Today, I’m studying the talk “These … Were Our Examples” by Russell M. Nelson. It was given in the October 1991 session of General Conference.
At the beginning of the talk, President Nelson shared that he had toured Europe along with The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It left an indelible impression on President Nelson.
About the choir he stated:
“Have you not learned that strength comes to an ordinary soul when given an extraordinary calling? The choir has! Indeed, each member seemed to be imbued with a real sense of mission, striving for those ten traits that missionaries are expected to possess and practice:
The rest of the talk is about the attributes listed in the scripture quoted above and how the choir exemplified these attributes.
These attributes are the attributes of any disciple of Christ…not only the Mo-tab…
Therefore, I will not necessarily write about the choir in this blog post. I will only write about what I feel like writing concerning the attributes listed, but if you want to read more about what President Nelson said about the choir, then I encourage you to read the talk.
Okay, even though I just said that I wouldn’t write much about the experiences of the choir, this one is really interesting.
A few logistical things to remember:
- The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is made up of over 300 participants. To organize a tour, you have to find venues large enough, you have to think about this large number traveling on buses. I’m going to guess that they might have had loved ones with them, too. It’s not like this was a tour of a quartet of singers. This is a big deal.
- Because it is such a big event to coordinate, it is obvious that the planning for this happened before the event itself! As I said, obvious, but just keep that in mind.
- The tour was in 1991. We have to remember what the world was like in the late 1980s. The Berlin Wall didn’t even come down until 1989. The Dissolution of the U.S.S.R finished up in December of 1991. (It was kind of a process).
With those points in mind, read what President Nelson shared:
“Their great faith was strengthened by the faith of our leaders. I pay tribute to the First Presidency and to leaders of the choir who had the foresight to plan as they did and when they did. How bold and inspired they were to conceive this tour many months—even years—before Europe’s unwelcoming walls began to crumble! The Brethren had the faith to believe that the choir could sing in cities such as Warsaw, Budapest, Prague, Leningrad, and Moscow long before such dreams seemed plausible. Then in January 1991, hopeful plans were seriously threatened when war erupted in the Persian Gulf. Even then, our leaders decided against canceling the tour. They knew of its potential for good and had faith that countless obstacles could be overcome. Often they prayed that the choir’s tour might be successfully accomplished.
Those prayers were answered!” – Russell M. Nelson
In 1991, I was 13 years old. I have vague memories of the Berlin wall coming down a few years before. I vaguely remember my history teacher going crazy with excitement. We watched reports abut it on TV in our classroom. She kept telling us how important it was, and I believed her. I just didn’t have any context for it. I didn’t quite understand the cold war at that point – other than Russians were always bad guys in movies.
I was young.
I just wasn’t capable of understanding the miraculous nature of the history we witnessed. But it happened! And it was a miracle it was answered prayer for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to be able to sing in the various parts of Europe where they performed. The idea of singing in Moscow had been simply impossible for decades.
President Nelson continues:
“Think of the timing. In one thousand years of Russia’s existence, its first popular national election ever to be held occurred in June 1991. Six days later, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed in Moscow! That very night, after the strains of “Come, Come, Ye Saints” had resounded from the Bolshoi Theater, the vice president of the republic announced that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been granted recognition in the Republic of Russia. On the eve of a supreme crisis that was yet ahead, Russian people heard songs of faith, courage, hope, and love.” – Russell M. Nelson
This is just a cool story. It is a story of faith, and I imagine that it would have been pretty cool to be there.
President Nelson quoted Brigham Young:
““Learn the will of God, keep His commandments and do His will, and you will be a virtuous person.” – Brigham Young, as quoted by Russell M. Nelson
I love this quote on virtue. Virtue can be such a hard thing to really understand. It is easy for us to simply think that virtue=purity. But that isn’t really a good understanding of what virtue is.
Virtue is power. And we are blessed with this power when we learn God’s will and then keep His commandments. We are then empowered by God – full of virtue.
President Nelson explains that knowledge is crucial if we want to be competent missionaries and disciples of Christ.
We need to know what we believe in. We need to know about the world around us. Especially when it comes to sharing the gospel with others, ignorance can end up hurting us.
Does this mean we need to know everything? Of course not! We will not know everything at any point in our lives.
Maybe what this means is that we need to have the wisdom to recognize that WE DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING. When we recognize our foolishness and ignorance, then we will seek knowledge.
