It was halftime of the state championship basketball game and they were losing. Elder Holland’s coach came into the locker room and said,

“We don’t have a lot of substitutes—we hardly have any. I know you’re tired. I know you’re giving it everything you’ve got, but the next 20 minutes is the most important 20 minutes of your high school career. Twenty minutes is all I’m asking, and then we’ll rest forever! Give me all you’ve got for 20 more minutes! Let’s go out there and do that.”

They did, and they won.

If you want to speak like Elder Holland, then there really isn’t a more applicable story than that one. Elder Holland lives his life with the same intensity he gave in the last twenty minutes of that championship game.

In this article I hope to touch on what makes Elder Holland’s talks so powerful and give you 5 tips for preparing your own talks through what I’ve learned studying his ones.

So, how does Elder Holland produce such powerful talks?

I think it’s important to remember that he’s a fighter, a finisher, a leader, a father, an author and an Apostle. But, first and foremost, he’s a disciple and a witness of Jesus Christ.

If you need evidence of that just listen to his voice quiver whenever he speaks of his relationship with the Lord. Watch the tears fill his eyes when he pleads with us to respect women or feed the poor, and hear the conviction when he says that he will work and preach and spread the gospel until his final breath. This is not staged, this is really him. His conviction is absolutely genuine, his intentions are totally pure.

All the techniques Elder Holland has mastered with speaking, all his amazing word choices, all his comedic timing, and all his wit is secondary to the underlying reality and theme of his life: That he wants to follow Jesus Christ… and he is dead set on doing it.

Lesson Number 1: If you want to speak like Elder Holland: Understand your audience!

Once a young boy of 14 came up to Elder Holland and spoke to him saying, “Brother Holland, I can’t say yet that I know the Church is true, but I believe it is.”

Now, what do you think an Apostle would say here? He could launch into committing the boy to reading Moroni 10:3-5, or just bear him his testimony.

But that was not Elder Holland’s reaction at all. He said that he “hugged that boy until his eyes bulged out and told him with all the fervor of [his] soul that belief is a precious word, an even more precious act, and he need never apologize for ‘only believing’…[he] told him how very proud [he] was of him for the honesty of his quest.”

This boy received exactly what he needed. Not what Elder Holland wanted to push on, preach about or push onto this young boy.

Lesson 2: If you want to speak like Elder Holland become a master orator

After listening to many Elder Holland talks in the past weeks in preparation for this article, I can put the general structure of a Holland talk in a formula that looks something like this, now not all of his talks fit into this formula, but you’d be surprised how many do:

1. Begin with expressing deep gratitude or love: This expression of love and gratitude sets the climate for the Holy Ghost to bear witness of the truth of what he will say.

2. Start right into the action of a story or into a scriptural comparison: Elder Holland wastes no time in his talks, each phrase matters, each expression is well thought out, and he always talks on subjects that are close to his heart. You’ll notice you will never hear Elder Holland say, “When President Monson asked me to speak on….” He always starts with something like: “Without safety ropes, harnesses, or climbing gear of any kind, two brothers…”, “Where Justice Love and Mercy Meet” or “On one occasion Jesus came upon a group arguing vehemently with His disciples”.

3. Use the story as the frame work of the talk (often scriptural stories): These stories that he gives help you to buy in spiritually to the principles he would like to share with you.

4. Discuss the ramifications of the theme: As the talk progresses Elder Holland will use poems, anecdotes, quotes and scriptures to emphasis the overarching theme of the talk and explain simply.

5. Testify Boldly: As the creative writer Kau Tepaki stated very eloquently, “Elder Holland is a great example of being bold. Often I have seen too many members try and take this approach and just end up upsetting and offending others. It is sad to see many members fall from The Church because someone was too bold with them.

Elder Holland on the other hand applies the wise principle of ‘give a bit of your heart rather than a piece of your mind’. How do you do that? Simple, add compassion. Elder Holland usually gets straight to the point by saying amazing eye-opening quotes like, “Some say, oh what was I thinking? Well what ever they were thinking they weren’t thinking of Christ”. Ouch!

Then he uses his own version of aloe vera cream for that bold burn with his compassionate advices to help us be better sons and daughters of almighty God. Elder Holland stated in one of his talks, “We speak boldly because Satan is a real being set on destroying you”. 

In conclusion I have two invitations for you with this article, the first is to take one thing you learned from reading this and apply it into your life (and please if you would like to shoot me an email at [email protected], I’d love to hear about this article). The second is to share this article with someone who would appreciate it.

If we do this, with the global audience that Mission Geek has, we can truly make an impact on talks given all across the globe. Leave your own thoughts and ideas about Elder Holland’s talks in the comments.

Find out more about Elder Holland and read his talks: here.



About The Author


Hello, my name's Bruce! (You can go ahead and say it, 'Hello Bruce.') I'm currently a member missionary, formally a missionary member in North Carolina and I love the gospel! I work as a counselor at Especially For Youth (efy) and I love everything about preparing for, serving and returning from a mission with power.

One Response

  1. Susan

    Another reason that Elder Holland, or any other speaker at General Conference, never begins his talks with “When President Monson asked me to speak on…” is because Pres. Monson DOESN’T assign him a topic. All the speakers choose their own topics, and it is even more awesome when a Conference seems to have a “general theme,” because there isn’t one! If there seems to be a trend of topic, it is because the Spirit inspired those people to follow that particular idea.


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