Boyd Matheson: President Nelson’s ministry tours teach us how to ‘purposefully’ walk with God

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are blessed to have a prophet among us. President Russell M. Nelson is truly the prophet to the Lord’s Church and to the people of the world.  With today’s technology, we are able to follow the global ministry of modern prophets and apostles and stand as witnesses of their works and the blessings the gospel of Jesus Christ brings to individuals everywhere.

Members of the Church are currently studying the life, travels and testimony of the Apostle Paul. There is much to learn from such a study.  Likewise, following the ministry of President Nelson and the apostles is enlightening and inspiring.

Read all the stories from the Latin America Ministry Tour here.

Over the past 18 months, I have been blessed by observing how President Nelson stands before kings, presidents and prime ministers; how he walks beside and locks arms with good people striving to bless God’s children; how he bows his head to weep with those who mourn; and especially how he kneels before children.

From the islands of the sea and the stately palaces to parliamentary chambers and presidential offices, the prophet has stood among the great and noble of the earth and declared before kings and magistrates that life is better with God. He shows such leaders that members of The Church of Jesus Christ bless communities and countries and that the restored gospel brings peace and happiness. 

President Nelson, as prophet to the world, has an extraordinary ability to share the love of God with leaders of nations in a handshake, greeting or personalized observation.  Meetings that are typically scheduled as quick introductions with heads of state often are extended, as world leaders recognize something special, uplifting and powerful in the presence of a prophet. In just the past few months, President Nelson has met with heads of state in Tonga, Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand, Colombia and Ecuador.  

Many have come to recognize and appreciate President Nelson’s side-by-side leadership and his trademark linking and locking of arms with good people everywhere who are striving to do good and bless God’s children.  From NAACP leaders in Detroit to imams in New Zealand and from CILSA leaders providing wheelchairs in Argentina to missionaries and service volunteers around the world, the prophet walks and locks arms with all those who selflessly serve and who regularly reach out and lift up those in need.

The prophet invites all to look up to their loving Heavenly Father.  He often does this with those who are suffering by bowing his head to weep with those who mourn. Victims of fires, floods and devastating natural disaster have seen hope in the eyes of President Nelson. He has shared grief with those who have experienced tragedy, through senseless killings, whether it be in a nightclub in Orlando or mosques in Christchurch. Still others, dealing with death from disease or accidents, have likewise found a friend and steadying strength in God’s prophet.

If I have learned anything over the past 18 months, it is that regardless of wherever you are in the world, one thing is certain: You can’t keep the prophet from the children and you can’t keep the children from the prophet. Reflexively, President Nelson drops to his knees in the presence of children.

After a devotional in South America, the prophet had come down from the stand to shake hands with special guests and dignitaries. As he worked his way down the line, the world seemed to stand still when a little boy couldn’t be held back and ran toward President Nelson. (The jail break was on and a number of other children followed).

Before anyone else knew what to do, the prophet had dropped to his knees and scooped the children up into his arms.  On his knees it was as though the prophet held the future of a nation in his arms, and the words of the Savior — “suffer the little children to come unto me” — echoed in the hearts of all who witnessed this most extraordinary moment.

President Russell M. Nelson receives a hug from children after a devotional in Asuncion, Paraguay, on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018.
President Russell M. Nelson receives a hug from children after a devotional in Asuncion, Paraguay, on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

President Nelson has delivered devotional addresses before tens of thousands and traveled roads lined with members for miles on end, yet his personal ministry focuses on delivering personalized messages to “the one.”  My image of the prophet in all of these settings is of him kneeling before the Savior, Jesus Christ – reflecting His light and declaring His will to Heavenly Father’s children everywhere.

Standing before rulers, walking alongside and locking arms with those who selflessly serve, bowing his head with those who weep and kneeling before children and the Savior of all – President Nelson shows each of us how to humbly and purposefully walk with God. 

The prophet and apostles will continue to travel the globe as special witnesses of Jesus Christ to all the world. As members we should follow them — literally and virtually. Tracking their travels and teachings will take each of us on our very own, personalized road to Emmaus. Our hearts will burn within us, and we will have greater desires to know God and become better disciples of Jesus Christ.