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Sunday, December 3, 2017

Report on the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional

Hello again, everyone! I am posting briefly tonight with a recap of the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional. President Henry B. Eyring presided at and conducted the devotional, sending season's greetings on behalf of the First Presidency. Sister Reyna I. Aburto offered the invocation. Music was provided by the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square. Surprisingly, there were only three speakers at this devotional, which may be the new normal.

We heard from Sister Christina B. Franco, Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency (you can find the Church news summary of her remarks here), Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Seventy (the Church News summarized his remarks in this article), and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency (whose remarks are summarized here). The Mormon Newsroom article covering the entire devotional can be found here.

President Uchtdorf also shared an expression of President Monson's love and greetings to all Church members. At the end of the devotional, the benediction was offered by Brother Brian K. Ashton, Second Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency.

I always say this every year, but I absolutely loved this year's Christmas Devotional. I am so grateful that we have this opportunity each year to hear messages specifically about the Christmas season at the beginning of each December.

That does it for this post. Any comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Celebrates His 77th Birthday Today

Hello again, everyone! I am back as promised with a post written in honor of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who is celebrating his 77th birthday today. Elder Holland has long been one of my favorite apostles, and I have a couple of familial connections to him. My dad was born and raised in St. George, and his father (Dean Stokes), was Elder Holland's home teaching companion when "young Jeff" was an Aaronic Priesthood holder.

According to my dad, his father often expressed his wonder that a boy like Elder Holland had been could become an apostle of the Lord. I know that at times, it may seem that each member of the Church, to a certain degree, may put the leading Brethren of the Church on a pedestal, but I am reminded in accounts such as that shared by my grandpa that these men may have been foreordained to the apostleship, but they are no different than any other member of the Church; the Lord just ordered their lives based on their personal choices in such a way that when such calls came to them, they were qualified through years of service in the Church and living what they believe. That is important for all of us to remember.

I also have another indirect connection to Elder Holland. My mom is a freelance proofreader, and in the early days of her marriage to my dad, she worked on many projects for the Church Educational System. Since that occurred at the time when Elder Holland was the Commissioner of the CES, he was essentially my mom's "boss." And she speaks warmly of the experiences she had working with him.

Personal connections aside, I wanted to share a brief biographical sketch of Elder Holland. Jeffrey Roy Holland was born in St. George, Utah to Frank D. and Alice Bentley Holland on December 3, 1940. He served full-time in the British Mission. His mission president was Marion D. Hanks, who later served in the First Quorum and Presidency of the Seventy. One of his companions was Quentin L. Cook, with whom he would later serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Upon his return from his mission, he married his high school sweetheart, Patricia Terry, in 1963. They are the parents of a daughter and two sons, one of whom, Matthew, serves currently as the President of Utah Valley University, though he will resign from that assignment next year to serve as a mission president.  Elder Holland attended BYU, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in religious education.

He went on to earn a doctorate degree in American studies from Yale. He then became a professor at BYU, serving as Dean of the College of Religion. He served as Commissioner of Church Education from 1976-1980, then served as president of BYU until his call as a General Authority.

Elder Holland has served as a bishop, counselor in a stake presidency, and regional representative. He was sustained a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy on April 1, 1989. After the First Presidency was reorganized following the death of President Ezra Taft Benson, President Howard W. Hunter took immediate action to fill the apostolic vacancy. In the space of a few short hours on June 23, President Hunter issued a call to the apostleship to Elder Holland, gave him his apostolic charge, set apart and ordained him to that calling,  and had him join the other 14 apostles in their weekly meeting at the temple. That action was sustained by Church membership during the Solemn Assembly that was held less than three months later.

Elder Holland gave 3 talks prior to his apostolic call (one of which he gave in April 1983 as president of BYU during the Priesthood Session, with his son (a teacher at the time) also speaking during that session. And since his call to the apostleship, he has spoken 47 additional times, meaning he has given 50 addresses altogether in General Conference. To review any of these wonderful addresses, click here. While I love and sustain all the Brethren, I have found that Elder Holland's talks always affect me more.

Some of my favorites among those 50 in recent years have been None Were With Him (from the Easter Sunday Morning Session of the April 2009 General Conference); Lord, I Believe (from the Sunday Afternoon Session of the April 2013 General Conference); and Songs Sung and Unsung (from the Saturday Afternoon Session of the April 2017 General Conference).

The last thing I want to mention about Elder Holland is that he is currently the 4th senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the 5th most senior of our 14 apostles. He is also the 5th oldest member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and is the 8th oldest of the 14 apostles, meaning that he is the oldest of the youngest half of our current apostles.

I am grateful for the life and ministry of Elder Holland, and although he may not ever read this, I am also grateful for the chance I had to write this post in tribute to his birthday today. That does it for this post. Any comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Update provided on Fortaleza Brazil Temple

Hello again, everyone! As you may remember, I mentioned yesterday that today I intended to post a birthday tribute to Elder Holland, who celebrates his 77th today, and I also shared my intention to post an update on apostolic age and tenure information. While I am still planning to do so later on today (in addition to posting a recap of the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional), I became aware of an updated status for the Fortaleza Brazil Temple that I wanted to post about right away.

For those following along, when I last posted an update on that temple, I noted that the exterior of the temple was receiving its stone cladding, and that the steeple had been attached to the adjoining meetinghouse. That update was provided 8 days ago on this blog. Today I learned that while stone cladding continues on the temple, a similar stone cladding is being attached to the patron housing facility, and that the roof of the adjoining meetinghouse is being placed.

It is amazing to see the day-to-day progress that occurs on many temples under construction. I have loved following that progress for several years, and I treasure the opportunity to pass such developments along to you, my readers, and I appreciate your interest in things that I have felt inspired to "sound off" about in such posts.

That does it for this post. Any comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post (which will be put up later today), I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.