Following the sustaining in solemn assembly of President Russell M. Nelson as the 17th prophet in this dispensation on March 31, Elder Gary E. Stevenson testified that the Church’s newest president has “the heart of a prophet.”
Since being called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles just two years ago, Elder Stevenson has had the opportunity to travel and serve with President Nelson, who has served as the president of that quorum. Although much of their association has been in ecclesiastical roles, Elder Stevenson said he has also become familiar with President Nelson’s renown as a heart surgeon and a pioneer developer of the heart-lung machine prior to President Nelson becoming a General Authority.
“Interestingly, as President Nelson’s call to the Twelve 34 years ago ended a professional medical career of strengthening and repairing hearts, it began a ministry as an apostle devoted to strengthening and repairing hearts of countless tens of thousands around the world,” Elder Stevenson said during the Saturday morning session of the 188th Annual General Conference.
When he envisions someone with a Christlike heart, Elder Stevenson said he pictures President Nelson. “He is the embodiment of a Christlike heart and an example to us all. From him, we learn that in any circumstance we find ourselves, our conduct and hearts can be in accordance with the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Noting the “heavenly occasion” of a solemn assembly, Elder Stevenson said it is natural to feel a sense of sorrow at the death of a beloved prophet. “But our sadness is tempered by the joy and hope that comes as we experience one of the great blessings of the Restoration: the calling and sustaining of a living prophet on the earth.”
This current “divine process” began with the death of President Thomas S. Monson on Jan. 2, 2018, and the dissolution of the First Presidency. During the period of time between the death of the prophet and the reorganization of the First Presidency — known as an “apostolic interregnum” — the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles jointly holds the keys of the priesthood to administer the leadership of the Church, Elder Stevenson said.
The most recent interregnum ended on Sunday, Jan. 14, when the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles met in the upper room of the Salt Lake Temple and first raised their hands to sustain the reorganization of a First Presidency and then President Russell M. Nelson as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Stevenson explained.
After the sustaining, the Brethren gathered in a circle and, placing hands upon President Nelson’s head, ordained and set him apart with the next most-senior apostle acting as voice.
A similar process then followed for each of President Nelson’s counselors — President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring — and President M. Russell Ballard as Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“This was a deeply sacred experience with an outpouring of the Spirit,” Elder Stevenson said. “I offer to you my absolute witness that the will of the Lord, for which we fervently prayed, was powerfully manifest in the activities and events of that day.”
The morning’s proceedings, Elder Stevenson continued, were in accordance with the scriptural mandate: “For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith,” (Doctrine and Covenants 28:13) and “three Presiding High Priests, … upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:22).
“Brothers and sisters, we can rejoice — even shout ‘Hosanna!’ — that the Lord’s mouthpiece, a prophet of God, is in place and that the Lord is pleased that His work is being done in the way that He has divinely prescribed.”
Elder Stevenson said President Nelson has been prepared and specifically tutored by the Lord to lead at this time. “It is a great blessing to now have dear President Russell M. Nelson as our loving and devoted prophet.”
Throughout President Nelson’s life, he has magnified his roles as student, father, professor, husband, doctor, priesthood leader, grandfather and apostle, Elder Stevenson said. “He fulfilled these roles then — and continues to do so — with the heart of a prophet.”