The President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Russell M. Nelson visited church members in Seattle, Washington this past Saturday in the Mariners Safeco Field stadium. I was excited to attend with my in-laws, and felt a little bad I was going at the expense of my wife, who was staying at home with our sick daughter for the evening. I promised to return with the prophetic message, and I am very grateful to her for her kindness.
Holding a devotional in a baseball stadium is a new one to me. I don’t think I have ever attended a similar church event in a sports stadium, and President Nelson also mentioned it was his first speaking in such a venue. Sister Nelson joked that she felt the need to get a hot dog.
It also didn’t have the feel of attending general conference. While many were dressed in Sunday attire, it seemed much more casual. Some next to me were popping out beef jerky and popcorn. People would wave when they made an appearance on the jumbotron. The jumbotron also features #FollowtheProphet posts from Twitter and Instagram, and apparently, there wasn’t any filter on them: some were pretty hilarious. My favorite was: “I swear I will go inactive if this doesn’t make it on the jumbotron.” It looks like someone saved a testimony today.
I wanted to briefly summarize the main takeaways I got from each of the speakers, which included President Eyring, Sister Nelson, and President Nelson. I will add a few comments of my own. I found it to be a very inspiring evening. I feel that President Nelson is doing much good in the world, and is challenging Latter-Day Saints to take their faith to another level: to move outside ourselves, to be Christlike, and to be a part of our communities.
President Eyring’s remarks centered around the concept of confirming revelation. He took on the part of kind of a John the Baptist approach, you could say. He reiterated the importance of having a living prophet, and told specific experiences throughout his life when he felt a confirmation that the prophet was a man of God.
He started with an amusing story of his five-year-old self sitting restlessly in general conference turned around in his seat. His mom was trying to get him to pay attention. And while he may have not been facing the right way, he was listening. And that was the first powerful experience he had listening to a prophet of God, which happened to be President Heber J. Grant at the time. He shared a similar experience later with the powerful character of David O. McKay. He knew that he was a prophet of God.
President Eyring shared the quote from Brigham Young that reiterates the responsibility of the saints to seek out confirming revelation when a prophet speaks:
What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.
I have heard this quote before, most recently in a thought-provoking post over at Sixteen Small Stones. There is a similar quote attributed to Brigham Young That Max Wilson tries to debunk:
The greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord.
Brother Wilson takes this quote to task, because it is often used by critics and dissenters who truly believe that, in either small or large matters, the Church has been led astray, and these members know better than the prophets in some regard.
What I found impressive in President Eyring’s remarks is how confident he was, and the Church in general is, that church members will receive confirming revelation. It takes true confidence to do so, and a real risk that some will claim not to have received the accompanying revelation. And they are OK with that. Joseph Smith had a similar confidence, because “he knew it, and he knew that God knew it, and he could not deny it.” Missionaries today express the same confidence, when they reiterate the Moroni’s promise that the Holy Ghost will give witness to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
Sister Wendy Nelson
I love seeing Sister Nelson accompany her husband. It seems new for some reason. Has ever a prophet’s wife been this “present”? I know that both Gordon B. Hinckley’s and Thomas S. Monson’s wives died during their presidencies, and I’m just not remembering what it was like while they were alive. Sister Nelson is a dynamic figure, and I appreciate seeing her have such a big impact in the Church.
Sister Nelson shared her thoughts on what it is like being married to a prophet. She specifically focused on his bouts of inspiration that often come late in the night. Even before his calling as prophet, he kept a pad of paper next to his bed, and would pull it out to capture moments of inspiration. But when called as a prophet, such instances accelerated substantially. She recalled different experiences where she has shared moments of revelation with him, and others where she felt prompted to leave the room so that President Nelson could be open to the promptings of the Lord. She herself has had to follow revelation as the wife of the prophet.
President Nelson shared 5 things that he has learned during his life. He said he could have shared many more, “but I don’t want to keep you here until Christmas.” His first and main point centered around a story from his years raising teenagers. He and his wife planned a family trip to get their teenage girls “away from the phone and their boyfriends”, and they settled on a whitewater rafting trip.
At one point on the trip, they reached a steep dropoff– one that was several stories high. President Nelson reacted instinctively by holding tightly to his wife and youngest daughter. But that had unintended consequences; he ended up being thrown from the raft, and was “beat like an egg in an eggbeater.” He was eventually able to get back on the raft, but he learned his lesson, and the next time a drop came, each family member held tightly to the raft itself, rather than holding only to family members as anchors.
You can perhaps deduce the message. Life is like riding a raft. President Nelson suggested the raft is the gospel. We need to make sure we hold tight to the gospel (it also felt like another analogy, the iron rod– or the oxygen masks on a plane) ourselves if we hope to help our families in the long-run. To me, this isn’t a “heartless” prioritizing the Church over family. I don’t feel that that is what President Nelson is suggesting. We don’t want our children to be in any danger. But our spiritual well-being is important, and we sometimes need to trust our children to make our own choices– that they are holding onto the raft as well. We can’t be too over-protective, I suppose?
President Nelsons other points included:
The Book of Mormon is true.
The honors of this world are nothing in comparison to the treasure of heaven.
The unexpected can bring to pass the impossible. As an example, he told the story of his efforts at opening the countries of eastern Europe to the gospel while they were still behind the iron curtain. (He dropped in a funny anecdote about being tempted to exchange money on the black market in eastern Europe? I would like to know that story in a little more depth haha).
We aim to build bridges of connection, not walls of segregation. I really liked this. He suggested that we need to be outwardly focused, not just towards those in the Church. He used as an example how humanitarian aid is dispersed during emergencies. Whenever we send aid, none of it is ever labelled “Latter-Day Saints only.” It is distributed and used for the good of all.