If you read this blog, then you know that recently I’ve been reading and then writing about the talks that President Russell M. Nelson has given since he was called as an apostle. It has been a great experience so far, and I plan to continue with this, but today I’m going to take a quick break.
Yesterday, at 12:45PM, my family and I packed up in our vehicle and headed off to church. There were dark skies, it looked like it would rain at any minute. Right now, I’m staying with my in-laws in a small valley in Utah, and I have to admit that I love when the skies are moody – with the threat of a mountain thunderstorm.
In my mind, I began to sing, “When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us, and threaten our peace to destroy…there is hope smiling brightly before us, and we know that deliverance is nigh…”
We headed off to church, and the song felt like a tender mercy. It was a reminder that even when life feels a little overwhelming, we can have hope – deliverance is nigh.
We got out of our car, walked into the chapel, and it felt so weird. It was sooo quiet and reverent. This is a big ward, and usually on Sunday, it is humming like a beehive, but everyone was seated and quiet. We were there 10 minutes early, but it felt like we were late.
I scanned the congregation, looking for my mother and father-in-law and my daughters, who had left a few minutes before Homey and I did with the younger two. I found them, headed to our seat, and was still feeling disoriented as it was so quiet and reverent.
While walking to our bench, I noticed someone seated on the stand. A couple of familiar faces.
President Nelson and his wife!
President Nelson is not a member of my in-law’s ward. He is not a usual visitor. No one, to my knowledge, knows why he chose to visit our ward’s sacrament meeting this week, but he and his wife were there. The reverence made sense, and I found myself encouraging my children to be a little more reverent. I found myself sitting up straighter, singing louder, and taking the whole experience of sacrament meeting a little more seriously.
As soon as I found myself taking everything at church a little more reverently and seriously, I was disappointed in myself. Sacrament meeting this week was no different than any other sacrament meeting. I was there to participate in the ordinance of the sacrament and fellowship with the saints. Why do I need to be reminded of its sanctity by the prophet?
Why can’t I take church more seriously, why can’t I be more reverent on my own accord?!
I committed to make my worship more meaningful.
Sacrament with the Prophet
I couldn’t help but find myself watching the prophet as the sacrament was administered. I felt like a child watching a parent – looking for cues on how to act, what to do. How does the prophet partake of the sacrament? I wanted to watch and know.
So I did. Well, kind of. I mean, I tried to be a little more subtle than a toddler. And I realized that I already know how to be reverent in sacrament. But I still found myself observing the prophet.
And he acted just as I suspected he would. He shut his eyes, he bowed his head.
As I watched him, I followed suit. I would peek up every once in a while. It almost felt voyeuristic because I could see that this was a very personal experience for him. It made me realize that my sacrament experience isn’t quite as personal for me. I take it, I’m grateful. But am I really internalizing it each week?
Watching the prophet also gave me a feeling that is very hard to express. The word/feeling that kept coming to mind is:
This is real.
The bishop, when conducting, openly admitted that he was “a bit terrified.”
The youth speaker didn’t really mention her own nerves, but gracefully gave an amazing talk. She had no idea the prophet would be there that day. She gave a talk about having the Spirit with us always. She bore testimony. It was a sublime talk and a gentle reminder to me that I need to do more to sue for the Spirit each day.
The high councilman, who had just been called to his position was giving his first talk as a high councilman. Usually, they try to find a return missionary to travel with the high councilman as he speaks. He didn’t have another speaker, and was worried. Until he found that there indeed would be another speaker (or two!) that day. He was a bit flustered, but gave a good talk about family history work and how he has approached it.
Though the talks were good, I think my thoughts probably reflected the same thoughts everyone in the congregation had that day. I want to hear the prophet.
You can’t help, in those quiet moments during talks, during songs, etc. You can’t help but wonder, how long is the prophet going to stay? Will he meet each of us? Will he shake our hands? Can we just stay in sacrament meeting instead of our other classes? Can we just ask him questions and hear his answers?
You can’t help but imagine more…I would love to tell him Thank you. I sustain you. I would love for him to look into my children’s eyes and smile – so they can meet a true prophet of God.
