President Nelson and the Apostles: Sharing the workload of a worldwide Church

Following a Sept. 1, 2019, devotional address to more than 37,000 Latter-day Saints in São Paulo, Brazil, President Russell M. Nelson sat down for a final interview at the conclusion of his late-summer Central and South America Ministry, with his 95th birthday just a week away.

He spoke of Latter-day Saints in Central and South America — and across the globe — and then expressed his love for his Brethren in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  

With Elder Quentin L. Cook of Quorum of the Twelve Apostles sitting at his side, he said: “These brethren are so loyal. I love them — like my own brothers, like my own sons.”

Watching his Brethren carry out the work of the Church across the globe, brings President Nelson great joy, he said. 

“Have you ever been a father and taken children on a fishing trip? Are you happy catching a fish? Are you happier watching your children catch a fish?’ ”

At a time when the Lord is hastening His work, the senior Brethren are accompanying President Nelson on his dozen-plus ministry trips and visits during the first two years of his tenure, and they are representing him as he asks them to dedicate and rededicate temples.

In the same São Paulo interview, President Nelson singled out Elder Ulisses Soares, the Apostle who had dedicated the Fortaleza Brazil Temple three months earlier, the first time the Brazilian native and most junior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had presided over such a dedication.

“I get more joy out of the fact that Elder Ulisses Soares dedicated the Fortaleza temple than if I had done it — 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.”

And he enjoys it happening at his side, as First Presidency counselors and Apostles have accompanied him in 13 ministry-type trips across the United States and Canada and some 30 additional countries — all since President Nelson was set apart as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Jan. 14, 2018.

In short, each of President Nelson’s two First Presidency counselors and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have joined the President of the Church on at least one of his ministry visits or taken the lead in dedicating or rededicating a temple as assigned by President Nelson in the past two years.

Building on years of experience

Prior to his current two years of leading the Church, President Nelson served nearly 34 years as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — the last 30 months as president of that quorum.

As such, he is well acquainted with all the Apostles — having served extensively with the tenured members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and having personally called the two newest members, Elder Gerrit W. Gong and Elder Soares.

Every member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posed for an iconic photograph in the Rome Italy Temple visitors center in Rome, Italy on Monday, March 11, 2019.
Every member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posed for an iconic photograph in the Rome Italy Temple visitors center in Rome, Italy on Monday, March 11, 2019. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News

He also has an empathetic understanding of how meaningful temple assignments can be for an Apostle. Previously as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Nelson dedicated the Sapporo Japan Temple in 2016, rededicated the Nuku’alofa Tonga Temple in 2007, and led the groundbreakings of two temples — the Accra Ghana Temple in 2001 and the Draper Utah Temple in 2006.

In his two-year tenure as President of the Church, President Nelson has dedicated two temples — the Concepción Chile and Rome Italy temples — and authored the dedicatory prayer of a third, the Arequipa Peru Temple, the one most recently dedicated. He has assigned others — First Presidency counselors and Apostles — to preside over the six additional temple dedications and all nine of the rededications.

Leading by example

Involving the senior Brethren means sharing the workload and getting more accomplished.

For example, during the past two years, five temples were dedicated or rededicated while President Nelson was involved in a ministry-type trip. One such dedication was done by President Nelson himself at the conclusion of the fall 2018 South America Ministry, when he dedicated the Concepción Chile Temple. At his side was Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife Wendy Nelson and Elder Gary E. Stevenson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife Lesa Stevenson during the dedication of the LDS Concepcion Chili Temple in Concepcion, Chili on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife Wendy Nelson and Elder Gary E. Stevenson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife Lesa Stevenson during the dedication of the LDS Concepcion Chili Temple in Concepcion, Chili on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred

Another occurred on that same Sept. 1 day of the São Paulo devotional and interview, with Elder David A. Bednar dedicating the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple on that date.

Others include:

  • President M. Russell Ballard rededicating the Houston Texas Temple in late April 2018 as President Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland concluded the first Global Ministry Tour in Laie, Hawaii; 
  • President Henry B. Eyring rededicating the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple on May 19, 2019, the day that President Nelson and Elder Gong held a devotional in Sydney, Australia, as part of the Pacific Ministry;
  • And Elder Cook rededicating the Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple on Nov. 17, 2019, while President Nelson and Elder D. Todd Christofferson kicked off their Southeast Asia Ministry with the opening devotional in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Doing the work side by side

Representing President Nelson goes far beyond presiding at temple events. The Apostles are constantly expressing the love and teachings of the prophet in all that they do, not only in weekend meetings in conjunction with temple dedications and rededications but in stake conferences, leadership trainings, missionary meetings and countless devotionals and interactions.

The Apostles relish the opportunities they have themselves to be with the President of the Church, to learn from his messages and example — especially in the ministry settings.

Elder Holland, who, with Sister Patricia Holland, joined President Nelson and Sister Wendy Nelson on the prophet’s inaugural Global Ministry in April 2018, spoke of how the experience impacted the Hollands. “The members in each of those locations had that experience one time; Pat and I got to have it more than a half-dozen times in sequence. In that sense, we were very much like every other member who heard them — it’s just that we had more of a ringside seat, heard them more often, and loved every minute of it.”

Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stand together at the BYU Jerusalem Center in Jerusalem on Saturday, April 14, 2018.
Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stand together at the BYU Jerusalem Center in Jerusalem on Saturday, April 14, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred

Added Elder Dale G. Renlund, also of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, of when he and Sister Ruth Renlund joined President Nelson in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico last year: “Being with him made us want to become better people,” he said. “President Nelson exerts a Christlike influence on those around him to try hard, to be kinder and to be more devoted to the Savior and His work. This influence occurs because President Nelson is himself a genuine disciple of the Savior.”

And President Nelson forwards the acknowledgment beyond him and his First Presidency counselors and the Apostles.

“It is not about us,” he said. “It is about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.”