Elder Jeffrey Roy Holland was born on December 3, 1940 in St. George, Utah. His father was an Irish immigrant who had formal education only up to the seventh grade. Elder Holland says he had an “idyllic childhood.” In high school, he was actively involved in student leadership and sports. He was on the track, baseball, basketball, and football teams-winning a championship in football and basketball. While growing up in St. George, he worked as a paperboy, a grocery bagger, and an attendant at a service station. He also played basketball at Dixie College before and after his mission.
While in high school, Elder Holland met Patricia Terry who was a cheerleader. They later married on June 7, 1963, in the St. George temple. They have 3 children and 12 grandchildren.
From 1960-62, Elder Holland served a mission to the British Isles, where he served as a missionary companion to Elder Cook, also of the Quorum of the Twelve. Additionally, Elder Holland’s parents served in the same mission at the same time. Elder Holland claimed to be the only missionary who said goodbye to his parents at both the start and end of his mission.
Elder Holland described that mission as “the major spiritual turning point in my life”. It was also when he decided to become a teacher. After getting married, Elder Holland went to BYU, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English in 1965 and a Master’s Degree in religious instruction in 1966. He taught part-time at BYU as a graduate student. Then he taught at various institutes and seminaries, including Hayward, California, and Seattle, Washington. While in Seattle, he served as Bishop of a singles ward. In 1970, Elder Holland went to Yale and earned a Master’s Degree and PhD in American Studies. During that time he served in the Stake Presidency and Sister Holland served as Relief Society President. Elder Holland described this difficult time period to “crossing the Red Sea.” Later, Elder Holland served in two other Stake Presidencies and as a Regional Representative.
In late 1972, the Hollands returned to Utah. He taught briefly at the Salt Lake Institute, and then was called as director of the Church-wide Melchizedek Priesthood Mutual Improvement Association. In 1974, he was appointed as Dean of Religious Education at BYU. In 1976, he was appointed as Church Commissioner of Education. From 1980-1989, he served as the 9th president of BYU. During part of that time, Sister Holland was a counselor in the general Young Women’s presidency. Elder Holland was also active in the establishment of the BYU Jerusalem Center in Israel.
On April 1, 1989, Elder Holland was called to the First Quorum of Seventy. He was ordained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on June 23, 1994, at the age of 53.
Although I have never met Elder Holland, I feel I know him personally. Perhaps it is because I have read his book "Christ and the New Covenant". Or maybe it is the fact that we share the same first name. One of my personal favorite talks is called “An High Priest of Good Things to Come.”
Official Background Information from the Church
Article in the Ensign about Elder Holland.
Additionally, I took a class at BYU on the lives of the Apostles. I relied on some documents from that class.