorate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s martyrdom.
Speaking of President Hunter’s invitation to less-active members to come back, Elder Holland said, “I know him and the other Brethren well enough to know that they want everyone back, all the time, in every way, in every place. That would be as basic to the apostolic mission of this church as anything else—to invite people to stay with us. … It seems to me that is basically the message of the Church from its beginning.”
Responding to a question about activities marking the anniversary of the martyrdom, Elder Holland commented, “I would say that one of the greatest things that has happened in my life in the last five years is the expanding and greater magnificence that the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith has taken on. I have been raised a member of the Church; I served a mission in England as a young man. … I’ve always had a testimony.
“But something has happened during these last few years that is essentially ineffable. … It is real, and it is about the role and the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith. … It has taken on new meaning and sacredness that will be very central in this calling.”
Jeffrey R. Holland was born in St. George, Utah, on 3 December 1940 to Frank D. and Alice Bentley Holland. “I grew up with more security and unrestrained love than I can imagine a child having,” he has remarked.
He met Patricia Terry at Dixie High School, and the two married in 1963, shortly after he returned from a full-time mission to England. The Hollands have three children: sons Matthew and David and a daughter, Mary Alice, who is married to Lee McCann. The McCanns have one child, Madeleine, and are expecting a second child.
“I am grateful for my husband’s spiritual qualifications for this calling,” said Sister Holland at the press conference. “Nobody but myself knows the kind of faith that this man has. It is pure,” she said. “He is a humble servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Prior to his calling as a General Authority, Elder Holland served as a regional representative, as a counselor in three stake presidencies, as a bishop, as director of the Melchizedek Priesthood MIA, and as chairman of the Church’s Young Adult Committee.
As a General Authority, Elder Holland has served in the area presidencies of the North America West, Europe North, and North America Southeast areas and has been serving as assistant executive director of the Correlation Department of the Church.
Much of Elder Holland’s life has been devoted to education. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in religious education from Brigham Young University, he attended Yale University and received a master’s degree and Ph.D. in American studies. He taught at several institutes of religion before becoming dean of religious education at BYU. Two years later, he was appointed the Church commissioner of education, a position he held until being called to serve as the ninth president of Brigham Young University. He was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy in April 1989.
Elder Holland served as president of the American Association of Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities and as a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Presidents Commission and a number of other educational associations. For his work in improving understanding between Christians and Jews, he was awarded the Torch of Liberty award by the Anti-Defamation League of B’Nai B’rith. He also served on several national educational organizations, as well as on the governing boards of a number of civic and business-related corporations.
“My chief responsibility now, and my primary responsibility—in a sense, my total responsibility—is to bear witness of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Elder Holland observed. “As inadequate as I feel, it is the most pleasant and most rewarding and most thrilling assignment a man can have in this world. I pledge my life to this effort.”