Of course, my imagining was interrupted by my rationality. He and his wife probably won’t stay. This is a huge congregation. How could he possibly shake all of our hands. You need to respect him and his wife and their time, Catania.
I realized something in that moment. The ache that I felt, to meet the prophet, to shake his hand, was representative another desire. The ache I felt to be close to the Prophet is actually the ache I feel to be close to the Savior.
I realized that President Nelson, he is the mouthpiece of the Lord. And he is here with us – in the flesh. And that, even though he is a mouthpiece, he isn’t actually the Savior either. I realized that my desire, to meet the prophet, is righteous but inaccurate. Really, I want to meet the Savior. I want to shake his hand. I want my children to meet Him. I want to worship Him in the flesh.
Again the thought came This is real.
I felt comforted to know that the ache I felt was really an ache for the Savior. It is a good feeling. And that although the Savior doesn’t dwell among us now, He has sent us a prophet. This is real! President Nelson really is a prophet of God. He really has had a witness, a special witness of Christ. President Nelson is a prophet, seer, revelator. No, we don’t worship him. He doesn’t want to be worshipped. But he does represent the Savior and the Savior’s power in a special way by virtue of his calling.
And because I could see President Nelson sitting there, a prophet of God, I could also rest assured that Christ is real! That at a future point, I will meet my Savior. I will worship Him in person. I will shake His hand, and I’ll probably cry instead of do anything meaningful or graceful. My children will meet Him.
This is real.
Everything – everything that I’m doing in my life is because the gospel is real. The Savior is real.
I love learning things – principles – that help us to have better lives. And often I learn about these principles in books and on podcasts. And while they are very good things to learn, while they have made my life better, without the Savior no type of self improvement is even possible.
This is real! Over and over again, that was the feeling I had.
The Sacrament is a real ordinance.
The Prophet is a real man, called of God. He’s sitting up there. He looks older in person, but also realer.
The Savior is real. This is His restored Church. Every good thing in this world is possible because of Him.
Sister Nelson Speaks
After the High Councilor spoke, the Bishop announced that Sister Nelson would speak to us and then the Prophet would speak to us. He also asked us that, after the closing song, we would remain seated as the Prophet exited.
Sister Nelson got up to speak. She was wearing a purple jacket and a black scarf thing. She looked pretty but not high maintenance. “Neat and comely” is exactly how I would describe her.
As she walked up to the podium, I started to realize that so much of what “matters” to me is trivial. I’ll be absolutely honest with you, so please don’t judge me. I noticed that she is a woman, an older woman. She doesn’t have what one would describe as a “perfect body.” But she was radiant.
She radiated strength, knowledge, and testimony. She looked intelligent.
She began to speak, and everything she said reflected what she radiated. I don’t know much about her, but I felt an overwhelming amount of respect for her.
Here are a few points of what she said to us:
- Family History work is important – she echoed the message we heard from our high councilman. … She had done a lot of family history work in her life. She had even gone to sites and found artifacts. She knew so much about her family. But for years she had never taken the time to research her family history and do temple work for her kindred.After hearing the talk The Joy of Redeeming the Dead by Richard G. Scott, she knew she needed to make a change. She told us how that talk resonated with her, and within a month of him addressing us, she had read the talk nearly a hundred times.
Since 2012, she has read or listened to the talk over 250 times. I can’t say that I’ve ever read any conference talk so much!
But even more important than reading a talk repeatedly, she was moved to action. She began to do the work for her family. She went to the temple. She had special experiences.
She said that she was doing the work for the dead, then remarked, “And they don’t like being called ‘the dead,’ by the way!”
I have been able to do work for my ancestors and family, and immediately I felt comforted by what she said. I have had my own experiences and I know that though our friends and family who are inhabiting the Spirit World may be “dead” physically, the end of our mortal lives is not the end. They are still alive – spiritually. They are working, learning, and waiting. I know that they are praying for us, and that the connection we have with our family doesn’t end with death. What a beautiful sentiment for her to share with us.
