News Release

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland Addresses Over 700 Returned Missionaries in the Philippines

“My mission means everything to me,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as he looked at the returned missionaries during the Devotional with Returned Missionaries on 16 January 2019.


Held at the Angeles Philippines Stake (Diocese) Center in Pampanga, Elder Holland addressed more than 700 young, single returned missionaries under the Angeles, Cabanatuan, and Urdaneta areas.

Elder Holland went on to recount his personal story 56 years ago about how he almost did not serve a mission because his parents were not active in the Church. Leaving behind college and basketball scholarships, he pursued it. When he returned after his mission, he received more scholarships and the Lord has been generous in blessing his life more in the years that followed.

“Four weeks ago, I met with the Prime Minister and Queen of England,” he shared. “Who would have thought that I would be meeting kings and queens in my lifetime?”

Elder Holland acknowledged how his mission prepared him to carry on his duties as a witness of Jesus Christ. Like Peter and the rest of the apostles of old, he taught that the call to be fishers of men and shepherds of men are the same today as they were before. To this, he emphasized, “We are in this forever. One simply cannot go back. Nobody could be the way they were before.”

Elder Holland encouraged the returned missionaries to get as much education as they can because their opportunities in life depend on how ready they are to act on them when they come. Additionally, he talked about the highest ordinance of Temple Sealing.

“We want you to marry. You have an ordinance waiting. Be serious about the formation of families.”

As he concluded his talk, Elder Holland challenged the returned missionaries, who he announced gladly as his ‘favorite audience’, to ask this question to themselves, "If everyone in the Church is like me, what kind of church will it be?" He then blessed them to dream dreams and see visions.

Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, of the Seventy, and Sister Anita M. Wakolo, his wife, also shared their messages of hope, love, and faith to the returned missionaries.

Sister Wakolo shared her testimony and admonished the audience to counsel with the Lord day in and day out. As she is a product of missionary work, she thanked the missionaries for leaving the comforts of their homes to look for people like her who are 'seeking for peace and joy'.

Elder Wakolo warmed the audience when he expressed his gratitude not only for what they do but especially for who they are. He reiterated several times in his message that each should be “a force for good’.

“When one breaks the celestial chain, the effects are carried on to generations,” he said. “Be the one that connects multiple generations by living the celestial chain.”

As soon as full-time missionaries complete and return home, many of them struggle to transition from a life of voluntary self-less service to God to a life of work, school or even personal relationships. Adding to the difficulty are the social pressures, expectations, and lifestyles that many expect of them to embrace or live. 

Hannah Magallano of Angeles Philippines Stake was in the same predicament after completing her missionary service in the England Leeds Mission two months ago. After hearing Elder Holland, she changed her perspective.

“When I first came out of my mission, I witnessed how hard it was to be a returned missionary, but the words of Elder Holland tonight are the words I needed to press forward, carry on, and be the hope of this Church," she said. "The Spirit was so strong…. We are indeed the hope of Israel."

Camille Ann Calugay, who served a mission in Philippines Cagayan de Oro Mission, also shared her thoughts about the message she received from the apostle.

“Last night, I was actually pondering about my failures in life. I was blessed that these thoughts were overpowered by the Holy Ghost, telling me to focus on helping others, especially those who are less-active in our ward (congregation). I know that the Lord called him to talk to us with love and concern that we may all do better now and never return to our old selves," she said.

Vandolph Villanueva, a returned missionary who served in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission, also shared his thoughts after the devotional. “This experience was awesome. It’s spiritually uplifting. It’s necessary for us returned missionaries to learn and be guided by the words of our apostle. Let’s continue to hasten the work of salvation.”

Elder Holland is visiting the country to preside over the  Urdaneta Philippines Temple Groundbreaking Ceremony, which took place on 16 January 2019, in Urdaneta, Pangasinan. The activities included in his nine-day visit involve presiding over the Philippines multi-stake conference, sharing inspiring messages at special devotionals, and attending leadership conferences as well as a multi-unit sacrament meeting. 

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