Since President Russell M. Nelson was sustained as the 17th president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he has been moving the Church forward at an accelerated pace.
In October 2018, President Nelson spoke about the future of the Church: “Wait until next year. Eat your vitamin pills. Get your rest.”
During his final interview of the Central and South America Ministry in August 2019, 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.”
Several themes have marked President Nelson’s presidency as he has lead the members of the Church to a higher and holier way of living the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a prophet to the world, he has shown by example how to minister to “the one” and seek out and follow the Lord’s will.
Since January 2018, President Nelson has traveled over 98,000 miles to six continents, 27 nations and 43 cities. President Nelson explained his desire to travel internationally as he spoke to reporters at the beginning of his first ministry tour in London, England, in April 2018.
“The Lord’s message is for everyone,” he said. “This is a global work. Whenever I’m comfortably situated in my home, I’m in the wrong place. I need to be where the people are. We need to bring them the message of the Savior.”
In April 2018, President Nelson called Elder Gerrit W. Gong, an Asian American, and Elder Ulisses Soares, a Brazilian, to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. For many, it was an example of the growth and diversity of the Church.
Elder Soares said of President Nelson, “He has that energy, he has that speed that we have to follow. But at the same time, he’s a man of great wisdom and power. When he speaks, you listen –– and you will be able to fulfill your responsibilities.”
In July 2019, President Nelson spoke at the 110th annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Detroit, Michigan. The Rev. Amos C. Brown, pastor of the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, said in a Church News video, “I do not consider it to be accidental. It was providential that the NAACP and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will come together on common ground. We need each other. … Each of us has something to offer.”
“He loves the people,” President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said in a video during President Nelson’s 95th birthday celebration on Sept. 6, 2019. President Ballard also spoke of the “immediate brotherhood” that was felt as he witnessed the meeting between President Nelson and Pope Francis in March as Church leaders were in Italy for he dedication of the Rome Italy Temple.
During President Nelson’s first address in general conference as the prophet, he emphasized the necessity of gaining personal revelation: “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”
He later pleaded with Latter-day Saints in April 2019 to seek to know that the Savior’s Church has been restored. “Do the spiritual work to find out for yourselves, and please do it now,” he said with urgency in his voice. “Time is running out.”
During his closing remarks in the April 2019 general conference, he assured Latter-day Saints that “revelation continues in this, the Lord’s Church. It will continue until ‘the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.’”
Increased revelation and inspiration is a blessing that will come from prayerfully studying the Book of Mormon, President Nelson told the women of the Church in October 2018.
Sister Wendy Nelson testified of President Nelson’s prophetic calling and shared experiences of him receiving revelation in a Church News video. “My husband is trying to get every bit of instruction that he can,” she said.
In June 2018, The First Presidency sponsored the “Be One” celebration, marking the 40th anniversary of the 1978 revelation that extended priesthood ordinances to all regardless of race. President Nelson concluded his brief remarks invoking a blessing “that we may overcome any burdens of prejudice and walk uprightly with God — and with one another — in perfect peace and harmony.”
Covenant path and repentance
In almost every address he’s given, President Nelson has extended an invitation to “stay on the covenant path.”
During a press conference in January 2018 immediately following his ordination as president of the Church, President Nelson said, “Now, to each member of the Church I say: Keep on the covenant path. Your commitment to follow the Savior by making covenants with Him and then keeping those covenants will open the door to every spiritual blessing and privilege available to men, women, and children everywhere.”
To the youth in June 2018, he said, “Please do not stay off the path one more minute. Please come back through true repentance, now. We need you with us in this youth battalion of the Lord. It just won’t be the same without you!”
To the brethren during the general priesthood session in April 2019, President Nelson said, “Whether you are diligently moving along the covenant path, have slipped or stepped from the covenant path, or can’t even see the path from where you are now, I plead with you to repent. Experience the strengthening power of daily repentance — of doing and being a little better each day.”
President Nelson testified of the atonement of Jesus Christ and the covenant path while sharing on social media the heartbreak he felt after the death of his late wife, Dantzel, and losing two of his daughters to cancer.
