I was recently interviewed by Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver for the weekly Church News Podcast. The focus of the episode was on “observations about invitations” from President Russell M. Nelson.
In the year 2020 alone President Nelson has issued numerous stirring, inspiring and challenging invitations to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to the people of the world.
We discussed a number of these invitations including:
200th anniversary of the First Vision
President Nelson began Jan. 1, 2020, with a Facebook post which reminded members of the Church of his invitation from the previous October general conference. He invited, “I extended to you at last general conference to immerse yourself in the glorious light of the Restoration of the gospel.” He went on to say that the bicentennial celebration, commemorating the appearance of God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to Joseph Smith in a vision would be, “a hinge point in the history of the Church and your part is vital.”
President Nelson invited all to “hear Him.”
“As disciples of Jesus Christ, our efforts to hear Him need to be ever more intentional. It takes conscious and consistent effort to fill our daily lives with His words, His teachings, His truths.”
Throughout the year the Prophet, the Apostles and general Church leaders shared how they “hear Him” through videos, social media posts and formal addresses.
President Nelson’s invitation to more intentionally “hear Him” came with powerful promises including, “miracles in your marriage, family relationships and daily work. And I promise that your capacity to feel joy will increase, even if turbulence increases in your life.”
Twice in the early days of the pandemic, President Nelson invited all the world to join in a fast.
For the second time in as many weeks, Latter-day Saints and all others were called to join in a worldwide fast. “For all whose health may permit, let us fast, pray, and unite our faith once again,” said President Russell M. Nelson in his Saturday evening general conference address. “Let us prayerfully plead for relief from this global pandemic."
‘Let God Prevail’
In a powerful and instructive general conference address, President Nelson invited us to “Let God Prevail” in our lives.
After issuing the invitation, President Nelson asked, “Are you willing to let God prevail in your life? Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life? Will you allow His words, His commandments, and His covenants to influence what you do each day? Will you allow His voice to take priority over any other? Are you willing to let whatever He needs you to do take precedence over every other ambition? Are you willing to have your will swallowed up in His?”
Root out racism
President Nelson linked arms with civil rights, business and government leaders in addressing social unrest, racism, prejudice and bigotry. He issued a clarion call in his invitation, “Today I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice. I plead with you to promote respect for all of God’s children.”
President Nelson shared, “Skilled scientists and researchers are laboring diligently to develop and distribute a vaccine against the coronavirus. But there is no medication or operation that can fix the many spiritual woes and maladies that we face.
“There is, however, a remedy — one that may seem surprising — because it flies in the face of our natural intuitions. Nevertheless, its effects have been validated by scientists as well as men and women of faith. I am referring to the healing power of gratitude.”
President Nelson then humbly invited all to flood the world with gratitude for seven days through social media posts and actions of all kinds.
Light the world
As an extension of his invitation to show gratitude, President Nelson invited, “Let us follow His example to 'Light the World' by loving and serving others, one by one.”
Rivet our focus on the Savior
President Nelson closed out 2020 by declaring in the First Presidency Christmas Devotional, “During this unprecedented year, when virtually every person in the world has suffered the effects of a global pandemic, there is nothing more important we can do this Christmas than to rivet our focus on the Savior and on the gift of what His life really means to each of us.” President Nelson then invited all to, “Seek this Jesus.”
As Sarah Jane Weaver skillfully moved our conversation through many of these invitations from the Prophet during 2020, I found my mind racing to a host of other invitations he has extended during the nearly three years he has served as our Heavenly Father’s prophet to the world.
President Nelson, in his first words to the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after being ordained as prophet, invited members to stay on, or return to, the covenant path. He invited us to minister in the Savior’s higher, holier way. He invited the youth to enlist in the youth battalion of the Lord to help gather Israel. President Nelson invited us to receive personal revelation in our lives. He invited us to put Jesus Christ at the forefront of home-centered, Church-supported worship. President Nelson even invited us to take our vitamins to be prepared to keep up with his ever-quickening pace.
A few particularly powerful invitations flashed to my mind. President Nelson’s inspired invitation, which he extended to the women of the Church, to study how they access, apply and are blessed by priesthood power. With deep and tender emotion President Nelson invited members and the world to use the proper name of Jesus Christ’s Church.
As we approached the end of the interview, what has become the signature closing question of the podcast, was asked. Sarah Jane Weaver inquired, “So what do you know now that you didn’t know before?” I confess I wasn’t ready for the question and flailed at a couple of generic answers that just didn’t convey what I was suddenly feeling.
Then, in a moment of clarity, it came. What I know now is the reason President Nelson has extended so many invitations during his time as Prophet. President Nelson has and will continue to offer invitations to members of the Church of Jesus Christ and to the world because he knows what happens when such invitations are acted upon.
The Prophet has responded to invitation after invitation throughout his life. Including the ultimate invitation he received from the Savior of the world to, “Come follow me and I will make you a fisher of men” (Matthew 4:19).
What I know now is that the Prophet wants each of us, and all of Heavenly Father’s children, to experience for ourselves what happens when we respond to invitations large and small. Invitations create space for revelation, transformation and miracles. We should be quick to observe and quick to act upon such prophetic and inspired invitations. Within the space of these invitations is the opportunity for us to receive the ultimate blessings from the ultimate invitation to, “come unto Christ.” — Boyd Matheson is the opinion editor of the Deseret News.