ST. GEORGE — The annual RootsTech conference continued Saturday as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife Sister Patricia Holland, took viewers on a family history tour of their hometown St. George.
Elder and Sister Holland met in high school after she moved to the St. George area from the small-town Enterprise.
"St. George was like New York City to me," Sister Holland said, adding that she was terrified to move there as a teen.
The couple shared their family's story in a video for RootsTech Connect Family Discovery Day. The conference is run by FamilySearch, a volunteer-based organization of the church. And due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's event took place 100% virtually.
As Elder and Sister Holland drove around St. George, revisiting some memorable sites with their children, they reflected upon the importance of keeping family history alive and revisiting important areas with meaning.
As the Hollands shared family photos of their ancestors with viewers, they encouraged individuals to take photos of their families, in every phase of life, and to keep journals — even if it's just the highlights.
"Record anything else that connects us to each other and to the past and to the present," Elder Holland said. "Doing so will prove to be a blessing to you, to your families, and those who come after you."
Additionally, displaying family photos prominently in homes provides a good opportunity to talk about family history with children and teach them about their ancestry, the couple counseled.
Sister Holland instead grew up in the small town of Enterprise, where four generations of her family have lived, before moving to St. George as a teenager.
Her great-grandmother, who was from Switzerland, helped settle the area. In an effort to make the desert landscape more like her lush home country, Sister Holland's great-grandmother planted a row of trees by the church meetinghouse and dutifully watered them every day.
Just a young girl at the time, Sister Holland's mother often accompanied her grandmother to water the trees. One time, a neighbor asked why she was wasting time planting trees that would never amount to anything in her lifetime.
In response and while gesturing to her granddaughter, Sister Holland's great-grandmother said: "Maybe I won't live to see them grow at all, but this little girl will," Sister Holland recalled.
Now, those trees surround the meetinghouse where Latter-day Saints worship today. Growing up, Sister Holland said she remembered enjoying the shade under the trees.
Recalling family memories and sharing stories with future generations — like the tree story — helps keep memories alive, the couple said. When families expand due to marriages, Elder Holland said these stories become a part of each spouses' story through the multiplier effect of family history.
On one side of Elder Holland's lineage, there are ancestors going back to the early Utah pioneers and settlers; and on the other side, his family are first-generation converts to the church.
And while the name implies the family would have a connection to The Netherlands, Elder Holland's ancestors are 100% Irish, he said.
"This combination of pioneer ancestry on one side and a first-generation convert family on the other makes it very easy for me to identify with virtually everyone who tells me of their heritage," Elder Holland said.
Connecting with others and finding common experiences through family history happens often and can deepen the impact of a story and increase the importance of family, Elder Holland said. For him, it only takes a few moments of talking to find a common experience among their families.
"We only have to visit briefly before learning that some aspect of their family's story is exactly like mine," he said.
Editor's note: Deseret Digital Media, Inc., the operator of KSL.com, is a subsidiary of Deseret Management Corporation, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.