“We do not have to go through this life alone,” he said in an Instagram post. “Jesus Christ atoned to help us find the covenant path that leads back home. He can give us the strength and courage to walk confidently on that path.”
During the dedicatory prayer of the Rome Italy Temple, President Nelson said, “May all Latter-day Saints in this area — young and old — be drawn frequently to this holy temple… May they receive and perform sacred ordinances here with a commitment to stay on the covenant path that leads to eternal life with their families.”
Gathering of Israel
President Nelson has extended a similar invitation in several addresses he’s given since becoming prophet:
“Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life.”
When President Nelson spoke to the youth during a worldwide devotional in June 2018, he spoke of the gathering of Israel.
“My dear extraordinary youth, you were sent to earth at this precise time, the most crucial time in the history of the world, to help gather Israel. There is nothing happening on this earth right now that is more important than that. There is nothing of greater consequence. Absolutely nothing,” he said. “This gathering should mean everything to you. This is the mission for which you were sent to earth.”
President Nelson challenged the youth to read daily from the Book of Mormon to learn more about the gathering. He also extended five invitations he promised “will change you and help change the world.” The invitations included holding a seven-day fast from social media; making a weekly sacrifice of time to the Lord; staying on the covenant path; praying daily that all of God’s children might receive gospel blessings; and standing out and being a light.
During his address in the general women’s session in October 2018, President Nelson extended “a prophetic plea” to the women of the Church to participate in the gathering of Israel. He invited the women to hold a 10-day fast from social media, read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year, attend the temple regularly and participate fully in Relief Society.
Speaking to 65,000 Latter-day Saints at an NFL stadium in Phoenix, Arizona, in February 2019, President Nelson said, “I have an invitation for you as the Arizona battalion of the Lord’s army to help gather Israel on both sides of the veil.”
He listed four examples of what the gathering of Israel looks like: remodeling home into a “sanctuary of faith” with the home-centered, Church supported curriculum; creating experiences where children can learn to feel the Spirit; engaging in family history and temple work; and strengthening testimonies, repenting and seeking to alleviate suffering.
Love and God’s laws
President Nelson delivered a devotional address at Brigham Young University on Sept. 17 titled “The Love and Laws of God.” He shared five eternal truths and asked young adult members to pray about each one. He shared background on the 2015 policy announcement related to baptism for the children of LGBT parents, as well as the clarification that came in 2019. Both policies, he said, were motivated by love.
In a Church News video, President Nelson talked about the importance of eternal laws. Whether it’s a game of Scrabble or the principles that make an airplane fly, he wants to know the laws. And his formula for Scrabble gets him a winning hand about 90% time, Sister Wendy Nelson said.
“Divine law is incontrovertible,” he said. “Our job is to teach people about these eternal laws. They are called commandments, but they are just as true as the law of lift, the law of gravity, the law that governs the heartbeat.”
“It becomes a rather simple formula. If you want to be happy, keep the commandments,” he added.
During his ministry to Central and South America in August 2019, President Nelson urged Ecuadorian Latter-day Saints, “Please: Study the scriptures as families. Pray together. Renew your baptismal covenants by regularly participating in the sacrament. Pay your tithes with grateful hearts. Attend the temple as often as your circumstances allow.”
Speaking during general conference in April 2019, President Nelson said he weeps for friends and relatives who “are wonderful men and women, devoted to their family and civil responsibilities … But they have chosen not to make covenants with God.”
“How I wish I could visit them and invite them to consider seriously the enabling laws of the Lord,” he said. When God’s children resist fully embracing the gospel of Jesus Christ, they are choosing to settle for second best, he explained.
Temples and family history work
To date, President Nelson has announced the construction of 27 temples — many of which are in unexpected locations such as Russia, India, Hungary, and Cape Verde — as well as the renovation of pioneer-era temples.
“Building and maintaining temples may not change your life, but spending your time in the temple surely will,” President Nelson said following the announcement of 12 new temples in October 2018.
Of the renovation and dedication of temples, President Nelson said, “May we renovate our lives through our faith and trust in Him … and may we dedicate and rededicate our lives to serving God and His children–on both sides of the veil.”