- President Nelson is a prophet of God. She shared with us that she has had two very special and strong experiences that have testified to her that President Russell Marion Nelson is indeed God’s Prophet, Seer, and Revelator on the earth today.No, she didn’t share these experiences. She didn’t need to. I don’t need to know the details of her experiences. The Spirit confirmed to me that what she said was true. He is the prophet. I’ve had my own witness, and now I was listening to the witness of another.
The Prophet Speaks
It only took me 1,989 words to finally get to this point! After Sister Nelson was seated, President Nelson spoke to us. As he approached the stand, I put my son on my lap. I encouraged my children to listen to a Prophet of God. I wished that I would be able to record this experience. I prayed that the Holy Ghost would help me to remember what the Prophet said to us. I am still praying for that blessing now.
The Book of Mormon is the Word of God
The Prophet said a bunch of nice things to us and our ward – things that I’m sure 1) He says in every ward/branch/stake he visits 2) things he MEANS in every ward/branch/stake he visits.
Before I go on, I want to share an interesting thing…President Nelson is a normal old man. Really, I kept looking at him, looking for a shining light or halo. But he is a 93 year old man, and he looks like an 93 year old man. Well, maybe an 87 year old man. Not sure. I’m reminded of the scripture in Isaiah:
“For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” – Isaiah 53:2
This scripture is a description of the Savior, but it applies also to President Nelson. “There is no beauty that we should desire him.” He isn’t glittery or shiny. And with our natural eyes, he has no form or comeliness.
Yet, when I looked at the prophet, and let the Spirit in my heart, I began to see him a different way. I saw him with my spiritual eyes, and that is when I could really see the man he is. Then I could see that from his countenance emanated the love that he has for everyone – and the love that the Lord has for us all.
I guess I want to share this because if President Nelson is so special, why isn’t everyone just converted to the gospel when they meet him? It’s because we have to choose to see.
President Nelson started to tell us about an experience he recently had – meeting with some of the dignitaries of the NAACP. Before they met together, President Nelson wondered if they should present these dignitaries with a gift, and if so, what should that gift be?
It was concluded that they would give a gift. They decided to present these dignitaries with personal leather-bound Books of Mormon – with their names inscribed on the cover.
When they presented these Books of Mormon to the NAACP Representatives that met together, President Nelson explained that this was the most valuable and precious thing in his life, and the most valuable and precious gift that he could think of to give.
The Book of Mormon, he explained, is a testament of the Savior from the ancient inhabitants of the Americas.
He said, the Book of Mormon is far more valuable than money, diamonds, emeralds, rubies. Do we realize this?!
President Nelson mention that in one day, Joseph Smith was able to translate roughly 9 pages of the Book of Mormon. This was without a computer, word processor, spell check, etc. In fact, Oliver Cowdery was writing 9 pages of Book of Mormon text with a turkey feather quill and ink!!!!!!! Can you even imagine? Then the Prophet continued, “And we feel accomplished when we can read one chapter in a day!”
I love the Book of Mormon, and I have a testimony of it, I felt inspired by the Prophet’s testimony, but I also felt a gentle rebuke. It IS worth more than diamonds, rubies, or the riches of the earth. And I have one. I have one on my phone. I have at least a dozen or so small “missionary” Books of Mormon – in boxes, in my suitcase. I have owned at least 3 sets of “nice scriptures” – the quads that contain all of the scriptures in one place. I have so much of this abundance in my life, that I kind of forget its value!
I read the Book of Mormon with my family, but my own personal study has suffered during our moves. What is the reason for that? Mostly it’s because I’m kind of spoiled. I forget. I forget that…
This is real!
It’s real! The Book of Mormon is real! It really came from Nephi and Jacob, and Alma and Mormon and Moroni by the command of God. The experiences related in its pages are real. The Savior really did visit the Americas after his resurrection. The Book of Mormon really will bring us closer to Christ than any other book.
Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ Love Each of Us
I wish, how I wish I could remember everything that the Prophet said verbatim. But I can’t.
After bearing testimony of the Book of Mormon, The Prophet encouraged everyone – and especially the youth – to study it, to read about the gathering of Israel. That his upcoming youth devotional will address the gathering of Israel, and that reading the Book of Mormon will help them to prepare for it.
