‘Very personal talk’: President Jeffrey R. Holland shares lessons learned during recent challenges

Apr 6, 2024, 11:20 AM | Updated: 5:53 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The 194th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints got underway Saturday morning with some highly personal remarks from the faith’s new acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

President Jeffrey R. Holland, who assumed the position following the passing late last year of President M. Russell Ballard, began his remarks by joking that he had “learned a painful lesson” since his last general conference address in October 2022.

“That lesson is, if you don’t give an acceptable talk, you can be banned from the next several conferences,” President Holland said to laughter.

In reality, President Holland noted, he underwent a number of challenges since that time, most notably the passing of his wife, Patricia Holland, in July 2023.

“She was the greatest woman I have ever known – a perfect wife and mother, to say nothing of her purity, gift of expression, and spirituality,” President Holland said.

Roughly 48 hours after the burial of his wife, President Holland said, he was rushed to the hospital in an “acute medical crisis” and spent several weeks in intensive care and “in and out of consciousness.”

“Virtually all of my experience in the hospital during that period is lost to my memory,” said President Holland. “What is not lost is my memory of a journey outside the hospital, out to what seemed the edge of eternity. I cannot speak fully of that experience here, but I can say part of what I received was an admonition to return to my ministry with more urgency, more consecration, more focus on the Savior, and more faith in His word.”

President Holland also thanked Church members for their prayers on his behalf, and he focused the remainder of his address on the importance of prayer.

“I testify that God hears every prayer we offer and responds to each of them according to the path He has outlined for our perfection,” said President Holland.

Sherry and Steve Browning, who traveled from Idaho to attend general conference, said they were touched by President Holland’s remarks.

“He is so real and genuine and heartfelt and devoted in everything he does,” said Sherry Browning.

“I felt that his past two years have been a real trial for him,” added Steve Browning, “and yet he’s grown in his own personal faith and testimony in amazing ways.”

Thousands of people flocked to the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City on a chilly Saturday morning for the first of five sessions of the global twice-yearly gathering. Many others are taking part via technology around the world.

Conducting the Saturday morning session, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, noted that Church President Russell M. Nelson was viewing the conference at home and was not present at the Conference Center. President Nelson did attend the Saturday afternoon session in person.

During the morning session, conference attendees formally sustained President Holland as the new acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Patrick Kearon as the newest apostle. Elder Kearon’s appointment was previously announced in December.

A number of new Church leaders were also announced at the conference, including members of the Presidency of the Seventy, the Quorum of the Seventy, and the Sunday School General Presidency. Other Church leaders were formally released from their service.

Church calls new Sunday School General Presidency, General Authority Seventies


Sister J. Anette Dennis, first counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency, also spoke Saturday morning about following Jesus Christ. Sister Dennis touched on the importance of wearing the holy garment, which Latter-day Saints view as a sacred personal symbol of their faith.

“There is deep and beautiful symbolic meaning in the garment of the holy priesthood and its relationship to Christ,” Sister Dennis said. “I believe that my willingness to wear the holy garment becomes my symbol to Him. It is my own personal sign to God, not a sign to others.”

Conferencegoers also heard a pre-recorded message Saturday morning from President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the Church’s First Presidency.

Later in the day, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, one of the apostles, conducted the Saturday afternoon session. It’s the first time someone outside the church’s First Presidency has done that since the mid 1980s.

“Historically, there have been a few instances, typically due to health or age-related limitations of the First Presidency, when others have conducted sessions of general conference,” a Church spokesman noted in an email to reporters. “There is nothing scriptural or doctrinal that precludes the First Presidency from assigning others to conduct conference.”

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‘Very personal talk’: President Jeffrey R. Holland shares lessons learned during recent challenges