In the January 2018 press conference as the new president of the Church, President Nelson said that as a new presidency, they want to “begin with the end in mind.”
“The end for which each of us strives is to be endowed with power in a house of the Lord, sealed as families, faithful to covenants made in a temple that qualify us for the greatest gift of God, that of eternal life,” he said.
The name of the Church
On Aug 16, 2018, the Church issued the following statement from President Nelson regarding the name of the Church:
The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will. In recent weeks, various Church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so. Additional information about this important matter will be made available in the coming months.
“When the Savior clearly states what the name of His Church should be, and even precedes His declaration with, ‘Thus shall my church be called,’ He is serious,” President Nelson said. “And if we allow nicknames to be used and adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, He is offended.”
“My dear brothers and sisters, I promise you that if we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s Church, He whose Church this is will pour down His power and blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen,” President Nelson continued. “We will have the knowledge and power of God to help us take the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue and people and to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord.”
One year after the Aug. 16, 2018 statement, President Ballard and Elder Gong sat down with Boyd Matheson on KSL NewsRadio and discussed what changes had been made to correct the use of the name of the Church. As of August 2019, 95 percent of the outward-facing references have been updated and 300 web-based applications have been added to the new domain name, Elder Gong said.
“Our objective is that the world will come to know that we are the Church of Jesus Christ, restored to the earth in these latter days,” President Ballard said. “That’s what we hope. And we hope that the world knows that we have a great outreach to all of our Heavenly Father’s children.”
During his first general conference as president of the Church, President Nelson announced a restructuring of Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and “a newer, holier approach to caring for and ministering to others.”
“A hallmark of the Lord’s true and living Church will always be an organized, directed effort to minister to individual children of God and their families,” President Nelson said. “Because it is His Church, we as His servants will minister to the one, just as He did. We will minister in His name, with His power and authority, and with His loving-kindness.”
Combining the high priests and the elders into one strengthened elders quorum “will greatly enhance the capacity and ability of men who bear the priesthood to serve others,” President Nelson said.
The programs of home teaching and visiting teaching were retired and replaced with “a new era of ministering”—a program of “more care and concern, not less,” as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained in the April 2018 general conference.
“Effective ministering efforts are enabled by the innate gifts of the sisters and by the incomparable power of the priesthood. We all need such protection from the cunning wiles of the adversary,” President Nelson said.
During the First Presidency Christmas Devotional in December 2018, President Nelson spoke of receiving the Savior’s gift of love and learning to love as He loved. “It may require a change of heart – most certainly a softening of our hearts – as we are tutored by the Savior how to really take care of each other,” he said.
“My dear brothers and sisters, we can truly minister in the Lord’s way as we accept His gift of love,” he added.
As he’s traveled throughout the world, President Nelson has been an example of ministering with Christ-like love to the one. Elder Gerrit W. Gong spoke about his experience watching President Nelson minister in the Pacific.
“There’s a sense of connection and covenant belonging together that makes each one feel as though this is for them individually, for their families, and for large groups, countries at the same time. That’s a remarkable thing to feel and see,” said Elder Gong in a Church News video.
Home-centered, Church-supported gospel instruction
During the October 2018 general conference, President Nelson announced a new balance between gospel instruction in the home and in the Church to help individuals and families “learn doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship.”
“As Latter-day Saints, we have become accustomed to thinking of ‘church’ as something that happens in our meetinghouses, supported by what happens at home,” President Nelson said. “We need an adjustment to this pattern. It is time for a home-centered Church, supported by what takes place inside our branch, ward, and stake buildings.”
The Sunday meeting schedule was consolidated to a two-hour block with Sunday School and Priesthood, Relief Society and Young Women meetings held on alternating weeks. The new integrated “Come, Follow Me” curriculum was designed to harmonize what was taught at home and at Church.
The new home-centered, Church-supported gospel instruction came after an emphasis on the Sabbath Day that began in 2015.
“Our efforts over these recent years to hallow the Sabbath—to make it a delight and a personal sign to God of our love for Him—will be augmented by the adjustments we will now introduce,” President Nelson said before turning the time over to Elder Quentin L. Cook to further explain the adjustments.