Sister Dantzel White Nelson was remembered and honored as a faithful, gentle friend who shared her rich love, testimony and talent with folks of all stations, a regal and refined woman who never forgot her farm girl good sense.
Relatives, loved ones, admirers and former associates from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir squeezed into the Salt Lake Bonneville Stake Center for the Feb. 18 funeral for Sister Nelson, wife of Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve. Sister Nelson died at her Salt Lake City home Feb. 12 at the age of 78. (See Church News, Feb. 19, p. 6.)
She is survived by her husband, nine children and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. One of Elder and Sister Nelson's daughters, Emily Nelson Wittwer, died in 1995. President Gordon B. Hinckley and his counselors in the First Presidency President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust spoke at the service. Also speaking were President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve; and a daughter of Elder and Sister Nelson, Marsha N. Mckellar.
Sister Nelson was a remarkable and tremendous woman of "beautiful character" whose life can be cherished by her growing prosperity, President Gordon B. Hinckley said. "She will become a legend in the generations that follow remembering her as a great and remarkable forbearer."
President Hinckley spoke of the many opportunities he and Sister Marjorie P. Hinckley had to travel with the Nelsons across the globe on Church assignments. "I can picture (Sister Nelson) now, seated on the plane across the aisle from my wife as we traveled together to distant places. In conference meetings she spoke with conviction and persuasion and faith."
The Church leader recalled a frightening episode when he and Sister Hinckley were in Nicaragua with the Nelsons. As they were traveling, the Hinckleys were involved in a car accident and narrowly escaped death or serious harm. Elder and Sister Nelson, who were traveling in a car behind the Hinckleys, were quick to offer comfort.
"(Sister Nelson) was right there in an instant, combing the glass out of my wife's hair with concern and consideration," President Hinckley said.
The Church leader said Sister Nelson's place is secure in sweet immortality, then added his heart reaches out "to Russell and those who remain."
"I must confess that (Sister Nelson's) sudden passing has affected me very deeply," said President Hinckley, whose wife died April 6, 2004. "I have had difficulty holding back the tears because I know something of the great loneliness that will afflict (Elder Nelson) in the days that lie ahead."
Many earnest words of support and concern will be offered in the coming days but they will provide little comfort, President Hinckley said. "The loss of one's companion with whom one has walked hand in hand through many years is so utterly devastating that it is difficult to comprehend. Our words cannot heal the wounded heart. Indescribable loneliness gnaws unceasingly at the soul. There is a forlorn feeling that is indescribable."
But comfort will come, he assured.
"In the stillness of the night there will come a perception of the Divine Redeemer whose voice, unheard but real nevertheless, will say, 'Be not afraid, only believe. I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die' " (John 11:25-26).
It is Christ alone "who can and will give the comfort for which you long," President Hinckley said. There will be days of loneliness and nights of longing, "but the sunlight of faith will shine again and the fires of love will warm you."
President Monson told the Nelson family they would never forget their beloved wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother "because you are one of her."
Dantzel Nelson, he added, "radiated goodness. She radiated joy. She radiated love."
President Monson spoke of the long association he also enjoyed with Elder and Sister Nelson and their family. He has also traveled around the world with Elder Nelson on Church assignments. Sister Nelson was often at her husband's side.
Now Sister Nelson's "radiant smile" will be a welcome addition to those whom she serves on the other side of the veil, President Monson said.
Sister Nelson was one of those remarkable individuals whose life had an exceptional influence on others, said President Faust. She perfectly fulfilled all her divine roles. "Her beautiful smile seemed to say to all she met, 'I love you.' "
Sister Nelson was also a powerful advocate of the gospel. "Her testimony was so sincere it penetrated every heart," President Faust said.
President Packer spoke of the many friends and neighbors who were blessed by Sister Nelson's generous ways and talents.
Sister Nelson demonstrated a selfless spirit as she supported her husband in his professional pursuits and made room in her home for their many children. The Nelsons made holy covenants in the temple. "Those covenants were kept," President Packer said.
Years of poverty strengthened Sister Nelson and her family. They were never weakened when prosperity came their way, President Packer added.
The Nelsons' eldest daughter, Marsha N. McKellar, said her "angel mother" never abandoned the common sense and simple goodness she learned growing up on a family farm in Perry, Utah. Though Sister Nelson would travel the world and enjoy the company of powerful people, she never knew pretentiousness. She found joy in hosting piano recitals for her grandchildren and teaching her family through example. Sister Nelson loved the Lord and all His children, said Sister McKellar.
"She and Daddy showed us that love could be, and should be, inclusive never exclusive."
Music for the service was provided by members and former members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, of which Sister Nelson was member for many years, and the Nelson grandchildren. Interment was at the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
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