Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shortly after I gave birth to my first child, and the general conference address he gave that year was about motherhood. There I sat, holding my infant daughter, feeling totally overwhelmed by all the new demands that were going to be placed on me, and as I listened to the words of this inspired man of God, spoken with his soft, kind voice, I knew I was going to be all right. Elder Holland has had a special place in my heart ever since-his words got me through a rough patch and have continued to do so with his other topics in the years since. I consider him “my” general authority for that very reason.
His new book, For Times of Trouble: Spiritual Solace from the Psalms, is particularly relevant now. Few of us could say that we don’t find ourselves in troubling times. We’ve each experienced financial difficulty, marital stress, worry over a child, or health problems. We’ve also watched the world become more wicked and the things of God be pushed to the background. Whether we address the question from a personal standpoint or in reference to the world in general, we are indeed familiar with times of trouble.
Elder Holland begins the book by stating that it’s more devotional in content than this other books, and that the essays included are meditative in nature. Because of this, he feels that this book shouldn’t be considered doctrine handed down from the Church itself. I thought that was an interesting way to begin the discussion-he wants his readers to have no doubt that these are his thoughts and his alone. I highly doubt that he would ever publish something that went against Church doctrine, but I still appreciated that statement as it shows his concern that his words and the intent behind them never be confused for something they’re not.
From there, we enter one of the most beautifully presented books I’ve ever seen. Every so often through the volume, we are treated to a full-color painting that illustrates the psalm being discussed. Then we begin at the start of the book of Psalms and read Elder Holland’s thoughts on his favorite verses. He expounds upon the things actually taught in the scriptures, and then includes the thoughts and feelings he’s had while he’s read them. He brings in other scriptures to underscore the point, quotes from other authorities and authors, and shares insights from his own experiences. These short essays bring the Psalms to life in a more three-dimensional way than ever before and invite the reader to ponder the deeper meanings for himself.
As with any book written on a spiritual topic, it’s important for the reader to take the information given and test it out against their own spiritual discernment for a confirmation of the truth. This book, for me, was a refreshing, peaceful break from the chaos of the world around me. I appreciated the words of comfort as spoken by the Psalmist and expounded upon by an Apostle. I appreciated having the chance to ponder this often-overlooked book of scripture. Perhaps most of all, I appreciated the testimony born throughout. Elder Holland has obviously studied the Psalms often, and wove his thoughts together with a sure hand.
For an extra bonus, this book comes with a DVD that features two hours of questions and answers with Elder Holland and a live audience.
We do live in troubled times, but as we stay close to the Lord, we can and will have the strength to make it through and even thrive. This is the message Elder Holland gives us.
Book Review: For Times of Trouble: Spiritual Solace from the Psalms by Jeffrey R. Holland, published by Deseret Book, hardback, 226 pages, $26.99. Also available on DB Bookshelf ebook.