He then expressed the Love that Heavenly Father has for us. I felt like the Prophet was looking right at me when he said, “Heavenly Father knows you and loves you, personally. Jesus Christ knows you and loves you, personally.” He knows our circumstances, He understands us.
I can’t remember the Prophet’s exact words, and maybe they aren’t as important as what I felt. I can remember what I felt. Often, when I receive a blessing from Homey, there is a mention of the Love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for me. Especially if this is a blessing of comfort when I’m sick or overwhelmed – there is a recognition of Heavenly Father’s and Jesus Christ’s perfect awareness of my situation – my trials, my worries, etc. In fact, I’ll share the verbiage of this type of blessing because I actually think it applies to us all:
I bless you with peace. I bless you with the knowledge that your Heavenly Father and Savior are aware of your situation and the details in your life and in your challenges right now. I bless you that you will be able to feel their love for you, and a strong spiritual comfort that you have been led and guided by them…
As the Prophet spoke of the Love that our Heavenly Father and Savior have for each of us, I felt it specifically. I felt exactly as I feel when I receive a Priesthood Blessing.
On Saturday night, I didn’t get much sleep. We are in the middle of a big transition, a big move. This transition really has taken years of effort. I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had with my family. I am grateful for the guidance of the Spirit. I’m grateful for the chances I’ve had to make sacrifices and choices. And when I’m wide awake, I’m really capable of maintaining faith and courage.
Then night comes. And I start to fall asleep. The voice of my subconscious seems to be louder and more persuasive than my rational or spiritual voices. Any of the challenges that I’m experiencing loom darker and heavier at night. Thankfully this doesn’t happen every night. Most nights I say my prayers, give Homey a kiss, and get some sleep.
But you know how it is. Sometimes there are those nights when your brain won’t turn off. The hours passed, and I finally decided to read conference talks – President Nelson’s talk about revelation, specifically.
I didn’t have any shattering revelations. Instead, my mind was occupied enough to finally doze into sleep.
As I went to church, I saw the dark clouds hanging over the valley. I felt assured that though I was overwhelmed with metaphorical “dark clouds” the Lord’s deliverance is nigh.
Then, when I heard the prophet speak, I felt reassured – yes, Heavenly Father is aware of every specific detail of my life. He will not forsake me or my family. He loves me and supports me. He loves and supports all of us. He allows us to experience hard things because the only way to the top of the mountain is up.
The Lord lets us experience hard things because they give way to happy things. The Lord has blessed us with a Prophet. The Lord has given us the Gift of the Holy Ghost. He has given us the Priesthood. He has given us a Savior.
This is Real
We All Stand as the Prophet Leaves
The Prophet finished his remarks. He sat down. We sang a closing song. (Hymn 220 – Lord I would Follow Thee, a favorite!) After the closing prayer, we stood up and remained in our places.
The organist was a total champ. He played “We Thank Thee, Oh God, For a Prophet,” as the Prophet shook hands with the Bishop, the speakers, as the prophet slowly and happily walked down through the chapel and out the doors.
I wanted to sing out loud.
Tears fell down my cheeks – because I was consumed with the knowledge that the Savior and Heavenly Father love us, love me! They love us enough to bless us with a prophet. Tears fell because I realized that there are people who love the Lord enough to dedicate their entire lives to serving Him.
Tears fell down my cheeks because This is Real!
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn’t just a nice way to gather with like-minded people. It isn’t simply a social organization. It isn’t a society of people dedicated to making this world better.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s church. He is real. His son is real. He created this earth. He knows each of us by name and loves each of us individually. The Savior really came in the meridian of time to atone for our sins, so that we could live in joy forever. The Savior really has revealed to His prophets – to guide us, teach us, and testify to us. The Savior is still revealing to His Prophet – to guide us in these latter days.
I’m so thankful to God for a Prophet. I will never forget the time I was able to partake of the Sacrament with Him. I will never forget what I felt – that this is Real. I hope that by sharing my experience with you, you are also strengthened in your knowledge that this is real. That God Loves you. That He has given us a Savior – Jesus Christ. And that we have a prophet who dwells among us on this earth today.