The Real Elder Price
The Real Elder Price, Part 6: The Dedication
Elder Daniel Kesler: Elder Holland didn't have to recite some preplanned talk, but he was able to just share exactly what he needed to. It was huge when he looked at us and said, "Nothing on earth can change my testimony. You can make me happy or disappointed, but nothing you can do will subtract from my testimony."
Elder John Ternieden (who translated for Elder Holland): I was very nervous and had my face in Liahonas for about two weeks practicing translation. I wish I could have thanked him because it was a real testimony building experience for me. I felt the Spirit SO strongly with his message, and that same Spirit translated the words. I just happened to be the mouthpiece.
Elder Brandon Price: Elder Holland talked about how our church doesn't have a 'symbol' like many others. He said that if he could choose a symbol, it would be two missionaries. Then he said, "You are worthy symbols."
|Companions, Elders Price and Lisowski on Dedication Hill|
The missionaries asked if they could take a picture with Elder Holland. He agreed, but said there would be one condition: Complete silence. Elder Price explains:
He told us that he wanted us to remember an apostolic testimony, not a photo. His last counsel was that as quickly as the spirit comes, it can go away. Then, he got in the car and was off to the airport. It was all finished just as quickly as it began. But, the blessings of his short visit were great. Nearly 400 members and investigators got to hear and be taught by an apostle, the country was dedicated for missionary work and blessed, and a small group of sixteen missionaries had an incredible experience.
|Elder Holland with the missionaries (zone conference)|
This attention to reverence has drawn my thoughts often as I've considered the principle of dedication. We Mormons dedicate ourselves, our homes, temples, churches, and land—whether the land is for someone's burial or for the preaching of the gospel. A spirit of reverence accompanies the dedication, but it can be easily disrupted by the chaos of everyday living, the incessant lure of music with a good beat, of a situation comedy, or of a Broadway musical. The thought makes me wonder if I can fully appreciate the kind of stillness that leaves space for the calming breath of God to be heard and felt, and to linger. It makes me want to take long walks and simply meditate, or to be on a hill overlooking a promised land and hear the timeless strain of hymns—past, present, and future.
|Author (Margaret Young) with Elder Marion Duff Hanks|
As it happens, I also knew and loved the man who presided over the British Isles mission when Elder Jeffrey Holland served there in his youth: Elder Marion D. Hanks. My family and I visited Elder Hanks periodically until his death on August 5, 2011. Any mention of Elder Holland always brought these words from him: "I love Jeff."
My parents, nearly a decade after their service in the Baltic States, still get visits from their missionaries. The missionaries, said Dad, were "my friends, my sons." He trusted them, and found them worthy of that trust. Sometimes, the "line of authority" is simply the cord of the affection lacing one heart to another.
|Mission President Michael Headlee and Pamela Headlee, and senior couple Brent and Lynda Willis|
On the first evening I met them at the Missionary Training Center, I told the missionaries that the French language would become sacred to them, because it would be the language they spoke at holy times. I told them that the countries in which they would serve would also become sacred because of what they would experience. In Mormonism, we believe that a grove of trees was sanctified by a young man's answered prayer; that a normal piece of land did actually contain buried scriptures. In a more personalized perspective, any place where our yearnings have found comfort and direction is sanctified. At the ends of our lives, we could map out our own "sacred groves"—those places in our minds or in our rooms where we met something divine and heard an answer to prayer, even if we didn't realize we were praying.
Note: This essay is lovingly dedicated to the memory of Elder Marion Duff Hanks.
Margaret Blair Young is the president of the Association for Mormon Letters and has published eight books—six novels and two short story collections. Three of the novels were co-authored with Darius Gray and give the history (documented) of Black Latter-day Saints. She and Gray made the documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons, which is currently under contract with the Documentary Channel and showing nationally. She has written six encyclopedia articles and other scholarly papers on Blacks in the western United States, and particularly Black Mormons. She teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University.