Because of ill health, Jeffrey R. Holland, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been “excused” from all church assignments for “at least” the next two months.
That also means he will not be the keynote speaker at Southern Utah University’s graduation ceremonies later this month — a scheduled appearance that has sparked considerable controversy.
In a statement, SUU confirmed that Holland “will no longer be attending or speaking at SUU’s commencement ceremony,” adding, “more details regarding SUU’s commencement will be forthcoming.”
Both Holland, 82, and his wife, Patricia, 81, are “suffering from the effects” of COVID-19, according to a news release Thursday from the Utah-based church. He was unable to attend this past weekend’s General Conference because of his illness.
In addition, the released stated, Holland recently began undergoing kidney dialysis. The Hollands, it added, “are very grateful for all the prayers and outpouring of support offered in their behalf.”
The apostle, a popular and beloved speaker among Latter-day Saints, spoke at church-owned Brigham Young University on March 21 to announce the naming of Christopher Shane Reese as the Provo school’s next president.
Holland was scheduled to speak at SUU on April 28, just three weeks from now. The Cedar City school’s invitation to the Latter-day Saint leader sparked outrage among some students, alumni and members of the LGBTQ community. More than 20,000 people signed an online petition calling for the invitation to be rescinded, citing a speech Holland gave 20 months ago.
In an August 2021 talk at BYU, Holland advised faculty and staffers that they should take up their intellectual “muskets” to defend the church and its “doctrine of the family and … marriage as the union of a man and a woman.” He also criticized the commencement speech by BYU’s 2019 valedictorian, who declared himself a “gay son of God.”
Despite the outcry, SUU President Mindy Benson confirmed a week ago that the invitation to Holland would not be withdrawn, saying in an email to students that his “deep roots in southern Utah will help us honor our 125th anniversary.” She added that the “tension” on campus since the invitation was extended “is due to the perceived clash of two of SUU’s core values: Our staunch support of freedom of expression and our strong desire for inclusion and belonging.”