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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

415: OVERBLOWN, EXAGGERATED STORY GIVEN BY ELDER HOLLAND HAS NOW BEEN RECANTED

In his remarks during the 2017 Seminar for New Mission Presidents, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared a missionary account, which was published by the Church News under the headline: “Elder Holland shares 'The Missionary Speech of All Time' at Seminar for New Mission Presidents.” The article was widely read and shared. It was also reprinted in the Deseret News.

Here is the excerpt from the published story:

Elder Holland closed by relating a story — being careful to protect the privacy and anonymity of the participants — of a young man from southern Idaho. One night the young man stormed out of the house and set off to join an infamous motorcycle gang. He succeeded in that resolve and for 20 years became immersed in a culture “of temptations yielded to and degradations explored,” never contacting his parents, who feared that he was dead.

Eventually ending up in Southern California, he one day was sitting on the porch of a rented home when he saw two LDS missionaries making their way up the street.

“With a rush of memory and guilt, regret and rage, he despised the very sight of them,” Elder Holland recounted. “But he was safe, because he kept all visitors at bay by employing two Doberman Pinschers who viciously charged the gate every moment that anyone came near.”

The dogs startled the missionaries as they passed by and continued on, “our man on the porch laughing at the lovely little drama he had just witnessed, wishing only that the gate hadn’t restrained his two dogs.”

Then, the two elders stopped, looked at each other, conversed a little, “likely said a silent prayer,” then turned around and approached the gate.

“The Dobermans on cue charged the gate again, hit it, snarling, frothing, and then stopped in their tracks,” Elder Holland said. “They looked at the missionaries, dropped their heads, ambled back to the front steps and lay down.”

The man on the porch was speechless as they missionaries opened the gate, walked up the path and greeted him.

“One of the elders said, ‘Are you from this part of California?’

“The man said, ‘No. If you want to know, I’m from Pocatello, Idaho.’

“There was a pause. ‘That’s interesting,’ the elder said. ‘Do you know the [such-and-such] family in Pocatello?’

“With a stunned look, our biker paused, and then, in very measured words, said, ‘Yeah, I know them. They are my parents.’

“ ‘Well, they’re my parents too,’ the missionary said. ‘God has sent me to invite you to come home.’ ”

The younger brother had been born after the older boy had left home. The elder brother did not even know of him.

“Mom and Dad have been praying for you every morning and night for 20 years,” the younger brother said. “They were not sure you were alive, but they knew if you were, that someday you would come back to us.”

The wayward son invited the two in, and they talked for the rest of the day and some of the night. He did return home, returned to Church activity and, in March 2015, was married and sealed in the Boise Idaho Temple.

Commenting on the account, Elder Holland said, “This is a story of the role of Almighty God, the Savior of the World, and the Holy Ghost involved in the work of the ministry to which we’ve been called.

1. “The Holy Ghost prompted those parents to keep praying, to keep believing, to keep trusting. …

2. The Holy Ghost inspired that rebellious boy to come to himself like the prodigal he was and to head for California. …

3. The Holy Ghost influenced that younger son to serve a mission and be willing to accept a call to Southern California. …

4. The Holy Ghost inspired one of my brethren in the Twelve, who was on the assignment desk that Friday, to trust his impression and assign that young man for service not a great distance from his native-born state.

5. The Holy Ghost inspired that mission president to assign that young missionary to that district and that member unit.

6. The Holy Ghost led those missionaries to that street, that day, that hour, with big brother sitting on the porch waiting, and, with Doberman Pinschers notwithstanding,

7. the Holy Ghost prompted those two elders to stop, talk and in spite of their fear, to go back and present their message. …

8. “And, through the elders, the Holy Ghost taught repentance and brought true conversion to one coming back into the fold.”

Elder Holland said the young elder, without realizing it, gave the missionary speech of all time, when he said to his brother, “God has sent me here to invite you to come home.”

“We are sent by God to invite His children home,” Elder Holland concluded.

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This story was retold word for word in our Sacrament last week at a Missionary Farewell. My wife turned to me after hearing the story and said.. "as if that really happened that way". She has great discernment and apparently not everyone can recognize truth from error when they hear it.

However, in the end, truth will always prevail..

On July 31, Elder Holland released the following statement regarding the account:

"A few weeks ago when speaking to new mission presidents at the Missionary Training Center, I shared a story about two brothers, just as I heard it from individuals who knew the family and had heard it recounted by a family member. Within a few days, my office was contacted by the family, who expressed concern that some elements of that account were not accurate due to embellishing by a family member.“
As a courtesy to me the family contacted my office, wanting me to be aware of the inaccurate parts of the story and offering their help in avoiding any perpetuation of those elements in the account I heard. I am deeply touched by their humility and courage in doing so, and as an equal courtesy to them, I am withdrawing the story completely and request that it not be shared further."
Elder Holland revised the story stated that the facts were:
  • The older brother did indeed leave his home and his family and for many years pursued the lifestyle I described in my talk. 
  • During these years his parents lovingly tried to maintain contact, prayed faithfully for him and even sent local leaders to seek after him. 
  • However, at the time his younger brother was called to serve as a missionary, the older brother had already returned to Idaho. 
  • With the help of missionaries there, he started the difficult and courageous process of changing his life. 
  • In time, he would return to full activity and be sealed in the temple, and he would also have a son who would serve a mission.

So... no Doberman pinchers, No younger brother serving a mission who found his wayward brother. No emotional dialogue that took place.where the younger brother said "They’re my parents too,God has sent me to invite you to come home.’

I mean how do you get those details included in a story?

Personally, after reading this press release from the Church, I had a déjà vu moment since I grew up listening to Elder Paul H Dunn talks.