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10 tender moments from President Nelson's first year as prophet of the Church

It's been a busy year for President Russell M. Nelson, who in his first year as prophet-president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has traveled to 16 different countries around the world and touched the lives of millions of Latter-day Saints through his words and actions.

As his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, said upon completing their first world tour in April, "We don’t have time for jet lag."

President Nelson added, "It's a luxury we can't afford."

But despite his busy travel schedule, President Nelson has never failed to take time to minister to individuals and share the love of Christ with everyone he encounters.

Promising "there's much more to come" as the Church and gospel continue their restorations, President Nelson said he is looking forward to the future. But before the new year begins, here is a look back at some of the most tender moments the prophet shared with Church members around the world in 2018.

The story behind the photo

On his first tour, President Nelson returned to the Holy Land and spoke to members at the BYU Jerusalem Center.

President Russell M. Nelson speaks with Ella Bautista after the Jerusalem District Conference at the BYU Jerusalem Center on Saturday, April 14, 2018.
President Russell M. Nelson speaks with Ella Bautista after the Jerusalem District Conference at the BYU Jerusalem Center on Saturday, April 14, 2018. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Following his address, as he was making his way up the steps of the center's auditorium, a young girl, Ella Bautista, caught the eye of President Nelson. He made his way toward her through the aisle. When he reached her, he bent down, placed his hands tenderly on the back of her head and looked into her eyes.

“We will never forget this moment and this day,” said Ella's father, John Rey.

Hours earlier, Ella had boldly declared the prophet would greet her. No one could have guessed just how personal that greeting would be and how much it would mean to Ella and her family.

Power in brief scenes

Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife Sister Wendy Nelson, hold up Four Tanapumtonger after a devotional in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday, April 20, 2018.
Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife Sister Wendy Nelson, hold up Four Tanapumtonger after a devotional in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday, April 20, 2018. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

For those traveling with the Nelsons to eight different cities on three continents in 11 days, one thing was clear: President Nelson loves the children of the Lord.

"We watched the 93-year-old leader reach down and pick up a child who had brushed against his leg. We watched him kneel down to another child’s level. We saw him respond to the hugs of others. The scenes became so commonplace during the tour that we almost forgot to be awed by them," wrote Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver after traveling with the prophet on his world tour. "Ministering to God’s children — especially His little ones — is second nature to President Nelson," she said.

A historic moment

On Sept. 1, Latter-day Saints in the Dominican Republic witnessed a historic moment when President Nelson began his address at the Santo Domingo stake center with the words, "Con su permiso, quisiera hablar en español."

The prophet's simple statement, "With your permission, I would like to speak in Spanish," marked what is thought to be the first time a president of the Church spoke for an entire devotional address in a language other than English.

Members in attendance remarked it was something they would never forget and a true blessing to hear the prophet of the Lord address them in their native language.

'Now I can see you'

Primary children raise their hands at the request of President Russell M. Nelson during a devotional at the Langley Events Center in Langley, British Columbia, on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018.
Primary children raise their hands at the request of President Russell M. Nelson during a devotional at the Langley Events Center in Langley, British Columbia, on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

When President Nelson spoke to an audience in Langley, B.C., he strained to see the small Primary children among the 4,600 Latter-day Saints in attendance on Sunday, Sept. 16.

Hoping to see them better, he asked the children to stand on their chairs, raise their arms high and wave to him.

As they did so, President Nelson smiled and said, "Oh yes. Now I can see you."

Training at home

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds Pierina Risso, 3, while meeting with her three generation LDS family in Montevideo, Uraguay on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds Pierina Risso, 3, while meeting with her three generation LDS family in Montevideo, Uraguay on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Visiting with the Risso family — a family with four generations in the Church — in Uruguay near the Rio de la Plata on Oct. 25, President Nelson picked up 3-year-old Pierina Risso before bending down to speak with some of her young cousins.

When one of the children asked the prophet what to do to prepare for a mission, President Nelson responded, "Be like your Daddy. Be like your mother. Home is the best MTC (missionary training center). All others are secondary."

A slice of a prophet's life

While following President Nelson during his South America tour in October, Deseret News photographer Jeffrey Allred captured two particular moments of President Nelson's interactions with members that he characterized as a "slice of life" for the prophet.

In the two photos, children gathered around the President Nelson, smiling and excited to hold the attention of a prophet of God.

Drawn to the prophet

During their visit to Chile in October, Sister Nelson spoke of the changes she has seen in her husband since he became the prophet and president of the Church. Noting his fearless focus in doing what is directed by the Lord, Sister Nelson also noted his deep sentiment for sharing the love of God with children.

She explained that children are drawn to the love that he exudes and said, "They feel very safe with him. They feel they can trust him."

Sister Nelson's shared how her own knowledge of the reality of the gospel has grown in the months since her husband became prophet and how she has been touched to witness the love others have for him.

Gratitude, trust for women

When an Argentine reporter, Sergio Rubin, asked President Nelson during his South America tour in October if the Church excludes women, the prophet redirected the reporter's question by saying, “Well, you should talk to a woman about that.”

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meets with area youth prior to a devotional in Lima, Peru on Oct. 20, 2018.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meets with area youth prior to a devotional in Lima, Peru on Oct. 20, 2018. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

He then turned to Sheri Dew, executive vice president of Deseret Management Corporation, the CEO of Deseret Book Company and former Relief Society general presidency member and said, "Can you help with this answer about the role of women in the Church?"

Describing the interview in a Church News article, Weaver, wrote, "I will never forget the way President Nelson watched as Sister Dew answered Mr. Rubin’s question. It was a look that reflected gratitude and trust for all Latter-day Saint women."

Man on a mission

"There's much more to come," President Nelson said when asked what is next for the future of the Church in an interview in October.

A video of the interview shows President Nelson smiling as he said, "Wait until next year. Eat your vitamin pills. Get your rest. It's going to be exciting."

Many Church members, including his wife, have commented on the fast-paced and energetic nature with which President Nelson has tackled his first year as president of the Church. If his own words are any indication, he won't be slowing down anytime soon.

A Christmas wish

During the First Presidency Christmas Devotional on Dec. 2, President Nelson asked a young girl from the audience, Lydia Terry, to stand with her parents.

With an unrestrained smile, Lydia stood as President Nelson shared her story.

Stephen Terry, left, Lydia Terry, 12, and Kellie Terry stand up and are recognized during President Russell M. Nelson address during the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. Lydia, of Bountiful, suffers from a rare, aggressive form of brain cancer.
Stephen Terry, left, Lydia Terry, 12, and Kellie Terry stand up and are recognized during President Russell M. Nelson address during the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. Lydia, of Bountiful, suffers from a rare, aggressive form of brain cancer. Photo: Qiling Wang, Deseret News

Suffering from a rare form of brain cancer, Lydia got her wish to meet President Nelson a few weeks prior to the devotional. Together, they had a heart-to-heart conversation as he answered her questions about the purpose of life.

During the devotional, President Nelson said he was "deeply moved by the faith of Lydia and her family" in the face of their monumental challenges.

After the devotional, Lydia said that meeting President Nelson was a wish fulfilled. "It is so amazing just to know the prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” she said. “It was probably the greatest experience of my life.”

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