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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Some Thoughts About the First Presidency's 2019 Christmas Devotional

Hello again, everyone! As some of you may be aware, since the Church changed the layout of the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional, I have kept track of who has spoken therein every six months. Based on my research and analysis, I am predicting that, at this year's devotional (which will be held this Sunday), President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, will be conducting it. I am also predicting that the speakers will be the following general Church leaders: Brother Milton Camargo, First Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, Elder Carl B. Cook of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency. This is the first time I have ever attempted to publicly predict the speaking lineup for this devotional. As always, I will be just as pleased if any or all of these predictions prove incorrect as I will if any or all of them are verified as correct. The important thing will be what is said therein, not whomever might speak during it. And I look forward to the Christmas messages that will be given through song, prayer, spoken word, and the Spirit. In advance of that devotional, I offer my personal witness that the devotional has been planned in every detail in accordance with the Lord's will and under the direction of the Spirit, and that we will be blessed as we hear and act on the messages we will receive thereat.

That does it for now. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated, on any post at any time, as long as such comments are made in accordance with the established guidelines. Thank you for the privilege of your time. If you enjoyed what you read here and would like to stay informed of newly added content, please feel free to subscribe. 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 Marks His 79th Birthday Today

Hello again, everyone! I am back today 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 which was shared by my grandfather, 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 on such projects.

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 at that time was a member of the now-defunct First Council of the Seventy and later served in the First Quorum and Presidency of the Seventy). One of young Elder Holland's missionary 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, had been serving as the President of Utah Valley University, until he was called to serve as president of the North Carolina Raliegh Mission last year.  Following his mission, 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. In 1980, President Dallin H. Oaks, who was then serving as President of BYU-Provo, announced his intention to move on to other opportunities. Commissioner Holland was put in charge of the committee to find the new BYU President. Two days later, he was stunned when the First Presidency appointment him to that assignment. He had reportedly been favored for the position by President N. Eldon Tanner, who was then serving as First Counselor in the First Presidency, and was the protege of then-Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, who at that time was the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles asssigned to the Church Board of Education.

Elder Holland would go on to serve as president of BYU for 9 years himself, until his April 1, 1989 call as a General Authority and member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. Prior to his call to general Church service, Elder Holland also served as a bishop, counselor in a stake presidency, and regional representative. 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 Thursday 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 exactly 100 days 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, Matthew, (who was a teacher at the time) also speaking during that session. And since his call to the apostleship, he has spoken 51 additional times, meaning he has given a grand total of 54 addresses  in General Conference. To me, it always seems as though the talks given by Elder Holland are specifically focused on something I have been dealing with personally at the time. As a consequence, listening to him speak every six months is one of my favorite things about General Conference weekends.

Some of my favorites among those 54 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 second most-senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the fourth most-senior of our 15 apostles. He is also the fourth-oldest member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and is the seventh-oldest of the 15 apostles.

I am grateful for the life and ministry of Elder Holland, and although he may not ever read this, and for the chance I had to write this post in tribute to his birthday today. That does it for now. Any comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated, on any post at any time, as long as such comments are made in accordance with the established guidelines. 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.