And we can still share. We can share what we know. We may not know much, but there are some things we each know, and that knowledge can help others.
President Nelson stated:
“Just think of the good you can do if you accept a difficult challenge and pursue knowledge—then use it to bless others, as did the choir!” – Russell M. Nelson
Another tricky one to really understand. Or at least potentially tricky, I guess.
President Nelson taught:
“Temperance suggests sobriety and self-restraint in action. It reminds one of covenants made.
Temperance can protect each of us from the aftermath of excess.” – Russell M. Nelson
I love these quotes! And how I need temperance in my life. I’m not living some kind of crazy, risky life. It’s just that I find that most of my personal struggles have to do with my own personal lack of discipline.
I’ll give one example. I’ve recently started Intermittent Fasting – basically on a daily basis. I still eat every day – just during a restricted time…so I’m not eating all day long.
Over time, I’ve experienced the benefit of a little bit of self-restraint. That is not my forte when it comes to food and sugar! Yet, I’ve also suffered from the aftermath of excess. Intermittent fasting has been a way to include more temperance in my life – which has helped me to feel more in control of my own hungers and less pulled by the world around me.
I can see how this would benefit any disciple of Christ. We are taught to be agents to act, not acted upon. By the way – the word is temperance NOT ABSTINENCE. By being temperate, we don’t get pulled by our appetites and hungers. Instead, we can choose when and how to implement them in our lives. So much more joy is to be had when we behave this way!
President Nelson taught that patience is a divine attribute.
Patience can be hard to cultivate, I know, but it really helps us have more happiness each day. Instead of getting frustrated with little problems in life, when we are patience, we learn to stop and smell the roses. Necessity is the mother of invention, but it is hard to be inventive if we are impatient about our necessities not being met.
So – patience. We need to breathe, smell the roses, and keep on going.
President Nelson stated:
“Brotherly kindness overcomes the rudeness of selfish intent. Each of us can develop brotherly kindness at home, at school, at work, or at play.” – Russell M. Nelson
This is an obvious attribute to cultivate if we want to be the kind of disciples that Christ wants us to be.
Love one another….which happens to also relate to the next attribute.
President Nelson taught:
“The Book of Mormon defines charity as the pure love of Christ.” – Russell M. Nelson
This is the love that does not fail. This is the attribute that gives meaning to every other attribute. If we show brotherly kindness, but we don’t have true charity for another, what is the point?
It’s a good one for me to to remember. I need to be kinder and more forgiving and that needs to be rooted in a true sense of love for others.
In the Book of Mormon, we read:
“They did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts.” – Helaman 3:35
Interestingly enough, when we keep the commandments, when we have discipline and work hard – we are blessed. For some reason, it seems to be that when we are blessed we tend to forget that it was the Lord who blessed us. We are recipients of His grace, and yet it can be easy to forget.
By fasting and praying and really turning to the Lord, we will continue to be humble and cultivate our faith. It’s a really interesting paradox (and this world including the gospel is full of them). When we develop our relationships with God, we are simultaneously blessed with confidence and purpose while we also need to be humble! But both ingredients are crucial.
All of these attributes are not “one time events.” I think that they are all cultivated when we practice diligence.
Diligence is careful or persistent work or effort.
Even diligence isn’t a one time “event”. TADA! I’m diligent. On to the next thing! Nope…diligence is a daily choice. Faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, brotherly kindness, charity, humility, and diligence – are all daily choices. If we diligently choose to develop these attributes, then we cultivate the final attribute.
I love this quote:
“Godliness is not a product of perfection; it comes of concentration and consecration.” – Russell M. Nelson
Concentration and consecration. Godliness comes when we are just doing our best, then He can work a mircale in each of us. Then, HE will perfect us – making us whole – just as He did to the woman who touched His robe:
“And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” – Luke 8:48
There is so much to study and learn in this talk, but I just want to say that I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands the attributes of a disciple of Christ. Not only does President Nelson understand them, but he recognizes them in others and is inspired by the examples of others. President Nelson didn’t teach these attributes like I wrote about them. He used the example of other people to demonstrate these principles. He is not prideful. He is humble and kind. I know that I can do more to find inspiration from others rather than fault. That through such examples I’ll be able to incorporate more of these qualities into my life.