Some Church members are acquainted with the incident Elder Russell M. Nelson has shared about lending his copy of the Book of Mormon to a couple and refusing to accept its return until he was certain they had read it.
He shared the rest of the story Jan. 10 at a dinner greeting to departing Missionary Training Center directors, Church visitors' center directors and their wives.
Elder Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve is chairman of the Missionary Executive Council. He addressed the departing couples at the annual seminar, which transpired in Provo and Salt Lake City Jan. 10-12. Other proceedings of the seminar will be reported in next week's Church News edition.
Introducing Elder Nelson, Elder David F. Evans of the Seventy, who is executive director of the Missionary Department, retold Elder Nelson's story.
At October 2010 general conference, Elder Nelson himself related it in these words:
"Many years ago two colleagues of mine — a nurse and her doctor husband — asked me why I lived the way I did. I answered, 'Because I know the Book of Mormon is true.' I let them borrow my copy of the book, inviting them to read it. A week later they returned my book with a polite 'thanks a lot.'
"I responded, 'What do you mean, thanks a lot? That's a totally inappropriate response for one who has read this book. You didn't read it, did you? Please take it back and read it; then I would like my book back.'
"Admitting that they had only turned its pages, they accepted my invitation. When they returned, they said tearfully, 'We have read the Book of Mormon. We know it is true! We want to know more.' They learned more, and it was my privilege to baptize both of them."
Speaking to the couples at the seminar dinner, Elder Nelson gave this follow-up to the story.
After his call to the Twelve, he was on assignment at a stake conference in Tennessee, filling in for Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who had another assignment from the First Presidency.
He saw a woman on the left side of the chapel and asked the stake president who she was. The stake president found out her name but added to Elder Nelson, "If you're thinking of calling on her, I wouldn't recommend it."
But as Elder Nelson was giving his final address, the irresistible prompting came.
"I overruled the stake president and I asked her to come on up. I said, 'How long have you been a member of the Church?'
"She said, 'Thirty years.'
"I said, 'Who baptized you?'
"She said, 'You did.' "
It was this woman and her husband to whom he had lent his copy of the Book of Mormon.
"The reason I didn't recognize her name was that her husband later lost his life," he explained. "We were all on military duty. She was an army nurse; he was an army doctor and I was an army doctor. That's why I had to lend her my copy of the Book of Mormon. I couldn't give it to her; it was my one-and-only, and I was lucky to have that in a wartime situation."
She had remarried and had a family.
At the end of the dialogue at the pulpit, he asked her how many people had come into the Church through connections to her and her husband.
The number was 80, including all members of her family, her husband's family, her second husband's family, their children and the number of converts their children had taught on missions. "That's a pretty good harvest for a surgeon who said, 'You didn't read the book, did you?' " Elder Nelson remarked.
That was in 1984. At Christmas of 2010, Elder Nelson received a letter from her to which was attached more than 50 pages of personal testimony from people who had come into the Church. She said the number of converts has now grown to 309.