How a Prophet’s words brought tears and peace to Church members in the conference center

For some members, President Russell M. Nelson’s physical absence and virtual message at general conference brought unexpected blessings and lessons

As Taylor Patterson was settling into his seat for the Sunday afternoon session of the Church’s 193rd Semiannual General Conference, he said his thoughts turned to President Russell M. Nelson, who was participating in the session remotely.

“I actually first thought of covid and how we were separated from President Nelson even then. So I just feel thankful that we have the technology that allows us to be able to hear from him,” Patterson detailed.

The announcement that President Nelson would not be attending conference in person after injuring the muscles in his lower back during a recent fall, resulted in an outpouring of love and prayers on social media.

Some members had no idea what this would mean for their general conference experience. Still, some reported this change brought unexpected blessings.

President Nelson’s effect

Shannon Bacon was preparing to take notes for the Sunday afternoon session when she commented on the unexpected news of President Nelson’s injury. She wasn’t sure how his absence would impact the session.

Sitting alongside Bacon during the meeting, Martha McMullin commented afterwards that even though the prophet was not physically in the building, she could feel both the peace and power of his words.

McMullin said, “Everyone was kind of waiting for him to be the very last speaker and when his face showed on the screen, you could feel the spirit so strongly in this room. I hope everyone else could feel that wherever they were watching in the world.”

Bacon agreed with McMulling saying, “I absolutely thought that he brought the Spirit to the meeting, despite his message being virtual. It really brought the Spirit in and you could just tell people missed him by the tears on people’s faces when he was announced as the last speaker.”

Attendees leave a session of the 193rd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

As Bill Boushka and his daughter were leaving the Conference Center, he described his feelings about Preisdent Nelson.

“One of the things that struck me was when they announced he was going to be the closing speaker” Boushka said with tears filling his eyes. “There was this overwhelming feeling of love that people have for President Nelson; it was absolutely palpable.”

Carrie Rhodes was attending with her daughter and described her excitement in hearing that the prophet was speaking.

“I was relieved when I heard that he would still be giving us a message remotely. ... It’s exciting that he could still participate.”

Members took away peace and new mottos

“I had such a feeling of peace the whole time and the messages were centered around finding peace and ‘thinking celestial’ like President Nelson said,” McMullin said. “That’s going to be my new motto.”

Boushka took away a different message that stuck out to him from President Nelson’s words.

Claire Little takes a selfie with her friends after the final session of the 193rd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

President Nelson “had such a long life with so many experiences like his story that he had some colleagues in his surgical career that didn’t approve of his faith,” Boushka said.

He said that this particular story — in which colleagues said President Nelson had “too much temple” in him — struck him to stand strong in good principles even if “you’re standing alone.”

A message for those who weren’t able to watch

“It was so great to hear President Nelson on video,” Bacon said. “Everyone needs to hear and feel the love that he has for everyone, not just members of the Church.”

Echoing Bacon’s sentiment, McMullin said that these words are for everyone and that there are new things we can each learn from them no matter the format of the messages being delivered.

Conferencegoers file out after the final session of the 193rd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

“We all need to hear some of the words of our prophet and the spirit will touch you where you are and who you are,” McMullin said. “There’s always something to learn and this format didn’t change anything for me.”

Boushka said something people can continue to learn from watching and listening to President Nelson’s talk is the example he has set.

“You know that he’s never hid under a rock what he believes in and that strength just showed in his message despite it being delivered on video,” Boushka said.

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