In the days leading up to his 95th birthday, President Russell M. Nelson visited five countries, logged 14,779 miles, held six major devotionals, spoke to thousands of missionaries and met with heads of state. Hardly the pace of your typical nonagenarian. The prophet has spoken often of his great desire to help hasten the Lord’s work in the latter-days.
Hasten means to cause something to happen more quickly. However, it is vital to understand, and important to note, that hastening is not just about acceleration and speed. Hastening is also about strengthening. The prophet is demonstrating that speed without strength is like zeal without knowledge or motion without forward movement. True hastening, as the Lord desires, requires speed and strength.
In his final interview following his devotional address to more than 37,000 Saints in Sao Paulo, Brazil, President Nelson shared how hastening cannot be accomplished by the prophet alone. Hastening requires every member, including senior leaders, be developed as disciples of Jesus Christ in order to have the strength necessary to maintain the ever-accelerating speed of the Lord’s work.
The prophet spoke of his great love for his brethren the apostles and how hastening and strengthening happens, saying, “These brethren are so loyal. I love them. Like my own brothers, like my own sons.” Then he quipped, “Someone said, ‘Brother Nelson, you’re kind of slowing down. You’re having the apostles dedicate temples.’”
President Nelson paused and with a wry smile continued, “And I asked if they have ever been a father taking the children on a fishing trip? Are you happy catching a fish? Are you happier watching your children catch a fish?” This vital lesson isn’t confined to just the joy of watching others succeed. It is actually focused on fostering the strength and power each individual will need to better assist in hastening the work.
“I get more joy out of the fact that Elder Ulisses Soares dedicated the Brazil Fortaleza Temple than if I had done it myself — I really do,” President Nelson said. “I’m so happy that he’s had that experience. It’s made a new man out of him. I mean, he was perfect before but now he’s even more spiritual, more like the Lord than he ever has been, because of that experience. And I enjoy watching it happen.”
We have a lot to do before the Lord will come again.
This kind of training was modeled by the Savior Jesus Christ and the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The Savior traveled with and then sent the original Twelve Apostles out to minister, not because He was tired or slowing down but because He needed apostles quickened and strengthened through their own service experiences. Joseph Smith similarly strengthened his brethren of the Twelve as he traveled with and taught them in Zion’s Camp. He then sent them on missions near and far including a period where nine of the Apostles were in England. The Prophet Joseph knew that Apostles would be better able to hasten the work with increasing strength and speed as their discipleship developed through their own experience.
Wilford Woodruff recalled a meeting in the spring of 1844 where the Prophet Joseph said to the brethren, “I now roll off all the labor, burden and care of this Church and Kingdom of God upon your shoulders, and I now command you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to round up your shoulders, and bear off this Church and Kingdom of God.”
In September 1844, the apostles prepared a Declaration of the Twelve that included a recollection of what the Prophet Joseph said on that occasion. Joseph told the Twelve, “The Lord bids me hasten the work in which we are engaged. … Upon the shoulders of the Twelve must the responsibility of leading this church henceforth rest until you shall appoint others to succeed you” (Draft Declaration of the Twelve Apostles, ca. September 1844, reporting March 1844 meeting of Twelve, in Brigham Young Papers, Church History Library, Salt Lake City).
President Nelson has a clear vision that every member is going to need to be strong and swift for the hastening to happen. In Brazil he said, “I want our members to know that the Restoration is a continuing process. And we have a lot to do before the Lord will come again.
“He wants Israel to be gathered and the world to be made ready for the Second Coming of the Lord. So all I know is that there’s a lot of work to be done. And we’re going to do it, we’re going to receive those instructions when it’s needful and try to respond to each instruction as it comes.”
The spiritual strength and speed purposefully developed by each member of the Church of Jesus Christ will sustain and accelerate the hastening of the Savior’s work. President Nelson is providing the pattern by walking, or perhaps sprinting, with members around the globe to provide opportunities for all to be strengthened and developed as disciples of Christ. The prophet knows that hastening starts at home in individual hearts.
There aren’t many 95-year-olds of whom it can be said that the best is yet to come. For President Nelson, this is clearly the case as he continues to show what living in crescendo looks like. The prophet is following and delivering to the members of the Church of Jesus Christ the admonition Joseph Smith gave relating to this great latter-day work: “These things should be attended to with great earnestness” and “that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing them to light.” With the added speed and strength of the apostles and the people of the Savior’s church, our prophet will surely spend the days ahead tirelessly working to hasten our preparation for the Lord’s return.